Bombshell from Bristol: Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing? – study says "no"

Controversial new climate change results

University of Bristol Press release issued 9 November 2009

bristol_university_logo

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.

###

Here is the abstract from GRL:

Several recent studies have highlighted the possibility that the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems have started losing part of their ability to sequester a large proportion of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions. This is an important claim, because so far only about 40% of those emissions have stayed in the atmosphere, which has prevented additional climate change.

This study re-examines the available atmospheric CO2 and emissions data including their uncertainties. It is shown that with those uncertainties, the trend in the airborne fraction since 1850 has been 0.7 ± 1.4% per decade, i.e. close to and not significantly different from zero. The analysis further shows that the statistical model of a constant airborne fraction agrees best with the available data if emissions from land use change are scaled down to 82% or less of their original estimates. Despite the predictions of coupled climate-carbon cycle models, no trend in the airborne fraction can be found.

Knorr, W. (2009), Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L21710, doi:10.1029/2009GL040613.

According to Pat Michaels at World Climate Report:

Dr. Knorr carefully analyzed the record of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and anthropogenic land-use changes for the past 150 years. Keeping in mind the various sources of potential errors inherent in these data, he developed several different possible solutions to fitting a trend to the airborne fraction of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. In all cases, he found no significant trend (at the 95% significance level) in airborne fraction since 1850.

(Note: It is not that the total atmospheric burden of CO2 has not been increasing over time, but that of the total CO2 released into the atmosphere each year by human activities, about 45% remains in the atmosphere while the other 55% is taken up by various natural processes—and these percentages have not changed during the past 150 years)

Here is Figure 1 from the Knorr paper:

knorr_figure1

Figure 1. The annual increase in atmospheric CO2 (as determined from ice cores, thin dotted lines, and direct measurements, thin black line) has remained constantly proportional to the annual amount of CO2 released by human activities (thick black line). The proportion is about 46% (thick dotted line). (Figure source: Knorr, 2009)

The conclusion of the Knorr paper reads:

Given the importance of the [the anthropogenic CO2 airborne fraction] for the degree of future climate change, the question is how to best predict its future course. One pre-requisite is that we gain a thorough understand of why it has stayed approximately constant in the past, another that we improve our ability to detect if and when it changes. The most urgent need seems to exist for more accurate estimates of land use emissions.

Another possible approach is to add more data through the combination of many detailed regional studies such as the ones by Schuster and Watson (2007) and Le Quéré et al. (2007), or using process based models combined with data assimilation approaches (Rayner et al., 2005). If process models are used, however, they need to be carefully constructed in order to answer the question of why the AF has remained constant and not shown more pronounced decadal-scale fluctuations or a stronger secular trend.

Michaels adds:

In other words, like we have repeated over and over, if the models can’t replicate the past (for the right reasons), they can’t be relied on for producing accurate future projections. And as things now stand, the earth is responding to anthropogenic CO2 emissions in a different (and perhaps better) manner than we thought that it would.

Yet here we are, on the brink of economy crippling legislation to tackle a problem we don’t fully understand and the science is most certainly not settled on.

UPDATE: A professional email list I’m on is circulating the paper, read it here: Knorr 2009_CO2_sequestration

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Frank

Smoking gun.

savethesharks

The smoking CANNON.
Love this quote:
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.
Chris
Norfolk, VA, USA

kim

They don’t rely on climate models from superconfusers.
H/t Peter Bocking.
======================

austin

Now we are getting somewhere.
The Pinatubo artifact in the CO2 PPM time series has always bothered me. No one has explained that.
It is easy to fill a test tube with a gas solvent in water and then put that tube into water, upside down, and watch the water climb up the tube. Ammonia is an easy one. But so is CO2.

Hardly a week goes by recently where the whole global warming propoganda is proven to be false

David Archibald

That’s easy. CO2 has a half life of seven years in the atmosphere and is highly soluble in water. It is in equilibrium with the top 100 metres odd of the oceans with a lag of a few years. It is in equilibrium with the whole ocean with a lag of 800 years. You could not expect the anthropogenic proportion of the atmospheric CO2 to increase.

