Time scales and ratios of climate forcing due to thermal versus carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels
The Earth warms both when fossil fuel carbon is oxidized to carbon dioxide and when greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide inhibits longwave radiation from escaping to space. Various important time scales and ratios comparing these two climate forcings have not previously been quantified. For example, the global and time-integrated radiative forcing from burning a fossil fuel exceeds the heat released upon combustion within 2 months. Over the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, the cumulative CO2-radiative forcing exceeds the amount of energy released upon combustion by a factor >100,000. For a new power plant, the radiative forcing from the accumulation of released CO2 exceeds the direct thermal emissions in less than half a year. Furthermore, we show that the energy released from the combustion of fossil fuels is now about 1.71% of the radiative forcing from CO2 that has accumulated in the atmosphere as a consequence of historical fossil fuel combustion.