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Earth Science

Scientists Surprised to Find Earth's Biosphere Booming 692

Posted by timothy
from the but-there's-also-the-slow-hiss-in-the-background dept.
radioweather writes "An article from the Financial Post says that recent studies of biosphere imaging from the NASA SEAWIFS satellite indicate that the Earth's biomass is booming: 'The results surprised Steven Running of the University of Montana and Ramakrishna Nemani of NASA, scientists involved in analyzing the NASA satellite data. They found that over a period of almost two decades, the Earth as a whole became more bountiful by a whopping 6.2%. About 25% of the Earth's vegetated landmass — almost 110 million square kilometers — enjoyed significant increases and only 7% showed significant declines. When the satellite data zooms in, it finds that each square meter of land, on average, now produces almost 500 grams of greenery per year.' Their 2004 study, and other more recent ones, point to the warming of the planet and the presence of CO2, fertilizing the biota and resulting in the increased green side effect."
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Scientists Surprised to Find Earth's Biosphere Booming

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  • by mrbluze (1034940) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:06AM (#23706357) Journal
    Green Side Effect as a result of the greenhouse effect. So are we all gonna die or not already?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:21AM (#23706445)

      So are we all gonna die or not already?
      Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.
      Benjamin Franklin

      The questions that remain are to the manner and time, the costs paid in the meantime and those costs left behind.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xiroth (917768)
      Ya know, this is exactly the thing that shits me to tears about the whole greenhouse debate. Those who've been saying that we might want to do something about the greenhouse effect before it's too late have been characterised as leftist loonies who care more about the planet and other animals than humans and human civilisation. In some cases they're right - there is a liberal dose of the usual extremist greenie suspects in the climate change movement - but I really wonder whether those people actually know
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by slim (1652)

        Because, frankly, the stated aims of environmentalists - improving the forests, saving the fuzzy animals, and so on,
        Where have you found these "stated aims"?

        Most of the climate speculation I've seen concentrates on very human-centric concerns such as food production, extreme weather and the effect of rising sea levels on major cities.
        • by Xiroth (917768) on Monday June 09, 2008 @04:03AM (#23706693)
          Feel free to read the rest of the post whenever you have time in your clearly busy schedule.
        • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Monday June 09, 2008 @05:06AM (#23706957) Homepage
          Oh nice attempt at changing the subject. Actually only the peak-oil loonies are on about food production. "extreme weather" and rising sea levels is mostly the Goracle and the IPCC (let's bribe scientists, and when that stopped working, let's threathen them). Everybody else is still in denial, and I don't see all that much change in that.

          Besides the only solution for the food and oil problem is "lowering the world's population". As they are about to realise that lowering birth rates won't work, people really need to die, I expect to hear VERY bad things from the "peak-oil" and greenhouse loonies anytime now.

          Besides if you were really worried about food production (= oil imports) you wouldn't be a lefty these days, nor an environmentalist.

          Then again the way Obama ("let's sue opec !", "let's drop defenses around saudi arabia unless they deliver 1 mbpd more oil") is harping on about oil, it seems to me the democrats are actually more likely to start the next oil war than the republicans.

          And for gaia as an organisation at least it really is about the fuzzy animals, I assume you'd consider them environmentalists :

          "What is GAIA?

          GAIA, or Global Action in the Interest of Animals, unites human defenders of animal welfare and advocates for animal rights in Belgium."

          http://www.gaia.be/eng/ [www.gaia.be]

          (on gaia.com I was unable to find any stated aims, and this was the first hit on google for "gaia aims", since this does describe itself as part of gaia international, I assume it's the same aims)
          • Broad brush... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Slur (61510) on Monday June 09, 2008 @06:20AM (#23707321) Homepage Journal
            Personally, I am concerned about the survival of as many life forms as possible, all of whom are being affected by Homo sapiens stomping blindly, willy-nilly all over the place, many spouting selfish bullshit like yours, eating up the world and being smug and self-satisfied with their designer beer. Whatever "favors" we may be doing by releasing carbon into the atmosphere are more than mediated by the fact that we are as a collective quite an ugly phenomenon vis a vis the rest of the biosphere.

            Think of everything that life has learned up to now. It's all in the DNA. The DNA is everything life has learned about surviving and prospering and experiencing itself and the universe around. Evolved over billions of years, invaluable, irreplaceable information that interacts to sustain life. We are erasing that information, burning it up. We're not making a backup, and it sounds like you're saying it doesn't matter, it'll all work out in the end so it doesn't matter what we do. That's utter crap, because it does matter. It matters because what we do defines us, and as I look around, it seems that what we humans consider valuable runs quite counter to that which upholds the biosphere that sustains all life.

            To me it seems like nothing less than a deep imperative to be concerned about all life and to treat all species as our beloved friends. At any rate, we should not dismiss every other species with banal cartoon characterizations like "fuzzy animals." Sure, you'll find plenty of people who'll pat you on your clever head for that one, but the biosphere is giving you the finger, pal. Life happens to be full, profound, and challenging for all living beings, whether you consider them cute, fuzzy, and ridiculous or not. To dismiss the deep experience of every other species, while exalting our own relatively banal imitation of life is hilarious to behold.

            You should endeavor to give the deepest possible respect to all living beings. It may lead you to a deeper appreciation of life, where your concerns aren't bound purely by stylistic considerations: how large, how many fingers and toes, whether the being is fuzzy or "cute" or ugly, whether it can do calculus or get voted off American Idol.

