What Causes Rising Atmospheric CO2?

This post is prompted by a recent exchange with those reasserting the “consensus” view attributing all additional atmospheric CO2 to humans burning fossil fuels.

The IPCC doctrine which has long been promoted goes as follows. We have a number over here for monthly fossil fuel CO2 emissions, and a number over there for monthly atmospheric CO2. We don’t have good numbers for the rest of it-oceans, soils, biosphere–though rough estimates are orders of magnitude higher, dwarfing human CO2.  So we ignore nature and assume it is always a sink, explaining the difference between the two numbers we do have. Easy peasy, science settled.

What about the fact that nature continues to absorb about half of human emissions, even while FF CO2 increased by 60% over recent decades? What about the fact that so far in 2020 FF CO2 has declined significantly with no discernable impact on rising atmospheric CO2?

These and other issues are raised by Murray Salby and others who conclude that it is not that simple, and the science is not settled. And so these dissenters must be cancelled lest the narrative be weakened.

The non-IPCC paradigm is that atmospheric CO2 levels are a function of two very different fluxes. FF CO2 changes rapidly and increases steadily, while Natural CO2 changes slowly over time, and fluctuates up and down from temperature changes. The implications are that human CO2 is a simple addition, while natural CO2 comes from the integral of previous fluctuations.  Jeremy Shiers has a series of posts at his blog clarifying this paradigm. See Increasing CO2 Raises Global Temperature Or Does Increasing Temperature Raise CO2 Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The following graph which shows the change in CO2 levels (rather than the levels directly) makes this much clearer.

Note the vertical scale refers to the first differential of the CO2 level not the level itself. The graph depicts that change rate in ppm per year.

There are big swings in the amount of CO2 emitted. Taking the mean as 1.6 ppmv/year (at a guess) there are +/- swings of around 1.2 nearly +/- 100%.

And, surprise surprise, the change in net emissions of CO2 is very strongly correlated with changes in global temperature.

This clearly indicates the net amount of CO2 emitted in any one year is directly linked to global mean temperature in that year.

For any given year the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will be the sum of

  • all the net annual emissions of CO2
  • in all previous years.

For each year the net annual emission of CO2 is proportional to the annual global mean temperature.

This means the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will be related to the sum of temperatures in previous years.

So CO2 levels are not directly related to the current temperature but the integral of temperature over previous years.

The following graph again shows observed levels of CO2 and global temperatures but also has calculated levels of CO2 based on sum of previous years temperatures (dotted blue line).


The massive fluxes from natural sources dominate the flow of CO2 through the atmosphere.  Human CO2 from burning fossil fuels is around 4% of the annual addition from all sources. Even if rising CO2 could cause rising temperatures (no evidence, only claims), reducing our emissions would have little impact.


CO2 Fluxes, Sources and Sinks

Who to Blame for Rising CO2?

Fearless Physics from Dr. Salby


via Science Matters


August 3, 2020 at 09:12AM

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