International efforts to limit global warming and ocean acidification aim to slow the growth of atmospheric CO2, guided primarily by national and industry estimates of production and consumption of fossil fuels. Atmospheric verification of emissions is vital but present global inversion methods are inadequate for this purpose. We demonstrate a clear response in atmospheric CO2 coinciding with a sharp 2010 increase in Asian emissions but show persisting slowing mean CO2 growth from 2002/03. Growth and inter-hemispheric concentration difference during the onset and recovery of the Global Financial Crisis support a previous speculation that the reported 2000–2008 emissions surge is an artefact, most simply explained by a cumulative underestimation (∼ 9 Pg C) of 1994–2007 emissions; in this case, post-2000 emissions would track mid-range of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emission scenarios. An alternative explanation requires changes in the northern terrestrial land sink that offset anthropogenic emission changes. We suggest atmospheric methods to help resolve this ambiguity.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $17.42 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Trudinger, C. M., Enting, I. G., Etheridge, D. M., Francey, R. J. & Rayner, P. J. in A History of Atmospheric CO2 and Its Effect of Plants, Animals and Ecosystems (eds Ehleringer, J. R., Cerling, T. E. & Dearing, M. D.) 329–349 (Ecological Studies, Vol. 177, Springer, 2005).
Keeling, C. D. et al. in A History of Atmospheric CO2 and Its Effects on Plants, Animals, and Ecosystems (eds Ehleringer, J. R., Cerling, T. E. & Dearing, M. D.) 83–113 (Ecological Studies, Vol. 177, Springer, 2005).
Boden, T. A., Marland, G. & Andres, R. J. Global, Regional, and National Fossil-fuel CO2 Emissions (Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, 2010) http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/overview.html.
Houghton, R. A. in TRENDS: A Compendium of Data on Global Change (Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, 2008); available at http://cdiac.esd.ornl.gov/trends/landuse/houghton/houghton.html.
Francey, R. J. et al. Differences between trends in atmospheric CO2 and reported trends in anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Tellus 62, 316–328 (2010).
Le Quéré, C., Raupach, M. R., Canadell, J. G. & Marland, G. Trends in the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide. Nature Geosci. 2, 831–837 (2009).
Peters, G. P. et al. Rapid growth in CO2 emissions after the 2008–2009 global financial crisis. Nature Clim. Change 2, 2–4 (2012).
Friedlingstein, P. et al. Update on CO2 emissions. Nature Geosci. 3, 811–812 (2010).
Andres, R. J. et al. Synthesis of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel combustion. Biogeosciences 9, 1845–1871 (2012).
Guan, D., Liu, Z., Geng, Y., Lindner, S. & Hubacek, K. The gigatonne gap in China’s carbon dioxide inventories. Nature Clim. Change 2, 672–675 (2012).
Marland, G. Emissions accounting: China’s uncertain CO2 emissions. Nature Clim. Change 2, 645–646 (2012).
Ballantyne, A. P., Alden, C. B., Miller, J. B., Tans, P. P. & White, J. W. C. Increase in observed net carbon dioxide uptake by land and oceans during the past 50 years. Nature 488, 70–72 (2012).
Pan, Y. et al. A large and persistent carbon sink in the world’s forests. Science 333, 988–993 (2011).
Sarmiento, J. L. et al. Trends and regional distributions of land and ocean carbon sinks. Biogeosciences 7, 2351–2367 (2010).
Le Quéré, C., Takahashi, T., Buitenhuis, E. T., Rödenbeck, C. & Sutherland, S. C. Impact of climate change and variability on the global oceanic sink of CO2 . Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 24, GB4007 (2010).
Van der Werf, G. et al. Global fire emissions and the contribution of deforestation, savanna, forest, agricultural, and peat fires (1997–2009). Atmos. Chem. Phys. 10, 11707–12010 (2010).
Frölicher, T. L., Joos, F. & Raible, C. C. Sensitivity of atmospheric CO2 and climate to explosive volcanic eruptions. Biogeosciences 8, 2317–2339 (2011).
Rayner, P. J. et al. The interannual variability of the global carbon cycle (1992-2005) inferred by inversion of atmospheric CO2 and 13CO2 measurements. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 22, GB3508 (2008).
Francey, R. J. & Steele, L. P. Measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide—The calibration challenge. Accredit. Qual. Assur. 8, 200–204 (2003).
Francey, R. J. et al. in Baseline Atmospheric Program (Australia) 1993 (eds Francey, R. J., Dick, A. L. & Derek, N.) 8–29 (Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research, 1996).
Yevich, R. & Logan, J. A. An assessment of biofuel use and burning of agricultural waste in the developing world. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 17, 1095 (2003).
