Positive Feedback Loops Are Anything But – By Debi Daniels

The earth now has over 400 ppm CO2 which is more than its had in the last 20 million years. Pre-industrial levels were 280 ppm. Our own species, homo sapiens, had never existed when the CO2 concentration were so high. Scientists are struggling to understand the dynamics of what is happening to our atmosphere. The science is fairly new and early predictions have time and again proven to be inaccurate with the earth changes always happening faster than the models predicted. For instance, the Hadley Center for meteorological research predicted in 2008 that there would be about a 2C increase by 2100. Then in 2009 the same center predicted that the temperature would rise by 4C by only 2060. The United Nations Environmental Program predicted in 2009 that there would be a 3.5C increase by 2100. but then in 2010 the new number was up to 5C by 2050, a huge increase in rate of warming. Halldor Thorgeirsson , a senior director there stated in 2013, “We are failing as an international community. We are not on track.” If you consider the changes which “just” .85C has done, you can see ANY increase only increases the level of a mass extinction event.

The latest report 9 (September 27,2013), from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that global warming will be irreversible without geoengineering, a technology which has not been developed as of yet. The Truthout.org site correctly headlines this as “ The IPCC report leaves hope hanging on fantasy”. Maybe we should see the concept of fantasy as a step up from being outright wrong as the IPCC has been in predicting when the arctic summer ice will be gone. In 2003, the report predicted that the ice would be there well into the middle of the next century. Already in August, 2012, amidst record melt, the Chinese ship Xeulong has become the first Chinese ship to cross the Arctic Ocean, with the expedition leader, Huigen Yang stating, ” To our astonishment…most part of the Northern Sea Route is open”.

There has been so much warming in the ocean that the risk of El Nino is from 70-90%. If that happens there will be anywhere from a 0.05 – 0.15C increase …in one summer!

The problem is not that humans can’t adapt to major temperature fluctuations, as we see happening with just the current 0.85 degrees warming, but that the plants and animals on which we depend on for food cannot adapt. Worldwide, fish, seabird, migratory bird, marine mammals, insect populations are dwindling and dying. They can’t keep up with the pace of change we have set the planet on. Right now we are at a .85 C rise. We know about half of all the plankton on the planet have disappeared. Some areas, such as off the west coast of the US, the 70% have died. The plankton are the bottom of the food chain. This year we saw mass fish deaths worldwide as well as mass starvation of dolphins, orcas, turtles and sea lions. Recent reports of juvenile salmon starving as they hit the open ocean have fisheries biologists worried.  These changes happened in just one year! The delay factor of the atmospheric warming means we are just now experiences changes in CO2 concentrations which happened 40 years ago.

Beginning in 2004, oyster larvae began dying off the Pacific northwest. Samples were sent to OSU, but the dissolved CO2 (pCO2) were so high and the pH was so low, that Dr. Burke Hales thought they had been contaminated and sent for another sample. The point is, this issue has snuck up us. Now ten years later, the wild oyster survival is zero and has been for five years. They were the most sensitive to pH changes. NOAA did a study (Feely et al) and looked at the pteropods in the same area, one of the richest upwelling currents on the planet. They found that these plankton, a critical food source for mackerel, salmon, and herring, were adversely affected by the unavailability of calcium, and in fact 53% were “severely” affected, with their shells dissolved. Dr. Hales has stated that because we are so late in the process of OA dissolving them, they will most likely be gone in the near future. When they go away, he states, “There will be a major restructuring of the food web”. With increasing acidity in the oceans all calcium shell building species will be affected. This trend is not slowing down but accelerating as the oceans absorb more and more CO2. Will we allow our oceans which now are ruled by scales, shells, and flippers to be converted to masses of jellies, bacteria and algae? We are seeing the disappearance of the BOTTOM of the food chain which will have repercussions on up to the top predators.

