My word, perhaps Gaia really is Gaia

An alarming rise has been witnessed in the population of small microscopic organism plankton. Evaluation of data of Continuous Plankton Recorder has led researchers to find a 10-fold increase in single-cell coccolithophores’ population between 1965 and 2010. Many have been linking the rise in the population to the increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the oceans.

And what do they do?

A more widely accepted idea, however, is that over the long term coccolithophores contribute to an overall decrease in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. During calcification two carbon atoms are taken up and one of them becomes trapped as calcium carbonate. This calcium carbonate sinks to the bottom of the ocean in the form of coccoliths and becomes part of sediment; thus, coccolithophores provide a sink for emitted carbon, mediating the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

Increased CO2 means increased permanent carbon segregation in sediment.

Hmmm.….

The study co-author continues, “We never expected to see the relative abundance of coccolithophores to increase 10 times in the North Atlantic over barely half a century. If anything, we expected that these sensitive calcifying algae would have decreased in the face of increasing ocean acidification (associated with increasing carbon dioxide entering the ocean from the burning of fossil-fuels). Instead, we see how these carbon-limited organisms appear to be using the extra carbon from CO2 to increase their relative abundance by an order of magnitude.”

Furthermore, Dr. Balch tells, “This provides one example on how marine communities across an entire ocean basin are responding to increasing carbon dioxide levels. Such real-life examples of the impact of increasing CO2 on marine food webs are important to point out as the world comes together in Paris next week at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.”

Why do I think the message isn’t going to be “don’t worry so much lads”?

28 thoughts on “My word, perhaps Gaia really is Gaia”

  1. I daresay the next thing these “scientists” will be saying is that the carbonate somehow gets turned into layers of rock, something insane like that.

  2. Wow! Creature becomes more common when it gets more nutrients!
    Only an alarmist could describe this as alarming.
    In other news:
    Invention of agriculture provokes alarming population increase.
    Invention of penicillin provokes alarming decline in death rates.
    etc

  3. I’m no expert, but I seem to recall that inserting carbon dioxide into water requires great pressure and even then the result is only very weakly acidic.

    At least, that used to be the case with our SodaStream…

  4. Well duh.

    The earth has existed for billions of years, life on earth for a good proportion of that. And has happily survived all manner of types of climate and catastrophes during that time. At no point has it spun out into a negative death spiral. And Man turns up about 10 seconds ago, and about a pico-second second ago starts mass burning of fossil fuels and suddenly thinks he is in control of the earth’s climate.

    The arrogance of it it breath taking.

  5. View from the Solent

    An ‘alarming’ increase in the inhabitants of the bottom of the food chain? Run for the hills! We’re going to be knee-deep in fish.

  6. “An alarming rise has been witnessed in the population of small microscopic organism plankton.”

    As panics go, this is pisspoor.

  7. So Much For Subtlety

    Jim – “Well duh. The earth has existed for billions of years, life on earth for a good proportion of that. And has happily survived all manner of types of climate and catastrophes during that time. At no point has it spun out into a negative death spiral. ”

    What Jim said. The Earth survived the K-T extinction event. It is laughable to think we can do much to it. But it does show the limits of our knowledge. We simply do not know enough to be confident about anything. After all, about half the CO2 we have put out there has vanished. This may be where it has gone but we do not know.

    In the light of our ignorance, we should do the simple, the safe, the cheap out of precaution. That means phasing out coal, moving to gas, promoting nuclear. It does not mean adopting the Khmer Rouge’s policies.

  8. Why do I think the message isn’t going to be “don’t worry so much lads”?

    Because eco-doomsterism (somehow) requires eco-apocalypse, so ‘we’ are collectively punished for our eco-sins against Gaia….Repent, flagellate and believe!

  9. Anyone know whether the chemistry of this process is exothermic or endothermic? If it’s the latter, the little critters must be getting the energy from somewhere. And it’s being bound up in the carbonate.
    Could be where the heat the climate models predict, but seems to be absent, is going.

  10. There was a thing about sharks getting smaller due to higher CO2 levels the other day and wasn’t this awful, despite sharks having been around for 420 million years during which atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have varied between 180 and 4000 ppm. The really, really long term trend is downwards as natural processes sequester carbon and that is bad for the viability of plant (and thus animal) life. By chucking a bit of plant food in the air we might be staving off a really bad problem 400 million years from now. Or maybe not. Who knows? Not climatologists by the look of it.

  11. “The really, really long term trend is downwards as natural processes sequester carbon”
    Not.
    The carbonates get subducted by techtonic.action. The CO2 is cooked out by the high temperatures & vented. It’s a cycle.

  12. @BiF
    I would have presumed net exothermic for animals. Why we emit CO2. But definitely net endo for plants. Takes energy to bind CO2 & water into sugars & cellulose.

