Carbon Sequestration

Guest post by Rud Istvan,

As most WUWT readers know, the issue of carbon sequestration is an important but largely IPCC undiscussed ‘anthropogenic global warming’ question. I got to thinking about it again as a result of the Australian brush fires that are dramatically releasing sequestered brush carbon. And it has been years since the topic was discussed in any depth here at WUWT, insofar as I know.

A cautionary note to WUWT readers. This guest post is a high level review, rather than a typically detailed and highly referenced analytic post on some paper. It is intended mainly to guide your own further research into a fairly complex subject by providing basic concepts and keywords.

Background

There is little doubt that combusting fossil fuel raises atmospheric CO2 in the ‘short term’ at some ‘rate’. This is provable several ways including C12/C13 isotope ratios governed by the differential photosynthetic uptake of the atomically lighter, therefore more ‘reactive’, C12. The experimental proof is simple: as fossil fuel combustion releases more photosynthetically sequestered C12, the residual atmospheric fraction of heavier (so less sequestered) C13 should decline. It does.

The relevant questions for global warming are the meanings of ‘rate’ and ‘short term’. We know the present rate from the Keeling Curve. That curve shows biological sink seasonality (mainly northern hemisphere terrestrial, because plants don’t grow in winter), and surprisingly slight acceleration—much less than the estimated rate of increase in gross CO2 emissions from fossil fuel consumption. (Wiki has good illustrations and discussion.) This belies the ‘saturated sinks’ assumption in the Bern sequestration model because the simple gross/net comparison shows carbon sinks must be growing significantly.

We also know from that same Keeling curve that ‘short term’ is at least decades. But is it several centuries as all the IPCC AR5 climate models predict?

Different Carbon Sink Rates

The rate at which the increase in fossil fuel combustion (and cement production, ~15%) derived C12 increases depends on the rate at which the biosphere can (again) sequester it into more stuff like the coal, oil, natural gas, or limestone (CaCO3) whence it came.

The highest sink rate of coal formation was during the Carboniferous, circa 350-300 mya after large (so cellulosic tissue had evolved ‘strong’ lignin) land plants became dominant, but before lignin digesting ‘white rot’ fungi evolved. That was during the high atmospheric CO2 Paleozoic era, with atmospheric concentrations significantly lowered at the end by photosynthetic coal sequestration.

The longest duration but arguably slowest sequestration rate was into petrochemical source rock–kerogen rich shales–mainly from dead marine phytoplankton sinking from the ocean’s eutrophic zone into anaerobic ‘shallow’ marine mud/clay (now shale) seafloor. Depending on the pressure and temperature at which these marine shale kerogens were later geologically ‘cooked’ (technical term, catagenesis), they formed oil, gas, or both. Natural gas is just overcooked oil, itself just cooked kerogen. So far as the oil and gas industry knows, that process has been going on for at least 500 million years since the Middle Cambrian. It continues today in the anaerobic depths of the Black Sea.

Our use of these fossil fuels frees their long ago biologically sequestered CO2 back into the atmosphere. Hence AGW, which alarmists project into CAGW.

By far the largest carbon sequestration sink (and probably the fastest) is not fossil fuel formation, It is the formation of marine carbonate exoskeletons by single celled photosynthetic organisms (now mostly phytoplankton) like coccolithophores. (The oldest [but rare] are bacterial stromatolites formed more than 2 billion years ago.) Marine carbonate exoskeletons formed the White Cliffs of Dover and numerous miles thick limestone (or dolomite) sedimentary rock formations. An image of the carbonate exoskeleton of the globally most abundant coccolyth species, E. Huxleyi, follows.

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A tactile sense of limestone sequestration was gained from my Uplands dairy farm in southwest Wisconsin along Hwy 23 from my farm to Lands End HQ in Dodgeville. The exposed roadcut limestone is over 300 mya and still over a mile thick AFTER eons of erosion and glaciation. Was a mildly shelliferous sea floor; the infrequent shell vugs often have beautiful little calcite crystal linings my kids would find as we walked our freshly plowed fields searching the surface for overturned limestone fragments.

Without tectonic recycling (discussed below), this would be a BIG problem.

Sequestration changes

There are three basic considerations: (1) rate of CO2 production, (2) present rate of sequestration, and (3) changes in that rate.

(1) The rate of CO2 production has been accelerating with economic development despite the Paris Accord, thanks mainly to India and China. So atmospheric CO2 concentrations will rise. How much depends on the biological sink rate.

(2) The present rate of biological sequestration is about 48% (estimates vary depending on study, whether just marine or marine plus terrestrial, by latitude and region, and lots of other details. Lets stipulate, by about half.

(3) The rate of sequestration is increasing. There are several indicia. For oceans, the eutrophic zone sampled existence of coccoliths has increased by ~tenfold in the North Atlantic in the last decades. For land, NASA satellite remote sensing shows an 18% greening over the past three decades thanks to more CO2 plant food. Unfortunately, this was also unwisely true for SE Australia with their ‘green’ anti brush burning initiatives until a few months ago. No different that last years California wildfires proximally caused by lack of proper forestry.

Carbon “unsink” rates.

Given carbon sink estimates that most of the about half of the present global carbon sink is into marine carbonates, this would be a very long term Earth life problem. Even if humans eventually consumed all fossil fuels, the resulting CO2 will eventually be converted by ocean phytoplankton back into carbonates. And then the plants starved of it would die, and so would almost all life on Earth (except for black smoker deep marine life, feeding on Bacteria and Archaea metabolizing hydrothermal vent H2S via chemosynthesis).

