Role of terrestrial biosphere in counteracting climate change may have been underestimated

From the UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM

New research suggests that the capacity of the terrestrial biosphere to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) may have been underestimated in past calculations due to certain land-use changes not being fully taken into account.

It is widely known that the terrestrial biosphere (the collective term for all the world’s land vegetation, soil, etc.) is an important factor in mitigating climate change, as it absorbs around 20% of all fossil fuel CO2 emissions.

However, its role as a net carbon sink is affected by land-use changes such as deforestation and expanded agricultural practice.

A new study, conducted by an international collaboration of scientists and published in the journal Nature Geoscience, has analysed the extent to which these changing land-use practices affect carbon emissions – allowing the levels of CO2 uptake by the terrestrial biosphere to be more accurately predicted.

The results not only show that CO2 emissions from changing land-use practices are likely to be significantly higher than previously thought, but also imply that these emissions are compensated for by a higher rate of carbon uptake among terrestrial ecosystems.

Co-author of the study, Dr Tom Pugh from the University of Birmingham, says:

‘Our work shows that the terrestrial biosphere might have greater potential than previously thought to mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon emissions from fossil fuels. However, to fully realise this potential we will have to ensure that the significant emissions resulting from land-use changes are reduced as much as possible.’

Co-author Professor Stephen Sitch from the University of Exeter adds:

‘The results imply that reforestation projects and efforts to avoid further deforestation are of the utmost importance in our pursuit to limit global warming to below 2oC, as stated in the Paris climate agreement.’

###

The study: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2882.html

Historical carbon dioxide emissions caused by land-use changes are possibly larger than assumed

The terrestrial biosphere absorbs about 20% of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions. The overall magnitude of this sink is constrained by the difference between emissions, the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and the ocean sink. However, the land sink is actually composed of two largely counteracting fluxes that are poorly quantified: fluxes from land-use change and CO2uptake by terrestrial ecosystems. Dynamic global vegetation model simulations suggest that CO2emissions from land-use change have been substantially underestimated because processes such as tree harvesting and land clearing from shifting cultivation have not been considered. As the overall terrestrial sink is constrained, a larger net flux as a result of land-use change implies that terrestrial uptake of CO2 is also larger, and that terrestrial ecosystems might have greater potential to sequester carbon in the future. Consequently, reforestation projects and efforts to avoid further deforestation could represent important mitigation pathways, with co-benefits for biodiversity. It is unclear whether a larger land carbon sink can be reconciled with our current understanding of terrestrial carbon cycling. Our possible underestimation of the historical residual terrestrial carbon sink adds further uncertainty to our capacity to predict the future of terrestrial carbon uptake and losses.

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93 thoughts on “Role of terrestrial biosphere in counteracting climate change may have been underestimated

  1. I wonder how this one got published. It’s a “not as bad as we thought” message. It just doesn’t fit the narrative.

    • They totally accept that CAGW is going to happen, unless we allow them to save us from ourselves with “This one simple trick.” It’s something like click bait.

      • jpatrick..I read the post as on-message, it completely fits the narrative. Interestingly, I’ve been told that Canadian Boreal forests are net carbon emitters, yet in this research shows forest are carbon sinks. I guess it depends on which country the forests grow in and how much funding they can provide the UN/IPCC.

        ‘The results imply that reforestation projects and efforts to avoid further deforestation are of the utmost importance in our pursuit to limit global warming to below 2oC, as stated in the Paris climate agreement.’

    • Oh it’s a stunning piece to me.

      An international team of scientists admitting (and being published in a peer reviewed journal):
      “we don’t know”
      “poorly quantified”
      “underestimated in the past, but we’re not sure (even now) by how much”
      “adds further (on top of already existing) uncertainty to our ability to predict the future”.

      So….apparently all climate change models (if there are any) that contain data regarding terrestrial sinks and sources, have been, at best, merely estimating (GUESSING) how they affect climate.

    • Ralph Keeling (the son of Charles Keeling) discovered higher than “previously estimated” primary production (biosphere carbon sink rate) using very precise measurements of atmospheric oxygen in the Keeling lab. His research was defunded immediately after publishing this discovery in 2011.