Mass fish deaths are now happening worldwide .http://www.truthinsideofyou.org/mass-fish-deaths-millions-found-dead-world-past-month/. And along with the fish deaths have come “unusual mortality events” of dolphins, orcas, sea turtles, pelicans,sea lions and other marine life in the summer of 2014. Necropsies performed show many of these starved to death. Shark sightings off southern Calif beaches, once only a yearly event, has now become a daily one. Rare species usually only found in the deep open ocean such as megamouth sharks, oar fish and goblin sharks are also being caught or washing up dead. Scientists have stated that because they are seeing so many deep ocean species wash up dead, “something strange is going on”. http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2014/05/09/rare-megamouth-shark-caught-off-japans-coast

Scientists have suspected that sea birds might be able to smell their food, plankton, and the story of how this works is interesting and also shows yet another feedback loop. ( Are you getting sick of them yet?). Some phytoplankton produce a molecule dimethylsulfoniopropionate, or DMSP which is a precursor to  dimethylsulfide, or DMS. This molecule plays an important role in moderating our climate though cloud formation and scattering solar radiation. Sea birds can smell it and when the plytoplankton are being eaten by krill, the DMSP is released and a portion of it diffuses into the air, sending a feeding cue that krill are in the area.

When the plankton are experiencing sunny weather, a lot of DMS escapes into the air and clouds form which cools the water, and slows down the production of DMS.

Feedback loop: As the plankton populations are diminishing, this cloud forming chemical which regulates incoming solar energy  in the polar regions also diminishes.


The increased concentrations of CO2 have led to numerous feedback loops. The first one most people became aware of was the melting ice.

Feedback loop: The polar ice caps act as a reflector of the suns energy. As ice melts and more water or land is exposed, more heat energy is absorbed, which ultimately helps to melt even more ice. The ramifications and additional feedback loops this is setting in motion is just enormous. Much of the remainder of the article is devoted to these.