            Until you as a person give up your thoughtless species-oriented prejudices, you limit your access to the living world, make everything about "us" and "them," focus on differences, make life a war and a struggle, and closed off in a homo-sapien bubble.

            You don't have to make it such an adversarial thing between you and those like me who are trying to love more broadly, but I can understand that some people prefer it that way, because they feel reasonably comfortable that they have the upper hand.

            Well, congratulations on your hard-won success!

            It just sounds like all you care about is you and yours, and you've got a very limited idea of who fits in that little group. Why would you not try to be an advocate for as many beings as possible? Most higher animals are quite helpless and oblivious in the face of all our madness, and without the intervention of concerned humans, they have no hope. Aren't the helpless, the voiceless, and the downtrodden exactly those who need us to wake up and work harder for them?

            I mean, if you feel contempt or indifference towards the helpless.... well it has a fascist kind of spirit, doesn't it?
        • Because, frankly, the stated aims of environmentalists - improving the forests, saving the fuzzy animals, and so on,

          Where have you found these "stated aims"?

          Well let's be fair-- "saving the fuzzy animals" is a lot of what you hear about. You hear people talking about how beautiful some forrest is, how cutting it down is robbing our children of the opportunity to see them, and how the whole process is harming some particular kind of titmouse that only exists in a very small area.

          And what the GP is pointing out is that a lot of people hear all that and don't care. And then those people get yelled at for being selfish, because we should all be prepared to mak

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ArcherB (796902)

          Because, frankly, the stated aims of environmentalists - improving the forests, saving the fuzzy animals, and so on,

          Where have you found these "stated aims"?

          Look up the arguments against drilling in ANWR. There you will find that environmentalists are putting the lives of porcupine caribou over the lives of humans. (Of course, they disregard the facts that the caribou do better in places were drilling is taking place, like Prudhoe Bay, which leads me to believe that their goal is simply to stop progress or keep someone other than themselves from making money.)

          Most of the climate speculation I've seen concentrates on very human-centric concerns such as food production, extreme weather and the effect of rising sea levels on major cities.

          If environmentalists were concerned about human-centric issues, then we WOULD be drilling of the co

      • by FeepingCreature (1132265) on Monday June 09, 2008 @04:21AM (#23706747)
        My personal take on it is that the Earth is a very complex system with interactions that still aren't nearly fully understood, and since it's kinda the only living room we have, it would be wise to keep our interference as low as we can, until we have attained a much more .. certain understanding.
      • by Gearoid_Murphy (976819) on Monday June 09, 2008 @04:27AM (#23706777)
        "Because, frankly, the stated aims of environmentalists - improving the forests, saving the fuzzy animals, and so on, is actually served by the increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, as plants grow better in richer CO2 atmospheres and that leads to a stronger biosphere all round." Hold up there buddy, that is simply not true, many animals depend on icy habitats (polar bears, penguins) which are going to disappear with increasing temperature. Increased melting will disrupt the north Atlantic drift which will completely change the climate of northern Europe to something like the previous ice age. Increased levels of CO2 interacting with the sea will cause the oceans to become more acidic, this is already happening. Whatever the result, the planet is likely to be going through the most rapid period of change to its internal distribution of gases ever recorded, as a direct result of pollution from burning fossil fuels. As a species, humanity has emerged in a relatively calm period in the earth's climatic history, now, our children and their children, and heaven forbid, maybe even we, will have to deal with the consequences of these actions, which I doubt will "lead to a stronger biosphere all round."
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by arminw (717974)
          ....many animals depend on icy habitats....

          Pure and unadulterated BS. It so happens that polar bears and penguins both are able to survive quite well, thank you, in warmer areas. The fact that they can be kept alive quite readily in zoos around the world is only one evidence of this. Life is amazingly adaptable, if the changes happen over generations of time.

          Where did you get that marvelous crystal ball that tells you so precisely what WILL happen over centuries of time? The weather forecasters around here
        • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Monday June 09, 2008 @08:52AM (#23708361) Homepage Journal

          many animals depend on icy habitats (polar bears, penguins)
          There are penguins that live on the equator [penguinworld.com], and there are also penguins that live in computers [kernel.org].
        • by ArcherB (796902) on Monday June 09, 2008 @09:03AM (#23708507) Journal

          "Because, frankly, the stated aims of environmentalists - improving the forests, saving the fuzzy animals, and so on, is actually served by the increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, as plants grow better in richer CO2 atmospheres and that leads to a stronger biosphere all round."

          Hold up there buddy, that is simply not true, many animals depend on icy habitats (polar bears, penguins) which are going to disappear with increasing temperature. Increased melting will disrupt the north Atlantic drift which will completely change the climate of northern Europe to something like the previous ice age. Increased levels of CO2 interacting with the sea will cause the oceans to become more acidic, this is already happening.

          Whatever the result, the planet is likely to be going through the most rapid period of change to its internal distribution of gases ever recorded, as a direct result of pollution from burning fossil fuels. As a species, humanity has emerged in a relatively calm period in the earth's climatic history, now, our children and their children, and heaven forbid, maybe even we, will have to deal with the consequences of these actions, which I doubt will "lead to a stronger biosphere all round."
          I'm curious. The climate has changed much faster [aip.org] in the past than it is changing today. Of course, this was before SUV's and even man were on the planet. So, if man didn't cause it then, isn't it even remotely possible that man is not causing it today? This is backed up when you consider that the earth has heated and cooled all on its own throughout history. When it was warm, it cooled. When it was cool, the earth warmed. Seeing as we are in a historical cool spell [scotese.com], doesn't it makes sense that the earth would warm itself, with, or without our help?

