More treeconomics

So I sat and I thought and as I sat and I thought, well, I thought:

“It’s ongoing, isn’t it?”

And then, as I sat some more, I thought some more:

“And as it’s ongoing, that means its effects are growing too.”

Which struck me as disturbing, because, as we all know, there’s other impacts which look persuasively like they too are getting bigger. And bigger. Year upon year. Upon year.

“Like flooding. Due to record rainfall.”

“And the atmospheric carbon dioxide graph”

“And generally all kinds of atmospheric climatics that show the expenditure of larger dollops of energy. In impactful manner. Like droughts. And hurricanes. And whirlwinds. They even had one of those in Birmingham last year. That’s the Original Birmingham, not the one in Alabama. Which has probably always suffered from  such weatherliness.”

What I then worked out, with my trusted pencil and paper, was that, at the present rate of forest clearance, we lose, get this, the carbon dioxide fixing capacity every eight years to uptake one megatonne of our favourite gas each and every year thereafterwards. That does assume, I grant you, that no carbon is fixed by that forestland post harvest – which will NOT be true. But it will be nowhere near the capacity of mature forest.

This further underlines the tendency to exponential of the forest clearance saga and could probably lead to new “tipping points” beyond which we will find no turning back.

At the post glacial forest maximum, we had around twice the current forest, despite sea level increases having flooded out a lot of the glacial period lowland forest. (Think 120 metre SLR globally. Think Cantre’r Gwaelod – now the Irish Sea – or Doggerland – now the North Sea. And multiply them up. A significant natural loss of forest.) If we have lost around 800 MT forest mass or maybe four billion hectares that is carbon fixing capacity, CFC, of 60BT/annum/annum lost.

Does agriculture manage 25% of that? Somehow I doubt it.  Net CFC loss = 45BT/annum.

I rest my case or, as the Great Forest Gump might well say: “That’s all I have to say about that subject.”

Posted in Carbon economics, Doggerland, Flooding, Glacial era, Green politics,, Greenhouse gases and climate change, Hurricanes, Land use, Whirlwinds | Leave a comment

Bobby say “Reforestation can’t offset massive fossil fuels emissions”

On December 13, 2013,  Bobbie Edwards published the following article on Mongabay. It’s nothing new but posted up to a forestry discussion site, provoked the discourse that made up my previous posting/chapter. It echoes much of what’s been said previously  but together provides a useful call and response situation. In the next few sections, I plan to comb through, dissect and similarly treat a clutch of reports I have which can really be said to draw a line under the twenty year struggle of greens versus harvester developers. In military terms this is to underscore a regrouping for a major change in tactics. Defeat, as they say, is not an option!

OK, so here’s the provocative original article:

With the Australian, Japanese, and Canadian governments making an about-face on carbon-emissions reduction targets during the Warsaw climate summit, some experts are warning that the global need for solutions offsetting CO2 emissions is passing a “red line.” Land-based mitigation practices comprise one of the solutions on the table as a result of both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol; however, a paper published in Nature Climate Change by an international team led by Brendan Mackey, has raised the looming question of whether or not land-based practices can actually improve CO2 levels as much as hoped.

In their paper, Mackey and colleagues question “to what extent [land-based mitigation] can be legitimately considered an ‘offset’ for fossil fuel CO2 emissions.”

According to Mackey, several of the most convincing effects of increased CO2 emissions in the atmosphere are reductions in the Greenland ice mass and Arctic sea ice cover , which have caused a capital investment and industrial exploitation boom of the new land and sea territories that have become available and the significant global increases in surface land temperatures.

The burning of fossil fuels is the largest global source of anthropogenic (human-caused) CO2 emissions. Human land-use activities such as deforestation, logging, and soil disturbance make up the second largest source.

Mackey and his team estimate that, on average, 0.16 million square kilometers of forests are cleared annually. About half of the world’s forests have already been cleared, leaving 40 million square kilometers still standing. Of this, only 36 percent are primary forests (i.e., old-growth forests), which have not been significantly disturbed to the point at which bio-diversity is altered.

But carbon isn’t released only when trees are cut down or burned, or when the soil is moved, but also from machinery such as trucks, bulldozers and chainsaws used to carry out these activities. Mackey and his colleagues report that it’s hard to know the precise amount of global carbon emissions produced from forest degradation, but estimates suggest that these activities together account for a 50 percent increase in regional emissions compared to deforestation alone.

But an erroneous assumption is that re-planting forests or creating tree pastures quickly offset carbon levels in the atmosphere. Neither of these approaches are viable solutions, according to the international team. Reforestation of areas affected by land-use would reduce atmospheric CO2 by 40–70 parts-per-million by the end of the century. However, this will be greatly overshadowed by simultaneous global deforestation activities and fossil fuel emissions that are projected to increase CO2 levels by 130–290 parts-per-million and170-600 parts-per-million by 2100, respectively.

“These estimates highlight the very modest scope for reforestation to reduce (atmospheric) CO2 compared with both the magnitude of fossil fuel CO2 emissions and emissions from deforestation and degradation,” Mackey and his colleagues write in the paper. “Moreover, complete reforestation of previously cleared land is an implausible scenario due to competing land uses — especially from food production and the need to feed a human population predicted to surpass nine billion by 2050 — along with projected demand for land to produce transport biofuel.”

When asked specifically about the relationship between the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere and the amount of carbon stored in the ground and in vegetation, Mackey clarified that the amount of organic carbon that is grown and stored in a forest ecosystem is determined primarily by rainfall and temperature. These climatic variables affect the rate of plant growth and decay. Other factors impacting the amount of carbon stored are soil characteristics and groundwater accessibility by plants.

“When you log or clear a forest, the biomass and soil carbon is oxidized and released as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” said Mackey. “If the forest is allowed to regrow (assuming it has not been logged or cleared such that it is destroyed) then theoretically it should be able to grow back the same amount of carbon. However, in the case of a primary forest this can take hundreds to thousands of years.”

Another proposed CO2 offset solution questioned by Mackey and his colleagues involves the assumption that sequestering carbon for 100 years would permanently remove it from the atmosphere. They believe that, somewhere along the way, a pair of zeroes were swept under the rug when calculating the lifespan of carbon.

“If carbon is to be usefully stored (on land, in the ocean or in geological repositories), it must remain stored not just for 100 years, but for more than 10,000 years…Indeed it is accepted de facto in many policy contexts that it is sufficient to maintain stores for 100 years,” reads the paper.

Solving climate change is not going to be as easy as countries planting trees, according to the paper. rapidly decreasing greenhouse gas emissions—whether from fossil fuels or land use changes—is far more important.

“No amount of reafforestation or growing of new trees will ultimately off-set continuing CO2 emissions due to environmental constraints on plant growth and the large amounts of remaining fossil fuel reserves,” Mackey says. “Unfortunately there is no option but to cut fossil fuel emissions deeply as about a third of the CO2 stays in the atmosphere for 2 to 20 millennia.”

Citations:

Nature Climate Change: “Untangling the confusion around land carbon science and climate change mitigation policy” by Brendan Mackey (Griffith Uni.), I. Colin Prentice (Macquarie Uni. & Imperial College), Will Steffen (ANU), Joanna I. House (Bristol Uni.), David Lindenmayer (ANU), Heather Keith (ANU) and Sandra Berry (ANU). (doi:10.1038/nclimate1804)

Read original at http://news.mongabay.com/2013/1210-edwards-reforestation-cannot-offest-emissions.html#22j2xvIXFy7ysoEv.99

 

 

Posted in Climate politics, Development issues, Ecology, Green politics,, Greenhouse gases and climate change, Land use, New forests and woodland, REDD+ | Leave a comment

More trees, please………

This is like proceedings of a select international conference and is a follow up to the series of articles which arose in similar circumstances two years ago. It’s a global sampler of interested and interesting participants, responding to an article which I will repost verbatim after this discussion. This piece has stretched out from pre Christmas 2013 to mid January 2014, and is a good snap-shot update.

It’s raw, unedited as yet, but I may well comb through it at a later date.

 

Michael Furniss Owner at MJ Furniss & Associates

True enough, but I do not recall anyone saying that reforestation or avoided deforestation will do the whole job. We should do what we can. Pointing up problems with REDD+ and other forest carbon offset strategies is easy and popular, but I do not recall anyone saying it would be easy. How about solutions, rather than piling on the problems and naysaying? Foresters should be pushing for solutions IMO, not demonstrating their knowledge by hawking the shortcomings over and over, and presenting the not-yet-fully-solved problems as somehow being fatal flaws.

Erik van Lennep Ecological Counsel at Circle Square Foundation

@Michael Furniss, I agree with you. Why are we so obsessed with “silver bullet” solutions, when we only have evidence they never provide real answers? The world is a complex organism, and its systems share and reflect that complexity. Simple fixes never fix.Instead of slamming one element of a pattern for not delivering the whole picture, we need to apply our critical analysis to determining what’s missing, and to fine-tuning the overall strategy.

Nathan Nicholas field technichian at free growing forestry

the other benefits of good forestry practices, such as stabilize topsoil, bio-diversity, stability of employment must be factored in.

scott keller project developer at Reforest the Tropics, INC. and Environmental Services Consultant

Has anyone heard of the Carbon Zero Fuel Project?

It’s fossil fuel that’s carbon offset with a new sustainable farm forest planting on cattle pasture. There’s a donation per gallon that is given when fossil fuel is purchased.

With donations, Reforest The Tropics.org, a non-profit, works with participating farmers to reforest cattle pastures, sequester carbon, and reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases. These forests are designed to be profitable for farmers by producing wood to sell, providing a sustainable income and the forests are highly effective at sequestering/capturing and storing CO2 emissions for sponsors.

Andrew Tolfts  Green Deal Officer at West Sussex County Council

Quite right, can’t offset carbon emissions with reafforestation but it can buy a little time (a few decades) if a truely huge level of planting was attained. More than offset emissions due to current forest degredation and destruction. And by using sustainable grown timber as a fuel and for building materials more of the fossil fuels can stay in the ground.