Knorr, W. Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing? Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L21710 (2009).
Rödenbeck, C., Houweling, S., Gloor, M. & Heimann, M. CO2 flux history 1982–2001 inferred from atmospheric data using a global inversion of atmospheric transport. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 3, 1919–1964 (2003).
Dargaville, R. J., Law, R. M. & Pribac, F. Implications of interannual variability in atmospheric circulation on modeled CO2 concentrations and source estimates. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 14, 931–943 (2000).
Le Quéré, C. et al. Saturation of the Southern Ocean CO2 sink due to recent climate change. Science 316, 1735–1738 (2007).
Manning, M. et al. Misrepresentation of the IPCC CO2 emission scenarios. Nature Geosci. 3, 376–377 (2010).
Levin, I. et al. Observations and modelling of the global distribution and long-term trend of atmospheric 14CO2 . Tellus 62B, 26–46 (2010).
Steele, L. P. et al. in Baseline Atmospheric Program (Australia) 1999–2000 (eds Tindale, N. W., Derek, N. & Fraser, P. J.) 80–84 (Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO Atmospheric Research, 2003).
Zahorowski, W. et al. Radon-222 in boundary layer and free tropospheric continental outflow events at three ACE-Asia sites. Tellus B 57, 124–140 (2005).
Stephens, B. B. et al. The vertical distribution of atmospheric CO2 defines the latitudinal partitioning of global carbon fluxes. Science 316, 1732–1735 (2007).
Jones, C. D. & Cox, P. M. Modeling the volcanic signal in the atmospheric CO2 record. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 15, 453–465 (2001).
Statistical Review of World Energy (BP, 2011); available via http://go.nature.com/jrUwIm.
European Commission. Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR). Europa—EDGAR Overview http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v540 (2009).
Thoning, K. et al. Atmospheric carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa observatory, 2, Analysis of the NOAA/GMCC data, 1974–1985. J. Geophys. Res. 94, 8549–8565 (1989).
Enting, I. G. et al. Propagating data uncertainty through smoothing spline fits. Tellus B 58, 305–309 (2006).
Conway, T. J., Lang, P. M. & Masarie, K. A. Atmospheric carbon dioxide dry air mole fractions from the NOAA ESRL carbon cycle cooperative global air sampling network, 1968–2010, Version: 2011-10-14 (2011); available at ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/flask/event/.
G. Pearman’s emphasis on global representativeness during establishment of Australian CO2 monitoring underpins this work. Data used in this report are routinely submitted to the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases and CDIAC international databases (but in formats that preclude the data selection and uncertainty propagation used in this paper). More comprehensive and recent data, including LoFlo data, are available to researchers by contacting email@example.com. CSIRO GASLAB staff and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology/Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station continue to provide excellence in the operation of developmental equipment and in collection and processing of samples and data. Collection of samples at other sites is carried out with assistance from NOAA (USA), Environment Canada, Australian Antarctic Division and Australian Bureau of Meteorology. R.J.F, M.v.d.S., P.B.K., R.L.L., L.P.S and C.E.A. have been partly financially supported by the Bureau of Meteorology through the Cape Grim programme. R.J.A. was sponsored by US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research (BER) programmes performed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) under US Department of Energy contract DE-AC05-00OR22725. CSIRO co-authors have been partly financially supported by the ACCSP (Australian Climate Change Science Program) through the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. A.R.S. is partially supported by an OCE (Office of Chief Executive) post-doctoral award. CCAM model simulations were undertaken on the NCI National Facility in Canberra, Australia, which is supported by the Australian Commonwealth Government. Valuable comments have been received from Y-P. Wang, P. Canadell, P. Rayner and A. Lenton.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Francey, R., Trudinger, C., van der Schoot, M. et al. Atmospheric verification of anthropogenic CO2 emission trends. Nature Clim Change 3, 520–524 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1817
Does energy efficiency development in manufacturing industry decouple industrial growth from CO2 emissions in Indonesia?
International Journal of Environmental Studies (2020)
Uncertainty analysis of a European high-resolution emission inventory of CO<sub>2</sub> and CO to support inverse modelling and network design
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (2020)
Comparison of Regional Simulation of Biospheric CO2 Flux from the Updated Version of CarbonTracker Asia with FLUXCOM and Other Inversions over Asia
Remote Sensing (2020)
Toward CO2 utilization for direct power generation using an integrated system consisting of CO2 photoreduction with 3D TiO2/Ni-foam and a photocatalytic fuel cell
Journal of Materials Chemistry A (2019)
Environmental Research Letters (2019)