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Forests and Oceans Seem to Be Absorbing Less Carbon

the amount of carbon in the atmosphere continues to grow at a historic rate.

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robert99 robert99 Sweden Posts: 1360
1 27 Jun 2017

For the past three years, humanity has managed to keep global carbon emissions virtually stable. In 2014, emissions increased by a mere 0.7 percent, down from an average annual rate of 2.3 percent in the preceding decade. The following year saw zero emissions growth, while 2016 saw a piddling 0.2 percent rise.

This development was among the most hopeful signs that climate scientists had seen in a generation. Emissions plateaued, even as the global economy grew. A better world looked possible.

But there was a catch: Even as emissions held steady, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere continued to grow at a historic rate. In 2015 and 2016, the amount of excess carbon dioxide trapping heat above the Earth rose at the highest rate in recorded history. A marginally slower — but still historically high — rate of increase has continued into 2017, according to readings from a climate-monitoring station in (the aptly named) Cape Grim, Tasmania.

The 2017 finding is critical: Many scientists had attributed the contradiction between slowing emissions and rising atmospheric carbon to El Niño. But El Niño ended early last year, and the rise has continued, forcing scientists to entertain far more alarming explanations.


Human activity is estimated to be pumping almost 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year, an amount that Dr. Canadell of the Global Carbon Project called “staggering.” The atmospheric concentration of the gas has risen by about 43 percent since the Industrial Revolution.

That, in turn, has warmed the Earth by around 2 degrees Fahrenheit, a large number for the surface of an entire planet.