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If atmospheric C02 dips below about 150- 50 ppm (depends on plant and environment), plants fail utterly at the bottom of the global food chain and most life eventually expires. Greenhouse plants grown under otherwise ideal conditions except at at different CO2 concentrations graphically demonstrate this.

Interesting Digression: earlier evolved C3 photosynthesis is less evolved to low CO2 than the rarer (~15% of plant species) and much newer C4 photosynthetic pathway that first evolved about 30 mya, first in in dry region grasses as preindustrial CO2 levels became ‘dangerously’ low for those environmental conditions. C4 photosynthesis is both more CO2 AND water efficient, because leaf stomata do not have to open as much or for as long since the plant needs less CO2. The latter drove evolution of the former. C4 is also an interesting example of convergent evolution, because so far as now known it evolved over 45 separate times in 19 different families of angiosperms.

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So, even without considering sequestration rate changes (ignoring the CAGW existential immediate doom stuff), we can be sure that biological sequestration will eventually solve the “AGW” problem—and kill most life on Earth. From that perspective, AGW is good—frees CO2 plant food while maybe also staving off the next ice age.

Ultimate endpoints

Plate tectonics, not humans, is the ultimate great recycler of sequestered CO2 since most is sequestered as limestone, not as fossil fuel. Subduction zones (like the Pacific Ring of Fire) take seafloor carbonates, decompose them, and spew the resultant freed CO2 back into the atmosphere along with a lot of other stuff. The Pinatubo eruption on the Pacific Ring of Fire is an explosive example. St. Helens in the US is another spectacular recent tectonic recycling event.

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In fact, without this plate tectonic carbonate recycling mechanism it is estimated that most life on Earth would cease in about 2.3 million years, no matter CAGW.

As a plus to this basic fact, there is a fascinating theoretical debate presently going on among astronomers searching for exoplanets, and then those orbiting in ‘habitable’ zones around their stars (assuming liquid water is needed for life forms like on Earth, perhaps itself a dubious assumption). Do such liquid water zone exoplanets also need plate tectonics to be ‘habitable’?

Dunno. But am sure the present already incredible exoplanet astronomy techniques cannot say whether they might have plate tectonics. Any more than IPCC climate models can say what might happen to carbon sinks here on Earth the rest of this century.

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122 thoughts on “Carbon Sequestration

    • Philip

      The CO2 from cement production is “old” and essentially putting back what was subtracted, but I would like to add a “less old” source that is missing from the article.

      “The experimental proof is simple: as fossil fuel combustion releases more photosynthetically sequestered C12…”

      Yeah, but what about the oceans?

      It seems to me the old water in the oceans is also a source of C12-rich CO2. The overturning rate is something like 800 years minimum but there is in that process much older water that will be C13-poor.

      It is well known that the oceans emit CO2 as the currents rise cold and warm in the sun. Makes perfect sense. There is a lot of CO2 in the deep cold oceans, and even places where liquid CO2 pools on the ocean floor under very high pressure.

      It is possible that the attribution to fossil fuels of the C13/C12 ratio is at least partly in error as the oceans have not been included (at least in the article above).

      • Why would the age of the water alter the C13/C12 ratio? The ratio is a result of biochemical differentiation from reactions that preferentially use C12 as a lighter isotope. C13 is not radioactive and will not decay over time.

    • Rud Istvan claimith:

      That curve (Keeling Curve) shows biological sink seasonality (mainly northern hemisphere terrestrial, because plants don’t grow in winter),

      And northern hemisphere terrestrial dead plant biomass doesn’t microbially decompose in winter.

      The public’s use of refrigerators and freezers is proof of the above fact. A biological impossibility it is.

      So, explain the average 8 ppm winter time increase as denoted by the Keeling Curve Graph.

      • They do decompose during the winter, just not as fast. The further south you go the faster it decomposes. By the time you get to places like GA, MS, AL, AR, etc. you get most plants in hibernation, but temperatures often getting up to 60 to 70F.

        • They do decompose during the winter, just not as fast.

          Now MarkW, iffen the green-growing biomass is ingassing an average 6 ppm CO2 during the summer, …. and the decomposing dead biomass is outgassing an average 8 ppm CO2 during the winter, ….then that means the NH biomass is decomposing 25% faster than it is growing.

          And even you should know that is absolutely impossible.

          The fact is, 90% of all microbial decomposition of dead biomass occurs in spring and summer when there is favorable temperature and moisture conditions.

          Dried fruits (grapes, plums, apples), beans, meats, fish and other biomass will not rot or spoil.

          Before refrigeration, …… canning, pickling and drying was required to preserve foods.

        • Just moldy, …… not very often bacterially “bad” …. unless its been in the fridge for a couple weeks or more.

          If you are opening the refrigerator door quite often …. it can not maintain its 40 F degree inside temp.

          United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety
          Refrigeration slows bacterial growth. They are in the soil, air, water, and the foods we eat. When they have nutrients (food), moisture, and favorable temperatures, they grow rapidly, ….. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 and 140 °F, the “Danger Zone,” …..
          A refrigerator set at 40 °F or below will protect most foods.

      • NASA has a satellite measuring CO2 levels seen from space. WUWT published an early graph a few years ago. It showed winter C)@ coming from African and South American farmers burning fields prior to planting, and a few ocean sources. A little from cities, including the Northern hemisphere.

  1. ”As most WUWT readers know, the issue of carbon sequestration is an important ……. ‘anthropogenic global warming’ question”

    ?

    • Highly detailed and totally irrelevant. I hope we manage to survive the insanity that we are exposed to daily. The climate will not kill us anywhere as quickly as idiocy will.

