The earth’s oceans and lands continue to absorb more than half of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activity, suggesting that the planet has not yet reached its carbon storage capacity even as emissions continue to rise, a new study says.
Writing in the journal Nature, U.S. scientists calculate that the world’s natural systems — including seas, forests, and soils — have absorbed about 55 percent of the roughly 350 billion tons of greenhouse gases emitted during the last 50 years.
With manmade emissions rising steadily over five decades, those systems have had to absorb an ever-increasing amount of carbon, storing an estimated 5 billion tons in 2010 compared with 2.4 billion tons in 1960, the study found.
The planet’s capacity to store carbon has been a critical factor in preventing an even greater increase in global temperatures, but authors of the new study say that storage capacity will not remain indefinitely. “It’s not a question of whether or not natural sinks will slow their uptake of carbon, but when,” said Ashley Ballantyne, a researcher at the University of Colorado and lead author of the study.
Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.