Ocean No Longer Taking As Much CO2 (and why that’s bad news)

Coral Sea Copyright 2004 Renate LeahySouthern Ocean Nears CO2 Saturation Point
By Stephen Leahy

May 17 (IPS) – Climate change has arrested the Southern Ocean’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, researchers announced Thursday.

That will make it more difficult to stabilise carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere and to reduce the risks of extreme forms of global warming.

The Southern Ocean has been absorbing less CO2 from the atmosphere since 1981, even though levels have increased 40 percent due to burning of fossil fuels. Oceans absorb half of all human carbon emissions, but the Southern Ocean is taking up less and less and is reaching its saturation point, reported an international research team in the journal Science.

This is the first evidence of the long-feared positive feedbacks that could rapidly accelerate the rate of climate change, pushing impacts to the extreme end of the scale.

“This is serious. All climate models predict that this kind of feedback will continue and intensify during this century,” said Corinne Le Quere of Britain’s University of East Anglia and the paper’s lead author.

“With the Southern Ocean reaching its saturation point, more CO2 will stay in our atmosphere,” Le Quere said in a statement.

This new research is not reflected in the recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“This finding could make a significant difference in some of the IPCC projections,” said co-author Thomas Conway of the Global Monitoring Division of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado.

“If this study holds up, it means the rate of increase CO2 in the atmosphere will be faster,” Conway told IPS.

To see complete story click Southern Ocean Nears CO2 Saturation Point

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