    • Sequestering of C as marine carbonates in rock is a robust process, but it has a relatively long time constant.
      How C is “fixed” during photosynthesis and afterward is both a shorter term process and more susceptible to disruption by the surface environment. On land, critical is both preservation time of above-ground organic material and of all kinds of micro-organisms in the soil that support growth. These depend on factors as soil moisture, fertility, temperature, etc. These modes of fixing C will have a greater influence on atmospheric CO2 over the next few centuries.

  2. Interesting post. You mentioned rates. “Staving off the next ice age” sounds like a good outcome, but might we have reduced the risk of overshoot if we’d done it over a geological scale time period like several thousand years instead of a couple of human lifetimes? Thats pretty abrupt. If you were a beting man what are the odds of overshoot?

    • Let me guess, you are less than 40 years old, never lived in poverty, never saw it, never lived in a rural area, never saw where food, esp meat, comes from?

        • This post scratches the surface of the complexity of the carbon cycle. This post, like most science, speculates constantly about processes poorly understood.

          It is too humbling. Yet, it needs to be repeated constantly, “we at best, know what we don’t know’

          We know the AGW prophecies are wrong because they are conjured from models that have no skill, and can never have any skill because they modeling processes that are not quantifiable. There are no metrics for measuring what you can’t observe. There are no variables for reactions you don’t know about or understand.

          You can believe the prophecies. That is the only way to affirm anthropomorphic causation.

      • I’m a 57yo primary producer whose hitchhiked through Africa, India and SE Asia you schmuck, but wtf has that got to do with anything?

        • “Loydo January 11, 2020 at 1:06 am

          …you schmuck…”

          People on the losing end of a discussion always resort to name calling. You just proved my point.

          • Looks like you touched a nerve there, Patrick.
            You apparently hit close to the mark, in spite of the claims otherwise.

        • “Loydo” World of War Craft fake character. If you are a “primary producer”, who are you, what is your “primary” produce?

          Like your name, sounds fake to me.

        • It comes from your uncaring attitude towards poor people, in that you promote policies that will kill millions of them and will prevent the rest of them from escaping that poverty.

          It comes from your impenetrable ignorance in areas dealing with life and economics.

    • What risk of overshoot?
      We need to get CO2 levels up to at least 1000 to 1200 ppm and there aren’t enough fossil fossil fuels in the ground to do that.

      1) Neither nature nor climate care how fast the CO2 levels rise.
      2) The proxies that you usually use have resolutions in the range of several hundred to several thousand years, so CO2 levels could have risen this fast in the past. We just don’t know.

    • risk of overshoot

      Overshoot! Is that the new version of the fabulous tipping points that alarmists conjure up when a slight, benign and beneficial warming of the earth’s climate fails to scare the hoi polloi.

    • “Loydo January 10, 2020 at 11:20 pm
      …but might we have reduced the risk of overshoot if we’d done it over a geological scale time period like several thousand years instead of a couple of human lifetimes? Thats pretty abrupt. If you were a beting man what are the odds of overshoot?”

      Happy hour bafflegab. i.e. use of words that do not mean what you think they do.

      Geological scale measurements are due to a very limited number of samples.Your assumption that geological time frames are required for changes is based on that scarcity of samples not upon climate changes that occurred.

      Every geological scale for temperature and CO₂ clearly shows CO₂ lagging behind temperature. Not the reverse.

      Earth’s temperatures were far higher earlier in the Holocene. A temperature rise that occurred twice over a very short period.
      Sea level also rose at astonishing rates early in the Holocene.

      Making your allusions to “overshoot” pure falsehood.

    • Are you suggesting that going from 2 molecules CO2 per 10k to 4 molecules CO2/10K is powerful enough to negate all the gravitational forces acting on the earths orbit?????

    • Looking at the rice/CO2 graph above…. looks like around 800ppm is an optimum. We have a long way to go, especially since the C sink rate increases with CO2 concentration. Im sure a couple of hundred years from now when we start approaching the optimum… we will have other reliable, inexpensive and abundant energy sources by then.

  3. Nothing like the driftless! At our place in Barneveld, just 15 miles from you, we area on the break between the Ordovician limestones and the cambrian St Peter sandstones. One big difference is you have far more rattlesnakes than we do. Your tectonic point is well taken. When tectonics cease, the planet dies.

  4. “Do exoplanets need palte tectonics to be habitable?”

    It is believed that Earth’s plate tectonics did not start operating until 1 Gyr into its history.
    – Was that the time it took for core heat from early crystallization to make it way through the mantle?
    – Was that the time it took for sufficient amounts of ocean water to entrain to the mantle/lithosphere?
    – Was that the time it took for sufficient solidification of a crust to push up the continents out of the seas (that is, buoyant cratons)?

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    Early Earth microbial life may have started early in deep vent smokers or other places where there was sufficient energetic substrates for metabolism to consume a few hundred million years after the Great Bombardment ended, but real life began with the discovery of photosynthesis. That changed everything.
    That tapped an energy source from beyond the planet itself.
    Photosynthesis is the use of extraterrestrial energy to make life. To use oxidized carbon and turn it to energy storage.

    • Good comments about the complexity of plate tectonics startup and a biosphere. The planet needs to cool a fair amount of material below the Curie Point (higher temperature does not participate in magnetics) but still retain enough core heat to convect upward and push the cooling crust around, the plate tectonics startup. If the young planet does not have its own magnetic field it does not have protection against cosmic rays and solar storms and gets it developing atmosphere blown away. Our evolutionary ascendency owes a lot to a perfect planet startup. We should all reject the idea of artificial carbon sequestration until the atmospheric CO2 is around 1,000 ppm, however, we also all should fight against actual pollution.

      • ” If the young planet does not have its own magnetic field it does not have protection against cosmic rays and solar storms and gets it developing atmosphere blown away.”

