Abstract We reconcile estimates of carbon in the earth's crust with measures of selected fossil-fuel resources. The addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is estimated for defined fractions of fossilfuel reserves and resources. The results on build-up are consistent with normally cited values: with 45% retention in the atmosphere, the carbon dioxide concentration will rise 34% above the 1972 value by about the year 2030 if the total reserves available in 1972 are consumed by this date. Much larger carbon dioxide build-up may occur in future years as the fossil-fuel resources known in 1972 are burned.

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