Plants helped stall CO2 growth between 2002 and 2014

The rate at which Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is building up in the atmosphere held steady between 2002 and 2014. That’s because plants grabbed more carbon from the air than in […]

By Jacqueline Echevarria

The rate at which Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is building up in the atmosphere held steady between 2002 and 2014.

That’s because plants grabbed more carbon from the air than in previous decades, a study from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory revealed.

It found the atmospheric concentration of CO2 held steady at around 1.9 parts per million per year (ppm) during the same period and the proportion of emissions from human activity that remained in the atmosphere declined by 20%.

Rising CO2 is said to have stimulated the growth of more photosynthesising plants, which in turn captured more of the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and kept its levels in check.

However the study also highlighted human activity continues to emit increasing amounts of carbon and the atmospheric concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now at 400ppm and continues to rise.

In total, ocean and land based flora currently remove about 45% of the CO2 emitted due to human activities each year and the amount of the greenhouse gas absorbed by the oceans annually has more than doubled.

The study pointed out this is nowhere near enough to offset the billions of tons of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere every year and stop climate change.

Trevor Keenan, Research Scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division said: “This highlights the need to identify and protect ecosystems where the carbon sink is growing rapidly.

“We’ve shown the increase in terrestrial carbon uptake is happening, and with a plausible explanation why. But we don’t know exactly where the carbon sink is increasing the most, how long this increase will last or what it means for the future of Earth’s climate.”