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The carbon cycle

Carbon is the basis of all organic substances, from fossil fuels to human cells. On Earth, carbon is continually on the move – cycling through living things, the land, ocean, atmosphere. What happens when humans start driving the carbon cycle? We have seen that we can make a serious impact – rapidly raising the level of carbon in the atmosphere. But we really have no idea what we are doing. At the moment we don’t even know what happens to all the carbon we release from burning fossil fuel. Obviously a lot of it goes into the atmosphere, but every year we loose track of between 15 and 30% (NASA). Scientists speculate that it is taken up by land vegetation, but no one really knows. This sort of uncertainty makes it doubly difficult to predict the outcome of tampering with something as complex as the carbon cycle.

Year: 2005

From collection: Vital Climate Change Graphics Update

Cartographer: Philippe Rekacewicz, Emmanuelle Bournay, UNEP/GRID-Arendal

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