Tracking Earth's Carbon Budget with Global Observations
The international Global Carbon Project released its annual Global Carbon Budget in September 2014, shining a spotlight on rising carbon dioxide emissions and their significance for international efforts to reduce climate change. The 2014 Budget comprises analyses of emissions data for 2013, projections through the end of 2014, and implications for future climate and energy choices. The emissions data are available to explore interactively through the Global Carbon Atlas, worldwide and by country. According to the Budget, global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production grew to a record high of 36 billion tons in 2013, while emissions from deforestation were relatively low at 3.3 billion tons.
The Global Carbon Budget relies on observational data from many sources, with significant contributions from USGCRP agencies including NOAA, DOE, and NSF. For the first time, the 2014 Budget used data collected by autonomous instruments on “ships of opportunity” and moorings that measure carbon dioxide at the ocean surface. The 2014 Budget estimates that oceans absorbed 29% of all human emissions of carbon dioxide in 2013, representing a nearly three-fold increase in carbon storage by the oceans over the last 50 years. Although this increased carbon storage helps to mitigate the climatic effects of human emissions, it also results in more acidic ocean waters, threatening shellfish and other ecologically and economically important marine animals. NOAA’s investment in improved observations and technology helped reduce uncertainty in the ocean carbon storage measurements by more than 50%.
In addition to providing data, multiple USGCRP agencies supported U.S. contributions to the 2014 Budget analyses. USGCRP contributes to the Global Carbon Project through annual funding for the international programs that partner with Future Earth (see related Highlight 40). USGCRP’s U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program Office is an affiliated office of the Global Carbon Project.