Plant activity slowed down global warming in the 21st century

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Unusual slowdown of global warming in the first decade of the 21st century could be attributed to the fact that plants responded to the higher proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere and started to absorb more carbon dioxide than before.

Unfortunately, increase in appetite plants is not enough to stop climate change. We showed that the vegetation actually absorbs more CO2 than before, and explained why this is happening. On the other hand, we do not know, what part of the plant world most quickly absorbs carbon dioxide and how long this growth will last, and what it means for Earth’s climate, said Trevor Keenan (Trevor Keenan) from the University of California at Berkeley (USA).

Climate scientists have long interested in the causes of the mysterious slowing down of climate change that we have observed since 1998. While among scholars there is no consensus about what causes this slowdown. Some of them attribute this role to the waters of the world ocean that are actively absorbing carbon dioxide and other anthropogenic aerosols in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Relatively recently, British researchers have suggested that this slowdown could in fact not exist, and occur because of the change of method of measurement of temperatures by means of sea buoys.

Keenan and his colleagues came to the conclusion that the slowdown really existed, and that it was related to how plants respond to increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, comparing how varied the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere from 1960 to the present, and the amount of biomass produced by the vegetation.

Using this data and computer models, developed on the basis of data obtained from the intergovernmental panel on climate change at the UN (IPCC), scientists came to the conclusion that the plants are now absorb 60 billion tonnes of CO2 more than they did in 1900, despite the reduction in area due to the mass felling of forests. It is, as scientists believe, and inhibited the growth of global warming and stopped the increase of the share of CO2 in the atmosphere at rate of almost 2 ppm per year.

This inhibition, according to climate scientists, is due to two factors – improving the efficiency of photosynthesis due to higher CO2 in the atmosphere and increase the efficiency of plant respiration (night plants, like animals, consume oxygen, although not in such large quantities). The share of the first factor accounted for about 73% of this increase in plant productivity, and the second about 26%.

As the scientists, higher percentages of CO2 in the atmosphere still continues, but this process is not as fast as indicated in the growth of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Plants hardly will be able to stop global warming, and it is not yet clear whether they will be able to further improve your productivity with the growth of the share of CO2 in the air, conclude the climate scientists.

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