  2. Perhaps distracting from the main intent of this post, I risk discussing a trivial aspect of carbon sinks, by noting that I have always found it interesting how the word, “sink” is used in such a context.

    Am I correct in thinking that “sink”, in this context, originated from the idea of a sink that has a drain ? If so, then where might the “drain” of the carbon “sink” be ? In ordinary use, we don’t think of a sink as a long-term storage basin, but rather as, at most, a temporary storage basin with a drain allowing its contents eventually to go somewhere else.

    • In electronics, a heat sink is usually a chunk of aluminum with fins that transfers heat from a device to the surrounding air where some of us can ignore it.

      The heat doesn’t go away, it’s still in the environment, it just becomes someone else’s problem. I, the equipment designer, have passed the problem on to the engineer designing the hvac for the equipment room. She then passes the problem on to the idiot who sited a Stevenson Screen next to the airconditioner … and so forth.

    • ‘Sink’ can either be a noun or a verb. Then you can give it any meaning you like, to fit a narrative. It can be an absorber, a conduit or a final destination.

    • A “sink”, in a scientific (systems) context, is simply the opposite of a “source”. Stuff gets into the system via the sources, and stuff is removed from the system via the sinks.

      The sink of one system can be a source in another system. Drains and long-term vs. short-term don’t really make sense generally.

      • Just to toy further with the idea, … then why do we not speak of carbon “drains”, since a drain is the thing that removes the “stuff”. A sink “makes sense” in everyday parlance as a vat through which stuff flows via the drain.

        I just find the choice of word interesting in this respect, because the scientific usage changes the sense of the everyday usage. Stuff only remains in the sink, if the drain is obstructed. Again, I just find the usage interesting.

      • It is a “sink” in that it removes the CO2 from the air and incorporates it into the plant matter, which stores it and makes it a “fuel” for future use. ALL greens plants use CO2 as “fertilizer” as it makes them grow faster. Stored carbon is the basis of all fuels including oil and gas and coal, as they were once CO2 in the air stored by plants before the plants were submerged and turned into hydrocarbon fuels. All the greenery on Earth is up 30% since we have satellites to measure it, and that is where most of the extra CO2 is going, along with what goes into the oceans.

      • Robert, the scientific sense of the word “sink” is really quite old. You even see this meaning in mathematics, e.g. graph theory.

        Earl, another CO2 sink (a crucially important one on geological timescales) is rock, which absorbs CO2 through chemical weathering. The lack of chemical weathering (and thus the removal of a sink) when the globe is covered by ice sheet during glaciation is one of the main historical reasons CO2 levels have been able to rise to overcome the albedo effect of the ice sheets and end the glaciation event.

  3. The dilemma is reconciling “reforestation projects and efforts to avoid further deforestation” with continued growth, including a lot of developing world growth. As far as biodiversity goes I wonder if environmentalism and capitalism can ever be compatible.

      • evolve its core concept of “value”

        I think your probably on the money there (excuse the pun). Although I suspect the recognition of value hasn’t come soon enough for many of the world’s bio-diverse hotspots, like large areas of tropical forest.

      • The problem with value, is that everyone has a different idea as to what is most valuable, and everyone thinks that they have a right to use force to get others to agree with them.

      • As I see it, the capitalistic concept of growth seems to involve adding more and more mass to the world, where attention to the elegant ORGANIZATION of mass only goes so far and stops, in favor of adding more and more mass.

        A more advanced concept of growth involves a sense of more elegant organization, by limiting the amount of stuff, focusing on the quality of the structure of that stuff, and focusing on the quality of how we move and arrange this stuff for the most fulfilling flow of human actions.

        Value then relates to the processes of enabling all this, as opposed to the substance of it.

      • “Capitalism”: an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.

        Whats wrong with the word capitalism?

    • Yep, all the trees chopped down to make way for wind turbines, the roads to them etc..

      and the timber being chopped down to send to Drax overseas..

      and the timber now being chopped in UK and Germany because of high electricity costs.

      Sure is a environmental. !!

    • Environmentalism as currently structured and defined is corrupt with Progressive/socialism. Can free market capitalism and nature coexist? I would argue they can.

      I bet Feynman and Friedman would agree on a lot.