        And then there is Venus. Why hasn’t the atmosphere of Venus blown away? It is close to the Sun and it has no magnetic field, yet it has a very thick atmosphere, much thicker than Earth’s atmosphere.

        There is some speculation that maybe the Sun’s magnetic field is behaving in a way to prevent the atmosphere of Venus from being blown into space. I would love to know the answer to this mystery. 🙂

  5. Coccolithophores like Emeliania huxleyi face formidable competitors before they can bloom. Silica shelled diatoms dominate until they exhaust all the available dissolved silica, outcompeting other groups. Then when the diatom population collapses the phytoplankton carbon pump begins in earnest.

    Diatoms do not produce dimethyl sulphide, which means less stratocumulus cloud until their spring bloom is over.

    Less CO2 pull down, sea surface exposed to more sunlight – – sound familiar?

    If we could only think of something that has increased flow of silica into the oceans, like soil erosion caused by badly implemented mechanised farming, wind blown dust from overgrazing, that sort of thing.

    Guess. Then look to see if the guess is correct. (Feynman) In this case, check to see if phytoplankton populations have changed.

    JF
    Nitrates, Haber Bosch. Worth looking at as well. It ties in nicely with the 1910 to 1940 warming. Another guess that needs looking at. Look at what happens to diatom lipids when their blooms collapse. Another guess.

    • All well and good but 18-12 K years ago the world was a far dustier place due to the badly implemented land management practices of continental ice sheets, not to mention the explosive release of massive volumes of ice cold fresh water into the oceans by glacial melt. While our practices may have some impact it is essential to bear in mind they are minuscule compared to the normal gyrations this planet goes through repeatedly and complete on its own. In most cases our changes amount to little more than a flea fart in a hurricane. To be sure it exists, but it is hardly significant.

  6. Yes, the habibility of a planet can be defined by the existence of a large-mass moon to offset the planetary center-of-gravity of the primary as well as maintain circulation and heat so as to keep a molten plasma magneto core functioning to protect the planet from cosmic and solar radiations.

  7. When you mention that plants have lower stomatal conductance (transpiration) with higher CO2 concentrations- higher yields under drier conditions, the warmists just make claims that the crops have less nutrition. The little catastrophists WANT to believe the doom and gloom.

    • Yes, the warmists have a wonderful (if that is the right word) knack for making a positive, negative. The plants that are thriving due to higher CO2 concentration in the atmosphere are less nutritious. Who would have thought it? This is obvious to all who of course, the organisms that are struggling are always huge due to malnutrition aren’t they? The ones that are healthy are always small because they have too much nutrition. holding they down, don’t they?
      The sooner we can get CO2 up to 600 PPM in the atmosphere the better for all concerned it will be.

    • Winter tomatoes grown in hot houses with 1000ppm CO2 must obviously be like eating empty calories for climate alarmists.
      Why do they keep buying them for their salads? Because having tomatoes at all in the winter is btter than having no tomatoes and starving.

      Climate Alarmists are a bunch of pathetic losers who should starve while the rest of humanity eats abundant winter vegetables grown in hothouses with pumped-up CO2.

  8. This link contains a graphic showing the major carbon sources and sinks. The major flux is with the oceans, by far.

    My main dispute with the usual carbon budget is the so called residence time. A quick google gives values ranging from 33 years to centuries. The alarmist narrative depends on long residence times. As far as I can tell, their analysis relies on the “all other variables remain the same” (ceteris paribus) assumption. That’s a bad assumption.

    For oceans, the eutrophic zone sampled existence of coccoliths has increased by ~tenfold in the North Atlantic in the last decades. For land, NASA satellite remote sensing shows an 18% greening over the past three decades thanks to more CO2 plant food.

    If for no other reason, the seasonal variation in atmospheric CO2 indicates shorter residence times. Anyway, shorter residence times muck up the CAGW narrative. IMHO, the long residence times are a result of motivated reasoning.

          • The idea that we need to return CO2 levels to pre-industrial levels at all is anti-science.
            It’s also anti-life.

          • @John Finn
            The adjustment time is irrelevant because as others have noted, there is nothing special about atmospheric conditions in say, 1750.

            Accepting for the sake of argument that the modest observed warming since the Little Ice Age was caused by an increase in CO2 from around 280ppm to 410ppm, then any decline in CO2 would logically result in cooling. So if the fear is that continued growth in CO2 concentration would cause additional warming to the point where the net effect is no longer beneficial, then an abrupt stop to fossil fuel burning would halt the rise and rapidly reverse it. Reducing fossil fuel burning to just balance out the natural carbon sink would be sufficient to stabilize temperatures. Reducing a bit more would gradually lower temperatures, so that we could rapidly adjust to maintain “safe” temperatures.

            In other words, no need to act until after actual harm justifies the expense (of a crash program to go all nuclear?)

            Sure, it might take centuries to return to Little Ice Age conditions. Why would we want that? A return to 1990s conditions would certainly be more than adequate, wouldn’t it?

            Of course that assumption for the sake of argument was not warranted. CO2 is not the primary driver of temperature, as can be shown by warming in the early 20th Century and cooling in the middle third of the 20th Century. In reality, CO2 concentration has many drivers, including sea surface temperature, fossil fuel burning, land use, etc. But in general, CO2 concentration changes lag temperature changes.

            That tells us that if the natural causes of climate change such as changing ocean circulation patterns, (or whatever caused it to be warmer in 1940 than in 1750), were to retrace their steps back to 1750 conditions, the oceans would become a much bigger carbon sink. So much so, that we might see stabilized or falling CO2 concentration even if fossil fuel burning continues apace. The adjustment time is not a constant defined by current conditions.

