I had a request from Richard Betts to do a cartoon on this paper in Nature about soil CO2 emissions. The abstract says soil emits “60 petagrams of carbon per year to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide”.
It made me wonder why they talked about ‘carbon’ and not ‘carbon dioxide’ – after all, carbon is not a greenhouse gas. And why use petagrams and not gigatons, or is it gigatonnes?
I found out that a petagram is the same as a gigatonne or metric gigaton, but not a UK or US gigaton. Also the reason scientists use ‘carbon’ and not ‘carbon dioxide’ is that they are referring to the carbon cycle (carbon as fossil fuel burns to create CO2 which is reabsorbed by plants and converted back to carbon).
But between the scientists, the politicians and the media it is easy to get a bit confused. For example at Information…
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