“State of Carbon Cycle in 2009 on the Eve of the Copenhagen International Climate Conference: Challenge to the Humanity” with Taro Takahashi (Nov 2009)

by | Jul 21, 2023 | Climate Change

The United Nations Climate Change Copenhagen Conference 2009 took place 7 – 18 Dec 2009. Dr. Taro Takahashi shared with us recent scientific understandings about the Carbon cycle, one of the key components in our changing climate. This talk updates his presentation at the Oct 2008 E2C Workshop.

Dr. Takahashi is one of the world’s leading experts in the Carbon Cycle geochemistry, and has been conducting research at Lamont for over 55 years! We are honored that he joins us again at E2C.

Introduction to this Workshop

 You can view the introductory presentation in      ppt        pdf format

Cutting-Edge Research

Here is Dr. Takahashi’s presentation in ppt format         pdf format

Dr. Takahashi provided E2C Workshop participants with two recent articles.

One is “The Human Perturbation of the Carbon Cycle.” The is the Nov 2009 UNESCO-SCOPE-UNEP Policy Brief, prepared and distributed in advance of the Copenhagen meeting.

The second “Trends in the Sources and Sinks of Carbon Dioxide.” This article was published in Nature Geoscience on 17 Nov 2009. Dr. Takahashi is one of 31 authors on this summary of current understanding of the Carbon cycle.

Additional resources are available through the Copenhagen Conference website.

Classroom Resources

“Using Oceanography Examples to Teach Chemical Principles: A Sea of Connections” byBruce G. Smith

What is the Carbon Cycle?


This activity has students explore the carbon cycle and learn to identify carbon sources, sinks, and release agents. They will come to understand that carbon is critical to the biosphere and must continue cycling to support life on earth. The instructor guide contains detailed background material, learning goals, alignment to national standards, grade level/time, details on materials and preparation, procedure, assessment ideas, and modifications for alternative learners.

“Carbo” the Carbon Atom


Students can learn about the carbon cycle by following a carbon atom through its “travels”. They can interact with the story by choosing which of several paths the atom may take through various sources and sinks for carbon. Because of the cyclical nature of the process, the students will find themselves returning to the portion of the cycle in which the atom exists as atmospheric carbondioxide.

Where in the World is Carbon Dioxide?


This three part activity has students set up experiments to help them better understand the atmospheric portion of the carbon cycle. From this activity, they will be able to explain the concept of sources and sinks as they relate to carbon dioxide, the use of indicator solution bromothymol blue (BTB) to reveal the presence of carbon dioxide, and the qualitative differences between animal and fossil fuel sources of global carbon dioxide. The student guide has an overall description of all three parts of the activity, lists of materials, the procedure and observations and questions. The instructor guide contains detailed background material, learning goals, alignment to national standards, grade level/time, details on materials and preparation, procedure, assessment ideas, and modifications for alternative learners.

Climate and Carbon Dioxide: Analyzing Their Relationship  


Through this activity, students learn about atmospheric carbon dioxide and its role in the greenhouse effect. They can identify the leading producers of carbon dioxide emissions and read about the global climate conference that was held in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 to set international limits on these emissions. The material provides information to increase students’ understanding of the implications and processes of possible changes in the world’s climate.

Carbon Cycle: Exchanging Carbon Dioxide between the Atmosphere and Ocean


This lab investigates the exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and the ocean’s surface. It is based on the fact that carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean and provides the source of that plants and plankton living in the ocean rely on for photosynthesis. Students will discover that the amount of carbon dioxide the ocean can contain depends on the temperature of the water and its salinity (whether it is sea water or fresh water) and that cold water can hold more carbon dioxide in solution than warm water. They will observe that when carbon dioxide dissolves in water, it forms carbonic acid which makes the water acidic, and they will test for the acidity caused by the presence of dissolved carbon dioxide using Universal Indicator, which turns yellow when the solution is acidic. This activity tests whether sea water or fresh water absorbs more carbon dioxide.

