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Contributions to accelerating atmospheric CO2 growth from economic activity, carbon intensity, and efficiency of natural sinks

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), published October 25, 2007, 10.1073/pnas.0702737104, Online Early Edition
Josep G. Canadell, Corinne Le Quere, Michael R. Raupach, Christopher B. Field, Erik T. Buitenhuis, Philippe Ciais, Thomas J. Conway, Nathan P. Gillett, R. A. Houghton, and Gregg Marland.

Carbon sink slowdown contributing to rapid growth in atmospheric CO2

This study finds that the recent swift increase in atmospheric CO2 is due to faster economic growth coupled with a halt in carbon intensity reductions, in addition to natural sinks removing a smaller proportion of emissions from the air. Efficiency of natural sinks to remove emissions from human activities has been declining for 50 years.

While rising anthropogenic emissions due to increased economic growth have been established as the driver of accelerated atmospheric CO2 this study shows that both the slow down of natural sinks and the halt to improvements in carbon intensity are contributing more than one third of the increase.

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Illustrative Photos (available free if credited as specified)
Australian coal power station Austrlaian coal dredge
A power station, Australia (jpg 615kb)
Credit CSIRO copyright,
Permission granted for media uses in relation to Canadell et al ( 2007) PNAS paper.
Coal dredge at an open coal mine, Australia
(jpg 853 kb)
Credit CSIRO copyright,
Permission granted for media uses in relation to Canadell et al (2007) PNAS paper.
tropical forest sink southern_ocean

Carbon sinks in tropical forest (jpg 1.43MB)
(Borneo depicted) remove large amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide from human activities.

Credit: H.-D. Viktor Boehm

The cold and windy southern ocean (jpg 821kb)
favors the exchange of CO2 with the atmosphere.

At high latitudes (photo), a recent and persistent increase in winds have produced a saturation of the Southern Ocean sink for CO2
Image free to use with credit: N.Metzl, August 2000, oceanographic cruise OISO-5