Scientists may have underestimated the beneficial impact plants have had while absorbing carbon out of the atmosphere, according to a new study. However, experts have warned that the finding will make little difference to future climate change.
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In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists estimate that between 1901 and 2010, plants and other living things absorbed 1,057 billion tonnes of carbon – 16% more than previously thought.
This, the authors say, would explain why models have overestimated the rise of carbon levels in the atmosphere. But while the news sounds promising, scientists say the severity of rising emissions should not be underestimated.
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“This new paper suggests plants are slightly better at capturing CO2 than we thought,” said Chris Huntingford of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
“It will be slightly easier to fulfil the target of keeping global warming below two degrees – but with a big emphasis on ‘slightly’.
“Overall, the cuts in CO2 emissions over the next few decades will still have to be very large if we want to keep warming below two degrees.”
Though many nations have begun implementing emission reduction strategies in recent years, between 2012 and 2013 levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide grew at their fastest rate since 1984.