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Seas and forests are muddying the carbon budget

(UCL European InstituteClimate News Network, 18 Sep 2020) As climates change, forests may not absorb more carbon as expected. But a new carbon budget could appeal to the oceans.

Two new studies could throw long-term climate forecasts into confusion. The planetary carbon budget – the all-important traffic of life’s first element between rocks, water, atmosphere and living things – that underpins planetary temperatures and maintains a stable climate needs a rethink.

A warming climate makes trees grow faster. The awkward finding is that  faster-growing trees die younger. Therefore they must surrender their carbon back to the atmosphere quicker.

So tomorrow’s forests may not be quite such reliable long-term banks of carbon pumped into the atmosphere as a consequence of profligate fossil fuel use by human economies.

The more reassuring news is that the ocean – that’s almost three fourths of the planet’s surface – may absorb and store a lot more atmospheric carbon than previous estimates suggest.

All calculations about the future rate of global heating, and the potential consequences of climate change, rest upon the carbon budget.

External link

UCL European InstituteClimate News Network, 18 Sep 2020: Seas and forests are muddying the carbon budget