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CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas, and greenhouse effects are not the only CO2 problem

Filed under: — gavin @ 7 July 2008 - (Español)

The title here should strike a familiar theme for most readers. Climate forcings do not just include CO2 (other greenhouse gases, aerosols, land use, the sun, the orbit and volcanoes all contribute), and the impact of human emissions often has non-climatic effects on biology and ecosystems.

First up last week was a call from Michael Prather and colleagues that the production of a previously neglected greenhouse gas (NF3) was increasing and could become a significant radiative forcing. This paper was basically an update of calculations done for the IPCC combined with new information about the production of this non-Kyoto gas.

Most of the media stories that picked this up focused on the use of this gas in a particular manufacturing process – flat screen TVs. Thus the headlines almost all read something like “Flat-screen TVs cause global warming”! (see here, here, here etc.). Unfortunately, very few of the headline writers read the small print.

NF3 is indeed a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 (as are methane, CFCs and SF6 etc.), but because it is much less prevalent, the net radiative forcing (as with other Kyoto gases) is much smaller. Unfortunately, no-one has any measures of the concentration of NF3 in the atmosphere. This is likely to be increasing, since production has stepped up rapidly in recent years, but the amount of gas that escapes to the air is unknown. Manufacturers claim that it is only a very small percentage – but historically such claims have not always been very reliable. However, it is almost certain that NF3 has not caused a significant amount of global warming (yet).

The one issue that many stories did get wrong was in the comparison with coal. Prather’s paper compared the effect of the entire global production of NF3 being released into the atmosphere with the CO2 impact of one coal-fired power station. Since that is the maximum estimate of the current effect, and only matches a single power-station, the subtlety of the comparison got a little lost on the way to “Flat screen TVs ‘worse than coal’” story….

Needless to say, no-one should be throwing away their flat screen TVs because of this (it’s not in the use of the TV that causes a problem), but manufacturers will likely need to step up monitoring of NF3 leakage or switch to an alternative process which some have already done.

The second story getting some attention, is the ocean acidification issue. As we’ve discussed previously, the increased take up in the oceans of human-released CO2 is rapidly increasing the acidity (lowering the pH) of the oceans, making it more difficult for many carbonate-producing organisms to produce calcite or aragonite. These organisms include corals, coccolithophores, foraminfera, shell fish etc.

Both of these issues are relevant to the ongoing climate change discussion and it’s good to see the media picking up (albeit imperfectly) on these ancillary discussions. But as with the “North Pole” lightning rod discussed last week, there always needs to be a hook before something gets wide press (the ‘tyranny of the news peg’ as ably described by Andy Revkin). In the first case, there was a link to a popular consumer item and in the second, there has been a concerted effort to get the ocean acidification issue higher up the agenda.

The fact of the matter is that most of what goes on in the sciences is completely (and usually correctly) well below the radar of the public at large. But when there are discoveries and issues that do have public policy ramifications, getting the public to pay attention often requires finding just these kinds of resonances. Now if there was only a way to make sure the story underneath was accurate….

232 Responses to “CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas, and greenhouse effects are not the only CO2 problem”

  1. 201
    Andree Henkel says:

    @4 John Mashey
    I want to flashlight your point
    we are getting to the point where CO2 is simply impairing the air we breathe – a “golden future” for CO2 concentration controlled (and energy consuming) airconditioning – no joke

    -current CO2 level: about 280ppm – this is atmospheric background concentration
    -annual increase 2ppm/year (and this rate is still increasing)
    -so we will reach 500ppm probably much sooner than Yr 2100 (no possible harmful feedbacks assumed)
    the such called Pettenkofer Value calls for 500ppb as target maximum indoor concentration of CO2 in airconditioning
    harmful effects on human health such as headaches and sickness start little above this value at less than 1000ppb

    as urban concentrations are substantially above atmospheric background situation gets worse, there is simply no more of the rare “fresh air” to do airconditioning

  2. 202
    Chuck Booth says:

    Answer to Carbon Emissions May Lie Under the Sea

    By Eli Kintisch
    ScienceNOW Daily News
    14 July 2008

    Scientists may have found a way to chemically lock up a trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide, many times the expected global carbon emissions over the next century. The plan involves injecting the greenhouse gas into huge formations of the porous volcanic rock basalt that lie on the sea floor. The approach would be expensive, however, and a host of questions remain about the technique…