The oceans have absorbed from one fourth to one third of the CO2 that we have emitted over the last 200 years (350Pg of carbon), and 90% of the extra heat. The CO2 reacts with water to form carbonic acid (H2CO3). The increased level of carbonic acid make the calcium carbonate used for shell making unavailable. Ocean acidification (or OA) is the term used to describe this process, and unfortunately, even though our oceans are now about 30% more acidic than preindustrial times, most people haven’t heard of it. The IPCC has stated that given the predicted levels of CO2, the oceans will be 100% to 150% times more acidic by 2100. (Other reports predict 170%), any of which mean that marine life as we know it will cease to exist. Highly acidic waters will only support bacteria, algae, and jellyfish.  A good site for graphics and information is here.
 Most people don’t realize that approximately half our plankton have already died worldwide. On the west coast of the United States, 70% are gone! Antarctic krill are 80% depleted, and with it half of the krill-eating penguins are gone (i.e. the Adelie and the Chinstrap varieties). These penguins are now radically impaired with only a 10% survival rate of baby chicks. For further reading about this, see these sources: IPS site for the penguins and Fishery Crisis for the starving ocean we have created and what starving inter-tidal zones look like.  
The World Meteorological Organization’s report show that CO2 rates of increase are rising faster than in 30 years. Between 1990 and 2013, the energy in the atmosphere incresed by 34%. CO2 is 42% higher than pre-industrial levels, methane, 153% higher and nitrous oxide 21% higher. Michel Jarraud, the group’s secretary general stated.”We are running out of time”.  The ability of the oceans to keep absorbing our excess CO2 may be coming to an end as they reach saturation. They have also absorbed 90% of the excess heat, leading to the “global warming pause” we have seen in the last few years. 
Feedback loop: Rapidly warming oceans transfer more water vapor into the atmosphere, which is itself a powerful greenhouse gas, warming the atmosphere even faster.
Feedback loop: As the atmosphere gains more heat, it has more energy, and storms are stronger. Strong storms produce larger waves, which themselves are new to the once frozen arctic. Wave action ( some recorded at 17 feet recently) help break up what ice is left, resulting in more open water which absorbs more heat and more CO2, and increases the risk of melting the methane locked beneath the ice.
Feedback loop: Warming ocean waters increase in volume, contributing to sea level rise, and thus more surface area exposed to increased CO2 concentrations and absorption .
Globally we have seen 0.62 feet (7 inches) thus far but localized areas such as Louisiana, which is also sinking, have seen tremendous loss of land from this deleterious combination of rising sea and sinking land. The state has been losing one football field of land every HOUR for decades. Other low lying islands and atolls have seen similar land loss, although not on this scale).
As the atmosphere and ocean have absorbed extra heat, the Antarctic has begun to see massive subsurface melting of ice shelves and glaciers. The amount of water is so enormous, that it is building up a layer of freshwater at depths between 50-150 meters. This freshwater makes a lens, which stops dense saltwater from dropping to the ocean floor and feeding the Antarctic thermohaline current.
The lens is blocking the cold water from descending and thus is spreading out laterally near the surface. Analysis of potential temperatures, shows the surface water in the top hundred meters is cooling over a huge area ranging from 40 degrees S to 80 degrees S. while the waters below 150 m is warming. This trend will result in a reversal of vertical motion in the water column.
As the cold water fails to reach the bottom, the thermohaline circulation fails and warm water from the subtropics expands southward. This has led to a rapid heating of intermediate and deep ocean water in the southern hemisphere.  A study by Nuccitelli et al(2012), found that 30% of ocean warming in the last ten years has occurred below 700m.
These changes are enhancing the thermal gradient from the tropics to the pole, speeding up winds in the southern hemisphere. These increases are most likely increasing the flow of water from the Pacific to the Atlantic ocean, enhancing the northward flow of water, salt and heat from the south to the north Atlantic. The southern movement of the subtropical front allows more flow of the Agulhas current. (Daily Kos, The Antarctic Half of the Global Thermohaoline Circulation is Faltering, Apr 10, 2013)
Deward Hastings explains just how disruptive this lens of water can be. ” That lens …is challenging and changing almost everything in global circulation patterns. It freezes sooner, and at a higher temperature. That shields the water from the wind, and reduced wind-driven mixing. It reduces, perhaps to the point of stopping altogether, the present global ocean circulation patterns. That, in turn, will change global atmospheric weather. 
He continues with more disturbing news. “Nobody knows exactly what comes next. We’ve never seen it happen, and out models, not terribly accurate in describing the world we know, are completely untested in the coming world that we dont know”.
“Without a constant flow of cold water from the poles the Abyss will warm… and without cold slowly rising from the Abyss, the mid-ocean and ocean surface will warm ( already happening). That will lead to more evaporation, driving a different haline circulation in the tropics , and stronger tropical winds driving different surface currents and greater mixing. 
Pretty  much everything changes as a result… pretty much everywhere. After it’s all over, some places will have it better and some worse. While it’s changing everywhere will be worse, because there is no way to know what to expect, except that it won’t be what you’ve prepared for.”
You might wonder why we don’t have better data to be able to better predict what will happen. The answer again  lies in the fact that we have not spent money investing in basic research on ocean currents or their warming trends. “It’s more than speculation and suggestion,” agrees climate scientist Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, “and it’s probably right to a reasonable degree. The fact of the matter is we’ll never be able to get data from below 400 meters in the middle of the Pacific Ocean” because there is not enough money invested in ocean sensors to cover such places. “So we have to use physics to fill in the gaps.” (We do have the money, we just have chosen to spend it in other areas).http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/NASA-spacecraft-enters-Mars-orbit-5772838.phphttp://billmoyers.com/2014/08/13/not-just-ferguson-11-eye-opening-facts-about-americas-militarized-police-forces/
At acidity levels 30% higher than historic levels, plankton dissolving, and mass fish, seabird, and marine mammal deaths worldwide, a prize is offered to one of 18 teams competing to “tackle ocean acidification”.http://eponline.com/articles/2013/09/12/xprize-and-nrdc-team-up-to-tackle-ocean-acidification.aspx
Reading what they are trying to tackle, it turns out this science is at such an infancy that first they need to learn how to even measure the pH of the ocean. This is Sept, 2013, and we don’t even know how to MEASURE the changes which are already wiping out key species, and will very soon cause a “complete restructuring of the food web” . 
Spring of 2014, 10 million scallops died off Washington State and BC. Dr. Burke Hales told me they werent sure if it was caused by OA as they didn’t have sensors out there to measure the pH. Five new sensors were to be deployed at a cost of $200,000 each. You’d think we would have place more value on the science of the oceanic system which supplies millions of tons of fish annually, and 50-85 % of our oxygen.
Feedback loop: Heating the arctic and antarctic waters will change thermohaline currents and global weather patterns worldwide with unforeseen effects. These effects will no doubt mostly be disruptive to flora and fauna evolved over millennia to a relatively stable/predictable environment. The more the ecosystem collapses, the  more carbon is released into the atmosphere causing yet more heating. 
The repercussions we see on animals which have evolved for eons being able to withstand some drought are seeing the rains come months later, and in flooding proportions. Birds arrive in the spring in the arctic only to find they missed the insect hatch which in a month early now. In all areas of earth life, we are seeing extinctions events because of climate change. Because we haven’t really spent a lot of our effort on science, (we are still discovering new species almost weekly especially in the ocean), we really don’t have baseline data on what we DO have, nor what effects climate extremes, now the norm, increasing pCO2 or acidity, decreased plankton, or prey species which have moved to cooler waters are having. This CNN article  http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/04/tons-of-dead-fish-appear-on-then-disappear-from-norwegian-beach/  shows an example of our ignorant attitude. After tons of herring wash up dead, it states:Why they came to be on the shore remains a mystery.