Joseph Pallant Business Development Associate at Pacific Carbon Trust

There was a UN Special Report on Climate Change from 2000 that points out a full third of anthropogenic GHG emissions between 1850 and 1998 were from land use change, primarily deforestation. Current annual rates from land use change are in the 15-20% range.

One could ponder a simple takeaway that 33% of the net global anthropogenic GHG debt should be targeted by restoration, and a further 15-20% annual deficit can be addressed by REDD+.

Dirk Brinkman CEO at Brinkman & Associates Reforestation Ltd

By Bali in 2007 it was already too late for reduced emissions alone to avoid catastrophic climate change. President Susalito BamBang opened his COP 15 by saying “what the world needs is less emissions, more sinks.” It was a hair raising moment for those of us who recognized that this may never be put more succinctly.

Reforestation had been certified in 2004 as a climate action, but it was stumbling over the long investment time before getting returns and being excluded from the largest market, the ETS, by EU enviro’s who wanted Germany to shift to LNG from coal, before offsetting emissions with reforestation. In Warsaw in 2013, REDD+, with its more instant gratification from stopping emissions tomorrow, is now also a certified climate action. Soil, ecosystem and wetland restoration have also joined the climate action pantheon for land manager through various voluntary standards. We had the privilege of developing the first methodologies for each of these three, of opening the matrix of tools to afford the professional forester, ecologist or agrologist the funding to intervene in the flow of change possible on their local landscape.

Still, farmers and foresters who have worked their fingers to the bone as price takers, whip-lashed by middlemen like Georgia chicken farmers, have to stand together on the edge of this precipitous new market, to avoid being piped like lemmings by the inevitable scoundrels attracted to the rural regions. Perhaps this is the most interesting problem of all.

Chris Hemmings OC Five Trillion Trees – Universal Industrial Offset Mechanism

Very pleased to see the earlier posts, pretty much all; saying “Yes but this must be a major pert of the overall solution” Ever the referenced article says it, albeit reluctantly:

“”But an erroneous assumption is that re-planting forests or creating tree pastures quickly offset carbon levels in the atmosphere. Neither of these approaches are viable solutions, according to the international team. Reforestation of areas affected by land-use would reduce atmospheric CO2 by 40–70 parts-per-million by the end of the century. “”

If we took back into forestry land which is marginal and worse we would hit the higher end of that span, ie 60 to 70 ppm reduction by fixation into forests. This is a major target for Global Restoration working and is becoming clear as essential not optional, and not only to fight climate change as biodiversity, ecological connectivity and human sanity are equally valid drivers.

By following this route the additional fall out is to discourage anything other than active forest management, whereby there is never felling without substantial replanting, and clear felling is avoided like the plague.

http://fivetrilliontrees.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/burn-our-planet-or-face-financial-meltdown-not-much-of-a-choice/

Terry Halligan Director at ERS Emission Recovery Solutions Inc

So the new consensus would be that we need to ignore the solutions that are expensive, minimally effective and to far out on the time horizon. We do know what will work quickly and effectively. After the global financial crisis in 2008, GHG emissions fell back until recently. It would suggest that a permanent halt of economic expansion and the resulting downward pressure on consumption which would exacerbate the GDP decline be the only course.

Investment in alternatives, emissions recovery through improved efficiencies and new technology on avoidance are far too expensive, individually produce small impacts and will take to long for widespread implementation.

Or we could fully appreciate the impact our historical activities have had on the world, recognize all of the potential solutions, small and large, long term and short, cheap and costly and simply get down to it now.

Don Willis Global Forestry Product Manager at Jiffy Products of America

Reading the comments its clear that moving forward is a necessity, unfortunately, different Governments, businesses, individuals, et cetera are tripping over each other causing further delays, and needed finances get eaten up in administration by the delays of process. As mentioned by Dirk and a few others, implied, the land base exists to reforest, afforestation, agroforestry, reclamation, restoration or rehabilitation depending on your flavour of “regeneration”. Combined plantings of trees with Native Plants/shrubs, etc can have a larger impact per hectare towards the desired goal of carbon emissions. The land owners, the local people or communities, have the greatest power to act as one source at any one given point in time, they just need the right motivating factor. As these people watch governments disagree and not come to any consensus or positive actions, the people will so choose not to believe as well. Local communities, villages, cities, tribes and individual people can grow their own plants to plant, they are not dependent on a commercial source to get the plants needed. What they need is trusted direction and confidence, not to worry about what could wrong, as moving forward and doing something is the right action without fear. Doing nothing and continuing the discussion is just bad fungi on composting words. Not only does it taste bad but anyone can smell a lie. The simple action is getting started, as we are no where close in forest cover compared to when human civilization decided to start cutting trees for whatever reason. We know the end goal. You have to get started, learn from past practices and keep moving forward. Do not reinvent the wheel. Compared to 10 years back obtaining relevant information was slow, compared to today when information placed on the internet in one year/month exceeds what was available in decades. The information is there, but so is the fear (not to mention politics). Human compassion and the will to make change exists largely in our population. This is the power needed to move forward and to harness (and as Dirk mentioned, keep the “inevitable scoundrels” out).

David Derbowka Owner, Passive Remediation Systems Ltd

So Don..

I happen to agree with your words and thought. I am sure I could not have said it better. I do have to add: small is good. Small is so much better than nothing. Small includes more participation. Small is so very doable. Small keeps out the scoundrels. And small is; yes, a big job.

Alterra Hetzel Forest Carbon Business Development Manager at The Conservation Fund

Agreement all around. What if the worst thing that happens is we protect wildlife, biodiversity, clean the water, retain the soil, boost recreation, boost economy, etc etc? And, of course, sequester carbon. It must be part of the solution. And I, for one, would like to leave my children some forests. It must be part (not all) of the solution.

Kevin Morgan Currently the endorsed Palmer United Candidate for Braddon

Most discussions and expectancies are around a Top Down Approach where we expect Government to lead us on this issue.

We have seen Governments in, out, heading in reverse.

Reversing this with individual people and groups starting and delivering in their own ways can start the ball rolling and if PEOPLE POWER gets strong enough Governments and lobbyists who have their own agenda will have only one way to go.

David Derbowka above has spoken on the small steps, I will add that a lot of small steps soon leads to larger ones as the momentum builds.

A “Bottom Up Approach” moves from a rustling of the leaves on the ground to a cyclone or tornado ” IF PEOPLE POWER OWNS IT”.

Achieving the right balance but moving forward is far better than heading in reverse.

Carlo Castellani Environmental Services Professional

The concept that doing something is better than nothing is a moral/religious one; it is not a rational one (it could even work negatively; e.g. biofuel demand favours deforestation). If I know that what I do is not enough to solve the problem, better I stop and use my energy to look for a better solution. Reforesting while deforestation goes on unabated makes only the interest of the plantations business.

Alex French Graduate Student

When taking a class on climate change we came across this simple carbon budget applet from the University of Wisconsin where you can play with variables for emissions as well as carbon sinks and then see the estimated temperature by the end of the century: http://carboncycle.aos.wisc.edu/carbon-budget-tool/

It would be optimistic to assume that by the middle of the century fossil emissions can start to level off and then begin to drop slightly by the end of the century (following the “Kuznets curve” pattern for pollution). Even with this optimistic scenario it’s estimated to come out to a 2.5 degree Celsius increase by the end of the century from 1990 levels. It’s only when you address deforestation emissions as well as the potential for sequestration from landscapes/reforestation that the temperature in the model peaks below the IPCC estimated threshold of 2 degrees Celsius.

So I agree that reforestation can’t offset massive fossil fuel emissions but I do believe that it is the margin that can prevent the climate system from collapsing in a best case scenario.

David Derbowka Owner, Passive Remediation Systems Ltd

Is not growth, or utilization of sun power naturally more effective or efficient than a solar voltaic cell? Manufacturing footprint is eliminated for one thing. Then full recovery of the stored energy done through growth, makes sense to me. (“forest storage cell”) I think we already have the ability to utilize bio-mass cleanly via various methods. Not for a second am I bashing solar cells for energy production. But a more thoughtful, (on the big picture) method of cycles in forestry, man made perhaps, might be some partial input regarding our attempts to retrieve planet health. I believe the ignorance and/or apathy, (in this country anyway), is the cause of hollowing our economic energy production opportunity in this field.

Alterra Hetzel Forest Carbon Business Development Manager at The Conservation Fund

@carlo – I read your comment and nearly fell off my unicorn! :) Rationally speaking, where and how shall we all be focused? The key to what you said was “is not enough.” Therefore, what is? What is the affordable and available silver bullet? I would argue that a rational person would focus on the area in which they can. A rational person would argue that just because they can’t fix a problem all together does not mean they should not try at all within the capacity they can. And, PS – I personally would never advocate for a bio-fuel demand that (again) puts the lives of wildlife and trees as expendable in the name of energy. Rationally speaking.

Carlo Castellani Environmental Services Professional

Alterra, good questions; I also would like to get some logical answer from the expert on climate change (I am not). Anyway I seem that my concept of a rational person is far away from yours: trying to solve a problem means doing it with a strategy, project or any kind of rational idea that, whatever simplistic or primitive is hoped to produce a solution (victory) to the problem. The kind of patchwork proposed by the experts is not expected to produce any sensible change on climate trends (their conclusions, not mine!). Throwing stones against a powerful enemy or sacrificing a lamb to soften the god’s anger is no solution but a stupid way to satisfy the social need of showing to the tribe that one does something for the common welfare. If I can’t find the way to win my enemy I’ll try to ally with it or develop a plan to make its dominion as tolerable as possible. That’s the theory.

Practically all the initiatives undertaken in the past years have produced no results; billions having been spent in bla bla and the like. Whatever you or I advocate bio-fuel demand has favored and is favoring deforestation and increase in food prices (affecting the poorest). Facts.

Andrew Tolfts Green Deal Officer at West Sussex County Council

Carlo, you say: “Whatever you or I advocate bio-fuel demand has favored and is favoring deforestation and increase in food prices (affecting the poorest). Facts.”

Evidence?

