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2017-06-26. Carbon in Atmosphere Is Rising, Even as Emissions Stabilize.

posted Jun 29, 2017, 10:11 AM by Alan Gould
By Justin Gillis, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 5. Excerpt: CAPE GRIM, Tasmania — ...a bank of sophisticated machines sniffs that air day and night, revealing telltale indicators of the way human activity is altering the planet on a major scale. For more than two years, the monitoring station here, along with its counterparts across the world, has been flashing a warning: The excess carbon dioxide scorching the planet rose at the highest rate on record in 2015 and 2016. A slightly slower but still unusual rate of increase has continued into 2017. Scientists are concerned about the cause of the rapid rises because, in one of the most hopeful signs since the global climate crisis became widely understood in the 1980s, the amount of carbon dioxide that people are pumping into the air seems to have stabilized in recent years, at least judging from the data that countries compile on their own emissions. ...If the amount of the gas that people are putting out has stopped rising, how can the amount that stays in the air be going up faster than ever? Does it mean the natural sponges that have been absorbing carbon dioxide are now changing? ...less than half of the gas was remaining in the atmosphere and warming the planet. The rest was being absorbed by the ocean and the land surface, in roughly equal amounts. ...In essence, these natural sponges were doing humanity a huge service by disposing of much of its gaseous waste. But as emissions have risen higher and higher, it has been unclear how much longer the natural sponges will be able to keep up. ...Scientists say their inability to know for certain is a reflection not just of the scientific difficulty of the problem, but also of society’s failure to invest in an adequate monitoring system to keep up with the profound changes humans are wreaking on the planet. “It’s really bare bones, our network, contrary to common misperceptions about the government wasting money,” said Pieter Tans, chief of a unit that monitors greenhouse gases at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ...Dr. Tans said that if global emissions flattened out at today’s high level, the world would still be in grave trouble. “If emissions were to stay flat for the next two decades, which could be called an achievement in some sense, it’s terrible for the climate problem,” he said.... https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/26/climate/carbon-in-atmosphere-is-rising-even-as-emissions-stabilize.html