Jens Christian Holst of the Institute of Marine Research in Norway told Norwegian Broadcasting the herring may have been chased ashore by predators, the Views and News report said.

“In this area, we know there is a lot of (pollock) that graze on (herring),” he said.

Seems like a reasonable explanation. (sic. These were the exact words in the article)

This article is not from the 1800’s when this “resonable explanation ” might have been the best we could come up with. It was published, by CNN, one of the worlds largest news agencies, in Jan of this year ( 2014)!  Increased acidity in ocean waters have been shown to confuse fish, and make them act in dangerous ways, putting themsleves in harms way.http://news-oceanacidification-icc.org/2014/03/19/fish-bold-on-acid/

Europe is getting colder. Did you know that between 280,000 ppl died from the COLD in the UK in last ten yrs?  http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/01/12/345167/vulnerable-britons-hit-by-climate-levies/  and this,http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2001/jun/21/globalwarming.physicalsciences. The author points out that the Gulf Stream delivers 27,000 times more heat than all the power companies combined to Britain. The eastern US might be getting a new colder climate also. Other places are getting warmer.  Australia lopgged 123 F last summer. The southwest of the US is also getting so hot that all the pinion pines are  dying.The Rocky Mts are also seeing all their trees dying.  Some area are now getting more rain, some less. Record drought and heat in the arctic have made fire seasons unprecedented in known history. Last summer, the fire season in the arctic was 6 times the normal, spewing out so much ash which settled on Greenland, that the snow is now very dark, and melting at accelerated rates.
Feedback loop: Increasing fire seasons not only burns the CO2 sequestering organisms, (trees) but it sends out ash which darkens and speeds the ice melt even of different continents.
the Antarctic area is getting a lot more wind in a tighter circle. .the whole system has to find a new equilibrium now and it’s from the thermohaline currents being disrupted from heat melting the ice. The atmosphere has 35% more energy than it had just in 1990. Isn’t that amazing?

Feedback loop: The more open ocean we have, the more CO2 is absorbed and the more acidic our oceans become. Cold arctic waters absorb more CO2 than warmer waters, so this productive area on the planet will and is becoming the first victim of OA.