But even if it has led to deforestation in the past it doen’t have to in the future. And what type of biofuel are you talking about? You may be damning all for the sins of the few. Surely conversion to agriculture, timber mining and conflict are much greater drivers for deforestation.

Nathan Nicholas field technichian at free growing forestry

I think Carlo was speaking of Palm oil bio fuel which is a worse case scenario, where as something like wood pellet fuel is much closer to carbon neutral.We must not forget that trees serve climates locally as well as globally with immediate effects such as cleaning storing rainwater, slowing snow melt, locally cooling the ground beneath them. I think much of the Resistance to carbon offset forestry is from people who cant wrap their minds around the idea of long term planning and intergenarational , rather than quarterly profits.

Michael Furniss Owner at MJ Furniss & Associates

Good news on REDD+

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/11/22/us-forest-climate-talks-idUKBRE9AL0MM20131122?goback=%2Egde_141485_member_5810723778296053763#%21

“ U.N. agrees multi-billion dollar framework to tackle deforestation “

Carlo Castellani Environmental Services Professional

Andrew, do you want me wasting a couple of minutes on the internet to look for evidence of the existence of biofuel plantations? Or even worse that such a market is subsidized by those governments saying they want to protect the planet? Do you need evidence of what ["conversion to agriculture"] you admit to be a “much greater drivers for deforestation”? Where do you live? When I get out of my farm in central Italy I see fields once devoted to food crops now covered with solar cells; my cousin heats his place burning corn seeds. This is happening in the present, due to initiatives taken in the past, within a policy that I don’t see how it should change in the future; I would like evidence of such a kind of changes of route (you mention for the future), implemented in the field, not in air-conditioned UN meeting rooms!. I am not damning the use of biofuels; if you read what I wrote, I’m damning those that favor deforestation. I am in favor of the use of agriculture by-products, of firewood from sustainable use of natural forests, etc.

David Derbowka Owner, Passive Remediation Systems Ltd

Carlo, Where do I start? Your points are well understood. You and I both favor bio-fuels of some sort. I think considering problems as opportunity and considering some nasty mess’s as a resource, the picture can clear up a bit. The sun will keep shining and the Earth will revolve as usual, I think, is a fair assumption. Do we know what’s the most efficient form of energy production; solar voltaic cells or greenery growth? It’s interesting what new direction will happen as we learn fossil fuel as energy, is just about an unethical choice for planet health issues. Sun power is an adaptable option on much of Earth’s face. I see an increase in land mass worldwide with a garbage dump underneath. I identify many of those methane emitting stench holes as a place for a forest. In fact, “Everyone’s Park” used as a revolving bio-mass producer seems Earth friendly to me. Send me your email if you want so I can send you my video explaining what is being done and what I dream may be a part of the change needed on Earth. I do ISO accredited reporting in my jurisdiction to account carbon sequestered. This is where we might like to start a discussion…

Alen Berta project manager in natural resources division, GIS analyst at Oikon – Institute for applied ecology

that is true… reforestation alone can not offset all CO2 emission, it must be only part of solution. Example is my small country, Croatia; to offset all CO2 emissions we should have 3 million hectares of high yield forests, but we have only about 1 million hectares.

So we should reforest 2 million hectares of land (and wait them to be fully grown), and whole country is 4,5 million hectares big.

As you can imagine, it is not possible, so we must reduce CO2 emission while we are stopping deforestation and conducting reforestation.

Michael Dutschke Owner of biocarbon consult

The question is, what do we need energy for? Producing energy will always sacrifice other goods. The problem started with a linear economy, carving it’s way through known resources, ignoring all the unexplored opportunities and leaving behind barren land. Fighting back in a linear manner means slowing down economic development and breaking up into a different direction, which eventually will crash against the next boundary. It’s obvious, even the most benign activities, like tree-planting, will harm the environment, if they are sustained against all odds. Therefore, we need a new cyclical, systemic paradigm that consists of making use of many more resources than we currently know, and only to the extend they can be renewed, while considering their interactions. Nowadays, mankind has a much higher capacity in dealing with complexities than it had 25 years ago. And also, put to work the experience and creativity of all humans, not just the happy billion.

Chris Hemmings OC Five Trillion Trees – Universal Industrial Offset Mechanism

Trouble is, the “we must do this but also cut carbon use” tactic falls into the chasm of lack of clarity. How much should we do? Then the crass carbon market stepped in and now seems to work against reforestation.

I push for a century of Restoration, to convert marginal lands to living, sustained ecological buffer zones, harboring not just carbon but also species, habitats and the crucial contiguancies needed for meaningful ecological custodianship. This has to be a global endeavor and should be seen as “Climate Action Plus”.

Erik van Lennep Ecological Counsel at Circle Square Foundation

Yes!! This is the century we have to reconnect all the pieces we tore apart the past two hundred years and more. And today is the day we must evolve our thinking and our rhetoric from sustainability toward regeneration in all things. The cool thing about this, is that anytime we shift phases or states, energy is released. And economies are based upon such energy flows. So by shifting to a regenerative paradigm, new economies are born.

Much of the pain now being felt in the “crash” is related to attempts to cling on to a dying paradigm. No wonder it feels so bad! Let’s stop the necrophilia and move on.

David Okul Forestry Consultant at Karen Blixen Camp

While promoting indigenous tree and shrub planting in the Mara, Kenya, I am always asked if it is really necessary. Well, I keep my answer simple in regards to Carbon forestry ” The major GHG is carbon dioxide, plants absorb carbon dioxide while growing, and woody plants are big and have a longer lifespan (compared to other plants) so they must be reducing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere!”.

I think tree planting should be encouraged all over the world

Posted in Carbon economics, Carbon market, Carbon sinks, Climate politics, Development issues, Green politics,, Greenhouse gases and climate change, New forests and woodland, REDD+ | Leave a comment

“Burn our planet or face financial meltdown. Not much of a choice.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/21/carbon-problems-financial-crisis-hutton

Very simply and to paraphrase for those of you who have so little time that you cannot spare ten minutes to scan the above Will Hutton assessment it runs like this:
“We lost and we’re all doomed”.

or

“The scheming right wing libertarian plutocrats have got their wicked way by plying to the people’s personal avarice rather than instill social responsibility”.

or

“Here’s my towel and I’m throwing it in”.

Too many of us  need stuff like fast cars, foreign holidays, fighting wars, second homes and tomorrow’s new gizmos. What’s more in order to create employment for people, such that they can attempt to pay for all their apparent necessities, these services are wholly required by a modern, global society. All this needs must be underpinned by the continued extraction and burning of whatever source of fossilised carbon we can find. The efficiency of such processes seems to be increased by allocating ownership and, thus control over the use, to as few individuals as possible – the market smiles upon monopoly.

Will bemoans the European Eunion’s inability to stand up to the carbon market it had itself set up and say “Hey, you, play this game properly. We all know you’ve been cheating so we now want to spend a whole lot of money on you to make the rules fair. And then you must PROMISE to play the game properly or we shall sulk very much. See!” Instead, the European Eunion has just said “Sod it” and, presumably, went off to sulk anyway.

“Psst, hey, you, wanna buy some carbon credits. Special offer today only -  we’re giving two for the price of one and, if you pay a bit extra, we’ll wait until tomorrow before we devalue them by a further 75%”. Yeah, I know, I’ve writ that before but these guys even ring me up, you know!

Clearly the mechanism ain’t working. Some of us always felt it was a pointless distraction from the reality of the modern World, in some bizzarre manner imagining that creating a new market in obscure permits would have any effect other than to hasten the decline in heavy industry in the developed world and it’s move to poorer areas where profits could be far higher when wages were so much lower. And, of course, where environmental lobbies would be easily squashed.

OK, well all that has indeed happened but now Hutton is giving the destructivist agenda extra fillip by suggesting they have won a rational debate.

“A decade long fierce fightback by the conservative right…..has struck a near fatal blow to the climate change case. CC deniers insist that the volatility in world weather patterns and the rise in temperatures evident in the rapidly melting Arctic  are most likely natural phenomena and the science is wrong.” He goes on: “Or even if it is right, the better option is to adapt to climate change rather than give in to “socialism” to prevent it.”

The prominence and widespread acceptance of this stance, he reckons, is due to the geo-political constructs of today, particularly arising in the economically dominating, Anglo-Saxon centred countries, which, he seems to feel, is un-resistable. The oddly phrased title to the piece is, as far as I can see, not the threat being posed to triumph in this contest. They are saying “Burn our planet or be stuck in permanent recession”. The way out of the present collection of economic catastrophes is seen as growth through cheap carbon. Burn, burn, burn our way out of the doldrums, produce, produce, produce, consume, consume, consume, increase your debt this time to save the global economy. (Remember the same cry to restore the American economy post the terrorist attack on New York?)

So William would then have “today’s scientists ….take on the right in order to prove that climate change is man-made” which is again wrong – for several reasons

  1. It’s not the scientist’s role.
  2. Climate change is not a simple on-off switch.
  3. Climate change is only one of the many symptoms of the malaise.

When it boils down to it we are, once again, in “The Tragedy of Expertise”. This exploding problem of modernity is such that in order to become an expert and have your opinion valued, you have to lose any sense of perspective and objective rationality. Within an arena of expertise there is such intense internal scrutiny that you are drummed out if you do not conform and so are unable to stretch understanding beyond zones of comfort.

Thus he ends by stating “what is needed is a new [way] to do capitalism..in which enlightened self interest is hard wired into its operation. This report:

http://www.carbontracker.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/08/Unburnable-Carbon-Full1.pdf

“contains instruments which…mesh with….stakeholder capitalism…to underpin a new consensus and a new narrative.”

Hastily, he ends: “There is no time to lose.”

So, we tweak stuff around a bit and it’ll all be OK?

Obviously not.  This is what happened when economists led us into the Carbon Market LockIn Maze in the first place – run around for a few years, totally lost, often told “We’ll be out of here soon” but knowing you’re getting absolutely nowhere all the time. It’s not a new economy we require -  it’s a new mentality which is not led by the marketplace, not led by promises of a better tomorrow but by actively creating the better place, the stable and sustainable future on a daily basis. The economies, the economics of such will emerge – they should in no way pre-form or define it.Such is the route to further disaster.

Posted in Carbon economics, Carbon market, Climate politics, Green politics, | 3 Comments

How do you price the tonne of carbon that, once burned, tips the balance and triggers catastrophic, irreversible global warming?

[I wrote this a couple of years ago for The Ecologist. They didn't use it but, hey, I still like it. It was a valid question and emphasises the position of inevitable no return we seem to be sailing through with total disregard as "our" attention is sharply focused on the quick buck......]

For one tiny moment this can be taken as a serious question. Well, it’s written dead pan and uses all the right words. The English makes an apparently rational question. And you wrestle, you struggle, get thrown to the floor even , before you smile wanly, “Oh, it’s a joke”. Like, did the last one to leave the Chernobyl nuclear power station turn out the lights?

Can you picture the scene in the TaiPei Community District Power Station, boiler number 7b, when they come to stoke up for the mid-evening power rush. “Hey, here comes that tonne, comrades. You know, the one which is going to tip the atmospheric balance and give us catastrophic global warming. Do any of you know what we paid for it?” “No comrade, but I do know that that water wasn’t coming in through the door five minutes ago.”

Of course there’s no such point. If there were, how could we ever determine it? We may deal in generalities easily and in gross quantities. We know what goes into the equation but not what comes out.

So there are three trillion tonnes of Carbon di Oxide in our atmosphere to which we add about 0.5% (15 billion tonnes) each year. This is net, as twice this is actually released. Some is fixed to vegetation, some more is dissolved in water, maybe some becomes shellfish and more ends in the soil. It’s released as forest clearance, slash and burn, by agriculture, by fossil fuel use and even by our collective breathing – there’s a few million gone to seven billion of us in a very short time!

Carbon, once burned, sits in our atmosphere as an invisible record of our use of the energy it once stored. Ask a school kid about it and the answer will include the carbon cycle and climate change. How the breakdown in the former leads to the latter. They’ll give you the solution, too – let the cycle be restored, so’s it works again properly. But how? In detail they are unclear but many will tell you to “plant trees”.

But “No” we say. “That’s too simplistic.” What we must do is “use the market to propel people into situations where they voluntarily refrain from carbon burning through the application of the Principles of the Open Market”. To me this does seem a little questionable. The market has driven us all to the brink of disaster, where all our basic manufacturing and trading systems are in chaos and countless lives in ruins, yet this is still where we place our faith. It’s like asking a rapist for first aid or the burglar to put money on the meter before he leaves. No, it’s not going to happen.

So, maybe for inspiration, I turned to read. “The Forest Carbon Conundrum” a headline cried. “Allowing forest carbon to be traded freely alongside other carbon would send the carbon price tumbling”, it said, “by 57%”. Not 58% or even 55%, you note, and “some 82% of deforestation could be avoided”. But then it was less clear because, if you provided less “forest carbon credits”, you would “end up reducing the amount of continued deforestation by just 16% – an unacceptably small target”. This certainly spells out the nature of the problem most clearly. In a word “Sophistry”.

In real terms money is a measure of force. So the strong accumulate money; those with a position of strength or who maintain a monopoly on a vital resource have strength and so control the allocation of finance. When it comes to it, if the moneyed wish to burn carbon, then, like Nero in ancient Rome, they will ignore all the problems around them and continue in their actions. Yes and he allowed Rome to burn so the analogy is good!

There seems to be no reduction in the rate of increase of atmospheric “greenhouse gases” . Detailed reports from groups such as “Climate Action” [Climate Safety - in case of emergency… 2009] show the alarming evidence of this reality. They issue the standard pleas to reduce carbon use and detailed pictures of the newly revealed summer ocean at the North Pole. If we price carbon burning high in some parts of the World, carbon is burned elsewhere. Economics makes fools of us all.

What’s needed is to frame systems that carry us beyond the constraints of classical economics and into a wholly new mind set of sustainability and regeneration. This has to be proactive, setting real goals and defining the methodologies to get there. We’ve known this for thirty years and more and many of us are deeply frustrated, not by the lack of progress but by the appalling regression we have been witnessing.

Yes, planting trees does work. Moving to restore the lost half of the Global forest would cleanse the atmosphere beautifully – the sums add up! Small groupings such as “The Global Restoration Network”, “The Earth Restoration Service” and, of course, “The Society for Ecological Restoration International” provide expression of this, as deeply concerned, highly informed and motivated people have gathered to express modes in which we can avoid having to price carbon but simply work to build new social landscapes, where mankind and Earth can indeed interact in a sustainable manner.

There’s little point in putting a price on that tonne. If we ever got there, the price would have been too high.

Posted in Carbon market, Climate chemistry, Climate politics, Green politics,, Greenhouse gases and climate change, Land use, New forests and woodland, REDD+ | Leave a comment

Forest Gump and the Skepsies

Sometimes they just write themselves. I’m concerned about misinformation, short sightedness and unclear thinking in any debate. Certainly the climate issue is not uncommon in having background support for agents working to muddy the waters but $100,000,000 can buy a whole lot of internet blog-corrupters along with newspaper ads, school visits and booklet printing. The waters are well muddied by now and the following arose on a friend’s Facebook account. Out of the blue but I thought “Hey, ride with this”. So I did and I reckon it’s quite fun as well as informative in a range of ways.

I could be totally wrong but this is it as briefly edited:

Forest Gump and the Skepsies

Posting said:  “Google “algae lamp” or Pierre Calleja and you’ll find plenty of information”. You get a modern folly.

Joanne They are using Algae to extract CO2 at coal powered stations to the point they have barely any CO2 emission plus you have a by product which can be sold for a profit. Nature does have a way of dealing with life. Unfortunately humans thinks they know all the answers.

Chris Every 1% increase in co2 equals a 10% increase in crop production. Removing Co2 would cause a significant drop in crop yields potentially starving millions. Any increase well you get the idea.

Me  This is a nice fantasy posting and discussion David, and I love the suggestion that the last couple of hundred years have given exponential increase to botanic productivity with around 40% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels already.

Algae are great but equivalent to coppicing and essentially carbon neutral.

Joanne Chris do you really think humans have got that equation right. I don’t think they have.

Me Which equation?

Me Fantasy:

http://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/venice-to-get-half-of-its-electricity-from-algae.html

Venice to Get Half of Its Electricity From Algae

http://www.treehugger.com

Most talk of algae and renewable energy on TreeHugger involves liquid biofuels, [ This is a ludicrous suggestion that Venice could power itself on algal harvest]

Joanne I think I miss understood…haven’t seen that one before. I do know they were looking at burning the dried algae but only to supplement coal or other fuel powered stations. Most of the algae looking as a food source for animals etc.

Me Like this guy, Ozzie Zehner, I’m deeply Green and looking for sane routes forward. We must, however, be realistic!

Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism [ An excellent book pointing to truly green routes ahead as opposed to tinkerings such as solar power and windmills]

Joanne This is being used in Oz

http://www.pacetoday.com.au/features/australian-first-project-at-tarong-power-station-u

Australian-first project at Tarong Power Station uses algae to absorb carbon emissions

MeWhich is much better than the UK proposal to pump the captured gas into now drained oil wells and “sealing” it there. It’s shelved now, anyway, cos it costs too much.

Joanne Bloody Brits…can’t think outside the box..

Me Beaureafatcats, I’m afraid!

Chris CO2 levels have not increased 40%. Measured in PPM sure its increased 40% but what does that mean? As a percentage of atmospheric gas it hasnt changed much.

And using this silly way of measurement, in your home co2 levels rise 1,000%

And in prehistoric time co2 levels where 2,000% times higher than today measured in PPM.

But in actuality CO2 remains around .03% and optimum vegetation growth would be around around .20%

Figures dont lie, but liars figure

Me OK, Chris, if you want to play “How do we look at these statistics?” how’s about this: “There’s now an extra trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide up there in the atmosphere”.

CO2, like water vapour and other gases up there, have more of a catalytic effect – they enable heat retention and a seemingly small increase in concentration has a large effect on heat retention.

In prehistoric times atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were indeed much higher at times. In the age of the dinosaurs they were typically 1000 ppm. There were also no polar ice caps and a lot more water in the seas!

Optimal vegetation growth is, of course, dependent on a range of variables – CO2, temperature, moisture, minerals, air pressure even. At ecological steady state a balance is found, usually restrained by one limiting factor of those given. But “optimum” is dependent on the species present – thus today’s vegetation is greatly different from Jurassic.

“Figures don’t lie – but liars figure”. Well, what can I say? Oh yes, “Go figure”.

Chris I hear a lot about what the effects of CO2 are going to be, yet every climate model put forth seems to be not only wrong but in a direct opposition to reality.

Increased temp, moisture and CO2 levels will result in a direct increase on vegetation.

Which by the way is exactly what you’re so afraid of. BUT………..

The industrial revolution started some 200 years ago, and not much has changed.

In the ‘70′s scientists were sure humans would cause an ice age. Then [in] the 90′s it was warming, and now in 2000 it’s change. It seems being wrong so many times before that they decided to set the bar low enough that no one would trip over it.

Chris http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hockey_stick_chart_ipcc_large.jpg

File:Hockey stick chart ipcc large.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

[Posting the hockey stick diagram, although he never said why – nor can I imagine how it helped his drift. Sigh.]

Joanne  A model is only as good as the information that is put into it. For the last few years we have been having trouble with our Bureau of Meteorology in their flood predictions for our large river system here. They have been getting it wrong… and very badly due to the fact they have not put enough information into their models of past floods. Also each flood had different events happening so no one flood is going to be the same the most of us long term locals can get it right by looking up the past events so why can’t they and they have the degrees. They eventually listen but often not until too late.

Joanne I did read somewhere that Scientist where going to re assess the recorded temps for the last 200 years as they considered them too low. That to me is manipulation of the the facts.

Chris http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWDc6lpcqzc

The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change?

[This reference is to Freedomain Radio which “is the largest and most popular philosophy show on the web” and this was the most pathetic “There is no such thing as man made climate change” tirade I’ve seen in a while!]

Me Please, give me more vegetation – that’s what I’m pushing for!

http://fivetrilliontrees.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/a-carbon-fixation-2/

[I had to push my blog so this seemed an appropriate one to put up for it!]

Comb through the Five Trillion Trees site and you’ll find quite a wide perspective on climate change and its relationship to human activities

Chris There were no ice caps? Well that’s funny because ice core samples are how we are sure of the co2 levels from that long ago.

And in that time of high co2 the world went through multiple ice ages.

Chris The planet was here long ago, and will be here after us. It’s only people so bold in their ignorance that can think they can save the planet when they can’t even take care of themselves.

MeThere were no ice caps 60 million years ago. Our ice core record is not counted in millions of years but hundreds of thousands at best. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_core

Me“People so bold in their ignorance”? You mean me? Or could it just be you? I least I get my facts clear.

Chris Dating methods on ice core are nothing more than a guess as deeper ice blends together.

But this being said do the deeper layers show more or less co2.

If ice ages are a more recent phenomenon shouldn’t you be more worried about everyone freezing to death the. Getting 1 degree warmer

MeNo, I’m not, because we’ve supercharged our atmosphere with greenhouse gases to last a thousand years or more and, anyway, we lived through the last few ice ages perfectly well – and without central heating in our caves or semi-automatic spears to kill our prey. Then, we could simply move south to where it was warmer and stay near the coasts – which were some 120 metres lower than today. The UK – my home – was not an island then but joined directly to Europe by vast plains, where there is now the North Sea. Similarly there was no Baring Strait and one could walk to “Russia” from “Alaska”. Fun times, eh?!

Chris Lol! The industrial revolution started 200 years ago. So if global warming is true obviously you should have a 200 year trend. But 20 years ago everyone was sure of global cooling and even today scientists steer away from saying global warming

Chris And also just as land has sunk into the sea, land has also Risen from it. Did global warming cause new land to appear in other areas ?

Joanne  Guys…I see common points in your logic but to me core sampling of ice is only good if that ice was actually there when all the things were happening. All it takes is one or two volcanic eruptions and it alter our climate significantly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laki

Me“Common points to our logic”, Joanne? Please – at least I have logic!

200 years from a very low start so obviously very low impact. There’s been more industry in the last thirty years than the rest of human history put together. And tropical forests have shown a similar decline over the same period – cut down by us. It’s NOW this is all happening – hence the concern.

Sure land moves anyway, relative to the rest, and this complicates measurement. So the Himalayas have been pushed up quite recently, but that’s still 50 million years ago. The ice age ended little over ten thousand years ago – hardly any time at all! It seems the UK, being at the edge of the great glacial ice sheet, had vastly more ice over Scotland than the south. When it all melted the loss of physical weight over Scotland allowed the earth to literally spring back up. In turn this has pushed the south down into the seas more, pivoted around the middle somewhere!

No “global warming” does not cause land to rise from the sea.

Yes, Joanne, a Krakatoa type volcanic eruption pushing vast amounts of ash into the atmosphere could have a strong impact but it would pass, leaving little change to the greenhouse gas concentration of the atmosphere. Whether the ash would be called climate changing I doubt as it is temporary. Carbon dioxide and other GHG stay up there and have significant, long term impact.

Joanne Chris [That's me, not the other contributor]…you have not researched well on the period from 1783-85. It killed over 6 million people and desimated the land. And lets not forget poor old Mississippi freezing over down in the South which it had not known to have done. I am not with you actually I find your reasoning to be disjointed. I don’t think anyone will disagree that the world has been warming up since the mini ice age. And besides it was darned hot before the 13th Century so what caused the Earth to cool down for that period. We seem to be more alarmed at getting warm than we are that we could get very cold.

Volcanic activity and shifts in subsurface plates will cause land to rise or fall. Given that 80% of volcanic activity is underwater I would think there is more movement under the ocean than scientists will ever get to measure. Also what about the Jungles and Dinosaurs that roamed Australia. That was before the mini ice age. Australia has been drying out for years yet people claim it is only recent.

The fact is there are numeous models on “global warming” yet so many unanswered questions.

MeJoanne, you castigate my research as disjointed and yet supply an odd group of unconnected observations which demonstrate nothing other than this is clearly not your subject. It is mine and I know a great deal about the nature of the present imbalances and the factors that have led up them. Further I have extensively researched relevant short, medium and long term historical and archaeological data so as to give a clear and, yes, balanced assessment.

For medieval era history and analysis I refer you to Professor William F Ruddiman, University of Virginia. His book “Plows, plagues and petroleum” is a short, clear depiction of events and is drawn from much, detailed research.

Read it and if you’ve any further questions or observations I’ll be happy to help you develop an objective understanding of this complex subject.

Joanne What research…I put up a link about one of the biggest Volcanic eruptions that has happened in recent years 1783 -1785 and you quote “Krakatoa”…”Yes, Joanne, a Krakatoa type volcanic eruption pushing vast amounts of ash into the atmosphere could have a strong impact but it would pass, leaving little change to the greenhouse gas concentration of the atmosphere. Whether the ash would be called climate changing I doubt as it is temporary. Carbon dioxide and other GHG stay up there and have significant, long term impact.” Kradatoa pales into insignificance compared to this.

Chris So I’m confused are you worried about global warming or cooling?

MeExpanding the scope, Joanne, I referred to Krakatoa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krakatoa)  which seems to me to be similar in scope and effect to the Icelandic one, and it’s been repetitive, to boot, so will happen again. I agree that Laki was big and not pleasant! My points remain, though. The effects pass in a couple of years. Sulphur dioxide is rained out of the skies very quickly – the same acid rain we get from burning dirty coal, in fact – and ash filtering out the sun can be the longest lasting effect. Little carbon dioxide is released by volcanic activity, no matter how big the volcano.

But Chris I’m not actually worried about the increase in mean global temperature. It’s not got much impact on me that I can tell. It usually rains in Wales, anyway. Just don’t get much snow in the winter any more, but that’s no bad thing. Cooling back to ice age seems many thousands of years away now, post human fossil fuel combustion, so, again, little to worry about. Increased atmospheric turbulence – storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, very heavy rainfall and the like – plus regions with severe drought will be par for the course and far more immediate worry to those concerned.

And the slow, inevitable rise in sea levels, drowning cities like New York will, like as not, be quite boring to watch – not as portrayed in “The day after tomorrow” where one tidal wave did it! Who knows, there may come a tipping point. Greenland ice sheets look increasingly precarious as melt waters flow rapidly through and underneath them. The vast area of Doggerland was suddenly drowned, it seems, by the collapse of a Scandinavian ice sheet some 7000 years ago.

But our cavalier attitude towards the natural environment and the blase manner in which we attempt to extract whatever we want from it whilst putting little back, save pollution and a decimated landscape, both worry me a lot. “Green” fantasies – such as the lamps which launched this discussion – they worry me, too, because they’re simply that – fantasies – and a kind of fraud. And the longer this goes on, the greater the worry.

Chris So you’re worried about something, but you cant really define what it is. But….you’re sure it’s from CO2 and the only way to stop it is give more power to the government, which by the way is largest polluter in the world.

Yes this seems legit.

Me  I am concerned by a lot, as I clearly describe. Carbon dioxide release is one of a number of factors involved – cutting down forests leads to the release of a lot of CO2 but it also devastates the natural environment, rendering many species extinct, driving soil loss and so increasing flooding risks downstream. It’s complicated, see? But, yeah, extra CO2 in the atmosphere is altering our climate. Year on year on year and frankly there’s no point worrying. It’s gonna happen whatever.

Who said ANYTHING about increased government power. Not me, for sure. What the hell do they know or ever achieve – look at the Venice reference I posted earlier.

As the great American Forest Gump so clearly said “That’s all I’ve gotta say on this matter” So me with this chat. Ciao folks, and thanks for the space, David.

 

Posted in Acid rain, Biodiversity, Climate carbon history, Climate chemistry, Climate politics, Green politics,, Volcanic action and climate | Leave a comment

A Carbon Fixation.

[This is another slightly older text - 2009 - now updated, combed through and, I hope, broadening the contexting of present goals]

Anthropogenic atmospheric carbon is spoken of as released annually on a 60:20:20 basis, as close as we seem able to determine, as industrial carbon burning (including power generation and vehicle use) : farming : forest clearance. These days the annual release is in the order of 30 billion tonnes in total.

I would argue that the three contributors to climate change must not be linked together in our addressing of them, as they are radically different to each other in their nature.

  1. Industrial. Currently being targeted by the “carbon credit” market in differing assignations in the developed World, as I’ve covered often before. This is economics fighting economics and, I guess, economics will probably win. I could expand on this point but, suffice to say, this time,  that the approach is indirect and has questionable outcomes.
  1. Agricultural carbon. Currently being almost totally ignored on the grounds that there are so many of us and so many are starving that we must not even criticise farmers, let alone put further constraints upon them. As they tend to be a powerful lobby group they can respond to or even forestall moves to guide them in new and more sustainable directions. Agriculture has always been established by clearing the natural ecosystems and this process continues today. Slash and burn rotational land use has been eclipsed by slash, burn and settle. As bees will concur, pesticide use is quietly extending this clearance to this very day even under our noses in a most sinister manner. Additionally is the more obvious continued and rapid destruction of tropical rainforests.
  1. The above ongoing forest loss produces some 20% of annual release of carbon to the atmosphere. There is evidence, in the research and writings of Dr Simon Lewis (Leeds) and others elsewhere, who suggest an opposite movement of carbon into the remaining forests through their uptake of additional bulk, over and above that which they would normally use. They talk of an additionality of say three to four billion tonnes of carbon per annum.  This is equivalent to a couple of million hectares growing at full pelt eg post coppicing or early maturity of planted forest. An area akin to that of Wales. These do not exist and they envisage this growth incorporated into the sustainably increased bulk of existing mature forests. On an annual basis. As remaining forests shrink. No further comment is necessary at this point!.

