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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.
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