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Dec 06, 2016 10:33 PM EST

Scientists Agree: ‘Feedback’ is Aggravating Climate Change

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Massive peatland holding billions of tons of carbon found in Central Africa
Massive peatland holding billions of tons of carbon found in Central Africa
(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In the middle of the debate on how to bring the global climate change initiative forward, scientists dropped the mic and raised the stakes even higher last week with the publication of massive studies in the journal Nature.

Scientists from around the world zoomed in on the "feedback" phenomenon. The feedback refers to the soil emitting carbon in reaction to the changes in the climate system. As it gets warmer, microorganisms in the soil responds by increasing their respiration, a process that releases greenhouse gases into the air: carbon dioxide and methane.

The study, which is actually a compilation of 49 empirical studies examined the soil's carbon emissions from different location around the world. The study established that the loss of carbon in the soils could accelerate global warming.

This basically puts all our efforts to limit carbon emissions in the air futile since the earth itself is emitting carbon and by large amounts. To put it in perspective, emissions from feedback is equivalent to 'having another U.S. in the planet', said Thomas Crowther, researcher from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.

Crowther also pointed out that feedback wasn't considered in earth system models because it wasn't understood very well and it was hard to translate the uncertainty.

The Arctic is also not considered when computations for the model were created. A massive repository of planetary carbon, the scientists also fear the possibility of carbon loss in beneath the permafrost layers. If this is so, then the feedback emissions are far larger than initially thought.

The Washington Post got experts to review the study. Permafrost expert Ted Schuur of Northern Arizona University agrees with the findings of the study. He says that we cannot rely on plants alone to sequester carbon dioxide in the air. He also agrees that the documented carbon losses in the Arctic is only a minimum since its only considered the first 10 centimeter of soil.

Another expert, Charles Rice of Kansas State University, agree with the findings and said that it's important to take early measures. He also noted the need for more data from tropical regions and the southern hemisphere.

Finally, scientist Jonathan Sanderman of Woods Hole Research Center also agrees that global warming will lead to feedback and that plants cannot counterbalance the extensive release of carbon dioxide in the air and suggested better management of agricultural soils.

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