New Literature Strongly Suggests CO2 Residence Time In The Atmosphere Is Exaggerated!

As usual, there are many highly interesting posts on climate science at the German Die kalte Sonne site. What follows is one of the latest, on Harde’s controversial paper:

Is CO2 residence time in the atmosphere exaggerated?

By Dr. Sebastian Lüning and Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt
(German text translated/edited by P Gosselin)

The CO2 content in the earth’s atmosphere has risen to a level that surpasses any level seen over the past 800,000 years (Fig. 1). While during the ice ages the CO2 concentration dropped to 180 ppm, it rose to 250 ‚Äì 300 ppm during the warm periods (interglacials). The reason for this CO2 development is foremost is the gassing out of CO2 from warmed up interglacial water.

Since the start of the industrial revolution the CO2 concentration has reached well above the typical range seen during the previous interglacials. Currently the atmospheric CO2 concentration is a bit over 400 ppm.

Fig. 1: CO2-concentration over the past 80,000 years. Source: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, via Climate Central.

The big question now is how long will it take nature to bring down the anthropogenic CO2 build-up if CO2 emissions were to be massively cut back? Let’s assume that beginning today all coal, oil and gas were to be banned outright. How many years would it take for the CO2 to be absorbed by the natural cycles from the atmosphere?

IPCC: 1000 years

The 5th IPCC report writes here that 60 – 85% of the anthropogenic CO2 would disappear from the atmosphere in about 1000 years. But the complete removal would take a few hundred thousands of years. In Chapter 6 from Working Group 1:

The removal of human-emitted CO2 from the atmosphere by natural processes will take a few hundred thousand years (high confidence). Depending on the RCP scenario considered, about 15 to 40% of emitted CO2 will remain in the atmosphere longer than 1,000 years. This very long time required by sinks to remove anthropogenic CO2 makes climate change caused by elevated CO2 irreversible on human time scale.”

Other experts say 100 years

According to the German Ministry of Environment (UBA) things are, however, quicker. At the UBA website we find:

Carbon dioxide is a colorless and odorless gas whose average residence life in the atmosphere is 120 years.”

German climate scientist Mojib Latif also accepts a similar figure: reported on 13 January 2016 on a presentation made by Latif within the scope of a Lion’s Club event:

‘CO2 remains in the air 100 years’
Climate scientist Professor Mojib Latif as a guest speaker brought attention to climate change at the New Year’s meeting. […] ‘When we blow CO2 into the air, then it stays there for 100 years,’ said Latif.”

New paper: Just a few years

Hermann Harde of the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg described in a paper that appears in the May 2017 journal Global and Planetary Change and which is already available online presents a new approach that points to a much shorter residence time in the atmosphere. According to Harde, excess CO2 remains in the atmosphere on average only 4 years.

Read rest…

Comments (5)

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    Exaggeration is the IPCC’S specialty. Vegetation doesn’t discriminate against man made CO2 . IF the Earth is warming, the Carbon cycle will spin a little faster.

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    I am a little suspect of the 180ppm CO2 concentration. It is my belief that baseline used to calculate the CO2 concentration within ice core data is too low. At 180ppm, plant life struggles greatly, and in most cases ceases. I don’t believe that recovery from glacial periods could have occurred so successfully with such a low CO2 concentration. Again, I believe the baseline used for their calculations is approximately 80-100ppm too low.

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    David Lewis


    It is estimated by geophysicists that only three volcanic eruptions, Indonesia (1883), Alaska (1912) and Iceland (1947), spewed more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all of human activities in our entire history. Obviously the carbon dioxide isn’t sticking around for an extended period of time.

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    Charles Hilgey


    These dishonest people try to pretend that ice core CO2 data is absolute values of the atmosphere way back then. one of the world’s leading experts on ice cores has pointed out that ice cores are seriously traumatized by decompression during extraction and suffer extensive micro fracturing, estimating that 30‚Äì50%o fat e gases are lost during retrieval. Back calculate this by 40% and you have CO2 the same as today or higher most of the time and never as low as 180 ppm.

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