Emissions irrelevant to future climate change?

April 28, 2008

Climate change and the carbon emissions seem inextricably linked. However, new research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Carbon Balance and Management suggests that this may not always hold true, although it may be some time before we reach this saturation point.

The land and the oceans contain significantly more carbon than the atmosphere, and exchange carbon dioxide with the atmosphere. The amount of CO2 emissions absorbed by the land or the oceans vary in response to changes in climate (including natural variations such as El Nino or volcanic eruptions). So current theories suggest that climate change will have a feedback effect on the rate that atmospheric CO2 increases; rising CO2 levels in turn add to global warming.

The link between the carbon cycle, and human effects caused by emissions, energy use and agriculture, may only be relevant for the next 'several centuries,’ suggest Igor Mokhov and Alexey Eliseev from the A.M. Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics RAS, in Moscow, Russia. The authors used a climate model known as IAP RAS CM to study how feedback between our climate and the carbon cycle changes over time. In their simulations, the authors assumed that fossil fuel emissions would grow exponentially with a characteristic timescale from 50 to 250years.

In their models, Mokhov and Eliseev found that although climate–carbon cycle feedback grows initially, it then peaks and eventually decreases to a point where the feedback ceases. If we succeed in slowing down the rate of emissions, the peak would be reached much later. However, a steep increase in emissions would bring the peak in coupling between climate and carbon emissions even closer.

The authors suggest that we are heading inexorably towards the saturation peak, irrespective of how quickly we get there: “Even weak but continuing emissions lead to eventual saturation of the climate–carbon cycle feedback,” Mokhov and Eliseev explain.

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: CO2 Modeller brings climate change and emissions targets within touching distance

Related Stories

China's carbon footprint grows with the good life

November 26, 2015

The son of peach farmers, Chen Jian relishes the fruits of his middle class life, driving to work and flying on holiday, epitomising how China's carbon footprint has grown alongside the prosperity of its nearly 1.4 billion ...

New element tracking method a boon for geoscientists

November 20, 2015

Geoscientists track how elements cycle across land, air and water to better understand climate change, ecological food webs and resources, plant nutrient cycling, water use and for forensics purposes.

US kids' lawsuit over climate change gathers steam

November 21, 2015

A lawsuit over climate change filed by 21 young Americans has gained the attention of the fossil fuel industry, which is joining the US government to oppose the kids' demands for sharper pollution cuts.

Global carbon pricing off menu at Paris climate talks

November 24, 2015

Climate experts say the need to agree on a global carbon price to cut pollution and aid clean technologies is a no-brainer, and yet the topic will have no place at the upcoming Paris climate talks.

Recommended for you

Can Paris pledges avert severe climate change?

November 26, 2015

More than 190 countries are meeting in Paris next week to create a durable framework for addressing climate change and to implement a process to reduce greenhouse gases over time. A key part of this agreement would be the ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4.1 / 5 (7) Apr 28, 2008
This article fails to explain why does feedback eventually ceases?
4.3 / 5 (6) Apr 28, 2008
It's great to hear there is an upper limit when the atmosphere will reach saturation of CO2. Any idea the sort of temperatures there will be on earth when we reach this peak? Can we survive it? Maybe we should pump out more CO2 to reach it sooner and then we can get Global Cooling into the headlines. lol
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 28, 2008
Presumably the feedback stops when the biosphere has no carbon left in it. Uh oh.
2.7 / 5 (6) Apr 28, 2008
Of course, the more CO2 in the air/water, the more biomass grows, releasing more O2. Higher O2 levels eventually chokes off growth of biomass, thus ending feedback.
It is still not clear to what degree warming is due to a) more sunlight reaching the earth (i.e. reduced cloud cover), b) more biomass destroyed through jungle clearing, expansion of cities/population, paving, etc. and c) through the burning of fossil fuels.
Recent article on melting arctic ice cover blamed clear skys during recent arctic summers and resulting heating. Since clouds and smog reflect sunlight back into space, even reduction in particulate pollution may be contributing to global warming! So, in a sense, global warming is due to smog reduction! :-)
1.4 / 5 (5) Apr 28, 2008
Suppose we build this giant straw, right, and aim it out into space. And at the end of the straw we built a giant pump, Perhaps we could syphon a huge layer of our atmosphere into outer space, then replace it with oxygen by diverting all the world's electricity into the ocean for a while. The resulting mixture would be lower in CO2!
2.8 / 5 (4) Apr 29, 2008
This article fails to explain why does feedback eventually ceases?

It's not that the feedback loop ceases to exist, but that, depending on boundary conditions, whether the feedback is positive or negative, and the amplitude of the feedback, the result of feedback will either be equilibrium, oscillation or run-away.
3 / 5 (4) Apr 30, 2008
There is no mention of why feedback will eventually stop. Also... what about supersaturation? It is possible to exceed saturation. This is all very interesting, but it raises more questions than it addresses. This is the hallmark of a concept which requires further study. I think it is worth while to consider this idea. However, a lot more needs to be modeled before we can say that we are harming ourselves by curbing CO2 emissions. Still, a very interesting study...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.