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Common Climate Misconceptions: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

On November 19th, 2020

Posted In:
Global Haps

Understanding the carbon cycle is a key part of understanding the broader climate change issue. But a number of misconceptions floating around the blogosphere confuse basic concepts to argue that climate change is irrelevant because of the short residence time of carbon molecules in the atmosphere and the large overall carbon stock in the environment.

It turns out that while much of the “pulse” of extra CO2 accumulating in the atmosphere would be absorbed over the next century if emissions miraculously were to end today, about 20 percent of that CO2 would remain for at least tens of thousands of years.

The complex global carbon cycle process involves carbon absorption and release by the atmosphere, oceans, soils, and organic matter, and also emissions from anthropogenic fossil fuel combustion and land-use changes. The figure below shows the best estimate of annual carbon fluxes from main sources and sinks.


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