Carbon cycle

The dependence on fossil fuel energy sources since the industrial revolution has undoubtedly shaped economic prosperity for the developed world. However, an unfortunate by-product of fossil fuel combustion is the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), an important greenhouse gas that is known to influence long-term climatic variations through its ability to absorb infra-red radiation.

Human emissions of CO2 have resulted in atmospheric levels higher than any period over the last 20 million years. The continued emission of CO2 will lead to widespread climate change related impacts.

Researchers within the Climate Policy and Carbon Cycle sub-program aim to quantify and understand both the human sources and natural sources and sinks of carbon dioxide with the goal to examine international policies required to bring about mitigation of future climate change.

Direct oceanic effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 and biogeochemistry (for example ocean acidification or coral reef calcification) are also examined through the use of both observations and mathematical modelling techniques.

Another major focus is on how the terrestrial carbon cycle responds to rising atmospheric CO2 and climate change. In particular, the work focuses on the capacity for increasing atmospheric CO2 to stimulate photosynthesis and in turn, the rate of future climate warming.

Researchers at the CCRC also study climate-carbon cycle interactions on millennial timescales. A particular emphasis is made on past changes in ocean circulation and their impact on the marine carbon cycle and atmospheric CO2.

CCRC staff currently active in this area of research