Jeff L

Related link from ICECAP:
http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2009/11/10/airborne-fraction-of-human-co2-emissions-constant-over-time/#more-393
If this link doesn’t work (as it wrapped in the text box here), go to the ICECAP site – it’s on the front page.
I am going to copy / paste a key bit from the article, including a comment from Joe Romm. So much can be seen a about the pro-AGW crowd with this – instant ad hom attack against anyone who dares question the “theology” vs engaging in a civil argument with a presentation of facts to support a position. If a person who knew nothing about climatology at all were reading this , they would say, just based on tone & tactic that Joe Romm was clearly on the wrong side of the argument – because these are the techniques used by people who are on the losing end of any argument because they have no facts to back up their position (thus resort to an ad hom attack). Can anyone who reads this blog regularly imaging Anthony acting this way? Not in a 100 years! Again – very telling of which side of the argument has the facts on it’s side. If the facts are on your side, there is no need for ad homs. Here’s the snippet:
A couple of months back, there was a discussion taking place over at Joe Romm’s ClimateProgress blog concerning a report that the earth’s ability to take-up atmospheric carbon dioxide was declining. A declining CO2 sink, of course, meant that things climatological were going to be even worse than expected, because a growing proportion of anthropogenic CO2 emissions were going to remain in the atmosphere, thus pushing the rise of CO2 concentrations and the degree of climate change higher.
At the time, an alert reader pointed out to Joe Romm that there was in fact, no indication from data and observations that a larger percentage of human CO2 emissions were ending up in the atmosphere. In fact, the data showed that the fraction of CO2 emitted into the atmospheric by human activities has remained constant for the past 40 years.
This fact runs directly counter to the idea that the earth’s natural CO2 sinks are weakening—instead it indicates that natural sinks have been expanding as anthropogenic CO2 emissions have increased. After all, in order to keep the airborne fraction of CO2 emissions constant over time, increasing anthropogenic CO2 emissions must be countered by an increasing CO2 sink.
Joe Romm was a bit dismissive (to say the least) of this line of argument.
Here was one such exchange (Comment 13 of this thread):
Comment 13. Chip Knappenberger says:
March 30, 2009 at 5:15pm
Mr. Romm,
I am not sure how you justify this statement:
“At the same time that CO2 emissions are soaring, CO2 sinks are saturating.”
Take your numbers for the rate of CO2 increase each year and divide them by the numbers for the annual global CO2 emissions each year (available from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ ftp/ ndp030/ global.1751_2005.ems) and see what you get.
Hint: the ppm/emissions ratio shows no trend at all which means that there is no decline in the CO2 sink—otherwise, this ratio would be increasing.
-Chip Knappenberger
[JR: It is Dr. Romm, Chip, and, hint, it is what the scientific literature says. Try reading it, some time. Start with the Global Carbon Project.]
Back to my commentary :
I have to say, most every AGW Alarmist I have met follows this same pattern that JR displays. I lived in Australia for 4 years & a friend of mine is friends with a prominent local TV met, who is now a prominent Alarmist (& apparently heavily invested in alternative energy). I will leave it to the Aussie readers to figure out who I am talking about. My friend asked me to explain my skepticism in AGW because his friend the AGW Alarmist was saying just the opposite – my friend was just trying to sort it all out. So, I put together a 5 page or so note full of scientific observation, references to papers & major problems with the AGW hypothesis – I could have written far more, but that is all I had time for. Just to rile things up (which my friend is notorious for), he fwded my note to the Alarmist. I had dozens of scientific objections listed – the Alarmist didnt try to refute a single one, but instead wrote a 1 page ad hom attack back to me – Nice! – it kind of left you speechless – how can you engage someone in an intelligent debate if all they will do is launch ad homs?? Again, a classic strategy for the losing side of a debate.

