Industrial Carbon Emissions and Global Carbon

Carbon Sinks

This graphic demonstrates the relative size of global carbon sinks or stores.  Interaction and transfers between these various sinks are what constitutes the carbon cycle.

As can be seen annual industrial emissions are very small compared to the size of many of  the sinks.  One implication of this for greenhouse science is that many factors can affect the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from month to month and year to year.  For example, at times of cool sea surface temperatures (SST), the sea tends to absorb more carbon dioxide.   Conversely, when  SST's are warm, the oceans can actually give off carbon dioxide, thus putting a spike into the graphs of atmospheric carbon dioxide.  This is noticeable around El Nino events and will be shown in subsequent pages and graphs. Seasonal changes in the uptake and release of atmospheric carbon dioxide by the large northern hemisphere forests produces  distinct seasonal fluctuations in atmospheric  carbon dioxide.
The importance of forests as sinks is being increased by the carbon dioxide fertilization effect which is increasing the mass of forests as vegation growth rates increase due to the slowly increasing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.  As the years pass this poorly understood effect will have an increasing influence on atmospheric carbon dioxide outcomes.

Australian Landmass  Absorbs it's Own Emissions:  It has been known for most of the last decade that Australia for example, absorbs more carbon dioxide in vegetation and soils than it emits.  This area of science has got caught up in the politically charged Kyoto process of setting emission reduction targets as many countries have been planning to use increasing forest areas as a way of offsetting economically painfull  emission reductions from mandatory cutbacks to energy use.   Recently on national TV viewers would have seen Green spokesmen berating the Government for trying to offset costly emission reductions with re-afforestation driven increases in carbon sinks.     There are moves in the IPCC to back up this green stand which is rather surreal considering the multiple good effects of forests; for increasing wildlife habitat,  ameliorating land use problems  such as salination, reducing soil erosion and loss, improving stream and river quality,  thus good effect on water supplies in dams (sorry, I forgot, dams are bad ),  improving microclimate and increasing recreation opportunities for the frazzled taxpayers paying for this whole IPCC boondoggle.
You can also bet your last dollar that as we read and write these words, pro-warming scientists will be producing new research minimizing the good effects and growth prospects for forest sinks.  Papers will progress rapidly through the peer review process, jounal editors will see that these masterpices are at the printers in a fraction of normal time.   Through the history of the IPCC there has been no shortage of  pro-warming scientific effort for example;

Many issues such as these will be exposed and discussed in later pages.


Global Industrial Carbon Emissions

The graph below shows annual growth in carbon emissions from all industrial sources with the annual rate of increase superimposed.  The IPCC Business as Usual scenario numbers show the usual unrealistic forward estimates that have blighted   information given to policymakers from the inception of  the greenhouse issue over a decade ago.
The rate of increase percentage figures shows clearly a steady falling off in the rate of increase over the last twenty or so years, a rather obvious fact fact that does not seem to have penetrated through to the IPCC carbon meisters.
Shown for the first time here.

Emission numbers from CDIAC, US DOE, note that the figures for recent years may be  slightly revised as updates come out.

Global Carbon Emissions, Coal, Oil and Gas.

The graph below shows the breakdown of  annual tonnages of carbon emissions for the main categories of fuels.  The significant  flattening in the trend for oil after the years of the oil shocks, mid 1970's to early 80's, is a major factor preventing emission levels reaching those predicted by IPCC scenarios.
Note also that although increased coal production during the 1980's  compensated for falling oil production early that decade,  the 90's was a period of slower growth in  emissions frrom coal, note the graph below is only to 1996 while the graph above shows global numbers to 1999.  Judging by the years 1997, 98, 99 above, the  trends for coal and oil below are likely to flatten off again before 1999.
Gas production is rising more steadily in part due to the greater energy output from gas per unit of carbon emitted causing it to be a more favoured energy source in these times of pressure on carbon emissions.


What do these global carbon emission numbers portend for the next few decades ahead ?
Will the global economy suddenly go on steroids and start pumping out carbon to justify the IPCC scenarios used to influence policymakers ?
Is the tooth fairy going to bring you money ?
Or is the falling off in the rate of increase in carbon emissions a real fact of economic life for the planet  driven by factors such as;

All of the above factors are having an effect to moderate growth in carbon emissions now and will continue to affect patterns of energy use / carbon emissions  in decades ahead.  Other factors that could add to this reducing reliance on carbon would include developments in nuclear and fusion energy sources that increase the political acceptablity of these potentially very large non-carbon emitting energy resources.

As all the above trends influence our energy use in decades ahead and if we are clever enough to disregard the Greens and get the full benefit from increasing forest areas it is possible that atmospheric carbon dioxide content may never rise to the landmark doubling of  say 700 ppm.  There are enormous implications for IPCC models / scenorios which predict levels way beyond this.

You read it first here.
Warwick Hughes, 2000
Back to Front Page

Page updated 8, June,  2000