      • To service the interest on the debt and make a profit on top, capitalism needs growth. Without growth nobody invests in your company.
        Endless exponential growth in a finite system is going to end in tears.

      • To service debt and make a profit, all you need to do is make a profit.
        If you want to make more profit the easiest way to do that is to grow.
        Capitalism doesn’t require growth. Capitalists want it.
        Big difference. It’s one of those points on which people who have no idea how the world really works often get caught on.

    • For maximal environmental pollution and destruction of nature, not to mention humans, you need industrialized socialism, as in the Soviet bloc then and China now.

      It is no accident that environmentalism arose in the capitalist West.

    • I think environmentalism and capitalism (as opposed to certain capitalists) go hand in hand and always have. If they are not as compatible as possible…they destroy each other. Capitalism, is merely a concept, as is environmentalism. It is how they are used that can be good or bad.

      Capitalism results by taking advantage of the things around us. We use our knowledge of the physical world to build, create, experiment, expand and survive. A simplified example: a person who knows how to use his “environment” to raise sheep, sells their wool to someone who then creates yarn out of it, who then sells it to a clothing maker….all of the capitalism in that scenario is generated by an intelligent or skilled use of the environment (and the tools/means created from it) surrounding each person. A good capitalist is concerned about protecting the “environment” from which they generate their income, especially if they desire to keep that income long term, or pass it on to future generations.

      Biodiversity is desirable to good capitalists because it not only expands their ability to create/market new things, it expands the things they are able to purchase and use with their own income. And without money and the things purchased with it, it is impossible to study, utilize, protect and restore the environment.

  4. I thought they had a neat little formula all figured out…
    …we burn this much gas…and it exactly correlates with how much CO2 has risen

    well, back to the drawing board and calculator

    • That was my first thought when I read the headline! More isotope meddling in the carbon budget. Is anything settled in climate ‘science’?

  5. It seems odd that they say the terrestrial biosphere’s uptake of anthropogenic CO2 is underestimated, yet they credit the terrestrial biosphere with absorbing only “around 20%” of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. AR5 estimates that this effect removes about (2.5/9.2) = 27% [p. 6-3] or 29% [Fig. 6.1] of anthropogenic CO2 emissions from the atmosphere, each year.

    • I’m not seeing either of those numbers for the *terrestrial biosphere* in the AR5. The 2.5 PgC yr–1 number, for instance, is for all of land minus the effect of land use change (actually “the sum of the Land-to-atmosphere flux minus Net land use change flux”). The 2.6 PgC/yr “net land flux” in figure 6.1 also includes things like runoff into rivers (part of 1.7, the other part of which comes from land use change), which isn’t actually sequestered by the biosphere.

      So I don’t necessarily see any direct contradiction.

  6. Dynamic global vegetation model simulations suggest that CO2emissions from land-use change have been substantially underestimated because processes such as tree harvesting and land clearing from shifting cultivation have not been considered.

    I’ve previously often held the suspicion that certain crucial factors have been wildly miscalculated. It now no longer surprises me to hear them say “Actually, we didn’t even bother trying to include those things”. Someone should take their computers away until they start including the basics.

  7. The Princeton scientists at the begining of the century charted the air-mass as it typically travels west to east across the USA and the varying contents of that air-mass.

    Entering from the Pacific, laden with CO2 from Asian emissions (China and India), we see it remains the same or elevates slightly, as it enters the west coast and then starts to decline in CO2 as it transits the bio sequestration of the farming California and the ranch lands of the West. It declines significantly as the bio sequestration of the growing and CO2 absorbing corn and wheat farmers in those prolific farm lands. It elevates slightly in through the American Ruhr of the industrial midwest, declines in the near mid east mountains, and then elevates slightly transiting the east coast from now depleted levels. As it blows out into the Atlantic it is significantly lower in CO2 content, attesting that North America and the USA acts as bio-sequestrator, at CO2 levels below the levels that Nature and the most industrial advanced civilization emits.

    America is a net CO2 and carbon SINK. It is the , greatest in the world and even more extensive than the Amazon rain forest,

    If CO2 concerns are not a hoax and are even partially valid,( my view is the former), it is clear America has completed its task, that Euro-Asia has barely begun.