BradH

OK, then I don’t understand what Mauna Loa is measuring.
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/co2_data_mlo.html

carrot eater

The press release tries to be controversial; I don’t know if the paper itself is all that controversial. The airborne fraction has been roughly stable (if extremely noisy from year-to-year); recently a couple papers saw slight hints of an increase in airborne fraction: Canadell (2007) suggested a trend of 2.5% +/- 2.1% per decade. Small trend, big uncertainty, and Canadell himself acknowledged it wasn’t significant using the standard tests. So Knorr digs in and finds no trend over that time period.
Given that the previous work found a statistically insignificant trend, and the models with an active carbon cycle don’t show much of a trend over that time period either, exactly why is this finding of no trend so controversial?

…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….
How dare they! The evidence from computer models is the only valid source of information. Only Criminal Denialists would stoop so low as to cite empirical data.

KimW

Look, I simply refuse to believe these facts. The media and respected members of Greenpeace and the Save the Pandas have told me over and over and over again that the science is settled. How can I forget Al Gore risking his life savings bringing me the message that we are all doomed unless we live in harmony with nature. Mere facts cannot trump computer models – and some of these models have been run many times and they always give the same answer – we are doomed. That $69 Billion funding respected Climate Scientists who believe in AGW surely cannot have been wasted.
That was sarcasm by the way. The AGW scam is the biggest con job in all of History.

Tim

I don’t mean to be dense or downplay the apparent significance of this, but aren’t we still looking at a pretty steadily rising atmospheric CO2 ppm, and isn’t that the causal factor in climate change, as per the global warmers?
I mean, if the warmers are right and increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 drive increasing temperatures, does it matter what proportion the anthropogenic fraction is? Isn’t the simple fact that CO2 ppm is rising enough?
Again, sorry to be dense, but can someone please ‘splain it to me?

Couple this with the revelations about our misunderstanding of the thermohaline current, is this combo a climate model killer?

I like the red spin quote:
”…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.”
My kids have heard this one before…
NATURE says: ‘What do you think I am? A SLAVE!? Or a dunny roll to wipe the WASTE off your bum with?’
(But the kids know that there will be no change, that he will keep on doing it, because he really loves to do it.)

Ron de Haan

This certainly is a bomb right in the core of the AGW Doctrine.
Do you think it will make a difference?
I don’t think so, not with the current crowd in power because they are after us, not the climate.

carrot eater

BradH: This paper uses the Mauna Loa data. That data is fine. Perhaps you misunderstand the paper?
Of the CO2 being emitted, around 40%-45% of it accumulates in the atmosphere (the airborne fraction, ‘AF’). The rest accumulates in the oceans, soil or in living things. This paper suggests that there is no detectable trend in the AF over time; of course the actual amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has been going up – that part isn’t in question.
The airborne fraction is important: if the oceans or trees become less effective at soaking up CO2 (thus raising the AF), then the concentration in the air will go up faster for a given rate of emissions.
A couple papers saw hints of a slight trend in recent decades; this author does not. Very well, that’s science. Let’s see how it unfolds.

philincalifornia

Tim (20:30:12) :
Simple question on its face Tim.
I suspect that I will be beaten to it but, if not, I will take a stab at the vastly more complex answer when I’m not so tired.
For a primer though on attempts to alter natural cycles, you could Google “King Canute”. It would be good if we had someone so wise in power today.

Cindy

@ Jeff L.:
You’ve just described the feelings I got on my very first visit — and on every visit — to JR’s blog. When I first learned about AGW, I was reading arguments from both sides. I tried to take JR seriously — but just couldn’t stomach his style and language. He sounded much more like a scary preacher than the scientist he claims to be.
In any case, I notice that there are many more comments here than on many other blogs about climate. And I’m so glad that discussion has been kept this open, in the spirit of science.

I always knew that plants (including algae) and bacteria evolved through lengthy periods of time when there was much more CO2 in the atmosphere; therefore they would have, written in their genetic memory, an ability to absorb much more CO2 than there is presently.
Biosphere is an adaptation mechanism by its very nature: it constantly adapts to changes of the CO2 concentration by absorbing more of it when there is more of it, thereby counterbalancing these changes. This is so easy to understand.
What is difficult to understand is how people who don’t take this simple feedback mechanism into account dare to call themselves “scientists”?