  13. What enrages me the most are marine biologists and scuba divers.
    They do an hour or two in a swimming pool and trot off to a coral reef.
    Reefs are biologically robust but structurally vulnerable.
    Then having visited some reef where some other idiot divers have broken off the living coral because they are too incompetent to control their bouyancy they declare the acidity of the ocean as the culprit instead of their own stupid incompetence and moralising prejudice.

    99% of reef sharks are no threat to humans. We need a GM research program to make them eat neoprene.

  14. BIS
    Think we may be talking at cross porpoises. My take is that anything that grows is endothermic, then it’s exothermic when, for example, you light your wood fire. But point taken about energy extracted from the sun.

  15. @BiF
    I’d presume these little buggers aren’t the bottom of their food chain. They get energy from eating algae, which photosynthesizes.
    But if they’re dying & sinking to the ocean floor, they’re taking with them the carbonates & the amino acids make up the soft tissue. Depends how much of the latter returns to the carbon cycle & how much gets deposited so TimN can drill for it.
    Like you say, the sunlight comes back out c/o Total Premium.
    Given that there’s probably megatons of these critters, that’s a lot of energy.

  16. The CO2 balance is a cycle with a long term downward slope. It’s entirely possible the sun will be starting its red giant phase before it drops too low for plant life to survive, but nonetheless the trend over hundreds of millions of years is downwards. If humans survive the next few millennia, of course, we may become technologically sophisticated enough to do some real planetary scale engineering in which case we’ll have whatever CO2 concentration we damn well please.

  17. Costas
    It’s predicted that the sun will become a red giant in about 500 million years and swallow the earth. WHY aren’t our leaders and opinion formers organising conferences in Cancun, Rio, Syndey and the Sexchelles to combat this threat?

  18. So Much For Subtlety

    Rob – “99% of the population would view smaller sharks as a Good Thing.”

    Especially if it makes Sharknado closer to reality

  19. Bloke in Costa Rica

    bif: it’s a bloody sight longer than 500 million years before the red giant phase—about 5.5 billion years before it exhausts core hydrogen. Then another billion years or so to full size. It will have become a lot more luminous before then though, so if we want to keep the Earth at about the same temperature as it is today we’re going to have to shift its orbit, initially to 1.4AU or so but eventually out to beyond where Pluto is now. Then we’d have to wind it back in to about where Saturn is now until it goes Asymptotic Giant Branch at which point it’s probably time to call it a day.

  20. @BiCR: Assuming we can hold technological civilisation together for another century, and that the Greens or ISIS haven’t regressed us all to nomadic pastoralism, it’s hard to doubt that we’ll be able to build computers that are unarguably intelligent. Then all we need do is provide them with enough kit to build replicas of themselves from the raw materials that appear to be prolific within in any stellar system, point them at a nearby star and wish them bon voyage.

    The fact that the journey time would be measured in millennia is of no concern to a silicon-based intelligence, which can simply reduce its clock rate and fast forward through the tedious bits. A bit of simple arithmetic can demonstrate that such entities could occupy the galaxy within a timescale << a billion years. Which raises the Fermi Paradox – why aren't they here?

    The only sensible answer seems to be that either technological civilisations are vanishingly scarce or ephemeral; or there's some fundamental reason why such self-replicating intelligences are impossible.

  21. Chris Miller

    Which raises the Fermi Paradox – why aren’t they here?

    The only sensible answer seems to be that either technological civilisations are vanishingly scarce or ephemeral; or there’s some fundamental reason why such self-replicating intelligences are impossible.

    And / or, once capable of that level of sophistication, it seemed obvious (perhaps they called it the “prime directive”) not to interfere with basic or primitive life forms?

  22. Bloke in Costa Rica wrote:
    “It will have become a lot more luminous before then though, so if we want to keep the Earth at about the same temperature as it is today we’re going to have to shift its orbit…”

    Life-endingly more output in about 500 million years, which is possibly where BiF remembered that time frame. There really isn’t that long left in the greater natural scheme of things.

    I think a giant sunshade at L1 would be an easier engineering challenge than rearranging the solar system. That technique should last the billions of years until red giant doom.

    Maybe the future equivalents of economics blogs will be arguing the toss over whether planetary engineering projects are for the curraygus world state or best left to free market hyper capitalism.
    .

  23. Life-endingly more output in about 500 million years

    Nope. As stated above, the Sun is only about half-way through its life on the proton-proton cycle. It’s not going to get life-endlingly warmer until after it starts helium burning (which requires hotter temperatures and higher pressures, therefore the outer layers expand etc, etc.)

  24. So Much For Subtlety

    PJF – “Maybe the future equivalents of economics blogs will be arguing the toss over whether planetary engineering projects are for the curraygus world state or best left to free market hyper capitalism.”

    I expect the only thing blogs in the future will argue about is how pointy the rocks that you stone adulterers to death should be. There is no future for people who don’t turn up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *