Why Solar: Forests – natural carbon sinks

Greenhouse gas emissions, GHGs, produced by Canada annually are approximately 738.3825 MtCO2e (megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent when combining carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbon, hydrofluorocarbon, and sulfur hexafluoride, excludes water vapor). This amounts to about 1.63% of the world’s total of 45 261.3 (MtCO2e).

The Australian National University determined cool temperate forests absorb carbon at 625 metric tonnes of carbon per hectare per year (tC/ha), warm temperate forests at 500 t/C/ha, tropical rainforests at 250 tC/ha, and boreal forests, like those in Canada, store carbon at an estimated 100 tC/ha. Our nation has 24% of the world’s boreal forest, and 9% of the world’s total, according to Natural Resources Canada. The area encompassed is some 4,916,438 square km or at 9.74 ha/person making for the most forest per citizen of any nation.

There are a 100 hectares in every square kilometer, so calculation determines the woodland sequesters, 4 916 MtCO2e during the annual growing season. Boreal forests with their peat type soils provide high carbon absorption in relatively short growing seasons.

These numbers augur well for slowing the rise of carbon in the atmosphere; however, as water vapor is the number one greenhouse gas, followed by CO2, then methane, climate change remains an ongoing challenge. Trees generate water vapor in the process of cellular respiration, and when wood decomposes or is burned, carbon is released back into the atmosphere.

The University of Leeds has estimated the world’s forest absorb 8.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide or roughly 40% of all man-made carbon. Numbers vary by source, date, and methodology but are improving in accuracy as scientific investigation nails down natures capacities as a carbon sink.

In this vein, the University of Birmingham has determined that young forests absorb carbon at a rate 25% faster than old growth. Young new trees need carbon to flourish as in the case of the white pine seedling, almost a meter a year. Reforestation is carbon-hungry.

Trees clean the air, the growing biomass sequesters carbon, however rapid deforestation is decreasing nature’s capability at an alarming rate. Yet, given our small population and enormous land mass, we definitely sequester more carbon than we produce. We generate 738.38 MtCO2e, yet our forests sequester an estimated 4 916 MtCO2e. Canadian forests are absorbing more than six times what this country emits.

Why is the first instinct of a Canadian politician always to tax the citizenry? The great minds of this nation have produced some of the most inventive and innovative technologies ever developed. If we can somehow line up our proverbial “ducks” should we not be able to profit from the rest of the world’s ineffectual efforts to curb their emissions? Not raping the 24 million Canadian taxpayers for something they are not responsible for, is a good start.

Carbon credits are traded on commodity exchanges. American First Nations are using their forests to generate revenue. How is it that the Canadian government cannot see this opportunity? Are they too busy nurturing the firms that feed them?

Contact Lorne Oja at Lorne Oja lorne@carbon2solar.com

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