            By the same logic, if natural warming factors were to persist after we completely stopped fossil fuel burning, then warmer sea surface temperatures would increase CO2 outgassing, reducing the “natural” carbon sink, possibly to the point of becoming a net carbon source.

            We’re not controlling this. If we think that destroying our economies is a sacrifice that will change the weather, we are only a bit more sophisticated than prior cultures that threw virgins into volcanoes to appease the gods.

          • Rich Davis January 11, 2020 at 11:35 am

            @John Finn
            The adjustment time is irrelevant because as others have noted, there is nothing special about atmospheric conditions in say, 1750.

            Your comment is Irrelevant. The discussion is not about whether we need to return to pre-industrial CO2 levels. It’s the about the time taken. The adjustment time is relevant whatever level is optimal.

          • That’s it? That’s all you’ve got? Seriously?

            The video shows that CO2 levels would rapidly decline to virtually any level that you imagine to be optimal. They will take a long time to go all the way back to 1750 levels. I guess you have conceded all the other points.

        • Would you care to point out where in the video this was said?

          The key point is that around 20% of airborne CO2 is recycled each year. This mean that, on average, an individual molecule only resides in the atmosphere for a few years.

          This is not the same as the adjustment time needed for the atmospheric CO2 concentration to return to pre-industrial levels if fossil fuel usage were ended.

          The number of people who fail to grasp this point is staggering.

          • “We can follow an(d, my mistake) individual CO2 molecule…”

            In the video, did you watch it, about 2 mins in?

          • What makes pre-industrial levels of CO2 a desired goal?
            The number of people who fail to grasp this point is staggering.

          • Patrick MJD January 11, 2020 at 5:52 am

            1:30 “If we follow the path of a CO2 molecule…”

            Blah blah blah!

            It doesn’t mean to literally follow the path of a single molecule. The guy is explaining that, while individual molecules might be short lived in the atmosphere, they are simply replaced by other molecules via the carbon cycle. The key point being that the residence time is not relevant to how long it would take for the post-1850 CO2 pulse to be eliminated following the end of fossil fuel burning.

          • Derg January 11, 2020 at 6:11 am

            The 80% in the atmosphere does ?

            Is this supposed to mean something? If you’re referring to the remaining 80% then that will be up for grabs during the next annual carbon cycle. The percentages are slightly wrong. It’s more like 25% that’s recycled each year.

            Clearly, if 25% is removed and replaced each year then the average residence time of a CO2 molecule will be 4 years. Some might reside for less than that – some more.

          • “John Finn January 11, 2020 at 7:20 am”

            Show how Pre-IR CO2 concentrations (Estimated) are ideal for climate?

          • “ remaining 80% then that will be up for grabs during the next annual carbon cycle. ”

            Up for grabs? What does the 75-80 do/cause?

            Plant food?

          • Patrick MJD January 11, 2020 at 7:50 am

            “John Finn January 11, 2020 at 7:20 am”

            Show how Pre-IR CO2 concentrations (Estimated) are ideal for climate?

            I never said they were. However, the adjustment time is still of interest. As Rich Davis January 11, 2020 at 11:35 am suggests we might decide that 1990 levels were optimal for earth’s climate. The adjustment time here is still relevant.

            Logic and Reason January 11, 2020 at 6:49 am

            You are another who misinterprets my comments. The pre-industrial level is simply the base or natural background level – not necessarily the optimal level. An adjustment time can be applied to any level. The point is it’s not a ‘few’ years.

          • “John Finn January 12, 2020 at 4:17 am

            You are another who misinterprets my comments. The pre-industrial level is simply the base or natural background level – not necessarily the optimal level.”

            Well, if I am not the only one who misinterprets YOUR comments then maybe it is YOUR comments that are the problem? In any case, who says the pre-IR level of CO2, an estimate, is the base or natural background level? It’s just a level that was estimated. It really has no significance of any kind other than it is very low for plants. Food plants typically start to die at about 180ppm/v.

      • Steven, Why the obsession with the need to return to the “pre-industrial levels” of CO2 in the video you linked about “Denial”

        Clearly that is counter productive in many ways.

        Please suggest the level you think is best for the world and it’s inhabitants (including people).

        • According to green mythology, the world was perfect before man started to muck it up.
          Therefore any change, no matter how tiny or beneficial, is evil and must be reversed.

      • https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2010/12/common-climate-misconceptions-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide/
        Residence time. “Using a combination of various methods, researchers have estimated that about 50 percent of the net anthropogenic pulse would be absorbed in the first 50 years, and about 70 percent in the first 100 years.”
        That 50% is being absorbed each year isn’t the only thing. It’s to remove the spike of CO2. It’s resident now and will be for awhile. We get our 50% free absorbtion. We don’t need to remove the CO2 spike. The goal is to stop its increase. Of course they’re modelling the draw down.
        Which is more uncertainty. They’re modelling plants for one thing. Lots of assumptions with that. And logging. And burning the rain forests. And farming practices. The residence time can be shortened with new farming practices. Which is policy. Lots of things depend on policy. Making residence time, policy dependent and dependent on Trump voters. Remember, this is science.

    • commieBob
      The rapid decline in the spike of C14 in the atmosphere results in a claim that “The atmospheric half-life for removal of 14CO2 has been estimated to be roughly 12 to 16 years in the northern hemisphere.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon-14

      While C14 undergoes radiogenic decay, it is simultaneously less likely to be sequestered in the biosphere than either C13 or C12. However, the 14CO2 half-life does suggest that a claimed half-life for CO2 an order of magnitude greater is something that needs to be explained with something other than jelly beans. It isn’t clear from the Wikipedia article if the continued production of C14 from nuclear reactors was taken into consideration in deriving the estimate.