          It seems to me that when we see something happen, we immediately try to figure out what WE did to cause it. It's the same kind of self-centered belief system that led Native Americans to believe that a certain dance or sacrifice would lead to rain.

          • by Ambitwistor (1041236) on Monday June 09, 2008 @02:20PM (#23713867)

            The climate has changed much faster in the past than it is changing today. Of course, this was before SUV's and even man were on the planet. So, if man didn't cause it then, isn't it even remotely possible that man is not causing it today?
            The changes you allude to are ascribed to the collapse and restart of the thermohaline ocean circulation. In such events, rapid warming is due to the strengthening of the THC. However, observations indicate that the THC is not strengthening; if anything, it is weakening. Furthermore, THC collapses/restarts tend to give rise to hemispheric climate changes, not global ("bipolar seesaw"): if you warm the Northern Hemisphere by transporting more heat there from the Southern Hemisphere, then you remove heat from the Southern Hemisphere and cool it.

            This is backed up when you consider that the earth has heated and cooled all on its own throughout history.
            Yes, but the traditional natural sources of warming (increased solar activity, decreased volcanism) do not explain the modern warming period.

            Seeing as we are in a historical cool spell, doesn't it makes sense that the earth would warm itself, with, or without our help?
            We are in a "historical cool spell" in geologic terms: ice ages have been around for tens of millions of years. If you want to wait a similar period of time, we may leave ice ages behind. It's not something that happens over a hundred years; the geological processes involved (such as tectonics and weathering) are much slower than that. Furthermore, as I said, natural sources of warming do not explain, and are often opposed to, the recent observed warming.

            It seems to me that when we see something happen, we immediately try to figure out what WE did to cause it.
            Perhaps you should educate yourself about the natural and manmade sources of climate change which have been considered in the scientific literature before jumping to conclusions about motives.
      • by erroneus (253617) on Monday June 09, 2008 @04:47AM (#23706861) Homepage
        I can't believe any scientists are surprised by the result of increased green in the presence of increased CO2. That's generally how it works. What I don't see is any break-down indicating that increased green is contributing to any increases in oxygen production or otherwise any consumption or reduction of CO2.

        It has been observed through various forms of evidence that the earth has indeed cycled in this way many times. This event is significant, however, as evidenced by the melting of ice that hasn't been in liquid form for several cycles. If I understand and have read things correctly, then this is a melting of ice that has been in a frozen state for more than 5 million years. So while it's arguable that the earth naturally goes through these cycles, it's also evident that these cycles are responsible for mass extinction events on the planet.

        So who cares?

        1. If you care about "the planet" only, then you are pretty comfortable in knowing that the planet will be just fine. It has seen changes like these before and will not suffer or become lifeless as a result of this.

        2. If you care about our current planetary ecosystem, then you are right to be concerned as it seems evident that it is being changed irreversibly. There is such a great depth to how inter-twined we are with the environment, that it is hard not to believe that any major change in the environment will not lead to a mass extinction event especially a mass extinction of humans. (If someone were to create a food substance completely out of raw, non-living minerals, then perhaps humans could stand a chance at survival.) (The very notion that only life in areas where the sea level changes is ridiculous and fails to account for other realities surrounding the change in sea level. There is, for example, the change in water temperature which has a direct connection with the patterns and intensity of weather events such as hurricanes. These weather changes are global, not only coastal. These weather changes affect the balance of plant and animal life which will inevitably lead to the rise of some and the fall of others, but consider what it means when the bees die... and they are dying. When the bees die, the stuff we depend on to make food dies with them. We will follow soon after we run out of food.)

        3. If the question of cause or blame is important to you, then I believe the circumstantial evidence supports the notion that humans are responsible for what it going on.

        Ultimately, I believe humans are responsible for what is going on and could stop this any time we are prepared to value life over profit. At every level, however, we're prepared to kill for money... kill for control over our own destiny. Isn't it ironic that its the human desire and instinct to dominate and control that will likely destroy us?

        I love technology. I couldn't know what I know or learn what I may learn without it. I couldn't write this here without it. I'm contributing to our own demise simply by not giving up my own technology, quitting my job, destroying my car and living naked in the woods somewhere. But then, I'm just a drone like the majority of us. We're in no position to make those kinds of changes. It is the other classes of people who are in a position to make a change and their willingness to make changes...more specifically, to give up their existing business models in favor of those that will support the existence of humans. (For example, the airline industry should REALLY consider using their enormous profits to evolve into massive rail projects that can run on power sources other than those that emit greenhouse gasses. And the automotive industry should put currently known technologies to use.) We already know what is possible. We just aren't doing it. The market mentality drives us and even requires us by law to destroy ourselves for profit.

        The stock market is not a maintainable model. In theory, it should be a reflection of supply and demand. In reality, it is driven by guesses, fears
      • by cthulhuology (746986) on Monday June 09, 2008 @05:26AM (#23707059) Homepage

        Because, frankly, the stated aims of environmentalists - improving the forests, saving the fuzzy animals, and so on, is actually served by the increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, as plants grow better in richer CO2 atmospheres and that leads to a stronger biosphere all round.
        My BS detector pegged a 10 here. If you actually read the projections by the US Govt, you'll see that increased CO2 will increase the total amount of biomass, but will also kill off the old growth forests, and reduce much of the country to desert grasslands. Crop production is also hurt by increased CO2 because while the plants in take more CO2 that doesn't translate to increased yields of fruits. Additionally, many of our plants are extremely temperature sensitive. If you ever try to grow a Sycamore or White Oak from seed, you'll be amazed at the conditions for germination. The facts are increase CO2 = increase in weeds and grasslands & lower quantities of forest and fruits; you know those economically valuable plants.
      • Leftist? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Moraelin (679338) on Monday June 09, 2008 @05:33AM (#23707089) Journal
        As somewhat of a socialist (the Western European kind, not the Soviet kind), I sometimes find it funny how "left" or "liberal" (which in most of Europe actually means "right") has become a blanket insult in the USA for anyone and anything who's not for giving more money and unchecked power to the corporations and billionaires. Especially how it's supposed to be some kind of monster hell-bent on destroying the industry and humanity.

