Carbon sequestration

As the world's leaders are getting ready to negotiate a new climate treaty in Copenhagen, there is no sign of a long-term reduction in human-made carbon dioxide emissions. As a result, carbon sequestration may turn out to be our only option for controlling climate change. In this focus we collect articles that cover emissions budgets of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and options for sequestration, as well as commenting on the difficult choices we are going to face in combating climate change.



Saved by sequestration? pp809


Carbon capture and storage could be the only way of managing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels responsibly. But it is by no means clear that it will work.



Air capture update pp811

Roger Pielke Jr


Energy for air capture pp811

Andrew Dessler


Geopolitics of geoengineering pp812

Philip Boyd




The case for mandatory sequestration pp813 - 814

Myles R. Allen, David J. Frame and Charles F. Mason


The fact that cumulative carbon dioxide emissions are more important than annual emission rates calls for a fresh approach to climate change mitigation. One option would be a mandatory link between carbon sequestration and fossil fuel extraction.

Geological carbon storage pp815 - 818

Michael Bickle


Storage of the carbon dioxide that is produced by burning fossil fuels is one way to avoid the damaging consequences of climate change. A range of observations suggests that geological carbon storage is much less risky than unabated carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

Transportation fuel from coal pp818 - 820

Dan Schrag


The conversion of coal into liquid fuel is one of the dirtiest ways to produce transportation fuel. But if carbon is captured and stored, and some biomass is added, it could become the cleanest way to power jets, trucks and trains.

Triage in the greenhouse pp820 - 822

Ralph Keeling


The path towards mitigating global warming is going to be tortuous. Capturing carbon dioxide and pumping it directly into the deep ocean to avoid atmospheric build-up is an option that has been dismissed prematurely.


News & Views

Ocean science: Slowing sink? pp826

Stephanie Baudains



Progress Articles

Trends in the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide pp831 - 836

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


Efforts to control climate change require the stabilization of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. An assessment of the trends in sources and sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide suggests that the sinks are not keeping up with the increase in carbon dioxide emissions, but uncertainties are still large.

Permanent storage of carbon dioxide in geological reservoirs by mineral carbonation pp837 - 841

Jürg M. Matter and Peter B. Kelemen


The rapid increase in anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases necessitates the consideration of mechanisms for capturing and storing carbon dioxide. Recent work suggests that fluid or gaseous carbon dioxide can be injected into the Earth's crust, and locked up as carbonate minerals to achieve near-permanent and secure sequestration.

Importance of methane and nitrous oxide for Europe's terrestrial greenhouse-gas balance pp842 - 850

Ernst-Detlef Schulze, S. Luyssaert, P. Ciais, A. Freibauer, I. A. Janssens et al.


Carbon dioxide uptake by the terrestrial biosphere has the potential to mitigate fossil fuel emissions. Comprehensive estimates of Europe's greenhouse-gas balance suggest that any uptake of carbon dioxide by the terrestrial biosphere is offset by methane and nitrous oxide emissions.


From our archives

CO2 emissions from forest loss

G. R. van der Werf, D. C. Morton, R. S. DeFries, J. G. J. Olivier, P. S. Kasibhatla, R. B. Jackson, G. J. Collatz & J. T. Randerson


Deforestation is the second largest anthropogenic source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, after fossil fuel combustion. Following a budget reanalysis, the contribution from deforestation is revised downwards, but tropical peatlands emerge as a notable carbon dioxide source.

The boundless carbon cycle

Tom J. Battin, Sebastiaan Luyssaert, Louis A. Kaplan, Anthony K. Aufdenkampe, Andreas Richter and Lars J. Tranvik


The terrestrial biosphere is assumed to take up most of the carbon on land. However, it is becoming clear that inland waters process large amounts of organic carbon and must be considered in strategies to mitigate climate change.

A black-carbon mitigation wedge

Andrew P. Grieshop, Conor C. O. Reynolds, Milind Kandlikar, Hadi Dowlatabadi


Comprehensive abatement strategies will be needed to limit global warming. A drastic reduction of black-carbon emissions could provide near-immediate relief with important co-benefits.

Ranking geo-engineering schemes

Philip W. Boyd


Geo-engineering proposals for mitigating climate change continue to proliferate without being tested. It is time to select and assess the most promising ideas according to efficacy, cost, all aspects of risk and, importantly, their rate of mitigation.

Carbon cycle: Nitrogen's carbon bonus

Ivan A. Janssens and Sebastiaan Luyssaert


Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen can, but does not always, speed up the sequestration of carbon in trees and forest soil. This complexity may arise from the spatial variations in each of the three mechanisms by which nitrogen affects carbon storage.

Global nitrogen deposition and carbon sinks

Dave S. Reay, Frank Dentener, Pete Smith, John Grace, Richard A. Feely


Land and ocean carbon sinks play a critical role in determining atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Nitrogen-induced increases in land and ocean sink strength are unlikely to keep pace with future increases in carbon dioxide.

Carbon accumulation in European forests

P. Ciais, M. J. Schelhaas, S. Zaehle, S. L. Piao, A. Cescatti, J. Liski, S. Luyssaert, G. Le-Maire, E.-D. Schulze, O. Bouriaud, et al.


European forests are intensively exploited for wood products, yet they are also a potential sink for carbon. European forest inventories combined with timber harvest statistics from sixteen European countries show that between 1950 and 2000 forest biomass increased faster than the amount of timber harvests. Silviculture, which has developed over the past 50 years, can efficiently sequester carbon on timescales of decades, while maintaining forests that meet the demand for wood.

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