A Different Slant on Global Warming

Where has all the carbon gone?

Carbon is an essential element to the composition and survival of every form of life. All carbon on the surface of the planet originally started out in the atmosphere; most of that is now dissolved in the sea, and 99.95% of what was left has been locked away, as peat and organic marine deposits (which become fossil fuels) and as carbonate deposits representing the remains of shellfish and corals (which become limestone). Many of the fossil fuels and limestones date from periods in the Earth's history when the biosphere was in overdrive, because of much higher atmospheric CO2 levels and warmer climates than we have today.

If the biosphere's major function is to permanently sequester (ie bury) its major raw material, it must have a "use-by" date; the approach of this would be signalled by creeping carbon starvation causing food shortages and species extinction. Sound familiar? The burning of fossil fuels has effectively recycled much of this sequestered carbon; the Industrial Revolution has arguably "topped up" the planet's life support system.

Us humans are the most adaptable species on the planet, having colonised virtually every part of it at the expense of most other species, through appropriation of their habitats for our own purposes, and by direct predation. We've even managed to cope with global warming and a sea level rise of around 100 metres in the last twenty thousand years or so; are we really complaining about another two metres? To believe that everthing should now stay the same because we have got used to the way it is, and because our own (primarily temperate and coastal) habitat is now under threat, seems incredibly arrogant and just as futile. Perhaps we should be listening to what the planet is telling us, instead of dictating to it, Canute-style.

The loss of a bit of real estate is a small price to pay for keeping the Earth habitable for a few more millennia. If there is intellegent life here by then, they will probably thank us.