And you thought we’d heard it all. Not so, get out the plastic bags.
Seventy percent of the oxygen on Earth is made by phytoplankton, so the little critters do matter. A new study suggests that the phytoplankton pretty much fall apart if the worlds oceans heat by just six degrees. They stop making the good O2. We all die. Puppies, kittens, kids, and krill — it’s all over.
There are a couple of caveats — the study involves only binary phytoplankton (the kind made of zero’s and ones and which lives in hard discs at the University of Leicester). And the other one is that six degrees is an Awful Lot of Warming.
As best as we can tell (which is not very well) the oceans are warming at four hundreth of a degree per decade (give or take a lot). The all new Gee-Whizz Argo buoys are neat little robots, but the error bars are still a scandal, being somewhere from one tenth to one half a degree — ha-d-ha — too big to fit on the graph.( See all the white stuff — the errors are probably larger than that.)
Taking that single point of highly uncertain decadal data and extrapolating it absurdio apros (as befits this current study) — if that warming trend is real and continues, and phytoplankton remain identical despite massive selective pressure — at the current rate we only have 150 decades to wait before the oceans hit the 6C tipping point.
Trouble in 1500 years. Panic now. Panic Tomorrow. Send us your money!
I can’t believe they publish this stuff.
UK taxpayers should ask for their money back.
Falling oxygen levels caused by global warming could be a greater threat to the survival of life on planet Earth than flooding, according to researchers from the University of Leicester.
A study led by Sergei Petrovskii, Professor in Applied Mathematics from the University of Leicester’s Department of Mathematics, has shown that an increase in the water temperature of the world’s oceans of around six degrees Celsius — which some scientists predict could occur as soon as 2100 — could stop oxygen production by phytoplankton by disrupting the process of photosynthesis.
Professor Petrovskii explained: “Global warming has been a focus of attention of science and politics for about two decades now. A lot has been said about its expected disastrous consequences; perhaps the most notorious is the global flooding that may result from melting of Antarctic ice if the warming exceeds a few degrees compared to the pre-industrial level. However, it now appears that this is probably not the biggest danger that the warming can cause to the humanity.
“About two-thirds of the planet’s total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton — and therefore cessation would result in the depletion of atmospheric oxygen on a global scale. This would likely result in the mass mortality of animals and humans.”
The team developed a new model of oxygen production in the ocean that takes into account basic interactions in the plankton community, such as oxygen production in photosynthesis, oxygen consumption because of plankton breathing and zooplankton feeding on phytoplankton.
While mainstream research often focuses on the CO2 cycle, as carbon dioxide is the agent mainly responsible for global warming, few researchers have explored the effects of global warming on oxygen production.
The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Le Bourget, Paris, from November 30 to December 11. It will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.
Yadigar Sekerci, Sergei Petrovskii. Mathematical Modelling of Plankton–Oxygen Dynamics Under the Climate Change. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s11538-015-0126-0
*Caveat emptor, caveat romping. Caveats on caveats. Will the phytoplankton make more aerosols and cool the world, will they grow faster with higher CO2 levels, and will they evolve and adapt to any of the minor warming that does occur, like they have done before. Who knows? (Not the computer models.)