Yes, there are many physico-chemical and biological systems that will buffer CO2 (anthropogenic or otherwise) to an extent. The problem is that we're releasing CO2 at a rate greater than these processes can absorb it, and also some of these processes (like the ocean's absorption of CO2) are the problems we're trying to avert (ocean acidification due to the increased concentration of carbonic acid is the primary threat to the world's coral reefs, which, in turn, are the primary nurseries of most of the global fish stocks).
These systems have been active for literally billions of years, and they've done a good job of buffering CO2 in the past, so why, one might reasonably wonder, should we worry? The reason is the *speed* with which human activity has changed the chemistry of the atmosphere (and oceans). If all the CO2 our civilization has released were to have been released over a few hundred thousand years (i.e. about as rapidly as any natural process could happen), the buffering and CO2 fixing capacities of photosynthetic plants and geological processes (like the formation of lime stone), would've been able to keep up. But we've released millions of years worth of fixed carbon in the last 100 years (effectively instantaneously from the POV of ecological and geological systems), so they can't keep up.
It does if you're a coral reef, or any other organism that uses calcium carbonates, or depends on any organism that uses those carbonates, etc.
Despite the fact that atmospheric CO2 has been higher in the past, it changed much more gradually, so the buffering systems could keep up. We're changing it so fast that the mechanisms that have to re-equilibrate to the new chemistry can't adapt quickly enough.
It was a very hot day in Stillwater, Oklahoma, about 115°F. Someone sent a photo to KFOR-TV, via FACEBOOK, showing part of a streetlight that had melted. The far-left blog Think Progress picked up the story. Global warming true believer Bill McKibben saw the story and, believing he finally had proof of global warming, took to Twitter, tweeting to Senator James Inhofe (Okla.) saying, “Senator Inhofe, God may be trying to get your attention. Check out this picture.”
Alas, ground truth intervened. People on the ground noted that there was a dumpster fire at that location. The fire melted the front two bulbs of the four-light street lamp.
The fact that only two of the four lamps were melted should have been a clue. Another clue is that glass does not melt at 115°F (glass begins to soften at a minimum temperature of over 1100 °F).
It seems the credulous will believe the incredible. This story shows the perils of confirmation bias (the tendency of people to believe information that confirms their beliefs).
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Climate change skeptic causes a stir with his about-face
Published on Tuesday August 07, 2012
DAN TUFFS/GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
A prominent climate change skeptic’s about-face on the subject is causing a stir in the world of environmental science.
In a self-proclaimed “total turnaround,” Richard A. Muller, a physics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, now says human greenhouse gas emissions are almost entirely to blame for global warming.
“Call me a converted skeptic,” Muller wrote in a July 28 New York Times op-ed. Three years ago, he said, he doubted whether global warming even existed. “Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct.
“I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”
While many scientific organizations reached that conclusion years ago, it’s one Muller wasn’t comfortable reaching until now, he told the Star.
“If that classifies me as a skeptic, I consider that proper skepticism; something that’s a duty for any scientist.”
Muller’s opinion is based on the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which he co-founded. Its results show the average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by 1.5 C over the past 250 years.
The match between the temperature records and carbon dioxide records suggests human greenhouse gas emissions are the best explanation for the warming, the study says.
Muller says the findings are stronger than those from the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 2007.
The project’s results are “elegantly simple,” Muller said. It rules out changes in solar activity in global warming and shows that volcanic eruptions have short-term, but not long-term, effects on global temperatures.
Some critics have dismissed Muller’s reversal as a publicity stunt. Others caution that the research hasn’t been peer-reviewed. Judith Curry, a climatologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, called its analysis “way over simplistic and not at all convincing” on her blog.
But Muller told the Star he’s “delighted” at the amount of reaction the project has received and thinks it will remain of interest to people he calls “thoughtful skeptics.”
“Many of them have been attacked for being anti-science. I always thought that was unfair — I thought the thoughtful skeptics were raising valid points. We tried to address those points.”
Another twist to the news: one of the project’s sources of funding is the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Koch and his brother David are the billionaire owners of Koch Industries Inc., the conglomerate with annual revenues estimated at $100 billion, and are known for bankrolling conservative causes.
Penn State geoscientist Michael Mann, whose “hockey stick” graph showing a rise in global temperatures in the 20th century has faced criticism from global-warming skeptics, pointed this out in a Facebook post. “There is a certain ironic satisfaction in seeing a study funded by the Koch Brothers — the greatest funders of climate change denial and disinformation on the planet — demonstrate what scientists have known with some degree of confidence for nearly two decades,” he wrote.