Requirements for a Satisfactory Model of the Global Carbon Cycle and Current Status of Modeling Efforts

  • Bert Bolin


The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising as a result of emissions into the atmosphere by fossil fuel combustion, deforestation, and expanding agriculture. Experiments with numerical models of the earth’s climatic system indicate that a further increase of the atmospheric CO2 concentration might change climate on earth significantly. To understand how rapidly such possible changes might occur, we must be able to project the likely rate of change of atmospheric CO2 due to future CO2 emissions. For this purpose a better knowledge of the global carbon cycle is required, particularly of how atmospheric CO2 is exchanging with the terrestrial ecosystems and the oceans. It has been maintained that about half of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere has stayed there; that is, the “airborne fraction” of the emissions has been about 50%. The emissions due to deforestation and changing land use need more careful consideration in this context, and the airborne fraction of the total emissions has not been determined accurately as yet. We need to know more precisely what has happened in the past to be able to validate models of the global carbon cycle.


Carbon Cycle Terrestrial Ecosystem Ocean Model Global Carbon Cycle Satisfactory Model 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

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  • Bert Bolin

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