Fate of Fossil Fuel Carbon Dioxide and the Global Carbon Budget

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Science  26 Oct 1979:
Vol. 206, Issue 4417, pp. 409-418
DOI: 10.1126/science.206.4417.409


The fate of fossil fuel carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere depends on the exchange rates of carbon between the atmosphere and three major carbon reservoirs, namely, the oceans, shallow-water sediments, and the terrestrial biosphere. Various assumptions and models used to estimate the global carbon budget for the last 20 years are reviewed and evaluated. Several versions of recent atmosphere-ocean models appear to give reliable and mutually consistent estimates for carbon dioxide uptake by the oceans. On the other hand, there is no compelling evidence which establishes that the terrestrial biomass has decreased at a rate comparable to that of fossil fuel combustion over the last two decades, as has been recently claimed.