Environment Forum

China quake leaves CO2 legacy

March 2, 2009

Last year’s horrendous China earthquake may have big, lingering effects on the atmosphere. Mudslides after the deadly May 12 quake in Sichuan province are likely to trigger a release of carbon dioxide equal to 2 percent of the world’s current carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion, geophysicists say.

“Mudslides wipe away plants and topsoil, depleting terrain of nutrients for plant regrowth and burying swaths of vegetation. Buried vegetable matter decomposes and releases carbon dioxide and other gases to the atmosphere,” according to a statement ahead of a report in American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The gases, along with nitrous oxide, another major greenhouse gas, should spew into the atmosphere over a number of decades, according to the report due out on March 4.

(Reuters picture taken January 23, 2009)

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