Measurements have, however, provided a substantial anomaly in the annual carbon balance sheet as, although it can be demonstrated that the above listed three anthropogenic sources produce thirty billion tonnes carbon dioxide release each year, only half of this amount stays there. The absorption of some 15 billion tonnes of atmospheric carbon annually by the natural global system does, then, require understanding.

There are a number of “sinks” which include forests, of course, as part of the sustained transfers of the natural ecosystems. Organisms live, breathe, photosynthesise, die and eat each other in the natural order of things of course and every school kid can draw a carbon cycle. Put figures for the bulk transfer of carbon from one form to another annually and it totally dwarfs the anthropogenic contribution. But they are in balance and we’re tipping it. This is the basis of all the climate change discussion and must be understood when seeking solutions.

Crucially, it seems, we must try to restore a balance. This requires a multi targeted approach and needs some further background information. Unclear, as implied above, is the “half-life” of additional atmospheric carbon. We know that its level naturally changes, as witnessed by data from ice core samples, ocean Foraminifera deposits and so on. These lead to a conclusion of the last thirty years having led to a very unnatural high which is ever increasing. The data are hard to quibble with and are generally accepted as benchmarks for discussion.

Carbon is absorbed in photosynthesis by plants and into oceans by inorganic chemistry. Dissolved in rain water, as carbonic acid, it reacts with lime and limestone, probably with net carbon absorption from the atmosphere (essentially the same as at sea). Otherwise further atmospheric chemistry can also associate and dissociate the carbon compounds and clear them from the air. If no fossil carbon were released into the atmosphere from today, how long would today’s too high level remain constant?

It’s a trick question, of course, as there would still be forty percent of present release through agriculture and forest clearance, which instantly shows up the flaw in the conjecture! Anyway, if no fossil carbon use then how do forestry and farming continue? If, we assume no continued additionality then one conjectures that natural sinks could remove the excess.

In fact, at the present rate of loss to sinks the thousand magatonnes of accumulated anthropo-generated carbon dioxide would be removed in just under seventy years

 (This also ignores the result of removing anthropogenic particulates from the atmosphere. This ever present shield seems to absorb or reflect solar radiation in the atmosphere and so protect from effects of further global warming. Maybe. Sort of. Well, it was observed when planes were grounded post 9/11 in the USA.)

 

OK, so can we both shut down and wait 70 years? The first is an obvious “No” but the second sounds almost reasonable. Back to sustainability for the grandchildren of today’s youngsters. And the interim? Continued anthropogenic climate change and, realistically, we’re only going to cut  carbon release by a fraction and only a good few years down the line.

In which case the total carbon load will continue to increase. And let’s look at the present removal of fifteen billion tonnes over and above natural carbon fixation (“background”). Wherever it’s going, it is over and above the natural tolerance. At ecological stasis it should no longer be net flow, or there’d be no stasis, no mean. We would soon be in atmospheric carbon poverty.

If, in the middle ages, fifteen billion tonnes had been lost to the atmosphere on an annual basis then it would all have gone in 170 years. Plainly that didn’t happen so what limits matters now? One should handle this issue with care – as any tightrope walker knows, balance needs hard work to be maintained. (Although they might also say “Don’t think about it as you maintain your balance naturally”!)

The concept of “dynamic equilibrium“ is ecological truism. There is never any stasis and yet this maintains balance. You see it as seasons progress and different species appear and prosper at the time most suited to their physiologies. By day and night, too, and as the decades progress. Have a mini ice age and the species mix changes. Tree archaeologists can demonstrate such movements up and down North America of coniferous and deciduous trees over ten of thousands of years. Obviously it’s a whole lot easier for more mobile animals.

As with living materials, so also with the physical components. Remove a soil nutrient and the plants die, decompose and release the nutrient again. Meanwhile the animal population has drifted away and saprophytes, fungi and the like worked on the recycling. Then, yes, seeds germinate, new plants grow and the animals return. Sorry, I labour the point but it’s important. I could even insert a graph or two to illustrate the affair. Homeostasis allows levels to fluctuate about an ideal. In fact the level rarely stands at that ideal, it is just the mean.

Is there a given carbon dioxide mean for our global ecosystem? Here one is in danger of rambling in a Gaeist manner but it is worth exploring – without any personification! Elevated levels of carbon dioxide should drive all the reversible reactions in the direction opposed to its concentration. Hence Dr Lewis’ theorised huge increases in forest bulk. Myself, I prefer to think of the dynamics of bicarbonate and carbonate formation as marine held carbon dioxide, but this, too, is fraught with myriad uncertainties. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, there is strong evidence of an ongoing, natural net carbon release from the oceans.

So, sadly, I cannot demonstrate a mechanism of  “dynamic equilibrium” to handle our current status as gross carbon releasers. Although there was an approximate stasis level and there were no net gains to trees or to the seas (presumably) we have no clear picture of even the destinies of the current atmospheric excesses, let alone their dynamics. If the ab or ad-sorption of fifteen billion tonnes per annum is a homeostasic mechanism, then we do not know how it was turned on or, indeed and worryingly, how it could be turned off!

Anyway, realistically, the atmospheric carbon level will continue to increase and, although the developed World will over coming decades reduce their inefficiencies of use, one is inclined to imagine that gross levels of consumption will be maintained or, even, increase – as has happened recently by displacement of manufacturing to China and such countries. Zimbabwe next, anyone? They’ve a wonderfully taciturn government so we should manage ten or twenty years there before we’re moved on. And I tell you labour is really cheap. You know ten for the price one – just give them some sadza meal.

No, I grant that carbon economics does have some effect, even if it only works “at home”. We must spread the proceeds wisely – intense insulation of heat leaking homes, for major example, that needs several billion (say 15) pounds urgently in the UK alone- but other approaches are needed if we are to restore a balance to our ecology, to a semblance of its natural state, and then supplement it with additional actions.

So let’s roll in the economists. First agricultural ones – how can you reduce the deterioration of marginal lands but also support large numbers of marginal farmers? Taxes? Subsidies? Free trade? Or even Fair Trade? And methane – livestock, paddy fields, beans? (OK, beans is a joke – sort of). Then there’s carbon rich arable – fertilisers, machinery and, of course, forest clearance. This area is such a warren I think I’ll move straight on.

To forests and the intense carbon trapping/harvesting vegetation of the World. At the present rate we have three hundred years of rainforest left, but remember global forest cover is already less than fifty percent of it’s original, optimal level. Where’s all that carbon now? Wherever, it’s mostly out of the cycle and its loss has increased the instability of our present state.

Some is part of today’s atmospheric levels. Let’s look at that fraction. You have to feel sorry for it because it’s homeless. That’s right, it’s got nowhere to go because we burned its terrestrial home and now, well it could fight to become a bit of a soya bean – but it’s so short term and, anyway, who wants to become methane or, even, prime Aberdeen Angus. It may just end up lost and inorganic – out of the schoolkids’ cycle.

Objectivity is a wholly subjective decision, isn’t it. Generally I’m objective and you’re subjective. Can’t you even see that? But here I do try to retain an observer’s view. You know, that of my putative Great Grandchildren. Planting trees one always has to think long term but this has double force. I can see that the issues I’ve discussed above have many unknowns.  (Go away Dick Cheney) and there is an inertia which always says “We’ll muddle through.” and “It might be awful, but we’ll be OK”. But to me it seems so clear that we must systematically organise to restore our natural vegetative carbon fixation on a Global basis.

It’s urgent as it is the only way to bring back the natural buoyancy of the system. If the forests were a natural buffer on carbon dioxide change then that protection is sorely diminished. The challenge is the mechanisms we could use. Economists? Nah, pigs might fly.

How about a separate Global Forest Credit, paid for increases in a county’s net forest cover and sustained. Tie this to a global fossil fuel extraction tariff and, maybe, some system of food exportation tariff used to support small farmers to work to feed local populations in a sustainable manner. Of course there should be a ban on any net reduction of forest cover, penalized drastically. I’m not sure how but it’d have to be fierce!

That’s it. Job done. Next problem? Medical mistakes? Oh, yes, well we’ll have time to think about that again, now. Now we’ve got a sustainable future!

Posted in Buffering the terrestrial carbon cycle, Carbon market, Carbon sinks, Climate politics, Gaia, Green politics,, New forests and woodland, Rainforest | Leave a comment

Michael’s Moot, an extraordinary meeting – honest, constructive and so much cheaper than Doha

OK, OK, OK, I must write up the minutes of this gathering. In fact, I will call it a moot – Michael’s Moot. He called it to discuss the ongoing deterioration in the global forest and the eminent failure of current methodologies to counteract less even correct this increasingly catastrophic scenario. Sleepwalking to a treeless planet.

Insufficient support is being drawn into forest communities and forest planting and market conditions increasingly prevail to encourage harvest of forest trees. Carbon credits, a theoretical source of funding for these urgent needs, have been debased in value down to practically zero and, due to the lower profile and difficult to quantify nature of forestry work, most of this now paltry stream of revenue is drawn to bijou energy projects and the like – short term, high visibility, quick return projects.

Several participants were determined the carbon price should be driven up. Some seemed to think a wee bit of adjustment should bring this about – restricting allocation, even retiring them out of circulation. However, I cannot feel there is coincidence in the fact that the sharp decline in the value of carbon credits has followed the flooding of the market with new sources of fossil carbon, driving back the apparent “Peak Oil” moment by a considerable, maybe unmeasurable, time.

So aside from US fracking and now UK and doubtless many other upcoming locations, we also have the prospect of massive Israeli/Syrian oil reserves under the Mediterranean Sea and onland in Syria and,  if they can only extract it, there’s masses of tar sands in Jordan – more there than in Canada, it seems. Oh, yes, and there’s Falklands Oil in the South Atlantic.

So I reckon it’s safe to say that this is going to come to market. And be burned. Whereas there will be ongoing desire to burn it cleanly and efficiently and the carbon market can help drive this I feel the carbon producers will bear a constant pressure to keep the carbon price low.

