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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Carbon Dioxide May Be the Least of Our Warming Worries

"When people think of climate change, they think of carbon dioxide. But while CO2 represents 77 percent of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, its relative contribution may be declining. According to two studies published late last year, atmospheric levels of other, more potent gases that also affect climate are on the rise."

"One such gas is nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), which is used to make retail items like microchips and flat-screen TVs. Nitrogen trifluoride is a colorless gas with a moldy odor.

NF3 is a greenhouse gas, with a GWP 17,200 times greater than that of CO2 when compared over a 100 year period. (Global warming potential a measure of how much a given mass of greenhouse gas is estimated to contribute to global warming. It is a relative scale which compares the gas in question to that of the same mass of carbon dioxide (whose GWP is by definition 1). A GWP is calculated over a specific time interval and the value of this must be stated whenever a GWP is quoted or else the value is meaningless.To see the mathematical formula which is used to calculate the GWP go to:

In a study published in Geophysical Research Letters see ,

"researchers analyzed air samples and found that atmospheric NF3 seems to be growing by 11 percent each year across the globe. NF3 lingers in the air for 550 years, on average, and is 17,000 times better at trapping heat than CO2 on a molecule-per-molecule basis. Today the effect of NF3 on climate is just 0.04 percent that of carbon dioxide, but its role could grow dramatically if more manufacturers start using it, says study author Ray Weiss, a geochemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. NF3 emissions are not currently regulated by any government."

"A more immediate problem for climate change is methane, which is released by landfills and melting perma­frost and through farming practices. Levels of this gas are increasing today after eight years of stasis, according to another study in Geophysical Research Letters. Methane remains in the atmosphere one-tenth as long as CO2—about a decade—but traps 20 times as much heat."

According to an article entitled, "Exclusive: The methane time bomb", written by Steve Conner at

"The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.

The Independent has been passed details of preliminary findings suggesting that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats.

Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Scientists aboard a research ship that has sailed the entire length of Russia's northern coast have discovered intense concentrations of methane – sometimes at up to 100 times background levels – over several areas covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf.

Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.

The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth."

"The conventional thought has been that the permafrost 'lid' on the sub-sea sediments on the Siberian shelf should cap and hold the massive reservoirs of shallow methane deposits in place. The growing evidence for release of methane in this inaccessible region may suggest that the permafrost lid is starting to get perforated and thus leak methane... The permafrost now has small holes. We have found elevated levels of methane above the water surface and even more in the water just below. It is obvious that the source is the seabed."

Igor Semiletov of the Far-Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences believes
several possible reasons why methane is now being released from the Arctic, include the rising volume of relatively warmer water being discharged from Siberia's rivers due to the melting of the permafrost on the land.

The Arctic region as a whole has seen a 4C rise in average temperatures over recent decades and a dramatic decline in the area of the Arctic Ocean covered by summer sea ice. Many scientists fear that the loss of sea ice could accelerate the warming trend because open ocean soaks up more heat from the sun than the reflective surface of an ice-covered sea." (source:

No one yet knows the extent to which methane and NF3 will impact global temperatures, but NASA climate scientist Ralph Kahn says one thing is certain: “We know it’s more than just CO2 that matters.” His colleague James Crawford adds, “There’s going to be a lot more looking at this, trying to understand what is going on.”

source of article:"Dioxide May be the Least of Our Warming Worries, written by Melinda Wenner is:

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.