Another carbon sink story: Antarctica glacier retreat creates new carbon dioxide store:
http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/press/press_releases/press_release.php?id=1041
Yes, negative feedback!
And as reported by AFP (including an iconic pic familiar to WUWT readers):
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ioKN-6tqKqccbLbVgmtkNuDRgo7w

Steve S.

This could be the real heart breaker for the Team, their congregation and Obama.
Mmm Mmm Mmm

carrot eater

Based on the tone of the comments, I think some people misunderstand the paper. In short, CO2 is still going up, and man is still doing it. None of that changes in the least. The implications of the paper are minor, I think.
You know, staring at their Figure 1, it looks like their constant AF line runs a bit low through the more recent data. Of course, eyeballing a graph isn’t a statistical method; we’ll see how the work is received.
Ugh, I just read that description above from JeffL of the conversation with Joe Romm. One should indeed take his advice – to read the scientific literature. But you needn’t read Romm.

John F. Hultquist

Won’t this just fuel the notion that the ocean is going to become acidic in a few years? If not by heat then by acid – we are still doomed they say. Not so, but their stool still has more than three legs.
Will someone fix this from the post:
“have been based on projections that have a carbon free sink of already factored in.”
I’ve seen enough poorly written material that I can usually make sense of it but not this.

LarryOldtimer

f you have the facts, argue the facts. If you don’t have the facts, argue the “theory”. If the “theory” is falsified, pound on the table.

Ron de Haan

Steve S. (21:27:25) :
“This could be the real heart breaker for the Team, their congregation and Obama.
Mmm Mmm Mmm”
The AGW clan new from the beginning that they were going to make their case based on hot air, computer models and semi science.
Now we have the best cards to win the game we must not forget that they have been cheating from the beginning.
It’s hard to win a game from a bunch of cheats.

`Tor Hansson

Yet another indication of a carbon-eating biosphere.
Fancy that.

Graeme From Melbourne

If the Anthropomorphic component of Atmospheric CO2 is not increasing with increased human CO2 emissions, than why would anyone expect decreasing human CO2 emissions to decrease the Anthropomorphic component of Atmospheric CO2?
Cap and Trade anyone? ETS anyone???

maksimovich

Alexander Feht (21:02:32) :
I always knew that plants (including algae) and bacteria evolved through lengthy periods of time when there was much more CO2 in the atmosphere; therefore they would have, written in their genetic memory, an ability to absorb much more CO2 than there is presently.
Indeed, Henderiks and Rickaby (2007) conclude in an interesting paragraph.
In terms of underlying genetic mechanisms, currently, little
is known about genetic controls on calcification (e.g.
Marsh, 2003; Nguyen et al., 2005), or the detailed photosynthetic
mechanism of coccolithophores. Coupling of calcification
with species-specific Rubisco specificity provides
a tangible means to preserve the CO2/O2 composition at the
time of origin of photosynthetic phyla (Giordano et al., 2005;
Tcherkez et al., 2006). The preservation of calcification ability
at high pCO2 in C. pelagicus may occur through genetic
redundancy (Wagner, 1999), or variance in genetic expression
whilst the adaptation of E. huxleyi and C. leptoporus to
the modern low pCO2 niche could be associated with gene
inactivation of pathways associated with high pCO2 (Hittinger
et al., 2004). The high proportion of duplicate genes
within plant and algae genomes is indicative of a high rate
of retention of duplicate genes (Lynch and Connery, 2000).
Gene duplications contribute to the establishment of new
gene functions, and may underlie the origin of evolutionary
novelty. Duplicate genes can exist stably in a partially redundant
state over a protracted evolutionary period (Moore
and Purugganan, 2005). A half-life to silencing and loss of
a plant gene duplicate is estimated at 23.4 million years such
that remnant duplicate genes, which can be reactivated by
environmental conditions to encode calcification within coccolithophores
under “ancestral” conditions representative of
60 Ma, appears reasonable.