      • The half life of C14 is 5730 years. Atomic testing occurred between 1945 and 1963. That is about 1% of a half life. 99% of the C14 created by testing is still around. I believe that power reactors create negligble amounts of C14. The anit-nuke kooks would scream about it if they created large amounts. The question is. What was the abundance of C14 in the atmosphere in 1963 and what is is now?

    • commieBob,

      Did you actually look at the diagram in your link before you said the ocean was the major flux by far?

      Photosynthesis by land plants is 123 GT according to your diagram. The ocean is 80 GT.

  9. It’s my opinion that too much “carbon” has been sequestered already. Thanks mainly to trees and vegetation we have the ability to put a tiny bit back into the atmosphere. But the carbon based lifeforms are committing a slow suicide by storing carbon and oxygen in carbonates where they can’t be reused. Not easily with current technologies anyway.

    • Oh no! Volcanoes and plate tectonics are necessary for sustaining human life? We must stop plate tectonics NOW! And all volcanic eruptions by 2035.

      • Rich Davis: “We must stop plate tectonics NOW! And all volcanic eruptions by 2035.”

        And how do we do that? Raise taxes, eliminate fossil fuel use, stop eating meat, and form a One-World government.

        No matter the problem, the solution is always the same.

          • Wait, I’ve changed my mind. We must double plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions.

            Therefore, (obviously), we must raise taxes, eliminate fossil fuel use, stop eating meat, and form One-World government!

          • You should run for office, Rich. I believe you are well qualified.

            Your policy position will get you an automatic 25-35% of the vote. All you need to do is campaign hard on some lies about cleaning up corruption and the promise that a vote for you will get them unlimited sex with women who don’t shave their legs (broad appeal to all 57 genders, eh?). Throw in a bit of something about free money and that ought to put you over the top.

  10. The greatest short-term CO2 sink, is absorption by oceans due to temperature fluctuations. This is why temperature and CO2 are so closely correlated during recent ice ages.

    https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/Temperature-change-and-carbon-dioxide-change-measured-from-the-EPICA-Dome-C-ice-core-in-Antarctica-v2.jpg

    It is often said that half of this ice-age sequestration is caused by the burial of oceanic foraminfera (small shelled organisms). But we know this is not true, as all of that CO2 is re-released back into the atmosphere in the short 5 kyr of an interglacial warming. Calcite shells buried at the bottom of the sea could not do that.

    Ralph

  11. By far the largest carbon sequestration sink (and probably the fastest) is not fossil fuel formation. It is the formation of marine carbonate exoskeletons by single celled photosynthetic organisms (now mostly phytoplankton) like coccolithophores.

    This can occur very quickly and be observed in “real time”…

    Microbial lime-mud production and its relation to climate change

    AAPG Studies in Geology 47- 14
    By: K.K. Yates and L.L. Robbins
    Edited by: L.C. Gerhard, W.E. Harrison, and B.M.B. Hanson

    Microbial calcification has been identified as a significant source of carbonate sediment production in modern marine and lacustrine environments around the globe. This process has been linked to the production of modern whitings and large, micritic carbonate deposits throughout the geologic record. Furthermore, carbonate deposits believed to be the result of cyanobacterial and microalgal calcification suggest that the potential exists for long-term preservation of microbial precipitates and storage of carbon dioxide (CO2). Recent research has advanced our understanding of the microbial-calcification mechanism as a photosynthetically driven process. However, little is known of the effects of this process on inorganic carbon cycling or of the effects of changing climate on microbial-calcification mechanisms.

    Laboratory experiments on microbial cellular physiology demonstrate that cyanobacteria and green algae can utilize different carbon species for metabolism and calcification. Cyanobacterial calcification relies on bicarbonate (HCO3)utilization while green algae use primarily CO2. Therefore, depending on which carbonate species (HCO3 or CO2) dominates in the ocean or lacustrine environments (a condition ultimately linked to atmospheric partial pressure PCO2), the origin of lime-mud production by cyanobacteria and/or algae may fluctuate through geologic time. Trends of cyanobacteria versus algal dominance in the rock record corroborate this conclusion. These results suggest that relative species abundances of calcareous cyanobacteria and algae in the Phanerozoic may serve as potential proxies for assessing paleoclimatic conditions, including fluctuations in atmospheric PCO2

    USGS

    https://archive.usgs.gov/archive/sites/soundwaves.usgs.gov/2008/07/research.html

    Very well done, Rud.

    • David

      There isn’t much CO2 in the ocean even near the surface. It is mostly turned in short order into carbonic acid H2CO3.

      What is the transported form of CO2 from the deep cold oceans the surface? If the CO2 level drops (vents) does the carbonic acid become the source of replacement free CO2?

      Thanks

  12. Ralph,
    There is an implicit assumption that the sequestration of carbon dioxide gas into lithic carbonate precipitates is a uniquely biological process. This is not true. There is a valid and viable process of inorganic precipitation of carbonates that has occurred throughout geologic time and still operates today. It is difficult to get an exact measure of the relative importance of this process of inorganic sequestration; estimates vary but at least 20% is a reasonable value.