        The "left" is mostly about how you divide the pie, so to speak, not about trying to destroy industry. We're all Keynesians, yes, both Europe and the USA, we all live in a massive overproduction potential, and we all have our governments spend some of that excess to keep it going. Essentially any first world country can produce orders of magnitude more than it needs, and has to find a way to (A) use that surplus for something useful, and/or (B) keep some people busy doing something that doesn't produce anything. Giving corporations more money just results in B. More and more people are hired to engage in nearly zero-sum games, like marketing past a point. Yes, it stimulates consumption a bit too too, but even that (1) only goes so far, and past a point the effects are infinitesimal, and (2) is ultimately a way to waste some production capacity instead of just dumping those resources off a hill.

        There's something inherently heartless to argue that someone poor should be denied healthcare, so someone else who's already rich can buy a new barbecue grill. Or that you should dump that excess into having more lawyers and marketers, instead of having a few more doctors.

        And no, it hasn't destroyed the industry so far. Germany for example was doing great with a socialist economy, until it had to absorb the obsolete industry of East Germany. Now it's recovering pretty nicely from that again. All the leftist stuff like good welfare, good medical care, unions being officially a part of the corporate management, etc, haven't really resulted in anything bad so far.

        But anyway, I digress. That's really what the "left" is about: how you distribute the wealth. The GINI index. The idea that someone below poverty line can use an extra buck on his wage, more than the CEO needs another ten millions on an already ridiculously high wage.

        The "Greens" are something else. It's something orthogonal to it all. Yes, they too want some taxes, but then they want to spend it on their own ideas, not on (immediately) improving the lot of the poor. I'm not necessarily saying that it's good or bad, just that it's something orthogonal.

        Basically what I'm trying to say is that the political spectrum consists of a hell of a lot of variables, not just one axis between left and right. The ecological agenda is just another axis in that multidimensional space, rather than something inherently leftist.
      • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Monday June 09, 2008 @08:43AM (#23708231)

        Because, frankly, the stated aims of environmentalists[sic] - improving the forests, saving the fuzzy animals, and so on, is actually served by the increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, as plants grow better in richer CO2 atmospheres and that leads to a stronger biosphere all round. By and large, there's very few better things we could have done with our intelligence for the continuance of life on Earth than releasing all of the trapped CO2 back into the atmosphere so that it can be used again.
        CO2 is an acidic gas. It lowers the pH of everything. It kills organisms at the base of the food chain in oceans. It isn't all flowers and greenery and happiness.
      • by Bombula (670389) on Monday June 09, 2008 @10:31AM (#23710123)
        there's very few better things we could have done with our intelligence for the continuance of life on Earth than releasing all of the trapped CO2 back into the atmosphere so that it can be used again ... The only species that are going to really be adversely affected by this sort of change are those who have set up permanent settlements right next to the water and can't easily retreat further inland as the water rises.

        Obviously you're not familiar with the apocalyptic danger posed by ocean acidification [wikipedia.org]. Here are the highlights: the bulk of CO2 we release into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels does NOT go into the atmospheric and create climate change; rather, is absorbed by the ocean, which creates carbonic acid, which lowers the ocean's pH. Among other nasty side effects, this reduces the available calcium carbonate in seawater, which both makes it harder for animals to grow and maintain shells and skeletons. This is a problem from microscopic (think planktonic diatoms) to the macroscopic (think blue whales).

        Ocean acidification is a vastly larger problem that changes in weather, because it affects the entire marine ecosystem worldwide from top to bottom. Slightly warmer or colder continental weather is no big deal, and even adjusting to rising sea levels is probably managable not only for people but for wildlife. But a collapse of ocean ecosystems is going to be a seriously bad day for everyone.

        I'm a moderate rightist, and I approve this message.

        This is why a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    • by hey! (33014) on Monday June 09, 2008 @06:36AM (#23707405) Homepage Journal
      If I disassembled you into your component cells, I could probably select a certain tissue -- let's say skin, and create a cell culture weighing several thousand kilograms.

      Does that sound like an attractive proposition?

      It's all about information. The quality of your life is not encoded in your biomass -- although your cultured self might disagree, if it had anything to think with.

      This reminds me of a course I took in neuroscience in which we learned that after certain kinds of brain trauma, the forms new connections in the affected area. We all felt warm and fuzzy about the Wisdom of Evolution encoded in our DNA, until it was pointed out that the new connections were actually malfunctions. Brain function would be better preserved if the new connections were suppressed, than having it rewired by the local cells, which don't really know what the hell they are doing.

      Anthropocentrism has its place. but not in determining what the natural world is up to. You are prefectly free to believe that the highest use of the natural world is the care and feeding of humans, and maximizing their amusements. But the natural world doesn't take any notice of that opinion. All things being equal, we humans prefer an ocean that is richly stocked with finned fish and full of things like coral reefs. However is conditions are bad for fish or reef building organism, Gaia can always fall back on generating algal mats. An ocean choked with algal slime would not be to most of our likings at all, although perhaps to yours because it would probably contain more biomass.