    Now, researchers have detailed the potential for deep-sea basalt formations to provide even more places for humanity to quarantine its carbon waste. A team led by geophysicist David Goldberg of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, focused on a 70,000-square-kilometer region of the Juan de Fuca plate. This honeycomb of porous basalt lies under more than 200 meters of clay roughly 200 kilometers off the Oregon coast. Analysis of drilling data along with geochemical and seismic studies reveal that this region alone could hold more than 250 billion tons of carbon–more than 120 years worth of U.S. emissions…

    In the group’s scheme, reported today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, carbon dioxide would be injected in a liquidlike state into the sea floor, where it would be held below the clay sediments for decades to centuries. There, the carbon would react with the basalt to form chalk, a chemical reaction that laboratory and field tests on terrestrial basalt formations suggest is irreversible…

  3. 203
  4. 204

    How much is the actual pH changing by? 0.2 units (that’s on a logarithmic scale and implies a very small change in proton concentration doesn’t it? Moreover, if the oceans are absorbing atmospheric CO2 doesn’t that mean there’s going to be less in the atmosphere.

    (Dons asbestos suit for ensuing flame)


  5. 205

    GOAL: No CO2 emissions.

    A fundamental change in our driving habits is now required.

    The Automobile Industry is going to be in the same position as the Airline Industry in the next few months. Unless we get away from gas combustion vehicles, including Hybrids, the automobile industry (as we know it) will die.We need to make drastic moves. America needs to move to ELECTRIC. The vehicles are not as fast, not always as fun to drive, but the move will save Americans money (Billions) and help bring change to our automotive companies. Let’s “Be Green”!!!!!!!!!!!! BG Automotive Group Ltd. has a car that will travel 80-100 miles per charge for $15,995. Finally a car that most Americans can afford. Did you know that 80% of all drivers, drive less than 50 miles per day? This new car will cost an equivalent of $0.20-0.25 cents/gallon (depending on electricity rates in your area). Why send $700 Billion per year to OPEC (now buying up U.S. companies) when we can use this money for our schools, health care, social security for all Americans, etc, etc, etc. We can make the difference if WE change.

  6. 206
    dhogaza says:

    Well, Robert Stenson, the APS has caused the following words to appear as a preface to Monckton’s crap:

    The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review. Its conclusions are in disagreement with the overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community. The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article’s conclusions.

    Elsewhere they point out that this online raglet is not peer-reviewed, is a very minor part of the empire, etc.

    If it were 800 years ago I’d expect to see the editor’s head on a pole by morning.

  7. 207
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re @204

    A 0.2 drop in pH is actually rather large, a increase of ~58% in [H+]!
    Yes absorption by the oceans does reduce the atmospheric concentration, that’s why the concentration is as low as it is now, unfortunately it’s unable to keep up so they both go up.

  8. 208
    Hank Roberts says:

    > implies a very small change in proton concentration doesn’t it?
    > … (Dons asbestos suit for ensuing flame)

    Your link leads back to your own blog:
    “David Bradley Science Writer” … “ is the website of freelance science writer David Bradley BSc CChem MRSC.” … “SciTech news and views with a healthy dose of skepticism …”

    Posting elementary error, anticipating flames as attention? Eschew!

  9. 209
    Hank Roberts says:

    Accounting for sea surface temperature, we calculate an average reduction in clear-sky outgoing long-wave radiation for the year 2006 of 0.48plusminus0.14 W m-2 between 45° S and 45° N. This estimate of the clear-sky greenhouse effect from tropospheric ozone provides a critical observational constraint for ozone radiative forcing used in climate model predictions.

  10. 210
  11. 211
    FB [edit] says:

    Over the last few days I have ventured to RealClimate more regularly than in the past to look at articles on a variety of subjects. One point which shines through many of the articles (and editorial responses to comments) is a presumption that everything was “in balance” before the industrial revolution (for example Mr Gavin’s response to comment 64 in this thread).

    That is a truism if one defines “in balance” as “unaffected by industrialisation”.

    But if one defines “in balance” as “stable” it is palpably untrue. All sorts of changes to the climate have occurred historically, severe heating, mild heating, severe cooling, mild cooling and everything in between. Yet in his response Mr Gavin gives an analogy in which he uses the word “stable”.

