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Discussion > Leave Fossil Fuel in the Ground and We will Join it Very Soon

This is my simplified (or simpleton's) understanding of what has been happening during the inter glacials in the current ice age (please feel free to fill in the blanks):

For reasons unproven but assumed to be Milankovitch Cycles; the planet warms quite rapidly out of a glacial period. Levels of atmospheric CO2 follow the rise in temp upwards. The reason that the CO2 rise lags behind the temp rise is that Oceans (which are the source of the CO2) do not warm up in five minutes.
As glaciers retreat then more and more vegetation can return and flourish and more animal life can thrive.
During the (normally) 10,000 years of the inter glacial warm period the animal and plant life extract CO2 from the atmosphere and deposit it as fossils in the ground.
After the (normally 10,000 years of) inter glacial warm period, the planet cools rapidly back to the glacial state. This cooling is (like the initial warming) attributed to Milankovitch cycles. As the planet cools then CO2 is absorbed by the oceans but now there is less CO2 because more of it is stored in the earth.
This seems to me to be the main reason why atmospheric CO2 has fallen gradually over billions of years. Atmospheric CO2 is also stored in the earth through other processes such as the weathering of rocks.

The bottom line is that left to its own devices; the planet will eventually see all the CO2 removed from the atmosphere and life will die out. PLEASE DO COMMENT ON THIS ASSERTION!

Is it possible that burning fossil fuel and returning CO2 to the atmosphere could save us?

Jun 4, 2015 at 3:09 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I don't have a point to this reply, I'm just thinking aloud.

There's always a stream of CO2 being put back into the atmosphere from volcanoes. CO2 is also supposed to have a warming effect especially when it's at its lowest, so as it warms, CO2 is released and that has a warming effect. Warmists argue that the sun only pushes the train off the cliff, the CO2 keeps it running until the effect of CO2 balances with the rate new CO2 is emitted.

I imagine that retreating ice reveals a lot of methane in the form of decayed organic material and/or the CO2 from microbes munching on it. The first landscapes to emerge would be peat land which is a great absorber of CO2 and is supposed to absorm more per metre than rain forest. You'd think all those km2 of greedy peat bogs would stop the CO2 rising.

With the rising greening of the planet it seems that plant life automatically adjusts to how much CO2 there is. Plants grow smaller, slower, in less places and not so tall in poor conditions. During a glaciation large parts of the planet are desert, even when they're cold, partly because so much water is tied up in glaciers and there’s less rainfall, but maybe also because there's less CO2. In many ways the explosion of life after the cold stops and the CO2 increases is magical. It makes a mockery of life being unable to recover from manmade depletion. Sure, we may lose some interesting species but something else will make use of the vacant slot.

Jun 4, 2015 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2


I think I agree with almost everything you said mate. However levels of atmospheric CO2 HAVE been falling throughout the life of the planet. I do not pretend to understand all the processes by which this happens, only that it does happen.

"In many ways the explosion of life after the cold stops and the CO2 increases is magical."

As far as I know ALL the CO2 in the atmosphere when a glacial period ends comes from the ocean (please tell me if you know this is wrong?).
All current forms of plant life need at least 180 ppm and of course new plants will evolve which survive on less CO2 but can we eat it, which animals can survive on the new vegetation?
Yes there will be volcanic activity but will there be enough? We already have volcanoes but still the level of CO2 has been falling for several billion years.
We look at planets in our solar system and some show signs of previous life so what happened to them?

Jun 4, 2015 at 7:11 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Many years ago I read something about the evolution of trees and their expansion to cover vast areas of the surface coincides with the start of major falls in CO2. I will have search for a reference

Jun 9, 2015 at 7:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

I would be very interested to hear what you find SandyS :)

Jun 9, 2015 at 11:39 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Interesting idea. However, Mars and Venus seem to have kept high CO2 ppm's despite very different planetary climate conditions. How does that relate to your speculation? However it is clear that plant life has increased, which means all life has improved, with the recent increase in CO2 here on Earth. Warming in oceans will increase CO2 in the atmosphere (demonstrating yet another fallacy in the climate crisis community). Coal and petroleum burning of course adds to that. And changes in land use, etc.
By the way, don't call your understanding simple- the climate kooks have that market cornered.

Jun 9, 2015 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Hunter: because there are no trees on Mars or Venus?

Jun 9, 2015 at 1:22 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent


As Penfold suggested it is vegetation that eats CO2 and then leaves it behind in the earth. Life on earth is referred to as Carbon based

Jun 9, 2015 at 3:49 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I do agree with RR and you as well, Dung: Earth has been blessed with triple point water, active tectonics, a relatively strong magnetosphere and most of all a great deal of life. They interact to recycle the carbon and other minerals over the long haul of geological time spans and to keep life viable.
If I recall correctly, Earth was a majority CO2 atmosphere until life figured out how to tap CO2 and release O2, trapping carbon. I like the idea that CO2 being repatriated into the atmosphere is a net good. It certainly has been for humans and the animals and plants we utilize.

Jun 9, 2015 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

If there is less CO2 and it cools then there will be less moisture in the atmosphere.
The vegetation, forest, brush and grassland will dry but not die out. It just increases the chance of drought.
Thus it increases the chance of wildfires.

This increases the release of CO2. A feedback.

And don't forget that phytoplankton release loads of CO2 but are limited by minerals. More weathering from variable temperatures and ice grinding will boost the plucky little breathers. A feedback.