The fish, sea birds and marine life themselves are carbon sinks, sequestering carbon in the oceans. Total fish biomass presently has been estimated at from .8 up to 2 billion tons.  massive removal of this carbon has sabotaged this much like deforesting the land. We have removed over 90% of the biomass in the oceans. If we would let the fish make a comeback, stop ALL fishing for a while, as several scientists recommend,  then they might recover and would mitigate the CO2 in the atmosphere. A complete restoration to pre-exploitation days would remove possibly in the order of 200 billions tons of carbon, an incredible amount of sequestered carbon. If, however their niche is taken by another species as happened when the great whales disappeared, they might not be able to recover. With acidification now impacting marine life, the oceans are shifting towards increasing jellyfish and bacteria and less fish and marine mammals.

 Andrew Pershing, et al,(Plos One, The  Impact of Whaling on the Ocean Carbon Cycle: Why Bigger was Better, 2010, 5 (8)), estimated that populations of large baleen whales now store 9 million tons less carbon than before whaling. Some of the loss has been offset by increases in smaller competitors, but they estimated that allowing whale populations to rebuild would remove 160,000 tons of carbon a year.( Yet another reason to stop whaling).

Feedback loop: As fish and marine mammal biomass is reduced, the carbon sink they provided disappear.

Recently, fish have been found to mitigate ocean acidification, through their excretion of ‘gut rocks’. A team of international scientists found,  (in a study reported in the Thaindian News, Jan 15, 2009), that the fish play a significant role in mitigating climate change effects in the ocean by excreting pellets of calcium carbonate , called gut rocks, which acts as a pH buffer. Restoring fish to original numbers would have a mitigating effect on acidification worldwide.

Feedback loop: As fish disappear, the buffering action of their excretion of calcium carbonate also disappears.

Along with overfishing, trawling destroying bottom habitat, and changing water temperatures, currents, pollution, and changing prey species, our oceans are in crisis. Dr Jeremy Jackson gives an excellent lecture called Ocean Apocalypse and is a must watch video as is Dr Silvia Earle’s documentary, Mission Blue, is also a must watch.  Her organization is here . Salmon Confidential, (You Tube),is a good documentary which looks at not only the poorly regulated fishery but also the amount of disease ( some very contagious to wild salmon ) as well as documenting starving fish.

Jellyfish blooms are increasing worldwide because of warmer water temperatures and acidic conditions. The blooms start earlier, are larger, last longer, and rob the ocean of its energy source, carbon, by feeding bacteria which metabolize it directly to CO2. In other words, jellyfish are a carbon dead end. They drastically shift the flow of energy in the ocean. Their excrement and mucus feed bacteria not fish, and the bacteria quickly metabolize it to CO2 thus converting ocean carbon (food) into atmospheric carbon instead of moving it on up the food chain as larger and larger fish. This site, Phenomena, is a science salon hosted by National Geographic, and explains this. 

Feedback loop: Warming and increasingly acidic (bacteria and jellyfish filled)  waters can become a source for CO2 instead of a sink.

When a research study came out that oxygen might in increase with climate and thus improve the state od dead zones, which are increasing planetwide, (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6197/665.abstract), dozens of newspapers and online sites reported on this good news. However, when empirical data shows the opposite, that warming led to a drastic reduction