    • I have not read before that the US was a net-absorber of CO2, though I have heard of an 80% draw down. I am interested in any published CO2 levels that reflect what you describe. Gotta link?

      The expanding Eastern Forests are absorbing the 80% so perhaps another 30-45% is absorbed farther West. That is a new draw-down. Possible, I think.

      Thanks

  8. Our work shows that the terrestrial biosphere might have greater potential than previously thought to mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

    Guhhh we don’t know much about this….

    However, to fully realise this potential we will have to ensure that the significant emissions resulting from land-use changes are reduced as much as possible

    and genuflect to the money gods who deliver green to the reds, neither of which care to feed the rest.

  9. The biggest CO2 nut on the Trump team is Tillerson. This just out:

    Megan Rowling ‏@meganrowling 16h16 hours ago
    #Trump adviser predicts clash with Tillerson on #climatechange but says US likely to withdraw from #ParisAgreement

    https://www.ft.com/content/10907460-e67f-11e6-967b-c88452263daf

    Further apparently Tillerson has already clashed with Trump on the very limited Muslim ban: https://apnews.com/98c2a8cac3b74bde803f03af4e53af47/Trump-faces-blowback-from-Cabinet,-diplomats-for-refugee-ban

    That’s expected, as Tillerson supported Jeb Bush for president and that strongly implies that the he agrees with “Act of Love” Jeb on immigration, including Muslim immigration.

    I wish we DIDN’T have someone dead set on “clashing” with Trump on climate change!

    The corporate softie Rex Tillerson Oct 2016: “At ExxonMobil, we share the view that the risks of climate change are serious… [and favor] the Paris agreeement.”

    • A few words from visitors to Trump like Dr Happer, Lindzen, Spencer, and more like them, will soon put Tillerson straight, if he isn’t already. This published paper looks to be an attempt to wind back the rhetoric, just a bit.

    • Islamic terrorists kill American Muslims too…
      …Trump is protecting all Americans…including Muslims

      Liberals are just flipping out because they are watching all their globalization cards come crashing down

    • More From AP

      ‘Christie: Wife refused to move to Washington for Trump post’ !

      ‘Workers dismayed by President Trump’s federal hiring freeze’ !!

      ‘President-elect Donald Trump escalates Tom Ford fashion dis’ !!!

      ‘Mexico stunned by Trump tweet on canceling trip’ !!!!

      ‘The Latest: Trump has late dinner at his DC hotel’ !!!!!

  10. Meh, plow the cities under. Move major resource extraction and heavy manufacturing off planet, the resources are easier to get at. The Greens can live in the grass huts the Third Worlders leave. /sarc

  11. “Co-author of the study, Dr Tom Pugh from the University of Birmingham, says:

    ‘Our work shows that the terrestrial biosphere might have greater potential than previously thought to mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon emissions from fossil fuels.”

    It may have already mitigated “climate change” away, since there has been no statistical warming for 20 years.

    • Sure! No statistical warming, except three years of increasing global temperature records. Flat(ish) temperature trends during the “hiatus” when ENSO and a cool sun *should* by all rights have led to significant cooling.

      Sure! No warming for 20 years, go on repeating that, maybe that’ll make it true.

  12. “Co-author Professor Stephen Sitch from the University of Exeter adds:

    ‘The results imply that reforestation projects and efforts to avoid further deforestation are of the utmost importance in our pursuit to limit global warming to below 2 C, as stated in the Paris climate agreement.’”

    The 2C figure is totally made up. It was pulled out of thin air. Now, it is the standard. Such is climate science.

    • Notice that the 2 degree figure is justified because it is stated in the Paris “climate” “agreement”. No other reason is mentioned, because as you say, the number is nonsense.

      Can I use the new rules to determine my annual income? I believe it should be approximately 1 million dollars per week. If my remuneration dips below this number, VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN. So really, it is in everyone’s interest to fund me. I take cash, credit, and PayPal.

      In return, I promise to spend a portion of my luxurious vacations shaking my finger at people. For an additional fee, I will add vocal remonstration.

  13. … than previously thought …

    I always wonder who, if anybody, the writers of this phrase refer to.
    Maybe they refer to themselves.
    We see this frequently and invariably what follows is disappointing.
    It may just be lazy writing, and very much like a cliché.

