The Dictionary of the Climate Debate (DCD)


Suess, Hans






(1909-1993) An American chemist who developed a method of carbon-14 dating that allowed him to analyze the effect that fossil-fuel combustion was having on the Earth's atmosphere.

The Suess effect

He noticed that the ancient carbon in fossil fuels contained low levels of carbon-14. This meant that when burned, the CO2 that was released reduced the atmosphere's existing carbon-14 ratio. This phenomenon - now known as the Suess effect – proved that the current increase in atmospheric CO2 is due to our fossil fuel use.

Notes:
1. In 1957, he and Roger Revelle co-authored a paper that was the first to suggest that the Earth's oceans might not be able to absorb CO2 at a rate fast enough to offset human emissions, and that this might lead to global warming. To read this paper, click here.


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