      Concepts like "damage" and "disaster" are purely human opinions about matters; brain cells or ocean algae simply do what life does: they adapt. The idea that Nature in Her Wisdom intervenes to protect us from our own actions is rubbish. This is the junk religion part of the Gaia hypothesis, the romantic anthropomorphizing of what is basically a gigantic machine for maximizing entropy. Nature adjusts, and most adjustments are not going to be our liking.

      What any single species "likes" is to encounter favorable conditions for growth and reproduction. However, since even the resources of the entire planet are limited, it doesn't get favorable conditions forever. It either overshoots its carrying capacity, or it settles into an equilibrium with other species. Even humans, the most adaptable of species, are no different. The difference is we can understand the consequences of our actions, and therefore we can choose which of these fates we will experience.

      A species that can live on everything from African veldt to arctic permafrost, from the Amazonian rain forest to the Tibetan plateau, such a species will never go extinct. At least not so long as the Sun shines, and possibly longer than that. But our species can experience population decline. This is a perfectly normal event in the history of the biosphere, but it will be for us a "disaster".

      "Disaster", after all, is just our species' word for something that is perfectly predictable, but only statistically so. Since it is "only statistically probable", we assume it's somebody else's job to deal with it when it happens and put everything back to "normal" afterwards. They can prepare for it if they like, so long as it doesn't cost money or require us to make any effort whatsoever.

      If you are conservative, you can choose to be one of two kinds of conservative: one who wants to keep things more or less as they have been, or one who wants to keep doing things more or less the same way we always have. You can't claim that they are both the same thing, not without the intervention of a Benevolent Agency. Things aren't to rosy on that front either, since I seem to recall that Benevolent Agencies are often quite keen on meting out mandatory change on people who aren't so keen on mending their ways.

      In a nutshell, Nature doesn't care about us, because it doesn't even know we exist, apart from being an bag of c
  • by sweet_petunias_full_ (1091547) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:13AM (#23706391)
    Biodiversity is declining and that's a bad thing even if more weeds are growing in Oshkosh.

    The arctic ice pack is melting and that will ultimately change the earth's albedo in a bad way. I don't see much optimism in that, even if some plants in some places grow better due to changing climate conditions.
    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:22AM (#23706455)
      Biodiversity is declining and that's a bad thing even if more weeds are growing in Oshkosh.



      That's a good point. I read an article a while ago stating that some parts of the oceans are experiencing a "return of the slime" - the higher life forms are disappearing, while simpler life forms are booming.


      Probably not something we want to have. I'd rather have fish and seafood than algae slime, thank you very much.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:24AM (#23706463)
      An "ice age" is defined as a period where ice sheets cover land in both hemispheres. In the south, we have Antarctica; in the north, we have Greenland. Guess what that means? We're in an ice age. Guess what it means that the ice sheets are melting? We're coming out of one. Guess what happens to temperatures when you come out of an ice age? They rise. I shit you not. We've been coming out of an ice age for 11,000 years. If the warming trend that began after the peak of the last ice age were a day, the industrial revolution happend at thirty minutes to midnight. CO2 is good. That's what TFA says. The mean surface temperature of Mars is rising also--that's not the industiral revolution and that's not some gas-leak on our little rovers.

      Thank you, that is all.
      • In the words of Wolfgang Pauli, "this isn't right. It isn't even wrong."

        First of all, an ice age is only a time when average temperatures are signficantly below present levels. Most of history for almost a million years has been an ice age; The current interglacial has lasted remarkably long.

        Second of all, we are not coming out of an ice age. Earth's global temperature and sea levels began a rapid rise approximately 20Kya and both leveled off near their current values around 10 to 12Kya.

        Third, the extent to which industrialization has changed the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere in the last 250 years is unprecedented in the last 600 thousand years, and if you think it's not having an effect you're either delusional or willfully ignorant.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          "you're either delusional or willfully ignorant."

          I hate making tough decisions.....I'll go with waiting for science to get all the facts right and remove political/personal agendas.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mlwmohawk (801821)
            I hate making tough decisions.....I'll go with waiting for science to get all the facts right and remove political/personal agendas.

            As well reasoned as this opinion may seem, it is either an unconscious or willful tactic to ignore the actual science by discrediting the the perceived personal agendas. It is not really any different from the "Ad Homonem."

            Science will *never* get all the facts 100% right at a static point in time, because technology is ever advancing. You will never eliminate personal agendas
        • by Totenglocke (1291680) on Monday June 09, 2008 @08:03AM (#23707715)
          The Little Ice age only ended roughly 150 years ago, and we're still warming back up from it. Temperatures in Europe are still several degrees C lower than they were pre-Little Ice Age (which started between 1350-1450). There's plenty of evidence to support this from many universities and various environmental research groups. If the predicted effects of an increase of 5 degrees C are so catastrophic, how come we weren't wiped out 1,000 years ago when temperatures ACTUALLY were where they're predicted to go?

          I had to do some research on the Little Ice Age a few years ago and every single source I found came back to the same thing, that we're still warming back up and that it's still significantly colder than it was 1,000 years ago.

          Disclaimer: No, referencing research by various groups that contradict "the sky is falling" mentality of global warming is NOT flaimbait. Yes, temperatures most likely will go up. No, we will most likely not have a huge catastrophe that destroys mankind.

