You see, not all of the carbon dioxide emissions released by human and other activity go into the atmosphere. Some are sucked up by “sinks” like the oceans.
What Knorr was studying was what share of those emissions go into the atmosphere, versus which share go someplace else, like the oceans. He found that the percentage going into the atmosphere was not increasing … this is quite different from a finding that the emissions of carbon dioxide aren’t increasing or — as the Daily Mail wrongly told its readers — that the percentage of the Earth’s atmosphere that is made up of carbon dioxide isn’t increasing.
Case in point, Knorr (GRL, 2009) is a study about how much of the human emissions are staying the atmosphere (around 40%) and whether that is detectably changing over time. It does not undermine the fact that CO2 is rising. [See graphic at the top of this post] The confusion in the denialosphere is based on a misunderstanding between ‘airborne fraction of CO2 emissions’ (not changing very much) and ‘CO2 fraction in the air’ (changing very rapidly) …
Or as even noted climate science contrarian Pat Michaels wrote on his blog:
It is not that the total atmospheric burden of CO2 has not been increasing over time, but that of the total CO2 released into the atmosphere each year by human activities, about 45% remains in the atmosphere while the other 55% is taken up by various natural processes—and these percentages have not changed during the past 150 years.
Now, this particular issue is actually part of a more complicated scientific discussion over whether the percentage of carbon dioxide emissions going into the atmosphere is increasing. You can read more about that here and here.
But there’s absolutely no truth to the idea that the study cited by Surber and the Daily Mail shows carbon dioxide levels in the world’s atmosphere haven’t increased. And it’s too bad Surber and the Daily Mail got this so wrong … West Virginians deserve honest information about climate change from their public officials and from the media.