There are several strands to the push for forestry. First, in Avoided Deforestation, is a drive to find as much local and exported use of the trees whilst reinforcing the trees’ health and productivity in terms of carbon fixation – ie increased bulk. Now, we have Dr Simon Lewis et al of Leeds University, and other groups, too, who figure they can demonstrate ongoing annual increments in tropical forest bulk, presumedly concordant with elevated atmospheric carbon levels and, possibly, higher mean ambient temperatures. Michael is referencing hands on management techniques to bring about even greater carbon sequestration.

To encourage this it seems rational to offer ways and means to generate capital reward for such activity. Undoubtedly this is where efficient baseline – starter point – measurement is required. Whereas simply keeping a control plot seems appealing such an action would be waylaid by oh so many possible slip ups. Dr Genevieve Patteneuve at Edinburgh University talked with me of her group’s increasing confidence – and competence, I guess – at establishing GPS baselines of considerable accuracy, and such seems to me to be “the way ahead”. There’s other teams offering the same lines of development.

To provide individual project baselines is, thus, achievable. Perhaps there could also be whole country baselines, too, to avoid displaced deforestation. Several contributors bemoaned the fact that standing forest has a hard time fighting off the short term desire to harvest a “cash crop” – even if it only goes to make dirt cheap furniture – and to establish a more rewarding crop on the site – soya beans and beef cattle in Brazil, palm oil in the Phillipines, coffee, sadza, you name it in Africa. Conservation and carbon management, even with Michael’s new inputs cannot and will not compete  without drastic extra interventions.

Top down global organisations breathing down the necks of the national governments are unclear as to their benefits. Whereas some say these are essential as the market alone has no drive to conserve, it is equally pointed out that countries like Brazil, where there’s so much hue and cry about conservation and protection, have appalling records and continue to rapidly loose their forest.

Possibly overridingly importantly several, such as Javier, pointed out that saving and establishing forest, with additional benefits other than just an entry in the carbon log, are much more popular with the public. They actively want these projects to be supported. Here is a crucial psychological support for this movement and it must be highlighted to the maximum.

On the other hand all seemed to agree or indicate that the recent Doha shindig practically drove the last nail into Kyoto’s coffin. The process limps on but with so few countries on board as to be near worthless. Andrew pointed out the only beneficiaries of these extravagant gatherings were the delegates, jetted off to meet up in sundry beautiful resorts all round the planet – Copenhagen, Rio, Durban and now Doha.

Finally, and in positive and constructive mode, Steven suggested there was a mood to collaborate so why didn’t we. After all, the only way to achieve results is to amalgamate and grow. This is what Exxon and Mobil oil companies did in 1999 and they are far stronger now. He didn’t spell it out but, of course, these are the opposition and there needs to be strength to push back against their might.

Or, perhaps, we must use slightly more subtlety in this. I spelled out my Carbon Extraction Levy, which Michael reckoned might just have it’s time coming now, as Kyoto wanes. I said I saw it as additional to carbon credits as it tackles a different area of the equation. As such it must attain approval from the big oil producers. With that, it could be relatively plain sailing.

Who’s for the ride?

Posted in Additionality, Biodiversity, Carbon market, Carbon sinks, Development issues, Green politics,, Land use, New forests and woodland, Rainforest, REDD+ | Leave a comment

REDD it again – cant see the wood, cant see the trees….

Further unexpurgated sage remarks drawn down from Linkdin. I’m treating it a bit like attending a conference on the crisis. I am the self appointed minuting secretary – though it also feels a bit like running an illicit still and drawing out the spirits of the contributions.

So, once more, take it away, Michael:

Michael Dutschke

Interesting point, Chris. CEL would be equivalent to a worldwide upstream carbon levy, including for fossil fuels. This is an idea dismissed in the Kyoto negotiations, which installed a downstream system, but still extremely reasonable. It might even be acceptable to petrol-exporting countries, because it would treat all carbon on equal footing. On the forestry side, it would mean full carbon accounting, which is technically challenging. A quick fix could be to compensate temporary emissions (biomass sources) with temporary credits (from A/R). In Brazil, and for other purposes, this has been existing for years, and it is called “Reposicao Florestal”. Pizzerias and steak houses that use fuelwood have to pay a certain fee per cubic meter for reforestation.

So you would end up with a fossil carbon market, which would slowly be regulated down and a biomass sector that would only be allowed to burn as much as is being restored. The only sector not involved in carbon trading would be renewable energies from wind, sunlight, water and waste.

I have been giving up inputting this type of systemic new ideas, as long as Kyoto was the game in town. As we see it eroding, perhaps this is a good time to start discussing principles again…

Me again

Thanks, Michael, and I so agree with your last point.

From the top, though:

1 – No way do I see this as a replacement for the existing carbon economy as Cap and Trade aims to reduce use and maximise efficiency of use. That should continue.

2 – If it’s applied evenly then I see every reson to agree with yopur assertion that it “might be acceptable to petrol exporting countries”. Also gas and coal exporting countries, I would hope.

3 – Already no tree should be harvested without its replacement which should require the planting of many more than just one sapling.

4 – How to draw nuclear energy into the equation I am not sure – but I imagine we could!

Michael Dutschke

Thanks for your comments Chris. Two amendments:

- I agree, it is not about swapping a full-grown tree for a seedling on a 1:1 basis. If you look at the Brazilian scheme, it also aims at increasing the forest cover.

- Nuclear energy cannot be captured in carbon terms, even though it clearly embodies GHG emissions in its footprint. I think the real issue is government backing. Had energy utilities to cover full risks on their own, in all geographical and temporal extension, they would never have started nuclear energy in the first place. Only by legally limiting liability nukes become economically viable.

And, coming back to forestry: The way to clean up the nuclear mess in places where it did go wrong is permanent conservation. Make the polluters pay!

Stephen Dickey

In my opinion there is only one way to prevent further deforestation and increase reforestation and that is to alter respective values. While I can buy a solid teak table and 6 chairs for $199 at my local hardware superstore we are never going to succeed. While palm oil delivers a higher value per hectare than any other use of the land we are never going to succeed. While poverty remains rampant and slash and burn the only feasible way of surviving for local comunities etc. etc.

So, we need to value the standing forests properly. We need to value forest products properly and we we need to provide alternative incomes to the communities that rely on the forests. Nobody will disagree with me here.

A carbon value gets us some way along the path. I believe we must have good MRV, work from a a baseline and it must be additional. However, it must NOT have to be permanent. We have 25 years to turn around climate change after which whatever we do will be of minimal value except adaptation. If we can stop deforestation for 25 years we have to trust that the cost of renewed deforestation then will be prohibitive. Again, if it is not we will have failed in every other respect (or we will have won!).

Sustainable forestry helps (though I have seen precious few examples – shame on the FSC) and is essential. Tariffs or levies on forest products would be useful but in the end we have make the forest – existing or potential – have REAL asset value. Until we do your arguments and your and my efforts are probably spurious.

Carlo Castellani

Again Stephen I see your position as too simplistic: one medicine solves all problems. I agree with you that valuing and building market values on forests, that is increasing their value as forests, contributes to their conservation by decreasing the convenience to their conversion, but history shows that nothing has been preserved thanks to that mechanism alone, forests the least. Further a great amount does not stay in the market because of uncertain ownership and tenure, lawless or poorly regulated conditions, remoteness, lack of information, etc. Attributing values to those forests won’t act quick enough to save them. On the contrary a huge amount of forests worldwide survives thanks to conservation efforts and authorities enforcing protection measures.

The two forces must act together: carrot and stick.

Stephen Dickey

Carlo I don’t mean to imply that there is a simple solution; far from it. We need multiple carrots and sticks. Of course we must have effective conservation and policy with stringent enforcement but this is stating the obvious. It will take many initiatives beyond policy to raise the value of forests.

I put this to you; we have policy in many countries, Myanmar, Brazil, Vietnam and Indonesia included (four of the worst deforesters) but the policies have only had a minimal impact on deforestation so far.

We have the time we have, Carlo. A shortage of time is no reason not to instigate commercial changes that result in a permanent solution based on solid commercial reasons. The tree in your garden is worth only what you need for it. If you are desperate to feed your family to survive and can plant a crop there then that value won’t be high. On the other hand if you already derive an income from its ongoing existence then your price will be much higher.

Michael Dutschke • Talking about weak carbon markets…

http://www.redd-monitor.org/2012/12/13/worst-fortnight-ever-for-carbon-markets/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Redd-monitor+%28REDD-Monitor%29

Which is reproduced  at the end of this discussion

Rob Carlow

Thank you Michael, probably the most depressing article I have seen for a while. In the words of the welsh band Stereophonics “you gotta go there to come back”. Will we look back at Doha as the final missed opportunity? Sadly the most depressing news here is not the mass fraud but the lack of leadership shown by our nations leaders. Is anyone able to add some balance to this and post a link that documents the positive outcomes from the latest COP? There is a challenge!

Michael Dutschke

Here’s a piece of innocent logics:

1. If we are really going for 4 degrees Celsius instead of 2, vegetation will change dramatically.

2. Under this condition, forest carbon will become a lottery.

3. Still, sustainable forestry and forest conservation will be the most effective large-scale adaptation measures.

4. Mix lottery and land-use adaptation, and you may get an insurance policy.

5. Polluters pay and the higher the forest cover of the insured country, the higher the coverage against climate damages.      …just a thought………

Andrew Steel

Fantastic discussion and I think as we all know there are many ways to skin a cat and the topic can spin off in some many directions.

I have to agree with Joseph though that tightening the cap is a simple market economic forces that should drive the price up. At this point it is simply too complex and too expensive to release the revenue at the moment. However Carbon Fix I thought were doing a good job in simplifying the process as VCS was also looking to be complex and stringent. I am not saying that MRV should be lax, just that we need a simpler system and CFS I thought were some way towards achieving that without the need to worry too much about complex baseline calculations.

