Land use changes have caused emissions long before theIndustrial Revolution,” Julia Pongratz and Ken Caldeira from therenowned Carnegie Institution for Science find in their recentlypublished
By turning forests into agricultural land, CO2 wasemitted through two channels. Firstly, burning the wood releasedcarbon dioxide into the air. Secondly, roots and wood productscontaining carbon decayed slowly over year and centuries.
“Just as the relatively small amounts of CO2 emittedmany centuries ago continue to have impacts on atmosphericCO2 concentrations and climate today, the relativelylarge amounts of CO2 we are emitting today will continueto have relatively large impacts on atmospheric CO2concentrations and climate many centuries into the future,” theauthors conclude.
Accounting for CO2 emissions in this way may alsohave an impact on international climate change negotiations. “Wefind that accounting for preindustrial LUC emissions results in ashift of attribution of global temperature increase from theindustrialized countries to less industrialized countries, inparticular South Asia and China, by up to 2-3%, a level that may berelevant for political discussions.”
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