What would happen if we stopped emitting CO2?
What if (in a miraculous change of heart) the U.S. suddenly took the lead to unilaterally reduce CO2 emissions, which convinced the rest of the world to follow suit, and CO2 emissions fell to zero in the space of a single year?
In this all-but-impossible scenario, what would happen to atmospheric CO2? Would it also drop to zero?
Remember that human emissions are only a small part of the CO2 that goes into the atmosphere every year -- but the rest of the cycle is in balance. So, that means that without human emissions, CO2 levels would stay -- but at their CURRENT, historically high, level.
Would the "extra" CO2 that we've added eventually leave the atmosphere ... in other words, will it go away on its own? This is a difficult question to answer, because there are a lot of processes involved in the long-range CO2 cycle:
- 20 to 200 years: some CO2 will dissolving in the ocean
- 5000 years: some CO2 will react with chalk in ocean to form sediments
- 400,000 years: last 25% of CO2 will disappear through rock weathering
Some people have compared this to a 400,000 year hangover...
So what would happen if the world suddenly and miraculously agreed to stop CO2 emissions starting in 2012 -- what would the Keeling Curve look like over the next 10 years?
- I need a hint ... :
10 years is not long enough to substantially reduce the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Rollover the graph the see one guess (Disclaimer: I created the new part of the graph in about 2 minutes using photoshop -- it is not peer-reviewed in any way. For illustration only, use with caution!)
I think I have the answer: flat but not declining after 2012
Copyright University of Maryland, 2007
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