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.
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The annual update and analyses of the global carbon budget are a collaborative effort of the Global Carbon Project, a joint project of the Earth System Science Partnership, contributed to by an international consortium of scientists. We thank C. Rödenbeck, A. Mouchet, R. Keeling and N. Gruber for comments on this manuscript, and C. Enright and E. T. Buitenhuis for modelling support. Many of the observations and modelling analyses were supported by funding agencies in the European Union (CARBOOCEAN and the Natural Environment Research Council's QUEST programme), the United States (the National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Office of Science of the Department of Energy), Australia and Brazil.
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Le Quéré, C., Raupach, M., Canadell, J. et al. Trends in the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide. Nature Geosci 2, 831–836 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo689
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