Measuring the human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide


  • Colin Schultz


Although it is well established that humans are responsible for the modern increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, the precise emission rates of carbon dioxide and other environmentally important gases are less well known. Traditionally, the reported usages of coal, oil, and other commodities are used to estimate emission rates. Though this economics-based approach is thought to work well at global and national scales, uncertainties increase for smaller regional scales or time scales shorter than a year. Drawing on 6 years of gas concentration measurements taken every 2 weeks from an airplane at two sites over the northeastern United States, Miller et al. developed a system to measure the anthropogenic contribution to atmospheric gas concentrations that is independent of accounting-based approaches.