http://www.biogeosciences.net/4/323/2007/bg-4-323-2007.pdf

Ron de Haan

There are two developments with the potential to get the momentum in our side.
Thanks to the current crises Governments have to cut their budgets leaving more room
for Universities and Media to go their own way. No money, no services.
The fact that the University of Bristol and the VU (Free University) of Amsterdam, both embedded in the AGW heartlands of Great Britain and the Netherlands deliver the bombshell under the AGW doctrine is remarkable.
One year ago, when budgets were plentiful this would have been a lot more difficult.
The same is happening with our media.
The second development is a direct consequence of the publication of the Kerry Boxer Bill. people have started to study the fine print in the proposed legislation
which is quite sobering.
“Senators David Vitter (R-Louisiana) and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) today called attention to a remarkably broad delegation of authority to the President in the Kerry-Boxer and Waxman-Markey energy-rationing bills that would require shutting down the U. S. economy beginning in 2015”.
This is bad news for any private enterprise because many of them plan their strategies and investment over much longer periods of time.
The uncertainty of a possible shutdown also makes the free carbon credits, made available by the Administration to drum up support, entirely worthless.
I think this will trigger a lot of opposition, especially because the risk of forced shutdown also applies to the companies that belong to the “Climate Industrial Complex ( http://www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/ClimateComplex.htm )
The year 2015 is around the corner if you realize that many (big) industrial companies make plan their investments over a period of 50 years, you will know that the announcement of a premature forced shut down of their operations in unacceptable.
This reality check will turn many believers among our industrial complex into realists overnight and they will think twice before they decide to support their own downfall.
http://www.globalwarming.org/2009/11/10/senators-vitter-and-barrasso-warn-big-business-supporters-of-energy-rationing-kerry-boxer-will-shut-down-u-s-economy/

Norm in Calgary

Question: If CO2 is currently 385ppm, and AGW CO2 is only 3% of that amount, then most of the CO2 rise is non-AGW. So, how long would it take the world CO2 to rise to 450 (some kind of tipping point) if we suddenly stopped making any AGW CO2 whatsoever?
In other words, sooner or later, depending on nature and NOT AGW, we will reach the magic tipping point of no return whether we do anything or not. And if we did do the maximum (shut down everything) we’d only delay the tipping point by 3% of the time to reach said tipping point.
Do I have that right?

D. King

Who is the keeper of the holy atmospheric CO2 data?
What method are they using and do we trust them?

Ron de Haan

John F. Hultquist (21:51:52) :
Won’t this just fuel the notion that the ocean is going to become acidic in a few years? If not by heat then by acid – we are still doomed they say. Not so, but their stool still has more than three legs.
Will someone fix this from the post:
“have been based on projections that have a carbon free sink of already factored in.”
I’ve seen enough poorly written material that I can usually make sense of it but not this.
John, the warmist are getting entangled in their own “CLIMATE LIES”.
OCEAN ACIDIFICATION is one of them.
Dozens of scientific reports have debunked the risk of ocean acidification.
Simply search for “Ocean Acidification” at WUWT, ICECAP.US and Climate Depot and you find a whole binch of them.

Ron de Haan
rbateman

The Earth at one time had a lot of C02 in the atmosphere, and yet it took it out.
Biology uses it 24/7. So if the Earth puts out 97% of the carbon dioxide it wants to, nothing we do will make a dent in it, anthropogenic fasting or not.
AGW is now available freeze-dried, ready for display on the mantle of failed predictions. Didn’t happen.
As long as we can keep lunatics from panic-injecting S02 (and whatever other nefarious and ill-fated concoctions they have in mind) into the atmosphere, Earth will eat C02, deposition will continue, oceans and other sinks will continue to exist and function as normal. Bio-systems will continue to function, unless madmen poison the skies and cause acid-rain to destroy the foundations of life on Earth. No, no, no. You must not kill all organisms that we depend on just to satisfy the urge to experiment with Climate.

H

The more we learn, the more we realise we have to learn. Unless, of course, the science is settled.

Chris Schoneveld

I am confused. If the proportion of manmade CO2 remains the same while the total amount of CO2 is rising steadily doesn’t this mean that at the same time natural CO2 must be rising as well to keep that proportion stable? What is then the source of that extra natural CO2?

