CSIRO and seeing the carbon for the trees. Or not.


That’s my assessment of the results of the CSIRO report as summarised by the Independent last summer. CSIRO is, of course, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Based in Oz. The Indy reported on their “glossy” pdf report, references below.

It launches straight into a “researchers said” statement of superlatives. This is so often an alarm signal to me as reader. For it’s in the “Scoop” journalist’s best interest as well as the researcher’s to overstate the import of the report. So they presented the “most accurate measure so far of the amount of greenhouse gases absorbed from the atmosphere by tropical, temperate and boreal forests”.

Well, a very comprehensive aim, for sure! Josep Canadell, of CSIRO, said it was “complete, global evidence of the overwhelming role of forests in removing anthropogenic carbon dioxide”. Then an oddly disconnected statement: “If we were to stop deforestation tomorrow the world’s established and regrowing forests would remove half of fossil fuel emissions”. This was both “incredible” and “unexpected”! Well yes, Josep, I have those words too but what actually did you mean by the statement?

It seems they reckoned, calculated, that wooded areas soak up 2.4 billion tonnes of extra carbon dioxide each year. Over and above their normal photosynthetic need, which remains in balance, of course. This is like Dr Simon Lewis of Leeds Uni and Climate Campaigner – only he puts it even higher at 5 billion tonnes per annum, which works out at one tonne per hectare per annum per annum, one additional reasonably mature tree per hectare. Getting mighty crowded?


OK, the report continues to estimate that regrowth of tropical forests is removing 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. This, by my calculations, is equivalent to 5.3 million hectares of mature forest appearing or two and a half times TAOW, The Area of Wales, that widely used unit of measurement!

On they go to then suggest that all this means that despite deforestation we’re still seeing an overall lowering in atmospheric carbon corresponding to forest interactions annually.

The CSIRO group research “Using forest inventories, climate models and satellites” so not even doing field work such as Simon and his colleagues perform in Nigeria, Southern America and the like. Now we have the Edinburgh team, whose Dr Genevieve Patenaude I met at the London meeting a couple of months ago (as recorded on this blog at the time, qv previous carbon posting), to measure very accurately forest integrity from satellite imagery (GPS etc) this will, I’m sure, improve radically, but, for now the report has the whiff of the ridiculous.

Regrowth of felled forests? Oh do you mean their planting as palm oil mega carbon release enterprises but where in Amazonia are soy-bean fields equivalent to forest? The lumber is just the start of farming and is not simply a forestry slash and burn equivalent. If they do come back in forty years for another cut they’ll not find forest.

So the operation is actually in order to monetise existing woodland and forest for REDD type schemes, I fear, with little indeed to do with actually fighting climate change. No weighting at all for replanting formerly wooded regions and massive cover-up for modern polluting with coal, oil and gas.

Integrated academia, you see. Australia is a heavy coal user and exporter. We don’t want these climate change fanatics limiting that industry, do we? Just like Canada. Now why does that not surprise me???

Indy report: http://www.independent.co.uk/​environment/​forests-soak-up-third-of-fossil​-fuel-emissions-study-231527
CSIRO report: http://www.publish.csiro.au/​Books/download.cfm?ID=6558


About greencentre

Non grant supported hence independent scientist, green activist, writer and forest planter.
This entry was posted in Carbon market, Carbon sinks, Climate politics, Green politics,, Land use, Rainforest, REDD+. Bookmark the permalink.

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