Global Warming updat…
Global Warming update: Poo matters.

In science the little things really do count. Just ask Tasmanian researcher Dr Karin Beaumont, who is making it her life’s work to discover how the microscopic poo of tiny ocean organisms is affecting global climate change.

The minuscule zooplankton feed on ocean algae which, like all plants, use carbon dioxide to photosynthesise.

The carbon absorbed by the zooplankton is released in its faeces and if it floats to the surface it can be reabsorbed into the atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

If it sinks to the bottom of the ocean it is locked up in sedimentary rock for thousands, if not millions, of years, keeping down the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Now if you’re still not convinced you care whether zooplankton drop sinkers or floaters you should know there are more than 1500 million tonnes of protozoa, a type of zooplankton, in the Southern Ocean alone.

All the penguins, seals, whales and other animals in the Southern Ocean make up only 16 million tonnes.

And the ocean algae they feed on absorb about 40 per cent of the carbon dioxide taken up by plants globally.

So, Dr Beaumont says, these tiny little poos matter.

I blame the internal combustion engine for this.

Then there’s good ol’ Sol:

The controversial idea that cosmic rays could be driving global warming by influencing cloud cover will get a boost at a conference next week. But some scientists dismiss the idea and are worried that it will detract from efforts to curb rising levels of greenhouse gases.

That last phrase should probably read, “worried that it will detract from their pet causes and make them look foolish.”

At issue is whether cosmic rays, the high-energy particles spat out by exploding stars elsewhere in the galaxy, can affect the temperature on Earth. The suggestion is that cosmic rays crashing into the atmosphere ionise the molecules they collide with, triggering cloud formation.

If the flux of cosmic rays drops, fewer clouds will form and the planet will warm up. No one yet understands the mechanism, which was first described in the late 1990s. But what makes it controversial is that climate models used to predict the consequences of rising levels of greenhouse gases do not allow for the effect, and may be inaccurate.

The bottom line is that if man’s not the major cause of global warming, these guys’ funding will dry up, their activism will be shown for what it is, and they won’t be taken seriously anymore.

Some proponents of the theory argue that changes in the number of cosmic rays reaching Earth can explain past climate change as well as global warming today. Nir Shaviv of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, and Jan Veizer of the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada, claimed in 2003 that changes in cosmic-ray flux are the major reason for temperature changes over the past 500 million years (GSA Today, July 2003, p 4).

They argued that changes in carbon dioxide levels over the same period had a much smaller effect on temperature than previously assumed, suggesting that today’s soaring levels of the greenhouse gas may have less impact than scientists anticipate. “It makes you think maybe it’s a waste implementing the Kyoto Protocol and losing all those trillions of dollars,” says Shaviv.

Bingo. The article has the details on the theory.

UPDATE: Added the actual link to the cosmic rays article. Doh!

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