4 billion

Ron de Haan (22:52:58) :
Dozens of scientific reports have debunked the risk of ocean acidification.
Simply search for “Ocean Acidification” at WUWT, ICECAP.US and Climate Depot and you find a whole binch of them.

From one of the papers linked at ice cap
“The oceans are becoming more acidic due to absorption of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The impact of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems is unclear, but it will likely depend on species adaptability and the rate of change of seawater pH relative to its natural variability.”
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/309/5744/2204
So it seems acidification is not the question, what rammifications is the question.

Feedback

The IPCC says:
“The ocean’s capacity to buffer increasing atmospheric CO2 will decline in the future as ocean surface pCO2 increases (Figure 7.11a). This anticipated change is certain, with potentially severe consequences.”
http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter7.pdf
So maybe it’s not so certain after all.
BTW is it only me, or is that last sentence in the quote somewhat out of place in the context of a review of the scientific literature?

It seems that there is some confusion about the meaning of this study…
The study is about how much of the human emissions stay in the atmosphere as quantity, not as individual molecules. And it confirmes that there is little or no statistical change in this fraction. That is the core of the difference between reality and models: models predict that the oceans get saturated and that the extra growth of the biosphere is limited, so that the absorption rate of ever increasing emissions are reducing. In reality there is no sign of this in the data. The fraction is about constant over time:
http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/klim_img/acc_co2_1900_2004.jpg
Why is that? Despite the fact that many CO2 releases and absorptions in the natural world are quite non-linear, nature as a whole acts and reacts like a simple first order linear process on disturbances, be it temperature or human emissions. That means that a direct injection of CO2 (whatever the source) in the atmosphere will be absorbed over time with a decay rate of about 38 years for halve the extra amount. If we should fix the human emissions to a constant rate, the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere would force more CO2 into the oceans (and biosphere), ultimately leading to a new equilibrium (at a higher CO2 level). But as we are emitting more and more CO2 each year (near exponentially), the CO2 levels increase more or less linearly, which leads to a more or less fixed ratio of what remains of the injection into the atmosphere.
The models on the other hand are programmed to show a saturation of the oceans and vegetation. In that case, the airborne fraction would increase. That may happen if we should burn near all fossil carbon available, because only then the deep oceans (where most of the current CO2 absorption happens) will increase in CO2/bi/carbonate content to an appreciable amount, which returns to the surface after some 800 years. In contrast, the total amount released by humans since the start of the industrial revolution is only a small fraction of the deep ocean CO2 content. That is why the models are wrong and the long residence time of CO2 (for the last fraction) proposed by the models (and IPCC) are wrong too…

Sandy

It seems to me that whatever proxy they are using for anthropogenic CO2 is not actually measuring Man’s emissions. The ratio seems bullet-proof enough that we could either double or eliminate our emissions without much effect.
I suppose the idea that the total global CO2 exchange each year is orders of magnitude higher than current (alarmist?) estimates, and hence Man’s guilt smaller, is probably not popular right now.
When the forests of Asia burned in the early 90’s the blip in CO2 sorted itself out within 2 years.
The idea that Man can alter CO2 concentrations looks increasingly unlikely to me. The biosphere will grab all the CO2 it can before the ocean decides what the equilibrium figure for atmospheric CO2 will be.

Co2 has always been present in the atmosphere at around 380ppm according to tens of thousands of scientific records dating back to Saussure in 1830.
It also varies substantially which is not surprising as the amount of co2 in the carbon cycle far exceeds the input from man, so we would expect to see the natural cycle varying according to temperatures and outgasing of oceans, land use changes etc. Instead we have a steady rise from Manua Loa that clearly isn’t measuring the overwhelming impact from nature.
There is no evidence from our historic temperature records to suggest man is having an impact on temperatures through co2 -they were highly variable well before man had any impact on carbon levels as can be seen in my collection of historic instrumental temperature data sets
http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/invisible-elephants/#more-5984
The only warming man is responsible for is due to the Urban Heat Island effect-a factor we knew about in Roman Times but still fail to acknowledge properly in our increasingly urbanised and misleading ‘global’ temperatures
(which are nothing of the sort)
tonyb

Richard111

Google algal blooms. Seems to be an unprecedented rise in ocean algae blooms causing havoc to bird life. I am not a scientist, but I don’t think algae and ocean acid can exist at the same time.

