Natural Greenhouse Gas emissions and -sinks
To what extent are humans responsible for Global Warming?
Natural Greenhouse Gas like Carbon Dioxide and Methane existed in the atmosphere long before human beings ever walked the Earth. Swamps and wetlands are a natural source of methane, while decomposing organic materials, forest fires, volcanic eruptions and the breathing of all animals are a natural source of carbon dioxide. Actually 96% of all carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from natural sources and only 4% is manmade. So why is this tiny percentage so important?
Research has shown that volcanic eruptions have not dramatically increased since the industrial revolution, nor has any of the other natural sources of carbon dioxide or methane, but human CO2 and methane emissions have.
In nature as much greenhouse gas is absorbed as emitted, so that there’s a balance and the amount of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere stays roughly the same.
Therefore scientists have deducted that humans are responsible for the dramatic increase in carbon dioxide levels and that these are not due to natural causes.
To what extent will natural greenhouse gas sinks absorb our emissions?
There are natural processes absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such as plants and oceans. These are called carbon sinks or natural greenhouse gas sinks. Although these natural sinks are able to absorb naturally released carbon dioxide they are unable to cope with rising emissions.
Research is still being done into the functioning of these natural sinks. Researchers hope a lot more carbon dioxide will be absorbed by these sinks than they initially thought. But even so, it’s not possible to absorb all carbon dioxide emissions as rising levels in the atmosphere clearly prove. At the most our planet might warm a bit less fast than scientists fear.This may buy us some precious time to get our act together and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions before we reach the point where our climate will warm so much that all kinds of natural catastrophes become inescapable.
How much time do we have before global temperatures rise too much?
What we tend to forget is that whatever carbon dioxide released into the air today will not warm our planet right away. It takes a lot of years before temperatures start to rise. The warming we witness today is from greenhouse gas released many years ago and the carbon dioxide we release today will continue to warm the planet for many years to come. So even if we stop releasing greenhouse gases right now, this minute, global temperatures will continue to rise.
How much is anyone’s guess. Scientists vary widely in predictions on this point. Some will say it’s too late already. Even if we stop all greenhouse gas emissions right now, natural catastrophe cannot be avoided and the human race will probably become extinct within the near future. Some even add that along with the human race most, if not all life on earth will become extinct. Others say we still have plenty of time to find a solution because natural sinks will take care of a far greater amount of carbon dioxide than doomsayers fear. Let’s hope they are right.
Even though I would like to believe we still have plenty of time it might be wise to listen to those who say we should not wait. When things are uncertain and when waiting may lead to serious trouble it is my personal opinion that it is best to take action right away in order to prevent worse. Even if worse never comes we don’t stand to lose a thing, because taking action means creating job opportunities and boosting the economy. The only ones who may have something to lose in this scenario, are those who are making huge profits from continuous release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
You may read here about other things you can do to help stop Global Warming.