ScienceDaily (Dec. 31, 2009) — Most of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activity does not remain in the atmosphere, but is instead absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems. In fact, only about 45 percent of emitted carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere.
However, some studies have suggested that the ability of oceans and plants to absorb carbon dioxide recently may have begun to decline and that the airborne fraction of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions is therefore beginning to increase.
Many climate models also assume that the airborne fraction will increase. Because understanding of the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide is important for predicting future climate change, it is essential to have accurate knowledge of whether that fraction is changing or will change as emissions increase.
To assess whether the airborne fraction is indeed increasing, Wolfgang Knorr of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol reanalyzed available atmospheric carbon dioxide and emissions data since 1850 and considers the uncertainties in the data.
In contradiction to some recent studies, he finds that the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide has not increased either during the past 150 years or during the most recent five decades.
The research is published in Geophysical Research Letters.
New data show that the balance between the airborne and the absorbed fraction of carbon dioxide has stayed approximately constant since 1850, despite emissions of carbon dioxide having risen from about 2 billion tons a year in 1850 to 35 billion tons a year now.
This suggests that terrestrial ecosystems and the oceans have a much greater capacity to absorb CO2 than had been previously expected.
The results run contrary to a significant body of recent research which expects that the capacity of terrestrial ecosystems and the oceans to absorb CO2 should start to diminish as CO2 emissions increase, letting greenhouse gas levels skyrocket. Dr Wolfgang Knorr at the University of Bristol found that in fact the trend in the airborne fraction since 1850 has only been 0.7 ± 1.4% per decade, which is essentially zero.
The strength of the new study, published online in Geophysical Research Letters, is that it rests solely on measurements and statistical data, including historical records extracted from Antarctic ice, and does not rely on computations with complex climate models.
This work is extremely important for climate change policy, because emission targets to be negotiated at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen early next month have been based on projections that have a carbon free sink of already factored in. Some researchers have cautioned against this approach, pointing at evidence that suggests the sink has already started to decrease.
So is this good news for climate negotiations in Copenhagen? “Not necessarily”, says Knorr. “Like all studies of this kind, there are uncertainties in the data, so rather than relying on Nature to provide a free service, soaking up our waste carbon, we need to ascertain why the proportion being absorbed has not changed”.
Another result of the study is that emissions from deforestation might have been overestimated by between 18 and 75 per cent. This would agree with results published last week in Nature Geoscience by a team led by Guido van der Werf from VU University Amsterdam. They re-visited deforestation data and concluded that emissions have been overestimated by at least a factor of two.
On the flipside, this researcher isn't a climate change skeptic. He believes that human CO2 emissions haven't yet overwhelmed the planets natural ability to absorb CO2. He does believe we are approaching that point and we need to curb CO2 emissions.
From a recent radio interview with the researcher (from Google cache)...
A Bristol University scientist claims he knows why climate change is not happening as quickly as some predictions.
Dr Wolfgang Knorr has found that natural 'sinks' like oceans and forests have absorbed the same percentage of CO2, despite man-made emissions shooting up to 35bn tonnes a year.
His research suggests the earth may be able to absorb more carbon than previously thought, and may explain why climate change is happening more slowly than in some predictions.
He says his research is "good news" for the current Copenhagen climate talks, but warns they must still produce an agreement to reduce carbon emissions.
And Dr Knorr denies his research backs up people who deny the reality of climate change. He told Original 106.5: "That would be a very superficial interpretation of these results. Half of the CO2 we emit stays in the atmosphere and that's enough to cause global warming.
"Also, this research is only based on the past. We are pushing the system to its limits and it might break at some stage, as the model suggests. But it hasn't happened yet. I would not experiment with the climate system."
However, he does believe his findings offer hope for the current Copenhagen climate talks, in which world nations are seekign an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
He said: "It's good news because some suggestions that these things have already declined may have been false alarms. It is not as dire as we think.
"That makes it slightly easier to stabilise the CO2 and the climate, so that's good news for the negotiations because it's tough enough to impose the necessary limits on CO2 emissions."
But he is adamant the talks must agree to a cap on carbon, and believes climate change sceptics will find little use for his research.
He said: "We have had a lot of research that could be interpreted that way [as supporting climate change denial]. I believe science has to be open and fair and we should not hide any of the results.
"Climate critics will always find something, no matter what the results are.It's not an indication not to do anything and you can always misinterpret results. But I think that kind of misinformation dies out quickly, I don't see a problem."
The people that need to wake up will never do it because they have an agenda to push through. Its another tax burden on the population. NOTHING will change in this country without drastic measures. And by drastic measures, I mean revolution, political assassinations, and structural rearrangement of the govt. None of this will happen because we have become a nation of pussies that care only for our own bottom line and not our country.