    Inorganic precipitation of carbonates occurs in a number of geologic settings. The best example of which is the process of oolitic grainstone formation that occurs in the littoral swash zone of carbonate beaches in tropical environments. The key features of this process are:
    1. In the ocean the warmest seawater occurs in the beach shallows.
    2. The process of wave agitation and solar heating in the swash zone allows the precipitation of calcium carbonate onto seed crystals of aragonite.
    3. This precipitation occurs in an onion ring process of crystal growth that is reminiscent of the formation of hailstones in storm clouds.
    4. Unlike organic precipitation, where the process is constrained inside biological membranes, the inorganic process is an open system. Therefore, the liberated carbon dioxide gas is freely vented into the atmosphere from the warm agitated waters of the breaking waves.
    5. As with all processes of phase change involving thermal motion the heavy C13 isotope fraction is more likely to be precipitated first, and so the crystallisation process causes isotopic fractionation with light C12 carbon dioxide gas molecules preferentially entering into the atmosphere.

    In the modern inter-glacial world, with its high-level sea stand that has flooded the shallow carbonate platforms of the Bahamas and the Pacific atolls, the area of marine waters that can produce inorganic carbonates has been greatly enhanced. Consequently, the volume of carbon dioxide gas liberated from the ocean into the atmosphere by this process is also enhanced compared to that under the low sea-level conditions of the last ice age when the Bahamas where exposed land surfaces.
    https://www.thoughtco.com/calcite-vs-aragonite-1440962

    • Rud
      You said,
      The experimental proof is simple: as fossil fuel combustion releases more photosynthetically sequestered C12, the residual atmospheric fraction of heavier (so less sequestered) C13 should decline. It does.
      I’m not convinced that the above process is sufficient to completely explain the change in the atmospheric C13/C12 ratio. As Philip M demonstrates in point 5, outgassing of the light C12 in warming seas mimics the induced shift in the ratio of C13 resulting from fossil fuel combustion. Therefore, one has to calculate the contribution from both C13 sources to properly explain the change in the ratio.

      With the oceans providing 78 GT of carbon annually, versus 7.8 GT of carbon from fossil fuel burning, I don’t think that the fractionation of the lighter C12 outgassing from the oceans can be ignored. Once again, the situation is more complex than what one might assume at first blush.

      • Clyde,

        You are correct to question this point. The observed decline in the atmospheric 13C/12C ratio is much less than would be explained solely by fossil fuel emissions.

        Using the δ13C nomenclature (which is simply the 13C/12C ratio expressed as the difference from a standard), the net effect is that the additional CO2 has, on average, a δ13C of -13 per mil. Obviously, as this is less than the current atmosphere at around -8.5 per mil, the additional CO2 leads to a decrease in the atmospheric value. Nothing magic there. The issue is that (according to NOAA) the estimated flux from fossil fuels is -28 per mil and from the oceans is -9.5 per mil, both lower than current atmospheric levels, but neither is in line with observations. Models are used to attempt to explain these differences based primarily on oceanic exchange of CO2 as you suggest but, even so, Keeling et al (2017) were still unable to completely match the observed decline in the 13C/12C ratio.

  13. “For oceans, the eutrophic zone sampled existence of coccoliths has increased by ~tenfold in the North Atlantic in the last decades.”

    Is this true, that coccolithophore production in the oceans have increased ten-fold in recent decades (or am I mis-reading the statement)? If so, this is huge, and phytoplankton really may be the control knob for the planet. Which means delivery of limiting nutrient(s) (iron?) by low-latitude winds blowing off desert land is also hugely important. Shades of Daisyworld?

  14. From the article: “So, even without considering sequestration rate changes (ignoring the CAGW existential immediate doom stuff), we can be sure that biological sequestration will eventually solve the “AGW” problem—and kill most life on Earth.”

    I guess humans of the far future will have to arrange to add about 400ppm of CO2 to the Earth’s atmosphere to keep the good life going.

  15. Patrick MJD January 11, 2020 at 5:52 am

    1:30 “If we follow the path of a CO2 molecule…”

    Blah blah blah!

    It doesn’t mean to literally follow the path of a single molecule. The guy is explaining that, while individual molecules might be short lived in the atmosphere, they are simply replaced by other molecules via the carbon cycle. The key point being that the residence time is not relevant to how long it would take for the post-1850 CO2 pulse to be eliminated following the end of fossil fuel burning.

  16. Please stop insulting the Liberals! Those we moderns call liberals are actually Progressives. Thomas Jefferson and John F. Kennedy were liberals; Al Gore, Angela Merkel and Bernie Sanders are Progressives. I have friends who are Liberals who resent being lumped in with the nihilistic, anti-human death cult of Progressivism!

    Like the Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate cults, Progressives believe that humans are evil, flawed beings who should be limited in population and never allowed to spread their insidious polluting influence beyond the confines of our planet’s atmosphere. To this end they have endeavored to destroy the teaching of Science throughout Western societies; instead Science is being subverted into part of the Progressive catechism.
    We get a steady diet of CAGW, transgenderism and Socialism/Communism where once we trained students to reach for the stars and made it as far as the Moon. Because of the perversion of Science in their religion you will find nearly all Progressives are against nuclear energy and space exploration. They also seem to have had their “funny” bone removed as most have no sense of humor.

    I propose a trade system where we exchange Western Progressives for young people from the Third World. The Progressive would have the opportunity to live in the energy poverty their beliefs aspire to and the young person could be educated to help with movement of Mankind up off this beautiful Little Rock and out into the vastness of space. We have the ability to both reach for the stars and save our world from this dearth of life-giving carbon dioxide. How about citizenship for all who serve a six year stint in Space Force!

    • John Stuart Mill would agree,Liberals they are not.
      However the trade is too cruel to the Third World,I would rather we got some entertainment/education out of our progressive Comrades so would rather have them banished to the High Arctic where they will live the dream.
      While we film them from drones, providing a reality TV show of Socialism Gone Green.
      Gang Green have made no secret of their intentions and desires,I see no reason we should not “Help them” on their way.
      As long as these fools and bandits are prevented from damaging the rest of us,I am all for them going “Carbon Free”,Fossil Fuel Free and whatever “freedoms” they demand.
      WEXIT.