    If one takes 1750 as the base year in which everything was exactly as it should be then any effect of industrialisation is necessarily a detriment. But I cannot accept that as a proper starting position because I would have to ask why 1750, why not 1700, or 1650, or 1089 or 1,000BC or any other point in history?

    It will probably not surprise you to hear me say that I approach the AGW debate from the opposite side of the fence from this blog, I hope it will also not surprise you to hear that I make this comment because I want to know whether there is an answer to my concern. Do you start from the position that everything prior to the industrial revolution was “natural” and the industrial activities of one animal are “unnatural”?

    I hope you will not think the way I phrased my question in any way rude, it is not intended to be, it is a genuine question because I have noticed a tendency for articles here to presume that anything humans have done must be a detriment. And that troubles me (just as my opposite presumption might trouble you).

    [Response: I have no idea where you’ve got this idea, but my own science has been completely ecumenical in looking at drivers of climate change. Climate models don’t care why CO2 has risen, or the sun’s forcing has changed, or why volcanoes erupted or ice dam burst or why the orbit wobbles. As to stability, CO2, CH4, N2O were realtively stable for thousands of years prior to the industrial revolution. Since then they have changed faster than at any time for which we have reasonable estimates. You don’t need to have any special attitude to notice things have changed. The same goes for land use change and aerosol emissions. Humans have changed all the rules. None of these elements were absolutely static prior to human interference, and those (much smaller) fluctuations play a role in understanding pre-industrial variability. The attribution problem (did a cause likely give rise to an observed effect) is similar agnostic about whether these things are good or bad or indifferent. It troubles me that this is not obvious to you. – gavin]

  12. 212
    Chris Colose says:

    FB (211)

    It is well known that climate during the last 2,000 years, and the Holocene as a whole has exhbited a fair degree of change(MWP, LIA, Holocene optimum, etc) but in fact all of these events were still very small when compared to other climate changes such as during the glacial times, glacial-to-interglacial transitions, PETM, etc. Some of them may even have been a largely zero-sum game globally, but with larger regional anomalies. Even these very small “bumps” mattered quite a bit for the vikings, the mayans, and others. So you can see why a change that represents as much as going from a full glaciation to our current interglacial can be worrysome!

    It doesn’t look like we have went outside a range of + or – one degree C since the last glaciation, so the current temperature rise is really beginning to separate itself from what nature has been doing. The relative stability of GHG concentrations is also what it is. The fact that ice cores show no CO2 concentration higher in 800,000 years (and probably much longer, but confidence decreases as ice cores go away) and that the rate of GHG change is at least an order of magnitude greater thn glacial-interglacial variability, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out we are changing the atmosphere…and that is changing climate.

  13. 213
    FB [edit] says:

    Thank you Mr Gavin and Mr Colose for your responses.

    I am not, and do not pretend to be, a scientist. I do not have the technical knowledge required to understand every nuance of every article on this or any other blog on this subject. So I have to rely on something I do understand – words.

    The words I questioned were “in balance” and “stable”. Mr Gavin, you were kind enough to explain that you used those words in a specific way, a way that is both logical and, arguably, linguistically correct.

    I had interpreted them more literally. My interpretation led me to suggest that they had been misused. I then asked whether that perceived misuse was caused by a presumption implicit in many of the comments to this thread.

    You explained the meaning you intended to convey and I accept that explanation. There was no need for you to be gratuitously offensive in your final sentence.

  14. 214
    Wally says:

    Re; CH4.
    I am working on a simple model for investors (time challenged, non science, daily money voters who control business) to understand the negative impacts (the cost) of poor investment decisions.
    Profit sensitive investors, fearing money loss, may invest in alternatives, solar power etc. Rather than Co2 intensive production of energy hungry goods.
    Please correct my assumptions.

    a). Total sea ice area in 2007 was 4.13 million km2 and the Greenland land ice was 1.7 million km2,

    b) As the sea ice melts, Daily image update it will reduce by about 2/3’s the total arctic peak summer heat reflection.

    c) The sea ice, formally reflecting 95% of incoming heat, soon melted will absorb 85% of the heat. A 17 fold increase in heat load.

    d) Thus the increase heat load from the sun, over the whole arctic in peak summer is. 2/3 x 17 = 11.33.