    • by synaptic (4599) on Monday June 09, 2008 @05:16AM (#23706999) Homepage

      Biodiversity is declining and that's a bad thing even if more weeds are growing in Oshkosh.
      The scientist is quoted in the article saying:

      "The extent and diversity of plant and animal life have both increased substantially during the past half-century."

      How do you arrive at the conclusion that biodiversity is declining? Have you personally observed this phenomenon and tracked it over time, over the entire planet, somehow better than the scientists with their satellites and field observations?

      The arctic ice pack is melting and that will ultimately change the earth's albedo in a bad way.
      Please help us to understand the methodology that allowed you to reach your conclusions about the Earth's albedo. Could you also define "bad"?

      I don't see much optimism in that, even if some plants in some places grow better due to changing climate conditions.
      I get the impression that you don't see much optimism in anything. If we can cut out the layer of "homo-sapiens-is-a-plague" bias while we continue to observe our biosphere, perhaps we can not jump to conclusions that the sky is falling and we're doomed. Or if we do reach that conclusion, we can take it seriously.

      My experience, in the US anyway, is that if you live in a sprawling cityscape, it will seem like the Earth is dying around you at an accelerating pace. Live in a rural area though and you will find that plant and animal life seem to be doing OK.

      The biosphere doesn't exist in a vacuum, it's constantly changing and adapting. We are part of our environment and our interaction with it changes it, sometimes in ways that can be considered "bad", sometimes in ways that can be considered "good". It is Heisenberg uncertainty on a macro scale.

      Some species have had problems adapting to our activities (or our sheer ignorance), and we're doing some things to try to help those species recover, provided we can exploit the species for food or resources or it is somehow essential to the foodchain for other species we value. In doing so, we may also be condemning the populations of the same species that adapted.

      My guess is that there are constant pressures on the climate and there are so many variables involved, we will continue to be surprised at the mechanisms in play and the adaptability of life. Our attempts to predict the outcomes of the change over time for all of these variables is likely to be futile. But we can theorize and then observe. Our attempts to control the environment are almost certainly naive, and quite possibly dangerously so. Should we really take action to prevent the pressure safety valve in the steam engine from opening? Can we accept the possibility of a new normal and the inevitability that we must adapt as a species or die?

      Sapiens qui vigilat.

  • I smell bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:15AM (#23706397)
    Quote from article "massive programs in an effort to remove as much as 80% of the carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.

    If these governments are right, they will have done us all a service. If they are wrong, the service could be all ill, with food production dropping world wide, and the countless ecological niches on which living creatures depend stressed."

    Bollocks, governments are not removing emissions, they are reducing emissions. Thus we will still keep all the CO2 in the atmosphere, we will just pump less new CO2 into the atmosphere.

    Thus the plants can keep growing all they like, we won't be removing their food anytime soon. All we are doing is slowing down the pace at which we are overfeeding them.
  • by 0WaitState (231806) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:15AM (#23706399)
    So how much of this increased biomass is due to higher yielding farming techniques over the past 20 years? And how much of the higher farm yield is due to fertilizers from crude oil? (hint, in 1st world countries, you cannot profitably farm bulk crops without oil originated fertilzer)
    • It depends (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Monday June 09, 2008 @04:17AM (#23706731) Journal
      Well, yes, but at the same time those plants absorb some CO2 out of the atmosphere to grow. And then you eat them, shit it, and it's not going back into the atmosphere. Or they get turned to clothes, paper (quick-growing trees are used as crops to produce paper), etc, which end up in a landfill and again it's not quite going back into the atmosphere.

      So while some CO2 _is_ produced in raising those crops, yes, including in creating their fertilizer, they also remove some CO2 from the air. So the balance isn't as doom-and-gloom as you seem to assume.

      Second, we're talking fertilizers, not plastics. Most of what those plants need is nitrogen, which actually comes from the air. (Fossil fuels don't contain much nitrogen.) E.g., ammonium nitrate is nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen. There is no carbon in it at all. (And even if there were, it would go into the plant, not back into the air.)

      Technically, some carbon is used there, but at least for the Haber process that's methane gas from natural gas fields. There's buggerall need to start from oil to produce it. And it's recycled back into methane by the end of the process, so it's basically used more as a catalyst than "OMG, dumping CO2 into the atmosphere." The Odda Process is even more fun, in that at least one variant of it can actually use CO2 and fix it to CaCO3.

      So all that remains as a source of pollution there is that, like any factory, it needs some energy. It doesn't necessarily mean oil, though. I'm sure you can use nuclear power instead, which, for whatever other sins it may have, has exactly zero CO2 emissions.
      • Re:It depends (Score:4, Informative)

        by Sique (173459) on Monday June 09, 2008 @04:54AM (#23706909) Homepage

        Well, yes, but at the same time those plants absorb some CO2 out of the atmosphere to grow. And then you eat them, shit it, and it's not going back into the atmosphere.
        No, this CO2 goes straight back into the atmosphere: fungus and bacteria feed on them, and release the CO2 when they digest it and turn it back into soil.

        As soon as a living dies all the trapped CO2 is released during the deceasing of the corpse. To actually trap it forever you have to close it off from any oxygene, then it might turn into coal or oil again.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rohan972 (880586)

      you cannot profitably farm bulk crops without oil originated fertilzer
      Having worked on both an organic farm (yes, for bulk produce) and a farm that spreads pig effluent as fertilizer for broadacre crops, I can tell you this is wrong.

