What is the estimated total mass of organic carbon plus elemental carbon (defined here as all carbon in any chemical form, minus carbon dioxide, inorganic carbonates, and other fully oxidized carbon species such as urea and cyanates) in or on the Earth's crust, oceans, surface waters, and atmosphere?


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You could never have an estimate which was anything more than a wild guess masquerading as an estimate. To estimate the carbon in living vegetable matter alone would be hard enough, and result in a very inaccurate approximation, but to include the quantity in the Earth's crust as well could only be a wild and very inaccurate guess. The exact quantity of all the Earth's oil reserves, coal, peat, limestone and other carbonates isn't known with any precision, then there are oil shales,tar sands, asphalt lakes,clathrates and God knows what else,but the great thing about a sufficiently large, wild guess is that no one could ever prove you wrong, especially as on a few occasions and by sheer chance, guesses turn out to be right! But it is an estimate, presumably an accurate one that you asked for, and that is impossible.

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    $\begingroup$ There are plenty of estimates of global biomass, from which one could (and I suspect many have) estimate the amount of carbon. Ditto for minerals and fossil fuel reserves. Of course it will be of limited accuracy, but that's the nature of estimates, and an estimate is exactly what was asked for. Hopefully an expert will be along to answer the question. I'm not that expert, but please stop saying things aren't answerable just because you don't personally have the answer. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2019 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ I'm afraid we are going to end up with a wild guess which in reality is hopelessly inaccurate but which people like you will claim is an estimate. I have seen it happen before, as with the estimate made in 1978 in a scientific journal that all the world's rainforests would be gone by the end of the 20th century. A lot of nutters believed it! I have seen so-called "estimates" on Physics Stack which grossly contradicted each other. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2019 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ There's nothing wrong with estimates contradicting each other...although in many cases what you might see as a contradiction may not be, depending on the margins of error. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2019 at 17:24

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