Tuesday, 2 October 2007
Recycling - Part II
OK, no-one seems to have had any serious problems with the idea that we are a bottle garden.
What is on this planet, is what we have. It all just stays here and gets recycled.
Now that, logically, must apply to the total amount of carbon on the planet.
Carbon on the planet is found in three places: The ground (oil, coal, gas, carbonate minerals), the biomass (plants and animals) and the atmosphere (carbon dioxide).
The biomass stores carbon. Plants take it out of the atmosphere and convert it to wood or leaves. Algae also extracts a large amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A certain amount breaks down to constituents or is consumed by animals who store carbon as flesh but also exhale carbon dioxide. On a larger time scale, plant and animal matter will produce oil, coal and gas when conditions are right. Algae especially is a source of hydrocarbons as, when it dies, it falls to the seabed where pressure and time and geological luck convert it to oil, gas or coal. It is not a quick process.
Currently we are extracting and burning the ground-stored carbon at a rapid rate, where it transfers to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, a by-product of combustion.
Concurrently, we are also clearing forests, often accompanied by burning of the felled timber.
So we are putting the stored carbon into the atmosphere while simultaneously reducing the mechanisms that remove it from the atmosphere. The level present in the atmosphere must increase.
Nothing I have said so far is guesswork or assumption. It all follows logically from what we all learned in school about plants and animals and from the notion that we are a closed system.
The only item that I must take on faith is "what is the effect of increasing the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?" The scientists say it leads to warming. I have no reason to doubt them.
When I posted earlier in the year about the ongoing drought in southern Australia and suggested that it was a consequence of global warming, I was poo-pooed by various climate change doubters.
I wonder if they still feel this way.