Friday, February 13, 2009

It is not enough to grow trees one must also sequester!

The trouble with letting wilderness grow untouched by humankind is that sooner or later, it is going to burn (Not if you are in a rainforest). What is the point of growing trees to capture carbon, wilderness areas to encourage wildlife when it's going to eventually burn, sending uncontrolled black carbon and carbon dioxide into the air and killing vast swathes of native wildlife. Why not graze away the underbush with suitable farm animals, sequester large swathes of trees (eg. turn it into furniture, etc.) to make fire breaks, and contract Australia's army to make choices on various risk-reduction controls to take it out of the hands of NIMBY-minded councils and state governments.


Chris Fellows said...

Again with the big-government, centralising solutions :( I fear an army deployed domestically as a matter-of-course more than any number of natural disaster. Let the councils do what they like, and let them live with the consequences... people can vote with their feet.

Not all biomass will burn, it does not have to be a zero-sum game- remember fossil fuels started out as biomass. Appropriate land management can put lots of carbon nigh-permanently into the soil as inedible products of lignin decomposition.

Marco said...

There is nothing I like better than living so close to a large local army that, every year, does a risk-reduction burn pretty much all the way around Mount Stuart and surrounds. There is a lot of smoke haze, etc. So what. People choose to live here regardless.

Again with the big-government, centralising solutions :(
I still don't get it. We both believe "Big" Government has a role - you think they should "own" the banks - I think they should "own" the forest and wilderness fire risk management. I do not fear domestic deployment of Australia's army. They are domestically deployed after practically every disaster. I fear more that they are away helping foreigners at crunch times.

Marco said...

Appropriate land management can put lots of carbon nigh-permanently into the soil as inedible products of lignin decomposition.

It doesn't matter to me either way. The main point is that some things (like fire risk reduction in an environmentally conscious way) are for the benefit of the collective, and the NIMBY factor should by neutralised by having central control of deployment of people (whether military or civilian) to perform these kinds of tasks.

Let the councils do what they like, and let them live with the consequences...

Some councils got lucky with very poor risk decisions, but favourable winds/sequence of fires. Consequences are hard to pin in these cases, and councils take little electoral risk in "doing nothing" in letting wilderness grow wild.

Chris Fellows said...

Thanks Marco! Once again by pointing out an inconsistency, you have forced me to clarify my thinking.

When I say something should be run by the public sector, whether water, power, roads, banks, insurance, or security, ideally I would like it devolved to as low a level of government as possible. It is the 'big' I object to, not the government. When things get screwed up, I want the people responsible to be able to be held to account (i.e., lynched) which is possible if they live here in Bringabogalong Shire, not safely tucked away in Sydney, Canberra, or the Cayman Islands.

Marco said...

Well with government vs private ownership I do usually assume I am talking about a national government, and it is national governments which are nationalising banks at the moment. Is it good or bad? I don't know. Is there any choice? Not for large insolvent banks.

If I am going to break it down to what things should be done at a local council level and what should be done at a national level, it is also quite clear to me what sort of things go to which.

National road network should be built by BIG government. Local potholes should be fixed by SMALL government.

Regulations whether I can plant a tree in my front yard or not should be made by SMALL government.

Decisions on cutting a swathe of trees along our road to make a firebreak should be made by BIG government. (same with risk reduction burns, selective logging/ grazing whatever is decided)

All known fire risk reduction strategies reduce the beauty of the wilderness, hence the allure of the property and the value. Rare catastrophic events are not factored in to the value or therefore the local politics. Living with the consequences is a bet that it is going to happen to the neighbouring high risk shire, making a convenient fire break thus keeping the natural untainted beauty of ones own.

I was watching Landline and they were talking about (someone near Armidale) researching in-ground carbon capture using permanent ground cover (grass). The way I perceive it, for a lot of carbon to be stored in the topsoil (down to 1 meter, I presume), a consistent level of carbon (in the grass) will be above ground, where it would be possible fuel for bush fires, and unknown (whether positive or negative) CH4 or N2O emmissions for the moment.

Either way, I don't like the planting of trees as carbon offsets because on balance, it becomes fuel for wild-fires at the other end of their lifespan.

Chris Fellows said...

More generally, I am well aware that my political ideas (as opposed, I hope, to my moral and scientific ideas) are incoherent and highly contradictory. They are driven largely by an irrational resentment of anyone telling me what to do, and also by reading far too much history, which is mostly about the atrocities (big) governments have wreaked on their own people. So I don't think I am likely to make a very useful contribution.

Politics and administration in general seems to me about the most dreary and thankless occupation imaginable... to achieve anything you need to spend all your time trying to convince people who are utterly clueless and keen to contradict you just for the hell of it, so it would be like a whole teaching career spent delivering the same introductory first year lecture to class after class of particularly dull and argumentative students. Only saintly altruism, or an insane lust for power, seem like sufficient motivation to persuade someone to take on such a task. I know how rare saints are, hence my distrust of our dear leaders.

I daresay our moister, cooler summers here (cf. Victoria) makes us much better suited for bio/geosequestration in the soil- the permanent fuel load associated with this is not such a big deal here. I shall have to post a picture of my personal carbon-capture project...