A recent New York Times article (Link) posits that carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere continues to increase, due to the failure of Earth’s oceans and vegetations at absorbing carbon dioxide in a scenario that carbon dioxide emissions have stabilized across the world. The pertinent time period is 2015 and 2016.
My personal opinion of the argument put forth is that it is fallacious argument. Although the 2015 Paris Agreement has put into concrete motion the process of decarbonization amongst all economies of the world, it is implausible to imagine a scenario where there is stabilization of carbon dioxide emissions given rising living standards and increasing population around the world. Carbon dioxide emissions is still increasing and its rate of increase vis-à-vis an earlier period of modern history remains to be determined by accurate statistical analysis.
Secondly, vegetation and the oceans represent significant sinks for carbon dioxide as they are good absorbers of the gas via photosynthesis and absorption by water, respectively. However, given the size of their absorption capacity, it is not a good argument to put forward that they are in imminent decline in absorption capacity. While rainforest with significant carbon absorption capacity continues to be lost through deforestation, the fraction of forest lost compared to the total amount of land vegetation available remains small, and certainly could not account for the amount of carbon dioxide concentration increase in the atmosphere during 2015 to 2016.
Hence, by understanding the difficulty of engendering a stabilization of carbon dioxide emissions given the increasing population and improving living standards in societies around the world, as well as the relatively small fractional loss of land vegetation capable of absorbing carbon dioxide, it is correct to postulate that carbon dioxide emissions remains on an upward path. But, whether the emissions of carbon dioxide is slowing or accelerating would rely on accurate and good collection and analysis of carbon inventory and budgets around the world.
Category: climate change, science communication, atmospheric science,
Tags: climate change, carbon dioxide concentration, emissions targets, carbon inventory, carbon budget, carbon sinks,