We recently stopped all carbon work on a project in the northern part of Thailand simply as the client wished for more revenue to be directed towards actual reforestation rather than the promise of revenue which could in turn have been used to plant more trees and create a sustainable revenue stream as well as the additional costs for auditing and verification start to kill the argument as to why do it in the first place. It seems that certain entities have a stranglehold on this area and its not cost effective for villagers to engage international companies to ensure that they don’t have numerous CAR on their project – its a bit of a misnomer at the moment.

I also agree that REDD+ is so far away and to boot millions of USD spent and will it really be attractive for villagers not to cut trees to simply feed themselves. I don’t believe at this stage the economics in the long term stack up when you consider how much a villager will actually receive over the long term versus the value of a 60 year old teak tree that he can feed his family off for a month or two.

At this stage the only winners are the UN staff and consultants that are pushing the REDD agenda at the countless meetings around the world and when a country pledges a Billion dollars to a government to protect its forests and that figure in reality is only a fraction of what they make in Oil palm revenue taxes – then its an uphill struggle.

However going back to the original point, I don’t think we can move away from carbon but more so need to broaden the spectrum with PES being an additional inclusive element but above all it has to be simple and be able to be achieved by the masses to have any chance of slowing down the rate of deforestation or making it attractive to actually put the trees back.

Its not an easy task …. :)

Stephen Dickey

If we are so like minded we don’t we (and more like us) merge? I suspect it is because, if we are honest, we are trying to make a buck while doing good and there is a warning here; the major NGO’s have and are suffering because they do NOT consider joining forces. I once suggested Oxfam and WWF merge (I worked for both). The suggestion was met with incredulity but, in fact, they are very complimentary with much synergy and, combined would be a far more powerful voice. Sad, isn’t it? I recommend the paper “The 21st Century NGO” as sober reading on this subject.

The tougher and tighter this field gets at sub-national, national and international level the more likely disparate and fragmented participants will fall. I have seen too many claims from small players that they work “with” governments and international bodies. Maybe, but to what ends? None of any lasting benefit or weight in the bigger arena. If COP 18 has taught us anything it is that we do not have the power to influence. In the oil industry the voices of the big four carry enormous weight and when Exxon and Mobil joined forces in 1999 their sphere and depth of influence grew exponentially.

Why, then, do we persevere with the SME model in a game where big power is so very necessary. Governments are not threatened by minnows. Commercial loggers, minors and other corporate giants do not fear us (though they do fear Greenpeace – just ask Nestle).

I work in Burma only, am very small and am on the home straight of my career span. You youngsters should join forces and swallow your ego’s, pride or greed if you really want to tackle the problem and not take any comfort in getting the odd commission or project successfully under wraps. On that note how many of us have actually taken a project from inception to completion?

The same applies to the standards. The VCS is, in my opinion, fine and only because of their stringency and forced disciplines did I and my team learn so much in Tasmania which was a tiny project anyway but a damn good learning experience. My suggestion to all is to persuade Carbon Fix and others to join forces with VCS even if that creates a broad church, and leverage the power of size to become a true force (not that I think it will happen).

In the real world it is common to buy out competition or at least to work together in co-opetition (dreadful word). I see little or no evidence of it in the Environmental Services world and, as a result, we all see little or no progress.

(To be continued…….)

Addendum -  lifted from REDD watch.

Worst fortnight ever for carbon markets?

By Chris Lang, 13th December 2012

During the first week of the negotiations at COP18 in Doha, Martin Hession, a vice-chair of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), said that the main issue is, “[W]hat are the targets going to be in the future and what instruments are going to deliver on those targets.”

Hession’s wrong. The main issue is how we’re going to start leaving fossil fuels underground. But he’s right when he says that “The CDM is in a difficult situation at the moment.” Hession’s interest in is bailing out the carbon markets: “The problem is that there is no demand so the biggest challenge is to address how we can get that.”

Governments failed to negotiate new emissions reduction targets in Doha and carbon markets were left high and dry. The past two weeks may be the worst ever for carbon markets. Ken Newcombe helped create carbon markets through his work at the World Bank. He left the World Bank to make his fortune as a carbon trader, working at Climate Change Capital and Goldman Sachs before setting up his own firm, C-Quest Capital. He is now watching traders leave the carbon markets. He recently spoke to RenewEconomy:

“With very few exceptions, investment banks, commercial banks, commodity based hedge funds and specialised carbon funds with exposure to the CDM have either closed shop and laid off their deal teams or appointed caretakers to manage portfolios of assets with residual value.

“Those business still active in the CDM are the ‘walking dead’ of the carbon market. They are living on deals done at higher prices years back and are living on borrowed time, if not borrowed money.”

Here are some of the highlights of the worst fortnight ever for carbon markets:

  1. 4 December 2012: City of London Police arrested 11 people after an investigation into “fraudulent” investment firms selling carbon credits: Hudson Forbes, CT Carbon and Burlington Energy Markets were the companies involved. Detective Inspector Matthew Bradford, of City of London Police, said,
  • “Carbon credits are the latest in a growing list of products marketed by fraudsters as a sure fire way to make maximum profits with minimal risks. They exploit people’s misguided belief that environmental investments cannot fail, and then use teams of cold callers to seal the deals, often bullying victims into handing over their savings against their better judgement.
  • “Carbon credits are designed for companies and small businesses to offset their carbon emissions, and definitely not for the individual investor looking to buy and sell.”
  1. 5 December 2012: The carbon trading exchange BlueNext closed. BlueNext is owned by NYSE Euronext and Groupe Caisse des Dépôts, a state-owned French investment vehicle. In April 2012, NYSE Euronext closed its Asian and US carbon operations. Duncan Niederauer, NYSE Euronext chief executive, said,
  • “This is not a verdict on the environmental space — simply a recognition that the development of this market will take longer than we or our shareholders are willing to wait”
  1. 8 December 2012: While Doha agreed to a second Kyoto period, running until 2020, the countries bound by the second period account for only 15% of global emissions. Meanwhile, negotiators in Doha allowed around 7 billion surplus Assigned Amount Units (AAUs), so-called “hot air”, from the first commitment period to be carried over to the second period. Australia, the EU, Japan, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway and Switzerland announced they would not buy the AAUs. Negotiators failed to agree reform measures for the Clean Development Mechanism that may have increased demand for and reduced supply of carbon credits.
  1. 11 December 2012: First Climate, a German carbon asset management company, closed its sales and trading department. The company blamed low carbon prices and “a lack of ambitious international carbon reduction goals”.
  1. 12 December 2012: 500 police officers raided Deutsche Bank, arresting five staff suspected of being linked to a value added tax (VAT) scam involving the trading of carbon permits. The police are investigating a further 20 bank employees on suspicion of serious tax evasion, money laundering and attempted obstruction of justice. In 2011, a German court jailed six men involved in a €300 million fraud selling carbon permits through Deutsche Bank.
  • In 2009 and 2010, the EU carbon markets were hit by “carousel fraud”, in which traders bought emissions permits in one country without paying VAT, then sold the permits in another country with VAT and pocketed the difference. Europol, the European Police Agency, estimates that VAT fraud cost EU states about €5 billion in lost taxes.
  1. 12 December 2012: The price of U.N. offsets crashed to a record low of 31 cents. The price of Certified Emissions Reductions was dragged down by the price of Emission Reduction Units (ERUs) which reached their own record low of 15 cents.
Posted in Additionality, Carbon market, Development issues, Green politics,, Land use, New forests and woodland, REDD+ | Leave a comment

Ash Die Back – All our fault?

Several lines here, not necessarily all relevant:

1 – Import, export, trans country and trans continental trade – everywhere we travel we cross transfer not just ourselves but also micro-organisms, seeds, spores and larvae. A worry some time ago it has now become routine and blasé has set in. “We have medicines”.

2 – Consider your natural ash key. It spins down from its parent tree, maybe in the autumn, as it ripens, or some time over the next twelve or more months. The first to hit the ground can germinate pretty much at once or maybe after the first winter. Those that stay on the tree ripen and on hitting the ground can be two or three years in germination and all seedlings can remain 100 to 500mm plants for decades, living in the shade of the woodlands, not needing to increase in bulk. Given tree loss in the canopy – wind blow, for example – suddenly the tiny saplings can accelerate and a few will win the competition to fill the gap. My goodness these plants have done their apprenticeship, they understand their environment and are ready for their role.

3 – The nursery ash sapling is usually not local provenance seed, is forced to grow quickly in controlled conditions, often in a polytunnel, transplanted, lined out and undercut to keep it manageable, and then transported, often bare-rooted, in containers, over long distances, even overseas, to its eventual planting destination. Here it is unceremonially thrust into the ground, pegged to mark it, even provided with protective sheath and anti-grazing devices. And then left to grow. Or not!

4 – The planting site can be recently felled forest – even conifer plantation  – or retired farmland. Either way, it has often got no mature edaphic ecology – locally developed and responsive soil populations – derived from the support of and symbiosis with mature ash woodland.

5 – Resoundingly, too, we should also consider the macro-environmental changes  – residual and ongoing acid rain type industrial pollution, global climate change and agricultural impacts such as soil erosion and eutrophic effects arising from gross use of fertilisers.

OK, OK well the ash is a widely tolerant species and our common ash – Fraxinus excelsior – has this name whether it originates in Poland, Serbia or West Wales. As I showed in my report “Phenotypic variation in Fraxinus excelsior from different European provenances” (1999) , seedstocks of different provenances perform very differently when grown on a common site. Yes, there is clear sub-speciation. One can reasonably assume, then, that the sub-speciation attains to the edaphic ecology as well, as outlined above, and the indicated influences upon it.

I have always said that the best way I can see to establish a woodland is to fence an area off and wait whilst natural seeding and successional ecologies develop. In many situations a mixture of impatience and emergency  (Oh yes, climate change is real and happening all around us now.) drive the above planting mechanisms to be adopted.  Obviously more active site seeding and detailed on-site establishment-management should be developed henceforward in new woodland establishment – techniques such as are used in French oak forest regimes, often under such systems for many centuries.

Posted in Ash die back, Ash trees, Ecology, Green politics,, Land use, New forests and woodland, Tree nurseries | Leave a comment