      I've had farmers not 15 miles away from that organic farm tell me it is impossible, so I understand why you would think so, but I assure you it can be done.
  • by Ron2K (1301199) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:16AM (#23706407) Homepage
    ... is whether this outweighs the negative aspects of global warming or not.

    I'd say it's too early to say for sure, but it would definitely be interesting to find out.
  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:18AM (#23706415) Homepage Journal
    I've seen many references to "the cause" of oceanic "dead zones" being nutrients (mainly agricultural run-off of chemically active nitrogen) but this seems paradoxical:

    Yes I know the story: nutrients create algae blooms which then die and decay thereby robbing the ocean of oxygen.

    What I'm referring to as a seeming "paradox" is not only the fact that the base of the food chain is dramatically expanded by nutrients --
    but that the organisms making up this foundation produce _oxygen_ from photosynthesis supporting algae grazers with both food _and_ oxygen.

    Why don't the smaller, rapidly-reproducing zooplankton take up the gauntlet?

    Virtually all of the articles I've read on hypoxic waters and dead zones fail to address this paradox. I've only read one paper that
    mentioned even an _hypothesis_ of how algae grazers fail to flourish -- referring to algae species that protect themselves with toxins.
    But this doesn't ring true: Why would the most pioneering of algae species be the most protective of themselves when there is so much
    opportunity to evolve optimizations for growth rather than defense against grazers?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ihlosi (895663)
      What I'm referring to as a seeming "paradox" is not only the fact that the base of the food chain is dramatically expanded by nutrients -- but that the organisms making up this foundation produce _oxygen_ from photosynthesis supporting algae grazers with both food _and_ oxygen.

      Why don't the smaller, rapidly-reproducing zooplankton take up the gauntlet?

      Because algae consume oxygen when there is no sunlight, just like any other plant. If there's sufficient quantities of algae, they will suffocate any hi

    • The situation you describe looks like a new equilibrium that's seperated from the existing ones by a kinetic barrier; Before algae grazers can move in, the bloom peaks, dies, and creates a dead zone phenomenon.
    • by Entropy2016 (751922) <entropy2016@yahoo . c om> on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:48AM (#23706613)

      Yes I know the story: nutrients create algae blooms which then die and decay thereby robbing the ocean of oxygen.
      No, you don't know the story. That's only part of it.
      In addition to losing oxygen, the water becomes more turbid,and the proportions of species in the community is damaged.
      Some of these algal/cyanobacteria blooms are actually toxic to plants & animals.

      Why don't the smaller, rapidly-reproducing zooplankton take up the gauntlet?
      Because they suffocate near the alleged food source. That of course assumes the food source firstly isn't toxic to them.
      Ever seen a dead mouse in a mouse-trap? Food surrounded by lethal conditions is hardly food.

      Why don't the smaller, rapidly-reproducing zooplankton take up the gauntlet?

      Virtually all of the articles I've read on hypoxic waters and dead zones fail to address this paradox. I've only read one paper that
      mentioned even an _hypothesis_ of how algae grazers fail to flourish -- referring to algae species that protect themselves with toxins.
      But this doesn't ring true: Why would the most pioneering of algae species be the most protective of themselves when there is so much
      opportunity to evolve optimizations for growth rather than defense against grazers?
      The evolution of life doesn't care about optimizations for growth. Evolution does not seek to form a more perfect creature. Either the environment kills it before it reproduces or it doesn't. Their goal is survival, not being efficient at it. An organism's life can be amazingly cruel and miserable, yet still perfectly succeed in this function. Optimizations and perfections aren't on the agenda unless the consequence of not adopting such things is extinction.

      It's very simple, unthinking, and without any sort of goal orientation save for existing. If the algae can exist successfully without such optimizations, they will continue to do so. Kinda like how massive numbers of people will continue to buy large inefficient vehicles until gas gets expensive. They could have used optimized & efficient vehicles, but they don't unless they perceive it to be absolutely necessary to get by.
  • Consider the source (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JakartaDean (834076) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:22AM (#23706457) Journal
    Well, this would certainly be great if true -- the impact of increased global temperatures and higher availability of CO2 means that plant life booms, sequestering CO2. But...

    Consider the source. The summary links to two rather untrustworthy sources of global warming information. Why are there no links to the actual study? Maybe the lack of appropriate links is, in it's own way, part of the story. Colour me sceptical.

  • checks and balances (Score:3, Informative)

    by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:24AM (#23706461) Homepage Journal
    like the US government, nature seems to have a neat system of checks and balances in place to prevent someone from coming in and ruining everything.

    Antarctica is currently so cold, it cannot snow. But it is currently melting. Along with this melting, Antarctica is heating up, and soon, it WILL be able to snow, and this snow will cause the glaciers to grow. Balance.

    More CO2 in the air means plants will grow bigger and faster, and begin pumping O2 into the air. Balance.

    Unfortunately, humans seem to be a lot like the Bush administration. we barge in and start screwing around with things so much, these checks and balances disappear. this is what we call a tipping point, and I believe we are nearing the point where it will be socially acceptable to crack each other's heads open and feast on the delicious goo inside.
  • Twisted Conclusion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by estitabarnak (654060) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:26AM (#23706483)
    An excellent example of taking raw data and jumping to a conclusion. Certainly, if the numbers show that plant biomass is up, then biomass could very well be up, but is that a good thing?

    This does not take in to account bioDIVERSITY. While we may be increasing crop density, causing giant algol blooms, is monoculture something that we really want?