    • They refer to the existing literature on the subject. Usually, the “previously thought” stuff is explained in an article’s introduction or background section, or similar.

      It’s not lazy writing, it’s writing to an audience of peers.

  14. “‘The results imply that reforestation projects and efforts to avoid further deforestation are of the utmost importance in our pursuit to limit global warming to below 2oC, as stated in the Paris climate agreement.’

    Well thankfully, no one will be referencing that soon-to-shredded agreement much longer.

  15. But the reality is that there is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate. There is no such evidence in the paleoclimate record and plenty of scientific reasoning to support the idea that the climate sensivity of CO2 is really zero. The radiant greenhouse effect upon which the AGW conjecture is based has not been observed on Earth or anywhere in the solar system rendring the AGW conjecture as just some form of science fiction. If CO2 really affected climate then one would expect that the increase in CO2 over the past 30 years would have caused an increase in the dry lapse rate in the troposphere but such has not happened.

    • Lots o’f science settled’ statements in there will. Must be re-assuring to be so certain about things.

    • No evidence in the paleoclimate record? No evidence except the start of the current ice age (a drop in CO2 caused by carbon sequestration in the Arctic starting around the Eocene Temperature Optimum), the end of the previous ice age (the Karoo ended because CO2 rose enough to melt the ice sheets that kept the Earth’s albedo cool), the start of the previous ice age (the Karoo began because nothing could digest lignin, and vast amounts of atmospheric carbon were sequestered in what became the coal deposits we’re now burning), and so on and so on.

      Orbital variations occur on too short timespans to explain the major glacial periods. The climate sensitivity of CO2 was estimated pretty accurately over 100 years ago. Life and tectonic activity can explain the variation of CO2 and the paleoclimate record quite well. It’s the best theory I’ve seen, at least. How would *you* explain the paleoclimate record? And how come CO2 just happens to follow along logically?

      • You are pointing to conjecture, not evidence. Cooler temperatures have caused a reduction in CO2 in the atmosphere and an increase in temperature has caused an increase in CO2 but there is no real evidence that CO2 actually causes warming. The change in CO2 happens because warmer oceans cannot hold as much CO2 as colder oceans.

        The calculations of the Plank climate sensivity of CO2 have been found to be too great by a factor of more than 20 because those calculations do not take into consideration that doubling the amount of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere will cause a slight decrease in the dry lapse rate in the troposphere which is a cooling effect.

        Despite your 100 year old estimate, after more than two decades of effort, the IPCC has been unable to calculate the climate sensivity of CO2. According to their official published reports, they have not been able to narrow their initial range of guesses one iota.

        From first principals it has been calculated that on average the surface of the Earth will be 33 degrees C warmer because of the atmosphere due only to the heat capacity of the atmosphere, the pressure gradient, and the depth of the troposphere. Gravity and the heat capacity of the atmosphere combine to provide a convective greenhouse effect that accounts for all 33 degrees C of insulation that has been observed. There is no additional radiant greenhouse effect caused by the LWIR absorption properties of so called greenhouse gases. If CO2 did affect climate then one would consider that the increase in CO2 over the past 30 years would have caused at least a measureable increase in the dry lapse rate in the troposphere but such has not happened.

    • Apparently I can’t make a reply to your reply to my earlier reply to this comment, so I’ll make a reply here. Why this site makes a discussion so difficult is beyond me.

      First of all, you’re the one who brought up paleoclimatology. There can be no more concrete “evidence” in the paleoclimate record for CO2 affecting climate than the correlations that you’re handwaving away. If the mainstream theory were correct, what else would you expect to see?

      The IPCC has improved its estimate of CO2 climate sensitivity. The earliest value appears to be quite similar to the latest one, but if you actually do a little reading you’ll find that the error bars (though they haven’t shrunk very much) are much better characterised. To a layman that may not mean much, but them’s the breaks.

      You wrote “From first principals [sic] it has been calculated that on average the surface of the Earth will be 33 degrees C warmer because of the atmosphere due only to the heat capacity of the atmosphere, the pressure gradient, and the depth of the troposphere.”

      Interesting! I’d like to read that study, please.