The methane bomb.
Ever since the planet began cooling at the end of the Eocene period (34 MYA), methane (CH4), has been freezing at the bottom of the worlds oceans, and over eons of time being capped by silt and sediment, which then froze, essentially locking them up. The last decade has seen record amounts of  thawing of this permafrost and has many scientists alarmed.
The East Siberian shelf, holding an estimated 1700 Gigatons of methane, is mostly shallow water, under 50 m, and so once released it reaches the surface before it can be eaten by methane munching microbes ( say that 3 times!). Deeper methane is oxidized to CO2 or eaten by microbes before it reaches the surface. Many scientists assumed that with increasing surface area of open water as the ice retreats, increased phytoplankton photosynthesis would mean increased absorption of CO2. This has been seen in some areas with never before seen plankton blooms, but in other areas, such as the Barents sea, researcher Manfred Manizza, of Scripps, found that the warm and increasingly acidic waters became a source of CO2, not a sink. Levels as high as 480 ppm were recorded from June to Sept, 2013 from O-Buoy #7. 
Methane has the warming potential of 1000’s (in its first months of existence) to 100’s ( in later years) of times what CO2 has. Our entire atmosphere has held approximately 5 Gigatons ( billion tons) of methane which has ranged from 320-790 ppb over the last 650,000 years. Levels before 1880( pre-industrial), were 750 ppb. Mauna Loa measurements today are 1835 ppb. With warming ocean waters, methane releases are becoming more widespread, and the rate is accelerating.
Methane vents which were one foot wide in 2010 were measured to be one km wide the very next year. NASA’s CARVE project reported on methane clusters that were 150 km wide in July , 2013. Above the arctic, concentrations measuring 2600 ppb have been recorded. Scientists have warned that if even one percent of the earth’s frozen methane were to escape we could see runaway climate change. Recent reports of methane bubbles off the Atlantic coast as well as rapidly expanding methane seeps in the Siberian shelf lead one scientist, Dr. Natalia Shakhova, to state that we could be in the beginning of the “worst thing that could happen”. Its importance cannot be emphasized enough: Recent studies suggest that catastrophic methane releases were the basis of the extinction of the Permian (3/31/14,Proceedings of the National Academy of Science). Dr Peter Wadhams along with Dr Shakhova have both issued repeated warnings that a rapid, catastrophic release of methane is increasingly possible as sea ice retreats and atmosphere and sea temperatures rise. 
Shakova et al, 2010, and Nafeez Ahmed have both predicted that 50 Gigaton could be emitted catastrophically at any time from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS)where he estimates 1700 Gigatons are locked up. ( Remember our atmosphere holds 5 Gigatons now, so this would increase it by ten fold). Other areas holding vast amounts of methane include the Amundsen Basin, in the Laptev Sea, also a region near the Svalbard and also Baffin Bay. These have been estimated to collectively hold approximately the amount in the ESAS. Total worldwide estimates of 10,000 Gigatons of carbon are locked up as methane. 
Studies indicate that a 50 Gigaton release will cause a global temperature anomaly of more than 10C and will lead to certain extinction in the next 20-40 years. Other studies have shown that concentrations between 1790-1850 ppb (where we are now) will cause a delayed mean temperature anomaly of 20C , which will totally surpass the Permian extinction temps by a whopping 14C. Another researcher, Dr Jennifer Francis, has also shown that the present CO2 concentration alone, ( not considering CH4), will lead to a delayed temp. anomaly of 12C which also surpasses the Permian extinction event by 6C. Whether we pass the Permian extinction temps by 6 degrees, 14, or more, the message is clear and simple: unless we reduce our CO2 emissions by 90% and reduce the existing methane by 60% very quickly, we will quite possibly face an extinction event similar to the Permian. We’re talking human extinction. 
 See Dr. Shakhova on YouTube. She chokes up when she talks about the potential of what might happen any day. :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kx1Jxk6kjbQ
The rate of methane release is accelerating. In the winter of 2013, methane bubbles were so powerful that it prevented the formation of sea ice in some areas. New methane vent areas on the east coast of the US have mad the news. But of the worldwide plumes, the ones in the ESAS are the most disturbing as to their sheer size, some over one km wide. And with the oceans absorbing heat at a greater rate than the atmosphere now, the risk for large releases in increasing. In Feb, 2014, vast and sobering mega flares of methane were observed and recorded by Dr Orjan Gustagsson of Stockholm U. See the methane tracking here. Dr Malcomb Light predicts that at the present rate, the atmosphere will resemble the atmosphere of Venus by 2100.
A study by Balmaseda, Trenberth, and Kallen (Geophysical Research Letters. May 16,2013) found that the ocean heat content rose at the fastest rate ever recorded over the past 15 yrs, finding that the deep ocean , below 700 m, accounted for 30% of all heat content from the last ten years. Thus total planet warming did not slow down, but actually accelerated. This deep ocean heating also means that more of the locked up methane will be destabilized, as warming occurs adjacent to frozen methane. This new revelation is a very dangerous development in our understanding of these processes.
 As glaciers melt from warming, fresh water runs off into the sea. This water forms a wedge which widens and expands and deflects warmer saltier water toward the ocean bottom. These warmer waters in contact with the frozen methane stored on the bottom work on melting it and releasing it once again, which warms the atmosphere even more.
Feedback loop: Methane previously in a frozen state, is now warming causing releases to the atmosphere that are getting stronger and stronger.  The more methane releases the faster the warming of the planet.