    e) There is a -1C buffer between the frozen potential CH4 and it’s emergence.

    f) QUESTION. How many ice-free summers this would take for permafrost to start to melt? (I live in a hot country, Australia)

    g) The pending relese of CH4 equals the effect of man’s Co2 production.

    h) QUESTION How many years will it take for 80% of this effect to engage once it starts to thaw.

    i) The green house effect, from 80% of the available CH4 = 80% more heat load on Greenland.

    j) That although the sea level is rising at 1.7mm per year the acceleration of 0.013mm per year is the danger.

    k) Thus 80% more the green house heat load on Greenland = 1.8 times the annual sea level acceleration.

    l) Multiplying sea level acceleration of 0.013mm by 1.8 = 0.0234mm.

    m) The acceleration is continuous unless stoped. Therefore year 2 sea level acceleration should be multiplied by 1.8 to get the year 3 figure = 0.04212mm, year 3 acceleration by 1.8 = 0.075816mm and so on.

    n) Feed back loops like this multiply each other.

    Hope I have not mangled science.
    I’m in the clear, take a shot.

    [Response: The ice-albedo feedback is reduced through the intervention of clouds – open water is generally more cloudy than ice covered ocean and so the effect on the planetary albedo is less severe than you hypothesise here (still a real factor though!). – gavin]

  15. 215
    Wally says:
    Sorry this the link to the Daily Image Update.

  16. 216
    Rando says:

    The evidence from experimental observations of CH4 releases from live plants (see sources below) now looks to be fairly compelling, and points to the effect of UV light on plant pectin as a mechanism. This certainly raises some interesting possible connections and feedbacks, i.e.- increasing CO2 = increased vegetative biota = increase in CH4 = enhanced ‘greenhouse’ warming = increase in H2O vapour = further enhancement of ‘greenhouse’ warming = further increases in H2O vapour = further enhancement of ‘greenhouse’ warming, etc., etc.

    Sources: Frank Keppler, John T.G. Hamilton, W. Colin McRoberts, Ivan Vigano, Marc Braß and Thomas Röckmann, “Methoxyl groups of plant pectin as a precursor of atmospheric methane: evidence from deuterium labelling studies, New Phytologist, May 9, 2008”

    Ivan Vigano, Huib van Weelden, Rupert Holzinger, Frank Keppler, Andy McLeod and Thomas Röckmann, “Effect of UV-radiation and temperature on the emission methane from plant biomass and structural components” Biogeosciences in press

    Source: Max Planck Institute for Chemistry)

  17. 217
    Jeffrey Temple says:

    Hi, Please excuse a non climatologist with a simple question. Does increasing CO2 levels have any impact on plant growth, beneficial or otherwise?
    Thank you

    Jeff Temple

  18. 218
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jeffrey, Some plants benefit from increased CO2–all other things being equal (poison ivy is one, but some beneficial plants as well). Others do not. The “all other things being equal” however, is critical. CO2 is rarely the limiting factor in plant growth, and if you get more drought or flooding, any benefit is negated.

  19. 219
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jeffrey, just as an example of why this isn’t simple, putting your question into Scholar just for the year 2008:

    found this among much else:

    “… Elevated CO2 decreased N content and increased C:N ratio of both plant types. ….”

    (excerpt seems impossibl3e due to overprotective spam filter)

  20. 220
    Mark says:


    Yes, increases in CO2 will have an effect (even if miniscule) either good or bad on plants.

    The above is an example of why you should be asking a question, not a statement.

  21. 221
    llewelly says:

    Hi, Please excuse a non climatologist with a simple question. Does increasing CO2 levels have any impact on plant growth, beneficial or otherwise?
    Thank you
    Jeff Temple

    If all other conditions are right, some plants can leverage increased CO2 levels to achieve greater growth. These conditions include, but are not limited to:
    (a) Temperature. Every plant species has a range of temperature it grows best in. In many cases this range can be quite narrow (for example, the best growth temperature range of corn excludes typical summer daytime temperatures in the North American central plains). The range in which a plant can leverage CO2 for further growth is usually even narrower.
    (b) Water. All plants require water, but too much water can drown plants. Both soil and air moisture must be within a narrow range for a plant to be able to leverage increased CO2 levels.
    (c) Nitrates. Most plants require nitrates for growth. Without sufficient nitrates, plants can’t leverage increased CO2 levels.
    Even if all other conditions are right, the vast majority of plants can only leverage increased CO2 levels only so long as CO2 levels remain with in the narrow range of CO2 levels they adapted to over the course of their evolution. Since CO2 levels were between 160 ppmv and 320 ppmv for about a million years, many plants lack entirely the ability to leverage increased CO2 levels of above 310 ppmv. (Current CO2 level is about 384 ppmv.)

