Progress Article abstract

Nature Geoscience 2, 831 - 836 (2009)
Published online: 17 November 2009 | doi:10.1038/ngeo689

Subject Categories: Biogeochemistry | Climate science

Trends in the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide

Corinne Le Quéré, Michael R. Raupach, Josep G. Canadell, Gregg Marland et al.24

Efforts to control climate change require the stabilization of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This can only be achieved through a drastic reduction of global CO2 emissions. Yet fossil fuel emissions increased by 29% between 2000 and 2008, in conjunction with increased contributions from emerging economies, from the production and international trade of goods and services, and from the use of coal as a fuel source. In contrast, emissions from land-use changes were nearly constant. Between 1959 and 2008, 43% of each year's CO2 emissions remained in the atmosphere on average; the rest was absorbed by carbon sinks on land and in the oceans. In the past 50 years, the fraction of CO2 emissions that remains in the atmosphere each year has likely increased, from about 40% to 45%, and models suggest that this trend was caused by a decrease in the uptake of CO2 by the carbon sinks in response to climate change and variability. Changes in the CO2 sinks are highly uncertain, but they could have a significant influence on future atmospheric CO2 levels. It is therefore crucial to reduce the uncertainties.

  1. School of Environment Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
  2. British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge BC3 0ET, UK
  3. Global Carbon Project, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia
  4. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-6335, USA
  5. Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, UMR 1572 CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Gif sur Yvette 91191, France
  6. NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado 80305, USA
  7. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Clark 424, MS#25, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
  8. Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98115, USA
  9. QUEST, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK
  10. Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Department of Agronomy, Purdue University, Indiana 47907-2051, USA
  11. Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, Massachusetts 02540, USA
  12. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Benson Lane, Wallingford OX10 8BB, UK
  13. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik EH26 0QB, UK
  14. Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TH, UK
  15. AOS Program, Princeton University, PO Box CN710, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA
  16. LOCEAN-IPSL, CNRS, Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Case 100, 4 Place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 5, France,
  17. Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, Avenida dos Astronautas 1758, 12227-010, São José dos Campos-SP, Brazil
  18. Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo, PO Box 1129 Blindern, N-0318 Oslo, Norway
  19. Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, California 92697, USA
  20. School of Forestry/Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812, USA
  21. School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
  22. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, PO Box 1000, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, New York 10964-8000, USA
  23. Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University, Amsterdam 1081 HV, Netherlands.
  24. A full list of authors and their affiliations appears at the end of the paper.

Correspondence to: Corinne Le Quéré e-mail:


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