D. King (22:49:02) :
Who is the keeper of the holy atmospheric CO2 data?
What method are they using and do we trust them?

CO2 data are sampled continuous and with flask samples on a lot of places (70+ for “good” places, 400+ on a lot of other places) by several organisations. See: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/iadv/
NOAA is the maintainer of the 10 “base” stations, meant to measure more or less global values. They also maintain the rigorous calbration and quality assurance procedures for all CO2 measurements all over the world. See e.g. the procedures for Mauna Loa:
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/about/co2_measurements.html

Jimmy Haigh

I think so. Except that there is no tipping point.

Jimmy Haigh

Jimmy Haigh (00:10:06) :
I think so. Except that there is no tipping point.
Sorry – that was for Norm in Calgary (22:45:33) : (Dodgy keyboard on the CTRL + ‘v’ front.)

“better than we thought”, who would expect that?
If the 800 years lag between temperature-CO2 is real, when should we see its rise after the MWP? Or 1 deg C fluctuation is not enough and only truly glacial/interglacial 10 deg C changes are needed?

michel

“I don’t mean to be dense or downplay the apparent significance of this, but aren’t we still looking at a pretty steadily rising atmospheric CO2 ppm, and isn’t that the causal factor in climate change, as per the global warmers?”
The answer is, yes, that is supposed to be the causal factor in climate change. But what is it due to, how serious is it, and what can we or should we do about it?
The paper bears on the seriousness question in this way: it suggests that the ability of the planet to absorb CO2 has remained constant. So there is no reason to think that any more of the CO2 which we emit will remain in the atmosphere than in the past. So there is no reason to think the problem, if it is one, is going to get worse. The more we emit, the higher the concentration, but only about 50% or so is going into the atmosphere now, and there is no reason to think any more will in future.
The paper does not bear particularly on what we can or should do. If we stop emitting CO2, then the levels in the atmosphere will, as far as anything in this paper says, fall.
It is not a bombshell. It is simply a finding that things are not going pear shaped at an accelerating pace. CO2 levels are still increasing, still probably due to human emissions. Its just that the fraction retained in the atmosphere is not suddenly going to rise sharply. It is, in short, not ‘worse than we had thought’, its about the same as it always was.
Whether that is good or bad is a different question.

Nick Stokes

People should listen to Carrot Eater (and Tim) above. This is not a bombshell. Anthropogenic CO2 in the air is increasing. About half the CO2 we emit goes elsewhere (eg sea), as it always has. It is not a tenet of AGW that this ratio will change.
Pat Michaels gave the appropriate caution, quoted in the post:

(Note: It is not that the total atmospheric burden of CO2 has not been increasing over time, but that of the total CO2 released into the atmosphere each year by human activities, about 45% remains in the atmosphere while the other 55% is taken up by various natural processes—and these percentages have not changed during the past 150 years)

Comments about RealClimate.ORG (and David Archer’s) previous wrong statements about the airborne fraction; explanation why this research is obviously valid given Henry’s law of chemistry; and what it means for CO2 concentration projections, see:
http://motls.blogspot.com/2009/11/airborne-fraction-of-co2-stays-constant.html

Anne van der Bom

Graeme From Melbourne,
As far as I can make up from the post, they are talking about ‘airborne fraction’, not ‘anthropogenic fraction’. Makes quite a difference.
My interpretation of this paper is that the carbon sinks are not saturating. I think it has been suggested that this would happen, but I don’t know who did it when and where and how.
The paper doesn’t say CO2 levels are not increasing.
The paper doesn’t say CO2 levels will stop increasing.
The paper doesn’t say increasing CO2 is not caused by human emissions.
The paper doesn’t say increasing CO2 will not cause warming.