CO2 variations from plants overwhelmed by traffic emissions

close to roads in the centre of london, atmospheric carbon dioxide can reach 1,000ppm
Close to roads in the centre of London, atmospheric carbon dioxide can reach 1,000ppm. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

Fossil fuel emissions are exceeding what natural systems can absorb, as year-on-year comparisons attest

— Last Saturday the Guardian started publishing the carbon dioxide (CO2) measurement from Mauna Loa, Hawaii. Far from big sources, this is an indicator for the whole northern hemisphere. Each day you will see the numbers change a little. Over the last year they varied between 404 and 415 parts per million (ppm). They were lowest in late summer due to plant photosynthesis and greatest in spring from emissions that accumulated during the winter.

But compare year on year and you will see CO2 rising as emissions from our fossil fuel burning exceed what natural systems absorb. Globally, about 70% of CO2 emissions comes from cities. In leafy Egham, west of London, summer CO2 decreases by day due to plant photosynthesis and then plant respiration releases some of this at night. Along with emissions from fossil fuels, typical summer days show a variation of about 25ppm.

For nearly 10 years, scientists at King’s College London have been measuring CO2 right inside the city. Here, the daily changes from the plants are completely overwhelmed by emissions from traffic and building heating. Close to roads CO2 can reach 1,000ppm. These measurements will tell us if our vehicles and buildings are really becoming more fuel efficient.

by Gary Fuller | The Guardian



UK anti-pollution drive undermined by leaving EU, say campaigners
UK is endangering people’s health by denying their right to clean air, says UN
UK’s children denied basic human right to clean air, says Unicef