The National Academy of Sciences has published the research in its journal, Proceedings. Climate and earth scientists from the University of Texas have claimed that between 1901 and 2010, living organisms absorbed 16% more CO2 than previous models assumed.
CO2 absorption: Why the change?
The researchers say that they have found the reason for which climate models overestimate the increase in carbon levels in the atmosphere. Calculating how much carbon dioxide present in the earth’s atmosphere is essential to predicting the effects of global warming on temperatures, however they admit that their findings will not impact global warming predictions.
It is incredibly difficult to model the impact of CO2 absorption by the oceans and living things. However in this new study, scientists analyzed the diffusion of carbon dioxide in leaves, and concluded that more of the gas is absorbed than previously thought.
Extrapolating this discovery to a global level is incredibly hard, according to Dr Lianhong Gu at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US: “There is a time lag between scientists who study fundamental processes and modellers who model those processes in a large scale model. It takes time for the the two groups to understand each other.”
A new model?
The scientific community is optimistic that the research can help to clarify existing models, but do not believe that we will experience any delay in global warming due to increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“This new research implies it will be slightly easier to fulfil the target of keeping global warming below two degrees – but with a big emphasis on ‘slightly’,” stated Dr Chris Huntingford, a climate modeller at the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
“Overall, the cuts in CO2 emissions over the next few decades will still have to be very large if we want to keep warming below two degrees.”
As interesting as the research may be, it does not negate the need for swift action to prevent atmospheric temperatures from increasing to potentially catastrophic levels.