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Earth’s Carbon Sinks Absorb More CO2 Than Thought

A new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder reviewed at the Eureka Alert web site on August 1, 2012, prior to publication in the August 2, 2012 issue of Nature indicates the Earth’s oceans and plant life are absorbing more carbon dioxide (CO2) produced from the burning of fossil fuels than previously thought.

The researchers analyzed data from the last fifty years and determined that while CO2 production has quadrupled the amount of CO2 sequestered by natural carbon sinks in oceans and plant life has doubled.

“The scientists observed decreased CO2 uptake by Earth’s land and oceans in the 1990s, followed by increased CO2 sequestering by the planet from 2000 to 2010.”

“Despite the enormous uptake of carbon by the planet, CO2 in the atmosphere has climbed from about 280 parts per million just prior to the Industrial Revolution to about 394 parts per million today, and the rate of increase is speeding up.”

The results thus far are a slower rate of global warming.

The scientists stress that is important to understand that any CO2 sequestered by oceans does not just go out of the equation. CO2 in oceans forms carbonic acid. The carbonic acid that forms is one cause of coral reef decline over time. Coral reefs are the residence for over half the Earth’s marine life forms.

There is a limit for carbon sequestration by Earth’s natural carbon sinks. What and where that limit is unknown at present.

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