Wishful thinking over good governance: how the new government will avoid effort

A shorthand discussion on the excellent article I reposted from The Conversation yesterday is; does current forested areas balance our GHG emissions?

No.

Well, why should we think of this as our ‘saving grace’?

The Coalition is focused entirely upon sequestration. My guess is that, to a casual observer, it seems reasonable, but of course requiring as little effort on the behalf of the government as possible. It’s a lazy policy.

If you want to find a cure, rather than work on prevention, as this new government wishes to do, as always, there are no easy options and it is always the most time and financially expensive option.

Firstly, mature forests are close to carbon neutral; if they are neither growing nor shrinking, the carbon balance stays close to constant. Secondly, as stated above, standing forests are by no means meeting human GHG emissions currently. The only option that makes sense is to continually increase forested areas and, to avoid maturity, keep impacting on it, that is harvest.

This is why I focused on forestry in my analysis of the Direct Action Plan. The only way to harvest carbon from the atmosphere is to actively, well, harvest it. To increase the carbon sink the only option is, well, increase it. Using sequestration is not the cheap, passive option.

Bleeding obvious stuff, but something no-one is talking about.

Assuming that Australian annual emissions stopped growing in 2010 (which it didn’t), this amounted to carbon farming equivalent to increasing annual wood production by an additional 300% under the most optimistic assumptions by 2020, to meet the Coalition’s targets.

Planting a few trees or saving some patches of forest isn’t a climate mitigation option. It will be marginal at best.

In reality this “cure” approach is a massive, endless, industry and one with little financial incentive (noting that the carbon needs to remain “locked” in this wood production). This is why you don’t see any policy, outside the Australian Coalition, placing sequestration as a primary climate change mitigation strategy.

The primary focus that seems to hold the most weight is one of punishment. Where there is a cost, people tend to be more thoughtful with their use of the resource. Moreover, if there is an inherent cost to carbon emissions, low carbon options become more competitive, introducing new markets.

This is what I would call direct.

But Australia voted against the obvious.

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