  16. Quote: It is widely known that the terrestrial biosphere (the collective term for all the world’s land vegetation, soil, etc.) is an important factor in mitigating climate change, …

    Oh no you don’t. Forget “widely known”. Forget assuming that CO2 controls the climate. Start providing evidence.

  17. “Our work shows that the terrestrial biosphere might have greater potential than previously thought to mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon emissions from fossil fuels.”

    What is implied here, though too inconvenient to state directly, is that the land use changes to the terrestrial biosphere have also been an underestimated source of the observed atmospheric CO2 accumulation.

    Although I’m happy to accept the argument, that far from being underestimated, it’s been deliberately ignored.

    Thus far, it’s been stated widely that 20-30% of atmospheric CO2 is a direct result of land use changes, when it’s quite possible that the figure could be double that if biosphere changes and feedbacks are taken into account.

    But of course it’s a wrong message to be sending out that land use change has been the most dominant cause of climate change, because it gives power to the even more inconvenient argument that human population is the root of all climate evils.

    • So with an assumptive leap into the void: “it’s been deliberately ignored” and a wild ass guess; “it’s quite possible that the figure could be double”, you conclude there is something evil going on. Ok.

  18. Dr Roger Pielke Sr was saying this 15+ years ago… He and his science colleagues have published many peer reviewed papers on land use and impacts of draining wetlands and deforestation. WUWT has a good collection and links to Pierre’s site.

  19. I have published two papers on the carbon dioxide recycling between the atmosphere, the oceans, and the biosphere. There is no method to measure directly how much the biosphere absorbs and emits CO2. The atmospheric fluxes are very well known and the CO2 fluxes in and out the ocean can be calculated and compared to the observed values. The magnitude of the sink by the biosphere is only an estimate.

    My model named 1DAOBM is based on Henry’s law in which way the ocean absorbs and absolves CO2. It is known that the high latitude ocean absorbs and the tropical ocean absolves CO2. Therefore, the temperature changes of the tropical ocean should correlate to the CO2 amount in the atmosphere. This correlation is very strong as one can see in figure below.

    Since 1956 about 55 % portion of the human CO2 emissions stay in the atmosphere and the rest is absorbed by the ocean. This relationship has stayed in this way a long time. The annual changes are quite big because of the temperature changes of the ocean. Before the year 1956, the CO2 amount in the atmosphere increased more than the rate of human emissions.

    The message of this blog that the biosphere may have a bigger role in absorbing CO2, is only an estimate, which may true or not but how do we know?.

    https://static.wixstatic.com/media/c266e2_3c381a513d0345ddabbb19a59d26d4e9.jpg/v1/fill/w_609,h_457,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01/c266e2_3c381a513d0345ddabbb19a59d26d4e9.webp

    • Your “55%” figure is a bit higher than the IPCC’s estimate of 45% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions remaining in the atmosphere each year. They think 55% of total emissions are taken up by oceans and biosphere, and they think over half of that is probably taken up by the biosphere, through greening. AR5 estimates that the terrestrial biosphere removes about (2.5/9.2) = 27% [p. 6-3] or 29% [Fig. 6.1] of anthropogenic CO2 emissions from the atmosphere, each year, and that the oceans remove another 26% [Fig 6.1]. (There are wide error bars on those numbers, but the 55% sum has narrower error bars than the two addends.)

      Can you please provide links to your papers?

    • @ aveollila – January 30, 2017 at 8:38 pm

      My model named 1DAOBM is based on Henry’s law in which way the ocean absorbs and absolves CO2. It is known that the high latitude ocean absorbs and the tropical ocean absolves CO2.

      Henry’s law, which defines the ingassing/outgassing of CO2, really doesn’t “give a hoot” if the ocean waters are located in the tropics or in the higher latitudes north or south of the tropics.

      The seasonal temperature changes in/of the ocean waters that are situate in the higher latitudes (non-tropical) of the Southern Hemisphere …… is/are the “driving force” (Henry’s Law) responsible for the 5 to 6 ppm bi-yearly cycling of atmospheric CO2 as defined in the Mauna Loa Record and/or the Keeling Curve Graph. To wit:

      Fifty eight (58) years, ….. and counting, ….. of a “steady & consistent” average 5 to 6 ppm bi-yearly cycling of atmospheric CO2 ……. can not be explained by any other means or reasoning other than the seasonal temperature changes in/of the Southern Hemisphere ocean waters as per Henry’s Law mandates.

