THE LANDSLIDE ACCELERATES

11 09 2005

Last month I told you about snowballing (if you’ll excuse the expression) methane escape rates from the thawing arctic permafrost. This month brings news that the planet’s accelerating release of greenhouse gasses is not confined to the tundra. A group of scientists at Cranfield University, in England, has been studying soil CO2 levels for the last 25 years, and has discovered that, evidently due to a warming climate (which increases the level of biological activity), England’s soil has released thirteen million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which more than offsets the estimated twelve point seven million tons of carbon that has been prevented from entering the atmosphere due to antipollution measures.

Guy Kirk, the leader of the study, said, “It’s a feedback loop. The warmer it gets, the faster it is happening,” Just like what’s happening in the tundra, friends.

Last month I pointed out to you that the rate of carbon release into the atmosphere from human activity is like having seventeen thousand active volcanoes going on the planet. With this discovery, that number probably just jumped by a few thousand.

Asked if there was anything that could be done to stop this, Ian Bradley, another scientist involved in the study, said, “If we were prepared to turn all of arable England back to trees, that would work – but there’s no realistic possibility of that.”

Recent studies have indicated that pine tree farms, touted as a cure for rising CO2 levels, are not nearly as effective as mixed hardwood forests in sequestering CO2, due to the greater biodiversity in natural hardwood forests.

The scientists also noted that the escape of carbon dioxide from the soil would eventually lower soil fertility, but said that so far there has been no sign of that.

This study only measured what is happening in England, but England is merely a representative sample for something that is a worldwide phenomenon, and not one that is limited to plowed or otherwise disturbed ground, as was previously thought.

The very earth beneath our feet is rising up against our reckless ways. It’s too late to completely avert disaster, although a concerted effort might slow our fall. But this ride is out of control, and it’s going to get more out of control before it slows down. The apocalypse is here, folks. Don’t forget to be good to each other.

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