Collection

Carbon Accounting

We now live in a 400 parts per million world. Data from the Mauna Loa observatory, Hawaii, suggests carbon dioxide concentration levels are unlikely to consistently fall back below this level in our lifetimes.

Carbon accounting is crucial to efforts to tackle climate change, providing data on where emissions emanate and where they are absorbed. Decision-makers rely on the best information about the earth’s changing sinks and sources as they seek to constrain global emissions.

This collection brings together a selection of multi-disciplinary research and commentary from across the physical and social sciences that explores the major inputs and outputs that comprise the world’s carbon account.

Accounting methods

  • Nature Climate Change | Perspective

    Greenhouse gas emissions can be allocated to individual countries in various ways depending on where in the supply chain the emissions originated; achieving an effective and just climate policy may require multiple accounting systems.

    • Karl W. Steininger
    • , Christian Lininger
    • , Lukas H. Meyer
    • , Pablo Muñoz
    •  &  Thomas Schinko
  • Nature Climate Change | Letter

    Contributions to historical climate change vary substantially among nations. A new method of quantifying historical inequalities using carbon and climate debts can inform discussions about responsibility for cutting emissions in the future.

    • H. Damon Matthews
  • Nature Climate Change | Perspective

    Future cumulative CO2 emissions consistent with a given warming limit are a finite common global resource that countries need to share — a carbon quota. Strategies to share a quota consistent with a 2 °C warming limit range from keeping the present distribution to reaching an equal per-capita distribution of cumulative emissions. This Perspective shows that a blend of these endpoints is the most viable solution.

    • Michael R. Raupach
    • , Steven J. Davis
    • , Glen P. Peters
    • , Robbie M. Andrew
    • , Josep G. Canadell
    • , Philippe Ciais
    • , Pierre Friedlingstein
    • , Frank Jotzo
    • , Detlef P. van Vuuren
    •  &  Corinne Le Quéré
  • Nature Climate Change | Article

    There is no single correct procedure for the attribution of responsibility for growth in atmospheric CO2 concentrations because results are closely dependant on how carbon sinks are accounted for and linked to emissions. Now research that uses two different approaches—one assuming geographically constrained sinks and the other unconstrained—unambiguously attributes the largest share of the historical increase in CO2 to developed countries.

    • P. Ciais
    • , T. Gasser
    • , J. D. Paris
    • , K. Caldeira
    • , M. R. Raupach
    • , J. G. Canadell
    • , A. Patwardhan
    • , P. Friedlingstein
    • , S. L. Piao
    •  &  V. Gitz

Sources and sinks

  • Nature Climate Change | Perspective

    This Perspective assesses the global balance between fossil-fuel carbon supply and the sufficiency of carbon stores for climate-change mitigation.

    • Vivian Scott
    • , R. Stuart Haszeldine
    • , Simon F. B. Tett
    •  &  Andreas Oschlies
  • Nature Climate Change | Letter

    Long-term model simulations show that a linear relationship between atmospheric warming and cumulative CO2 emissions holds up to 5 trillion tonnes of carbon (EgC), the estimated total fossil fuel resource in the absence of mitigation efforts.

    • Katarzyna B. Tokarska
    • , Nathan P. Gillett
    • , Andrew J. Weaver
    • , Vivek K. Arora
    •  &  Michael Eby
  • Nature | Review

    A large amount of organic carbon stored in frozen Arctic soils (permafrost) could be released as carbon dioxide and methane in a warming climate, which would accelerate the pace of climate change; this review suggests that release of greenhouse gas emissions will be gradual but prolonged.

    • E. A. G. Schuur
    • , A. D. McGuire
    • , C. Schädel
    • , G. Grosse
    • , J. W. Harden
    • , D. J. Hayes
    • , G. Hugelius
    • , C. D. Koven
    • , P. Kuhry
    • , D. M. Lawrence
    • , S. M. Natali
    • , D. Olefeldt
    • , V. E. Romanovsky
    • , K. Schaefer
    • , M. R. Turetsky
    • , C. C. Treat
    •  &  J. E. Vonk
  • Nature Geoscience | Review

    A substantial amount of atmospheric carbon taken up on land is transported laterally from upland terrestrial ecosystems to the ocean. A synthesis of the available literature suggests that human activities have significantly increased soil carbon inputs to inland waters, but have only slightly affected carbon delivery to the open ocean.

    • Pierre Regnier
    • , Pierre Friedlingstein
    • , Philippe Ciais
    • , Fred T. Mackenzie
    • , Nicolas Gruber
    • , Ivan A. Janssens
    • , Goulven G. Laruelle
    • , Ronny Lauerwald
    • , Sebastiaan Luyssaert
    • , Andreas J. Andersson
    • , Sandra Arndt
    • , Carol Arnosti
    • , Alberto V. Borges
    • , Andrew W. Dale
    • , Angela Gallego-Sala
    • , Yves Goddéris
    • , Nicolas Goossens
    • , Jens Hartmann
    • , Christoph Heinze
    • , Tatiana Ilyina
    • , Fortunat Joos
    • , Douglas E. LaRowe
    • , Jens Leifeld
    • , Filip J. R. Meysman
    • , Guy Munhoven
    • , Peter A. Raymond
    • , Renato Spahni
    • , Parvadha Suntharalingam
    •  &  Martin Thullner