It turns out that the Australian landscape is pretty good at mopping up our CO2 emissions mess. A recent CSIRO study found that between 1990 & 2011, plants & soils soaked up 2.2 billion tonnnes of CO2 each year, one third of national emissions.
However, the landscape’s ability to ‘breath in’ CO2 can change dramatically; in wet years it absorbs more carbon than is emitted but in dry, bushfire years, nearly the same amount is sent back into the atmosphere. However although the Australian landscape can do a pretty good job on our own fossil fuel burning, it of course can’t put a dent in the fossil fuel emissions we now export each year. This is rising rapidly from an average 1.5 times our domestic emissions to 2.5 times over the past few years.
Although rising atmospheric CO2 levels in the past century had increased the ability of plants and soil to absorb CO2, study leader Dr Vanessa Haverd said this is likely to fall in the future.