Curbing the U.S. carbon deficit.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

The U.S. emitted approximately 1.58 petagrams (Pg) of fossil fuel carbon in 2001, approximately one-quarter of global CO(2) production. With climate change increasingly likely, strategies to reduce carbon emissions and stabilize climate are needed, including greater energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, geoengineering, decarbonization, and geological and biological sequestration. Two of the most commonly proposed biological strategies are restoring organic carbon in agricultural soils and using plantations to sequester carbon in soils and wood. Here, we compare scenarios of land-based sequestration to emissions reductions arising from increased fuel efficiency in transportation, targeting ways to reduce net U.S. emissions by 10% ( approximately 0.16 Pg of carbon per year). Based on mean sequestration rates, converting all U.S. croplands to no-till agriculture or retiring them completely could sequester approximately 0.059 Pg of carbon per year for several decades. Summary data across a range of plantations reveal an average rate of carbon storage an order of magnitude larger than in agricultural soils; in consequence, one-third of U.S. croplands or 44 million hectares would be needed for plantations to reach the target of approximately 0.16 Pg of carbon per year. For fossil fuel reductions, cars and light trucks generated approximately 0.31 Pg of carbon in U.S. emissions in 2001. To reduce net emissions by 0.16 Pg of carbon per year, a doubling of fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks is needed, a change feasible with current technology. Issues of permanence, leakage, and economic potentials are discussed briefly, as is the recognition that such scenarios are only a first step in addressing total U.S. emissions.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Jackson, RB; Schlesinger, WH

Published Date

  • November 2004

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 101 / 45

Start / End Page

  • 15827 - 15829

PubMed ID

  • 15514026

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC528743

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1091-6490

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0027-8424

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1073/pnas.0403631101


  • eng