    You can introduce an exotic species of grass to populations in the Moaje desert which are extremely prone to burning, but will grow back from the ground. All of the native plants, which are not accustomed to fires die off. What you're left with is an exotic grass that any number of animal species may need be able to utilize. Destroy biodiversity at the bottom and everything above it falls apart.

    Same goes for giant algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico due to high nitrogen runoff from agriculture. Sure there's a metric fuck-ton of algae growing there, but at what cost? If the death of every other living thing (or nigh on) in the surrounding area is good, then... great!

    Furthurmore, last time I checked, Carbon was not exactly a limiting factor in plant growth. I've seen plants die from pH, salt poisoning, incorrect water levels, heat, cold, you name it. However, I don't think I've ever seen a plant suffer from lack of CO2.

    In short: To say that plant biomass alone accounts for a healthy ecosystem and that increased carbon levels confers from magical "nutrients" to plants is far-fetched at best.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:39AM (#23706551)
      "Furthurmore, last time I checked, Carbon was not exactly a limiting factor in plant growth. I've seen plants die from pH, salt poisoning, incorrect water levels, heat, cold, you name it. However, I don't think I've ever seen a plant suffer from lack of CO2..."

      CO2 IS a limiting factor in plant growth. The current concentration, around 350 ppm, is actually at the lowest end for plant survival. Dendrochronologists have to factor in extra growth caused by the recent CO2 blip into their calculations. Why do you think polytunnel farmers inject extra CO2 into their tunnels?

      To people who know about these things, this is a non-story.

      If you don't know what you're talking about, please don't post on slashdot as if you do.....
    • Biodiversity is the logical result of a lack of bio-adversity. Bio-adversity, or a period of stress as we are now seeing, will weed out the species less able to adapt. Darwin has never been disproven in this aspect of his observations and conclusions. The most disturbing aspect to most "extremists" is that the change is "man-made." Guess what? Man is part of the biosphere. I'm not advocating that we abandon restraint or forgo seeking knowledge about our planet, only that we realize that we are bound t

  • ! "Scientists" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0WaitState (231806) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:49AM (#23706619)
    The posting headline is misleading: the article author has written a book attempting to debunk global warming. This is not a scientific consensus, but one man pushing a contrary position. Check it out, and make your own evaluation:

    The Deniers [nationalreview.com]

    Lawrence Solomon is author of a new book from the new Richard Vigilante Books. The book is The Deniers: The World Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud *And those who are too fearful to do so. And that about tells you everything you need to know. In The Deniers, Solomon focuses on profiling the scientists Al Gore conveniently doesn't engage. In the run-up to the hottest holiday of the year, Earth Day, he took questions from National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez.
  • by Knutsi (959723) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:58AM (#23706661)

    First of all, note that the auhtor here does have an agenda. From the end of the article:

    "Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and author of The Deniers"

    The book [amazon.com] he wrote does make a clear statement about how he feels about the current debate.

    In any event, none can say that this development is linear. Beyond a certain point, maybe the balance between heating caused by CO2 and the increased plant consumption looks very different, and turns around. The complexity of these systems are not to be underestimated, and reading this article as "Some more CO2 might be good for us!", or at least reading it as a excuse not to do anything (like all those SUV owner might), would be bad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ktulu_03 (668300)
      So what? Pro-global warming scientists certainly have an agenda to prove that warming does exist, to keep the grant money flowing. Al Gore certainly has an agenda, to keep promoting global warming, so that the carbon credits keep coming in, so that his movies/books keep selling. All sides in this are tainted by money, and this whole issue has created an industry around it. Everyone's trying to get their slice of it.
  • by Martian_Kyo (1161137) on Monday June 09, 2008 @04:00AM (#23706669)
    That global warming will kill the planet. It might kill the current life forms, and new ones will emerge. The question is, can we survive that change?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2008 @05:55AM (#23707177)
    There are two countries that have everything to gain from this warming, Canada and Russia. For the most part, they will not suffer from desertification like the USA, but they will benefit greatly from the limits of agriculture moving steadily northward. And in both countries, the huge forests will produce 6% more wood than a few years ago. Of the two, Russia is in the better position with bigger oil reserves compared to Canada's tarsands, and with a larger educated population that can leverage the benefits of being resource rich. Also, China is a resource poor country when you factor in its population size, but this market is much easier for Russia to reach than for Canada.

    Couple this with political factors such as former Soviet countries now full members of the EU, increasing cooperation between the EU and former Soviet countries in Asia, Russia applying the EU model in a building up a dozen treaty organizations throughout former Soviet countries and beyond, and you have the makings of a real superpower. The hawkish position of many American politicians is the fuel that spurs Russia to take this road.

  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Monday June 09, 2008 @08:09AM (#23707761)
    Since the biological things in the biosphere are made of mostly of Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen, and Nitrogen (the old COHN thing) in that order... Why should anyone be suprised that massive pumping of hydrocarbons out of the ground and conversion (burning) to CO2 - which plants like - is increasing biomass? Let me rephrase that - we're adding mass to the biosphere, why shouldn't we expect an increase in biomass? It's so like "Duh"... If a "scientist" didn't see this comming, they're not much of a scientist.
  • pollution is not defined as killing life, it is defined as wacking the natural balance out of balance

    eutrophication for example

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eutrophication [wikipedia.org]

    eutrophication is when the soil is fertilized for agriculture, and the run off causes a massive boom in algae in rivers and streams and bays, which suck out all of the oxygen, reducing a previously complex ecosystem into a slime pit

    so what we have here is eutrophication of our entire planet, its atmosphere

    the idea of being good stewards of our planet is not a monopolar concept. it is about keeping things in balance

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