Newly discovered losses of soil carbon due to global warming might equal US emissions

By Dan Drollette Jr | December 1, 2016

Nearly 55 trillion kilograms of carbon could be released into the atmosphere from the soil by the year 2050 if there are no successful efforts to mitigate climate change.

According to a study published in the latest issue of the journal Nature, vast amounts of carbon dioxide and methane would be released from the soil's carbon storage if the planet continues to warm at a the present rapid pace. The researchers found that these carbon losses would be greatest in the world’s colder places, at high latitudes — locations that had largely been missing from previous research. In those regions, massive stocks of carbon have been built up over thousands of years, and slow microbial activity has kept them relatively locked up, where the carbon can do no harm. But with global warming, this carbon would now be released into the atmosphere, further accelerating the pace of global warming in a vicious cycle.

The volume of carbon involved is huge, equal to about 17 percent of all projected anthropogenic emissions. "The effect will be roughly equivalent to adding another industrialized country to the planet, the size of the United States," explained lead author Tom Crowther to the Yale News, who conducted his research while a postdoctoral fellow at the university's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Publication Name: Nature
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