The Worlds Oxygen and Ozone supply.Climate warming is expected to reduce oxygen (O2) supply to the ocean and expand its oxygen minimum zones (OMZs).http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6197/665.abstractForests and soils. Beginning around 1990 records show areas of no oyxgen (anoxia) are expanding worldwide.  We are seeing changes and weakening in wind patterns over the tropical Pacific which have altered upwelling, biological productivity, and oxygen demand. The equatorial Pacific region winds resume their predicted weakening trend, the ocean’s largest anoxic zone might possibly contract despite a global O2 decline. This would be good news, unfortunatelty this trend has not been seen thus far. On the contrary,

All plants take CO2 from the air and exhale O2. Just as the plankton, fish and mammals are a carbon sink, the forests on the earth are also enormous carbon sinks. The Amazon emits so much oxygen it has been called the lungs of the planet. Small increases in CO2 are helpful to plants, and greenhouse operations use CO2 gas enhancement, but large increases slow down most photosynthesis, and plants begin to show signs of stress.

The Amazon is so large it makes its own weather. Trees transpire water vapor and clouds form and rain back onto the forest. If the forest is cut, the rain flows into the rivers and out to sea leaving the forest permanently drier. The annual flood crest of the Amazon River is not much higher than before deforestation. The floods remove nutrients and soil from the region. Massive deforestation has removed so many trees that a new phenomena is taking place: drought. And as trees dehydrate and then die, ( or are burned in clearing or in the new forest fires of the region), they emit CO2,( estimated to be 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation…wow!) instead of sequester it. We first saw this in the “once in a century” drought of 2005, where it was estimated to have emitted one billion metric tons of carbon, which is equivalent to what all the cars on the planet emit. Then in 2010 another “mega drought” hit. ( the new name for these anthropogenic caused drought, since its easier than redefining century). Again the Amazon became a CO2 source.

Feedback loop: The more droughts we have, the more trees die which will lead to more droughts.

As the trees die, the soil is lost. This site, Propublica.org, shows how the Mississippi River has created forest on both sides and this forest has built up so much soil that it has withstood being swept under rising sea levels. The Amazons lost forest and soil can be seen at worldwildlife.org.

Feedback loop: As the forests die and the soil is lost, humans will increasingly become desperate for more farmland, more trees will be burned, more forest lost, and more soil lost.
Human overpopulation itself has become its own feedback loop, consuming ever more of the natural resources planet wide. We now have impacted over 80% of the earths surface and have removed half of the planets forests (more than 90% in the US)  and of what is left in the Pacific NW, 80% is slated for logging. In 70 years, the world will only have one fourth of the forest we have today. (Do the math here: 1/4 of 1/2 of original forest is only 1/8 or 0.125% !) See the site here 
The arctic is now so hot and dry that forest fires are consuming vast swaths of the northern boreal forest which holds 703Pg of carbon. (Total emissions from the last 200 years which have taken the atmosphere from 280 ppm pre-industrial to 400 ppm today have been 180 Pg) 

We are, in a sense, already geoengineering the planet by our industrial activities. Studies have shown that if we were to stop all industrial activity today, our global temperature would rise by 1.1 C.

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