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Earth's natural defences against climate change 'beginning to fail'

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Earth's natural defences against climate change 'beginning to fail - The earth's ability to soak up the gases causing global warming is beginning to fail because of rising temperatures, in a long-feared sign of "positive feedback," new research reveals. Climate change itself is weakening one of the principal "sinks" absorbing carbon dioxide - the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. As a result, atmospheric CO2 levels may rise faster and bring about rising temperatures more quickly than previously anticipated. Stabilising the CO2 level, which must be done to bring the warming under control, is likely to become much more difficult, even if the world community agrees to do it. "The climate clock is beginning to tick faster...The shift that has been detected in a four-year study...is ONE OF THE MOST OMINOUS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF CLIMATE CHANGE. It implies a breach in the planet's own defences against global warming." Human society has hugely benefited from the earth's natural carbon absorption facility, which means oceans and forests take up roughly half of the CO2 pumped into the atmosphere. Although supercomputer models of the climate have for some time predicted the weakening of the ocean and terrestrial sinks, no example of it happening has actually been detected - until now. Now the research team has found the vast Southern Ocean, which is the earth's biggest carbon sink, accounting for about 15 per cent of the total absorption potential, has become effectively CO2-saturated. The level of the gas it is absorbing has remained static since 1981 - but in that time the amount emitted has grown by 40 per cent, so it has stopped keeping pace and much more CO2 is left over to trap the sun's heat. Stormier weather and stronger waves are churning up the sea and bringing natural CO2 stored there closer to the surface - which reduces the ability of the surface to absorb the gas from the air.

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