Why Solar: Reforestation best weapon against carbon

Seven billion tonnes! Seven billion metric tons of carbon could be removed from the atmosphere by one simple natural mechanism. Unfortunately the loss of this natural, carbon removal system has been ongoing for decades. It was deemed necessary for providing land for crops, animals, and building materials.

The Nature Conservancy, the World Resource Institute, and other esteemed research institutions have released a report with in depth analysis on the impact of reforestation, and conversely the prevention of deforestation in tropical countries and the subsequent effect on GHGs. The results are astounding. Conservation and reestablishment of lost forest could reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by the equivalent of removing 1.5 billion cars from the planet’s surface. That is half again as many, as the billion vehicles that currently exist.

Brazil and Indonesia collectively are accountable for 50% of the carbon emissions not taken up by the biosphere due to the loss of their rainforests. If the trees were to be replanted where they once grew, it would collectively reduce 11.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emission per year. That, the study claims, is “equivalent to halting global oil consumption” which would allow us to get 66% closer to limiting global warming to the targeted “2 degrees” as set out in the Paris accord.

Reforestation is the number one solution out of the 20 natural driven CO2 mitigating processes the study has come up with. The remaining 19 involve tactics like avoiding tree harvest in the first place, better forest management, improved management of tree plantations, and eliminating the use of wood as the main source of fuel for cooking and heating. Other strategies include forest fire management, biochar production, nutrient management, conservation agriculture techniques, pasture and cropland shelterbelts, and wetland peat restoration along with costal ecosystem restoration. This report from the Nature Conservancies was published in the October’s issue of PNAS.

The study admits that these natural pathway opportunities, referred to as natural climate solutions, differ from country to country and region to region. Tropical forests, the biggest natural source of carbon reduction mechanisms, may have the most to offer but as noted in the previous list, other sectors can also contribute. Markedly, Canada has a penchant for replanting trees, both in those areas harvested for commercial gain as well as many urban settings.

Growing populations, driven by the human body’s fundamental requirement for meat, have been one of the biggest instigators of deforestation. Food on the table, and a job to supply the many sundry needs of civilization, may indeed be a root cause of the issue but feeding the masses, building shelter, and industry are all basic human needs. In turn, they cause serious issues that need addressing.

As technology progresses and alternatives provide more sustainable sources of food production, the strain on these natural climate solutions should be reduced. Transitioning to electric vehicles, and aircraft, more solar and wind facilities, geothermal, hydro, even fusion give hope for our children, securing their futures and that of their spaceship earth.

Lorne Oja can be reached at lorne@solartechnical.ca.

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