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Unexpected growth in atmospheric CO2

A team of scientists has found that atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) growth has increased 35 percent faster than expected since 2000. The findings are published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The study found that inefficiency in the use of fossil fuels increased levels of CO2 by 17 percent, while the other 18 percent came from the decline in the efficiency of natural land and ocean sinks which soak up CO2 from the atmosphere.

The research by the Global Carbon Project, the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) shows that improvements in the carbon intensity of the global economy have stalled since 2000 after improving for 30 years, leading to the unexpected growth of atmospheric CO2.

The study also states that global CO2 emissions were up to 9.9 billion tons of carbon in 2006, 35 percent above emissions in 1990 (used as a reference year in the Kyoto Protocol).

Author Dr Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia and British Antarctic Survey says, “The decline in global sink efficiency suggests that stabilisation of atmospheric CO2 is even more difficult to achieve than previously thought. We found that nearly half of the decline in the efficiency of the ocean CO2 sink is due to the intensification of the winds in the Southern Ocean”.

The study’s lead author, Dr Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project, said: “In addition to the growth of global population and wealth, we now know that significant contributions to the growth of atmospheric CO2 arise from the slow-down of natural sinks and the halt to improvements in the carbon intensity of wealth production.”

Athena Dinar | EurekAlert!
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