    To bring this into focus, consider the region of North America south of 45N. This region has gotten dryer over the last 50 years, and this is likely due to global warming. It has gotten warmer as well, also due to global warming. It will become still dryer and warmer due to further global warming. But most of the plants in this region are adapated to pre-industrial levels of warmth and moisture. So as global warming causes the region to become dryer and warmer, the warmth and moisture levels will move further away from the optimal warmth and moisture levels needed for leveraging high levels of CO2. As a result, even plants that could theoretically benefit from increased CO2 levels will not, because unsuitably warm and dry weather comes with the increased CO2 levels.
    The end result is that so far only 2 plants, poison ivy and kudzu, have been shown to grow faster in the conditions that global warming is bringing to the areas in which they already grow.

    Imagine a cook who loves salt. Suppose he increases the salt in all of his recipes. Since salt is good, won’t that make all the cook’s recipes better? If you cook, try increasing the salt in a few recipes by 40% or so, and see what happens.

  22. 222
    Mark says:

    To reduce llewelly’s and others content:

    Plants are not pure carbon.

    Therefore if there’s not enough of the “not carbon” around to be had, more CO2 doesn’t mean a thing.

    And Climate Change has more consequences than just “more CO2”.

  23. 223
    Jeffrey Temple says:

    Guys, I just wanted to congratulate you on this blog, and to thank you for your help. I am a chemical engineer, work in the oil industry (in an oil refinery), but am convinced, like I think the majority of us engineers outside of USA, that we do have global warming, and that it is THE major problem we should be facing. I see letters in our technical journals from people who claim it is an invention by those opposed to the capitalist system, as an example, to which I attempt to respond, and your site is giving me the ammunition I need. Thanks
    Jeff Temple
    PS If you could suggest anyone I could contact for support/assistance in this, I would be grateful

  24. 224

    Jeff —

    I don’t know how much help they will be, but my climatology pages are here:


    There are eight pages specifically rebutting assorted deniers.

  25. 225
    Nick Gotts says:

    An important point not yet mentioned is that even if increased CO2 does not increase growth in many circumstances, it is likely to reduce transpiration (loss of water from leaves), as the plants need fewer stomata to absorb their CO2, and it is through these that most water loss takes place. This complicates both plant growth responses, if this is water-limited, and feedback effects on atmospheric composition.

  26. 226
    Mark says:

    Nick, #225.

    True enough. How much of an effect is that is unknown but since they won’t take up more CO2, this isn’t likely to cause more plants to grow worldwide or reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere. It may help in holding off or avoiding minor climate chages causing SOME dessertification, but when you’re in the Sahara, you’re still well limited in water (and just about everything else), so a growing Sahara is still a bad thing.

  27. 227
    Nick Gotts says:

    Mark #226,
    Yes, however the claim was made at a talk by Bob Watson, now chief scientist at UK DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), formerly at the World Bank, that this effect does make an important difference in the CO2 level at which (a) the Amazon will die back and (b) crop yields will fall significantly in many areas. Watson is in no way a denialist, but does say, correctly AFAIK, that GCMs’ representation of vegetation dynamics is pretty rudimentary, and of likely land use change in response to climate change, non-existent.

  28. 228
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Grim news, and right on the heels of the new permafrost carbon store estimates.

    Exclusive: The methane time bomb
    By Steve Connor, Science Editor
    Tuesday, 23 September 2008

    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.

    In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through “methane chimneys” rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a “lid” to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.

    They have warned that this is likely to be linked with the rapid warming that the region has experienced in recent years. …

    Orjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University in Sweden, one of the leaders of the expedition, described the scale of the methane emissions in an email exchange sent from the Russian research ship Jacob Smirnitskyi.