  17. The hot new topic is “biological soil carbon sequestration”. Mostly it is a discussion that a human managed massive buildup of fungal communities in agricultural soil could offset the next 100 years of current fossil fuel CO2 emissions.

    I’ve done a lot of reading and secondary research into it. It seems to be very real and offers a lot of primany benefits. Elimination of CO2 build-up in the atmosphere is actually a secondary benefit and not the driving force for the farmers and ranchers that are leading the effort:

    Primary benefits:

    – Restore much of the world’s formerly arable land, of which there is at least a billion acres [400 million hectares].

    – Turn scrub land into arable land. There are several billion acres of scrub land globally.

    – Increase food production at least 50% and more likely 100%, thus ending global malnutrition.

    – Double the nutrient density of our food. Produce grown with fertilizer is half as nutrient dense as produce grown in a healthy rhizosphere.

    – End the global water shortage crisis. Most water globally is used for agriculture. Land under BEAM management requires far less water.

    – Restore our waterways and put an end to the fertilizer blooms at the mouths of major rivers.

    • No amount of fungi can replace fertilizer. Possibly it could fix enough nitrogen, but not phosphorus, potassium, calcium or a variety of trace elements.

      • Fungi however are adept at accessing soil-bound phosphorus that is not available to plants, and trading it for carbohydrates from the plant.
        Grassland farming , NZ style , involves nitrogen fixation by rhizobia associated with the legume component (mostly) of the grass/clover sward. Grazing animals distribute the nitrogen and phosphorus in excreta . No other nitrogen input, so minimal nitrate loss to groundwater.
        A few decades under pasture provides enough fertility to support one , maybe two crops, and then it’s back to grass for a long time . Very bad news for vegans.

        • Regenerative Agriculture farmers are using a 10-15 species mix of crops selected for enriching the soil in the fall through spring growing season.

          In those 7 or so months, they are pushing in enough nutrients to provide the main summer cash crop with the nutrients they need. Here’s an example seed mix for fall seeding (typically shortly after the cash crop is harvested).

          From the sales info:

          This cover crop seed blend is great for either fall or spring. Planting rate is about 65 lbs per acre or one pound will cover about 600 square feet.

          23% – Austrian Field Pea Seeds
          21% – Winter Wheat Seeds
          19% – Triticale Seeds
          8% – Collards Forage Seeds
          8% – Hairy Vetch Seeds
          8% – Driller Daikon Radish Seeds
          3% – Crimson Clover
          3% – Berseem Clover
          2% – Yellow Mustard Seeds
          Some Seeds Inoculated with Nitrogen Fixing Bacteria

      • Were you the guy who fertilized the great plains when buffalo roamed freely? Reports from the first english speaking explorers were of grasses 6ft tall and topsoil 6 ft deep. That must have taken an unbelievable amount of fertilizer!

        I guess now that you don’t have that job, you’re responsible for fertilizing the Amazon Rainforest?

        If you don’t know the Amazon Rainforest produces 3x the biomass per acre that cropland does. I guess that means 3x the fertilizer has to be applied.

        • The difference between cropland and the Amazon is that crops are removed from cropland while the Amazon keeps recirculating the same nutrients (the inevitable small losses being replaced by erosion in the Andes).

          What is removed must be replaced.

          • I knew you would say that!

            FYI: There is a small, but growing group of “regenerative agriculture” farmers that are producing crops and not adding any fertilizer to their crop fields.

    • I agree. We need to propose things. Fall cover crops can be low cost. We are looking for these things: One pass planting. No field trash to mess up the normal Spring seeding. It’s a sprint each year with little sleep. Farm land is generally carbon depleted.

      Picture this: Some crops are harvested in Summer. But too late for another cash crop. Cover crops use sunlight to put Carbon into the soil. Their roots place plant mass into the soil and provide pathways for rainwater. The plants reduce wind erosion. Plants like clover fix nitrogen. Cover crops improve watersheds by reducing runoff. Restoring soil is a longer term investment.

      We need to propose things. And argue soil restoration is better than 100,000 wind turbines.

      • Have you seen the one pass cover crop termination / cash crop seeding process proposed by the Rodale Institute.

        I don’t think many farmers to this in reality, but I don’t know.

        This 2 minute video shows it in action:

  18. It seems to me that modelers tend to represent carbon sinks as static entities, while rates of carbon introduction are shown ominously increasing. I think a point of the article – and what makes sense – is that carbon sinks are not static. They are changing as fast as – and because – additional carbon is added. Models that show static amounts of CO2 uptake are misleading if this is the case.

  19. Actually the most efficient way to increase carbon sequestration would be to simply stop treating sewage. This would cause eutrophication and anoxia in lakes and coastal waters and greatly increase the amount of carbon sequestered in bottom sediments (=future oil/natural gas). It has some nasty side effects thgough.

  20. Thank you, Rud Istvan for one of the best written and sane-ist articles published on this site. As some have said before, articles like this are why we check in WUWT daily. I’ll now go back now and peruse the “Comments” section to see what contributions others have made…

  21. Rud, You state that “The rate of CO2 production has been accelerating with economic development”. I agree that the rate of anthropogenic CO2 production is increasing. We still don’t have reliable data for the 90-95% of CO2 produced from non-human processes. The net production rate of the non-human sources and sinks could be positive, negative or constant. Most of the known sources and sinks are an order of magnitude greater than the human-caused CO2 production. It is important to remind the readers that we do not have a quantitative CO2 balance yet. Most models simply assume that the rest of the world produces and consumes CO2 at a constant rate, which is quite the assumption.

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