A recent study has revealed that with the consistent rise in the world temperature on account of Global Warming, the capacity of trees and forests to absorb the harmful greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is reducing at an alarming rate!
This study comprises a comprehensive analysis of data for 20 years from over 30 ice-capped regions around the Northern Hemisphere (such as Siberia Alaska, Canada and Europe). If the finding of this research turns out to be accurate, it will mean the impending doom of a global climatic change is approaching faster than what was presumed earlier.
Carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas is emitted to the atmosphere through various human activities and industrial processes. The greenhouse gases have the ability to trap heat radiated from the Earth’s surface, thereby keeping our planet warm — the phenomenon called ‘Greenhouse Effect’. As a result of this, the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere rises. This eventually leads to melting of ice and glaciers, which in turn increases the sea-level.
Following a rise in the level of the seas and oceans worldwide, low-lying coastal areas can be submerged under water. From the past century, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and as a result, average world temperature has been on the rise constantly. Trees, oceans, soil, microbes and forests help us by soaking up a part of the harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
According to this study, if carbon dioxide is absorbed less by trees and plants, there will be a subsequent escalation of global warming in future. It is now conceived that the quantity of carbon dioxide is increasing manifold, more than what had been forecasted in earlier studies.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — Nobel peace prize winner — has already predicted the imminent peril on humanity and has announced that if steps are not taken immediately, and then mankind will have just 8 years remaining to save the world from doom. Following this research, John Miller, the climate scientist from the University of Colorado, wrote in the journal Nature,
We are currently getting a 50% discount on the climatic impact of our fossil fuel emissions…Unfortunately, we have no guarantee that the 50% discount will continue, and if it disappears we will feel the full climatic brunt of our unrelenting emission of CO2 from fossil fuels.
This implies that currently only half of entire carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is being actually absorbed by oceans and land. The amount of carbon dioxide they soak up will actually aid in forecasting the extent of adverse effects from Global Warming in future.
Across the globe, now people are witnessing the late arrival of winter and the early arrival of spring season as compared to the the standard schedule. In the last 20 years, the respective temperatures of spring and autumn season have increased by 1.1 degrees centigrade and 0.8 degrees centigrade in the Northern Hemisphere. This is an optimistic outcome as such a rise in temperature and change in the arrival of different seasons will result in more growth of plants and trees.
More greenland will indicate a slower pace of global warming as they absorb carbon dioxide from atmosphere. Satellite images from space have also shown ample evidence of an increased growth in plants around this frozen region.
However, this recent research which studied data on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere for the past two decades, starting from 1980, suggests that the picture of atmospheric balance is still gloomy. The researchers examined both intake of carbon dioxide by plants during photosynthesis and release of the same during respiration.
They discovered that the date in autumn when the forests transform from being net store-house for carbon dioxide to net originator came quite ahead by few days or even weeks than their expectations. One of the researchers, Anders Lindroth from Lund University in Sweden was quoted saying,
The information that we had from satellite data, that the greening was increasing, looked like a positive sign. There was hope that this would help us to mitigate emissions…But even if we have a greening, it doesn’t mean that we have a positive effect on the carbon balance … it’s bad news.
Timo Vesala of the University of Helsinki and the leading man in this research, said
This means potentially a bigger warming effect.
According to Colin Prentice of the University of Bristol,
The precise effect the trend will have on future warming is hard to predict…Over a longer period of decades, models predict changes in vegetation structure, including tundra regions becoming forested, and the forests tend to take up far more carbon than the tundra. So I would be sceptical about reading any particular future implication into these findings.
This study is also perceived to support findings of the Global Carbon Project, which had concluded that the there is a strong growth in the pace with which the level of carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere. It had confirmed that between 1970 and 2000, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been boosted up by about 1.5 parts per million (ppm).
However, since 2000 the yearly increase in the concentration level was suddenly elevated to an average of 1.9ppm, which was almost 35% higher than what was expected. The reason causing such increase in concentration level can be accounted for partly by increased emission of carbon dioxide by China’s growing economy. This research team indicated the lower carbon-absorbing power of forests and plants to be another cause for rise in concentration level of carbon in the atmosphere.
As the impending hazard of global warming and the consequent climate change looms large, it is high time national governments across the world take up serious actions (such as afforestation, lowering carbon dioxide emissions etc) to counter this challenge.