      • Samuel,

        Except that it is not the oceans but NH extra-tropical forests which are dominant in the 5-6 ppmv global amplitude. The amplitude in the SH is only 1 ppmv.

        That is proven by the opposite CO2 and δ13C changes in de NH:

        If the seasonal variability was from the oceans, CO2 and δ13C changes would parallel each other…

      • Ferdinand Engelbeen,

        Cease from being such a damnable “cheapskate” and purchase your mother a new refrigerator so that she can, ……. for the first time in her life, …… own an appliance that is specifically manufactured and sold as a means of preventing the microbial decomposition of dead biomass (human foods) …… via the simple fact that said “working” refrigerator will keep the “dead biomass” stored therein from undergoing microbial decomposition via its ability of maintaining a “wintery” temperature of 42F or less degrees.

        So Ferdinand, buy your mother a new refrigerator and throw that old broken one you have been forcing her to use, …… out in the trash pile, ……. and then you won’t have to be constantly telling your poor ole mother that the dead foodstuff she stores in that old refrigerator for “safekeeping” is supposed to become rotten, spoiled and inedible within a couple days

        And Ferdinand, find some other means of collecting the CO2 being emitted by the microbial decomposition of the dead biomass that your mommy stores in that ole defunct refrigerator. Besides, its pretty dumb for you to be using that CO2 emissions from your mommy’s refrigerator to determine ….. “ seasonal variability of CO2 and δ13C”.

  20. Notice that this only applies to CO2(A!)
    “Dr Tom Pugh from the University of Birmingham, says:
    ‘Our work shows that the terrestrial biosphere might have greater potential than previously thought to mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon emissions from fossil fuels.”

  21. Not 20% of fossil fuel consumption. At least 50%…

    The real fallacy here is to treat the “terrestrial biosphere”, including soils, as a unit. If you choose to do this, the terrestrial biosphere is a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere, not a sink.

    Living plants are a modest net CO2 sink from the atmosphere. About 5 GTC/yr. Like the ocean in sign and magnitude, they create large flows in and out of the atmosphere from their own photosynthesis and respiration, independent of soils. Plants have bidirectional flows to soils as well as to the atmosphere, and soils are a net sink from plants.

    Flow from soils to the atmosphere is huge and one way only…out of the soils and into the atmosphere. About 60 GTC/yr.

    • What? Are you counting coal mining & burning as CO2 “out of the soils?” But even then 60 GtC seems waaaaay high. And where do you think all the CO2 has gone?

      • It has been a while and I’ve forgotten my source for the 60gt. I believe it is a good number as I included it in an “isotope integrated” carbon cycle a couple years ago.

        http://geosciencebigpicture.com/2015/04/26/cycling-the-isotopes/

        The problem I encountered with the model is the atmosphere goes negative PDB way too fast at currently conceived flows and isotope ratios. I can see that I fiddled with reducing soil atmospheric input, but must have believed the 60GT number was good.

        Thank you for the comment. This is worth some review. I will get back to you on the results.

      • I haven’t completely gotten to the bottom of my source for ~60 GtC soil Carbon from soils to the atmosphere per year but I now recall this from Wikipedia:

        “Researchers have estimated that soil respiration accounts for 77 Pg of carbon released to the atmosphere each year.[23]” A petagram is the same as a gigaton.

        The source cited is “^ Raich J, and Potter C. (1995) Global patterns of carbon dioxide emissions from soils. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 9, 23-36.”

        I’m sure there are other sources with different estimates factored in. As I mentioned, my problem is that the atmosphere goes negative way too fast. Since soil respiration is nearly as strongly negative 13C as human combustion and a huge source, I may have backed it off quite a bit.

        The Carbon cycle is still at the sanity check level. This is why any tool we can bring to bear to constrain it is important.

  22. I have wondered what happens when the effect of additional carbon dioxide saturates, the curve is a log curve and is almost saturated, and we continue to place additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Will the additional heat taken from the biosphere by photosynthesis then cause cooling?