    “We had a hectic finishing of the sampling programme yesterday and this past night,” said Dr Gustafsson. “An extensive area of intense methane release was found. At earlier sites we had found elevated levels of dissolved methane. Yesterday, for the first time, we documented a field where the release was so intense that the methane did not have time to dissolve into the seawater but was rising as methane bubbles to the sea surface. These ‘methane chimneys’ were documented on echo sounder and with seismic [instruments].”

  29. 229
    Jim Galasyn says:

    And more really bad news:

    More methane plumes found in Arctic
    By Tom Peterkin
    Last Updated: 11:01am BST 25/09/2008

    Hundreds more methane plumes have been discovered in the Arctic raising fresh fears that the greenhouse gas is contributing to global warming.

    A British team of scientists found the gas, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, being released from the seabed to the west of the Norwegian island of Svalbard.

    The findings follow the revelation earlier this week that Russian scientists have discovered vast quantities of methane being released by the melting permafrost from the seabed off Siberia.

    Scientists believe that sudden releases of methane have, in the past, been responsible for increasing global temperature, dramatic climate change and the extinction of species.

    The latest discoveries came from researchers on the British ship the James Clark Ross. They said they had observed around 250 methane plumes in a 30 sq mile area.

    “The discovery of this system is important as its presence provides evidence that methane, which is a greenhouse gas, has been released in this climatically sensitive region since the last Ice Age,” Prof Graham Westbrook of Birmingham University, said.

  30. 230
    Mark says:

    Nick #227, “poorly modeled” doesn’t mean “it will counter the model predictions of increased problems with global warming”. It means “it will have an effect on the model predictions, increasing the uncertainty”.


    If you measure by induction the height of the Eiffel tower as 300ft and have an expected error of 50ft, this doesn’t mean the tower is 250-300ft. Errors or uncertainties go up AND down.

    Some effects we can consider but not model mean that water will be less of a problem. Some effects we can consider but not model mean that water will be more limited. They could cancel out. Dessertification is as likely to overwhelm the increased efficiency of plant water use as be overwhelmed by it.

    And since plants are not solid carbon, neither say how the plants are supposed to get the building materials for the other constituents of plant matter.

    E.g. signalling ions of potassium.

  31. 231
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Expect more waves of starving penguins to wash up on equatorial breaches…

    The krilling fields: study fears catastrophe in Antarctic food chain
    Andrew Darby, Hobart
    October 14, 2008

    THE first evidence suggests that a predicted rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide will wreak havoc on krill, the tiny crustacean at the heart of the Antarctic food web.

    Although public sympathy for the crustacean is undetectable, polar life such as penguins, seals and whales would wither without it.

    Captive-bred krill at the Australian Antarctic Division developed deformities and lost energy when they were exposed to the greenhouse gas at levels predicted globally for the year 2100.

    The damage meant that the krill were unlikely ever to breed, a University of Tasmania investigator, Lilli Hale, said yesterday.

    Polar life, from tiny seabirds through penguins and seals to whales, depend for food on Antarctic krill, Euphasia superba.

    A loss of krill suggested there would be a catastrophic impact on these other species, Ms Hale said.

    The level of atmospheric carbon dioxide now stands at 384 parts per million (up 100 ppm since 1832), according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. At a worst case it could reach around 900 ppm in 2100, IPCC models show.

    Carbon dioxide is absorbed by the sea most easily in the colder Southern Ocean, which becomes more acidic, interfering with the formation of calcium carbonate.

    Organisms, including krill, rely on calcium for the formation of their shells.

    In Ms Hale’s study, the division’s world-first krill breeding research facility near Hobart was used to hatch 200 larvae in jars with an artificial atmospheric carbon dioxide level increased to the worst-case 2100 level. “Their anatomy wasn’t quite right,” Ms Hale said. “They were a bit deformed, and they were listless. It’s unlikely they would have survived through to adulthood.”

    When carbon dioxide levels were raised even further, fertilised eggs did not hatch at all. …

  32. 232
    Paul F. Dietz says:

    NF3 has also been proposed as an oxidizer for liquid propellant rockets. It’s much easier to handle than liquid fluorine.

    Rocket engineers also looked into tetrafluorohydrazine (N2F4), which gives even better performance. Perhaps the industries that use NF3 should switch to this, if (as I strongly suspect) it has a short atmospheric lifetime.