And W Eschenbach has his storm governor idea.

There are lots of reasons why the world is not precariously balanced.

Jun 9, 2015 at 8:59 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Not exactly as I remember, but

The Decline of CO2 Levels and the Rise of Deep Roots
Archaeopteris was also the first plant to evolve deep roots. Roots eat away at rocks, burrowing into and dissolving them with acids in pursuit of nutrients. Over an immense period of time the weathered material gets washed into the oceans, where it combines with dissolved CO2 to form sediments that are eventually subducted into the Earth's interior by tectonic activity. This process removed huge amounts of CO2 from the oceans and atmosphere, with profound consequences for the climate. Between the beginning and end of the Devonian, levels of the gas plummeted by up to 95 per cent. Greenhouse conditions vanished, to be replaced by an ice age that at its peak 300 million years ago saw glaciers approaching the tropics.

Deep Roots and Large Leaves
But oddly it was the climatic upheaval brought about by roots that appears to have driven the next great innovation - large leaves. These first appeared 390 million years ago, but only became widespread with Archaeopteris 15 million years later. The stripping of CO2 from the Devonian atmosphere helped to remove an obstacle that had been inhibiting the evolution of large leaves.

From here Science and Evolution, notice that there's a nod towards CO2 and global warming.

Also this paper

Jun 9, 2015 at 9:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

M Courtney

You are ignoring the fact that atmospheric CO2 has been falling for a very, very long time, can you explain why?
Ah it seems that SandyS has done the job for you :)

Jun 9, 2015 at 9:45 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Radical Rodent

Venus lacks water and plate tectonics. With no carbon cycle recycling volcanic CO2 back into the mantle the gas accumulates.

Jun 10, 2015 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Entropic man
Isn't that another facet of RR's point? Nor does it address the Trees Question which includes a large element of indirect Carbon Capture and Storage in the paper is to be believed

Jun 10, 2015 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS


The classic example of RRs Trees Question is the Carboniferous period 300 million years ago. Extensive bogs and forests pulled CO2 down. This was the last time before the current ice age that Earth saw CO2 concentrations similar to Holocene conditions.

Jun 11, 2015 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man


Incidentally, the trapped CO2 became coal seams. That is the CO2 we are now returning to the atmosphere.

Jun 11, 2015 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Entropic Man, you seem to be agreeing with us and so I am not sure why we are arguing ^ .^

Jun 11, 2015 at 11:17 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Entropic man
I think you need to read the paper and extracted I linked to.

Roots eat away at rocks, burrowing into and dissolving them with acids in pursuit of nutrients. Over an immense period of time the weathered material gets washed into the oceans, where it combines with dissolved CO2 to form sediments that are eventually subducted into the Earth's interior by tectonic activity.

A better hypothesis than AGW in my view.

Jun 11, 2015 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS


I found a wiki entry as follows:

Cyanobacteria /saɪˌænoʊbækˈtɪəriə/, also known as Cyanophyta, is a phylum of bacteria that obtain their energy through photosynthesis.[3] The name "cyanobacteria" comes from the color of the bacteria (Greek: κυανός (kyanós) = blue). They are often called blue-green algae (but some consider that name a misnomer, as cyanobacteria are prokaryotic and algae should be eukaryotic,[4] although other definitions of algae encompass prokaryotic organisms).[5]

By producing gaseous oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis, cyanobacteria are thought to have converted the early reducing atmosphere into an oxidizing one, causing "rusting of the Earth"[6] and dramatically changing the composition of life forms on Earth by stimulating biodiversity and leading to the near-extinction of oxygen-intolerant organisms. According to endosymbiotic theory, the chloroplasts found in plants and eukaryotic algae evolved from cyanobacterial ancestors via endosymbiosis.
Plants eventually utilised these little blighters to do their photosynthesis ^.^

Jun 12, 2015 at 12:46 PM | Registered CommenterDung

We now have a list of processes that are taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and the oceans and fixing the carbon in the earth. What natural processes can put this Carbon back where it came from?

Jun 12, 2015 at 12:49 PM | Registered CommenterDung

According to scientists at The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory the CO2 emissions from active and sleeping volcanoes in 2013 was about 200 Million Tonnes. In 2013 CO2 emissions from Anthropogenic sources were estimated to be over 26 Billion Tonnes.
Volcanic action at its current level is not going to make much difference.

Jun 12, 2015 at 1:17 PM | Registered CommenterDung


On some things we agree, on some we differ. C'est la vie. ☺. We seem to agree on the mechanics of the carbon cycle and its long term effect on climate over geological timescales. We disagree on whether anthropogenic CO2 can affect climate over human timescales


The long term carbon cycle and AGW are not mutually exclusive, though they operate over very different timescales. No reason why both be happening at the same time.

Jun 12, 2015 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Although there appear to be several mechanisms for removing CO2 from the atmosphere, the only one not involving mass extinctions, especially of plant life, to return CO2 into the active environment appears to be by extracting the small amounts stored in "fossil fuels". The evidence suggest that this will be quickly recaptured and put back into storage.

Jun 12, 2015 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Entropic man
That's an interesting combination,

The long term carbon cycle and AGW
I prefer Natural Carbon Capture and Storage and Human Carbon replenishment.

Jun 12, 2015 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS


If a major volcanic eruption hits coal seams or limestone you can get a lot of extra CO2. There was recent speculation that this may have contributed to the Permian extinction.

Jun 12, 2015 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man