Carbon Cycle in the Lab: Carbon Products and the Processes That Link Them


This lab teaches students about the nature of carbon, the different types of compounds it exists in (e.g. charcoal, glucose, carbon dioxide), the biochemical reactions it takes part in (photosynthesis and respiration), the range of processes that carbon and carbon compounds are involved in on Earth, and how these link together form the carbon cycle. They will get a feel for how the whole carbon cycle works by turning the laboratory into a model of the carbon cycle and seeing how the different things that are produced in the cycle (the products) fit together with the way those products are made (the processes). The site contains teacher notes, a list of required materials, student instructions and questions, and a diagram of the carbon cycle.

Carbon Dioxide — Sources and Sinks

Windows to the Universe


  • Students will be able to explain the concept of ‘sources’ and ‘sinks’ as they relate to carbon dioxide.
  • Students will understand the use of an indicator solution (BTB) to reveal the presence of carbon dioxide.
  • Students will understand the qualitative differences between animal and fossil fuel sources of global carbon dioxide.

Other Resources for This Theme

View of the Lake Pukaki basin

View of the Lake Pukaki basin with nearly 30 different lateral and terminal moraine ridges visible around the lake. Credit: Joerg Schaefer

The LDEO Division of Geochemistry

View of the Lake Pukaki basin with nearly 30 different lateral and terminal moraine ridges visible around the lake. Credit: Joerg Schaefer

Researchers in the Geochemistry Division seek to understand Earth’s environments by studying its history—and the processes, past and present, that have governed these environments.

Using advanced chemical and isotope analyses, Division scientists study samples of air, water, biological remains, rocks and meteorites in order to elucidate a broad range of scientific issues. Research topics range from the particulate and chemical pollutants emitted by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, to the climate changes of the ice ages, which began some 2.6 million years ago, to the fundamental chemical processes involved in the differentiation and formation of Earth’s mantle and core.

Observatory geochemists have also contributed greatly to our understanding of the socioeconomic issues associated with environmental changes, ranging from contaminated groundwater to the accumulation of industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, which may ultimately be seen as responsible for present-day global warming.

Some of the principal research themes in the Division include:

  • Solid-earth dynamics, including the exchange of material between Earth’s core, mantle and crust.
  • Structure and composition of Earth’s lower crust and upper mantle, with a focus on melt transport in the upper mantle, accretion of igneous lower crust at spreading ridges and arcs and the hydration and carbonation of mantle-derived material that has been tectonically exposed at Earth’s surface.
  • The formation of Earth and its moon, and the transformations that occurred during the earliest phases of their histories.
  • The oceans’ role in climate, tracing ocean currents that transport heat around the globe and their variability through time, and investigating ocean processes that regulate the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, from microscale physics at the air-sea interface to the global-scale meridional overturning ocean circulation.
  • Causes and consequences of climate change over longer timescales, ranging from variability over many thousands of years paced by subtle changes in Earth’s orbit to abrupt changes, sometimes within the span of a human lifetime, forced by as-yet unidentified mechanisms internal to Earth’s climate system.
  • Sources and fates of contaminants in the environment, transported both in air and water, with an emphasis on the New York metropolitan region and the Hudson River, but with projects extending worldwide.
Carbon Dioxide Research Group

Sequestration of CO2 generated by power plants by injection into deep aquifers (geological sequestration) has been proposed as a possible alternative for the reduction of excessive greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. For a long-term geological sequestration of CO2 solid end products such as (Ca,Mg)CO3 are desirable due to their chemical stability, non-toxic nature and lack of fluidity for rapid migration. Our hypothesis is that aquifers associated with mafic igneous rocks are good canditates for sequestering CO2, presumed that the geological and hydrogeological conditions are suitable for high pressure CO2 injections. When high pressure CO2 is injected into deep aquifers, it will acidify the groundwater.

Essential Principles and Concepts

Ocean Literacy
Also, Coexploration resources
Climate LiteracyAtmospheric Literacy