    • No. The heat consumed by photosynthesis is the same heat which is released by burning, digesting or rotting the hydrocarbons produced by those plants. It is negligible in its effect on outdoor temperatures, compared to the effects of GHGs, aerosol/particulate emissions, water-cycle (evaporative) cooling, land use / albedo changes, etc. It’s the same sort of question as, “what effect do we have on Raleigh’s outdoor winter temperature if we open our windows?” The answer is “negligible.”

  23. Think of all the expanse of cities of the West and Southwest, that used to be scrub or desert, now fully planted with lawns and trees, and consider the magnitude of their carbon dioxide uptake. Consider the massive expansion of corn acreage for ethanol and its carbon dioxide uptake. Consider all the land planted for tree farms for wood and pulp and their carbon dioxide uptake. It is not a story of deforestation unless you live in Brazil. It is a story of reforestation. Consider all that grassland of the Midwest, usually dried out except for spring rains, now planted for agriculture. All of the San Joaquin Valley, California, scrub land with sage, now planted in walnuts and pistachios, cotton, and table crops and the vast magnitude of its carbon uptake. Consider all of the Sacramento Delta now growing rice instead of swampy bog, and its carbon uptake. Oh gee, the models are not on track. You don’t say.

  24. The plants cannot keep CO2 for ever but it will recycle back to the atmosphere:
    – 55 % in one year from the leaves
    – 12.5 % in 7 years
    – 12.5 % in 15 years
    – 20% is converted into soil, from which 15 % recycles back in 250 years
    – 5 % will stay in soil

    Only 5 % of CO2 used by plants will act as the final sink for CO2. Just reminding about this fact.

  25. Please don’t read more in the article than is realistic…

    The amount of CO2 sequestered by the biosphere each year is rather well known: there is a fixed ratio between CO2 uptake and O2 prduction and reverse when the leaves/wood are decaying or eaten by bacteria, molds, insects and animals. Thus by measuring the oxygen content of the atmosphere, minus what is used by fossil fuel burning, one can know the net result of the whole biosphere over a year and its trend over the years.

    Since ~1990, the biosphere is a small, but growing source of oxygen: less oxygen is consumed than is calculated from fossil fuel burning. Thus the biosphere as a whole (land + sea plant growth and decay, soil bacteria, insects,…) is a net O2 producer, thus a net CO2 sink, the earth is greening:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/287/5462/2467.short
    and
    http://www.bowdoin.edu/~mbattle/papers_posters_and_talks/BenderGBC2005.pdf

    There is no way to make a differentiation between the biosphere uptake/decay and human land clearing, besides the seasonal changes in O2 and δ13C. Thus it is unknown what the real fluxes are: a net sink of ~1 GtC/year may be from 3 GtC/year extra uptake and 2 GtC/year land clearing or shift to agriculture by humans or it can be 9 GtC/year extra uptake and 8 GtC/year human influence…

    That is what the article is about: the “potential” for more CO2 uptake is larger than what is currently seen as net sink, as land clearing is difficult to estimate (even by satellites)…

  26. Burning wood releases a lot more CO2 than oil and oil a lot more than gas.

    The developing world is to blame for CO2, not the West. Not that anyone should be blamed, as man-made CO2 has been a great boon to the planet. Four to six times as much human input again would be ideal.

    • Wait a minute. If I burn one molecule of cellulose, C11 or C1 (CH4) I do get more CO2 from the longer chains but I also get a lot more heat. Let’s do apples to apples.

      On another note, plants get bigger and grow faster with more CO2 in the atmosphere, so the more CO2, the bigger the tree, the bigger the forest and more carbon is stored in the forest.

  27. Yet another phenomenon that is not well understood, and which can be significant. Unless you have a good handle on all of these phenomena, as demonstrated by comparison of separate effects models to actual data, you can’t write a meaningful integrated model of the system. You are forced to either (1) make “informed” guesses, (2) do a Monte Carlo simulation of the system using values that are randomly chosen by expert opinion to see how the end distribution turns out, or (3) use “conservative” estimates to try to bound the results to something that you know that you can tolerate. When you are trying to nail down the temperature in the system over the next one hundred years, to an accuracy of around 1C, it can become very hard to justify. the results.

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