Save the World with Carbon Sinks


By Allen Horrell

I read in the Sydney Morning Herald that Tony Abbott is running into opposition from the Nationals over plans to reduce CO2 by planting trees. Their objection is that subsidised tree planting will consume arable farms and threaten food security for Australia.

Whilst I don’t actually think the globe has been warming since 1997, or that it would necessarily be a bad thing if it were, my objection to the planting plan is that forests lock up carbon only until the inevitable bush fire releases it again.

If carbon dioxide is deemed bad and we are told to reduce it, we can either reduce our output or lock more carbon away in carbon sinks, where it cannot easily get back into the atmosphere.

If I can describe to you a plan that will lock vast amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere for hundreds of years and will consume no arable land or threaten food production and will create new jobs and exports for Australia, do you think that would be a good idea?

Carbon Sinks

Forests are very efficient at converting CO2 into wood in the first fast growing 20-40 years, after which growth and carbon capture tails off. “Old growth” mature forests are almost useless for this purpose.

The Nationals are afraid Tony will fund continuously expanding plantations of new growth to keep forests locking carbon in place, but the same result in carbon capture can be achieved without putting any new land into forest, by better managing what we already have in bush. We also have a problem of increasingly dangerous forest fires caused by excessive fuel loadings in unmanaged forests. The answer is not to put more land into forest; it is to mill the “old growth” forests that are no longer pulling their weight in carbon capture. Whether the wood is used for house framing or exported as lumber, pulp or fibreboard, it is out of the carbon cycle, potentially for hundreds of years. Even if it is made into disposable products like paper, that remains in landfills for hundreds of years. Landfills should be recognised as carbon sinks.

Then the new planting that Tony wants will be on the newly felled land, replacing the lazy “old growth” trees with fast growing carbon-binding new trees. We could replant with specific species of eucalypts that koalas like to eat, thus expanding their habitat at the same time. The tree felling, if done in strips across the prevailing summer wind direction, can also be used as fire breaks. It is all win-win! This will actually make money for the country, and is much cheaper to introduce than the untried technology of coal fired carbon capture at power stations.

Sold properly, we’ll have Tasmanian greenies protesting for more pulp mills to convert their forests into carbon sinks! And we would bring back a golden age of forestry, strip felling vast swathes of bush with a clear conscience. I imagine the fanatical warmists would soon be demanding that we clear-fell 5% of our national parks each year to attain our carbon reduction targets, by sequestering massive amounts of carbon into lumber.

Smart people can probably add a bunch of improvements to these fairly basic concepts, but the objective is clear – scrub CO2 out of the air to off-set the production of CO2 from coal burning power stations with new wood. Carbon sequestration is most easily achieved by converting trees into lumber and building houses out of it, then growing more trees on the same ground.

Just think of the slogans:

The tree-fellers will be our new eco-warriors!

Save the world thanks to sawmills!

The chainsaw shall become a symbol of hope to the carbon-phobic!


Allen Horrell is a New Zealander, now an Australian citizen. He has a commerce degree with supporting studies in chemistry, physics and marketing and lives in Sydney. He is an IT professional who serves a large Australian company keeping its ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems running, a husband and father who takes both jobs seriously, and a Rotarian who is trying to make our world a better place.

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