“The Contemporary Global Carbon Cycle and the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on CO2 Emissions” with Corinne Le Quéré  (University of East Anglia, UK)


Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human activities have caused the planet to warm and have set in motion a train of changes in the natural carbon cycle. Every year, the land and ocean natural carbon reservoirs, the so-called carbon ‘sinks’, absorb 55% on average of the CO2 emissions we put in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and other activities. The carbon sinks slow down the pace of climate change, but they respond themselves to a changing climate by leaving more CO2 in the atmosphere. The latest evidence on trends in emissions and sinks of carbon of the past 60 years reveals the limits of our understanding and the challenges we face to develop a planetary monitoring system that can keep track of the rapidly changing carbon cycle. The Covid-19 pandemic generated the need to monitor global emissions daily, something that was thought impossible before. From this need has arisen an explosion of new research methods on monitoring the carbon cycle. This presentation will provide a snapshot of current understanding and capacity to untangle changes in the Earth’s vital organic element: carbon.

Corinne Le Quéré is Royal Society Research Professor of climate change science at the University of East Anglia. She conducts research on the interactions between climate change and the carbon cycle. Her research has shown that climate change and variability affects the capacity of the Earth’s natural carbon reservoirs to take up carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere by human activities. Corinne Le Quéré instigated and led for 13 years the annual update of the global carbon budget, an international effort to inform global climate agreements. She was author of three assessments reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the Nobel price prize in 2007, and is former Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Professor Le Quéré is Chair of France’s High Council on climate, an independent experts body that advises the French Government on its responses to climate change, and member of the UK Committee on Climate Change. She was elected Fellow of the UK Royal Society in 2016 and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2019 for services to climate change science.

This webinar was recorded on July 22, 2021