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The Carbon Cycle and Climate Change Peter C. Griffith Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center All mistakes and opinions are.

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Presentation on theme: "The Carbon Cycle and Climate Change Peter C. Griffith Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center All mistakes and opinions are."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Carbon Cycle and Climate Change Peter C. Griffith Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center All mistakes and opinions are my own, and not those of my employer (Sigma Space Corporation), the US Global Change Research Program, or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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4 4 Photosystem II: a nanomachine that turns sunlight and water into oxygen and electrons

5 5 “Republicans were less likely to endorse that the phenomenon is real when it was referred to as “global warming” (44.0%) rather than “climate change” (60.2%), whereas Democrats were unaffected by question wording (86.9% vs. 86.4%). As a result, the partisan divide on the issue dropped from 42.9 percentage points under a “global warming” frame to 26.2 percentage points under a “climate change” frame.” - Jonathon P. Schuldt, Sara H. Konrath and Norbert Schwarz, 2011, Public Opinion Quarterly, Oxford PressJonathon P. Schuldt Norbert Schwarion Quarterly, “Global warming” or “climate change”? Whether the planet is warming depends on how the question is framed Then what the heck is “Global Change” ??!!

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20 20 “Old Carbon” is “Lightweight Carbon”

21 21 So What?

22 H2OH2OCO 2

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33 33 We know very well Vast amounts of carbon from the "old-slow" part of the carbon cycle are being put into "young-fast" part of the carbon cycle. We know this is happening because of human activities: burning ancient fossil fuels and burning old forests. Why does it matter? Because the "young-fast" part of the carbon cycle mixes quickly in the atmosphere in the form of CO2; and CO2 in the atmosphere "closes the window" that allows heat to escape from planet earth. Because some heat can't escape, the temperature of the land, oceans and atmosphere has increased. Warming threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more. Less than half of the "old-slow" carbon released into the atmosphere by human activities is in the atmosphere. The rest is being taken up by the oceans and young forests. This is a good thing. If more of the "old-slow" carbon released by humans were in the atmosphere as CO2, "closing the window" and trapping heat, then the planet would be warming even faster than it already is.

34 34 We know very well i) The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact. (ii) Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. (iii) Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth's climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes. (iv) Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic. (v) The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more. Letter from National Academy of Science members:http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/328/5979/689http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/328/5979/689

35 35 We know less well humility in the face of complexity How quickly will it get warmer? How warm will it get? How will people behave?

36 Things we know we don’t know

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40 40 “How do we reduce carbon emissions? The principle of “polluter pays” is long established in our legal and economic system, but we pay nothing to dump CO2 into the atmosphere. People make better decisions about using a natural resource when the resource is properly priced. All of us are collectively making bad decisions about the use of fossil fuels because the price we pay for them does not reflect their true cost. Two major elements not factored into the price of fossil fuels are the (military and human) costs of securing their supply and transportation; and the (human and environmental) costs of dumping the waste product CO2 into the atmosphere and oceans. None of these costs are paid for at the gas pump or at the electric meter. So what do we do? Our CO2 emissions, whether from burning forests or fossil fuels, must have a price.” Peter C. Griffith 40 What next? in my opinion

41 Selected references Favorite Book and Website for Communicating Science “Don’t Be Such a Scientist” by Randy Olson IPCC summary for policy makers: The physical science basis for climate change Climate change FAQ Climate change FAQ GLOBE Carbon Cycle Education Projectoject NASA Climate Portal: NASA Goddard Science Visualization Studio Studio Skeptical SSkeptical Science Real Climate America’s Climate Choices Letter from National Academy of SciLetter from National Academy of Science members: Carbon Tax and Carbon Tax and 100% Dividend, James Hansen, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, June 2008.itute for Space Studies, June

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