The Azimuth Project
Carbon is forever

Carbon is forever is the title of this article on our recommended reading list:

This phrase is also a shorthand for an important fact: a substantial fraction of the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere will stay there for hundreds or thousands of years! Once carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere, about 50% of it will stay there for decades. About 30% of it will stay there for centuries. And about 20% will stay there for thousands of years, as shown in this graph from Global Warming Art

The above graph was based on:

The “Carbon is forever” paper is based largely on these more recent calculations:

  • David Archer, Michael Eby, Victor Brovkin, Andy Ridgwell, Long Cao, Uwe Mikolajewicz, Ken Caldeira, Katsumi Matsumoto, Guy Munhoven, Alvaro Montenegro, and Kathy Tokos, Atmospheric lifetime of fossil fuel carbon dioxide, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 37 (2009), 117-134.

For climate implications, see:

For the very long term perspective (how CO2 may affect the glacial-interglacial cycle over geologic time), see:

For how processes at very different time scales affect the uptake of carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere, see:

category: carbon