One of the practical ways to combat climate change is to plant more trees to remove more carbon from the atmosphere (as long as the trees are planted in the right place). Trees absorb carbon dioxide that traps heat as they grow and releases it when they burn or rot. This makes forests, from the Amazon to Siberia, great natural reserves of greenhouse gases.
Younger trees absorb carbon dioxide rapidly as they grow. However, as a tree ages, a stable state is reached in which the amount of carbon absorbed by photosynthesis is similar to that lost by respiration and decomposition. If trees are carefully harvested near this point in the growth cycle, and new trees are planted or allowed to regenerate, this can maintain the forest as a net carbon “sink”. Therefore, careful forest management can mean that forests can absorb as much carbon as possible.
Take advantage of nature
Forest planting is one of the activities that harness the power of nature to limit global warming. In addition, it is one of the options that is being used the most to achieve the objectives of the 2015 Paris agreement.
Natural climate solutions, which also include protecting carbon storage areas and better management of soils and grasslands, could account for 37% of all actions needed by 2030. These two measures, aimed at making the planet a Greener, they could be the equivalent of stopping all oil burning worldwide, according to a study published in the American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Better land stewardship may have a bigger role to play in fighting climate change than previously thought,” says the international team of scientists who have produced this report.
According to their calculations, the positive effects of forest planting were 30% higher than predicted in 2014, by a panel of US climate scientists.
Therefore, it is considered that simply with a better management of nature, 11.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year could be avoided by 2030, according to the study. To get an idea, it is an amount equivalent to China’s current carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels. In this fight against climate change, attempts are being made to find new solutions for the elimination of carbon dioxide.
What if trees are not the solution?
Despite the fact that everyone assumes that trees can help in the fight against climate change, there are studies that ensure that trees are not enough. What’s more, they warn that planting more trees in green areas is not only insufficient, but can even be counterproductive.
And it’s not just a question that they can’t absorb the ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. According to experts from the Potsdam Institute (Germany), although it is true that trees can absorb the carbon released by burning fossils, planting such plantations would take up so much land that it would have “devastating” environmental costs. For example, if forests were planted on productive land, humans would lose the soils that are urgently needed to feed a population of 9 billion people. If trees were planted on less productive land, the necessary costs in water and nitrogen fertilizers would also be very high.
So, according to these researchers, the only way to “truly” contain global warming is to impose drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
In China, for example, they are working to capture millions of tons of carbon dioxide generated by their power and steel plants for use in extracting crude oil from the country’s increasingly arid oil fields.
The first stone of this strategy, as reported by the Financial Times, is the construction of the Yanchang Integrated Carbon Storage and Capture Project, whose operational launch is expected for this same 2018. Yanchang is expected to capture 410,000 tons of coal a year from a gas coal plant in Shaanxi province.
This measure aims to reduce emissions from the coal conversion and water-intensive process used by coal-fired gas plants. The captured carbon would be trucked 140 km to the Qiaojiawa fields with 20 tons at a time, making the Yanchang project the first ‘full chain’ carbon capture and storage (CCS) project.
9 million tons
China would have seven other similar projects in the pipeline, storing a total of 9 million tons of CO2 a year. Four of this total of eight projects are for gas-fired coal plants. However, China considers these plants to be economically attractive as well, since a commercial vein can be extracted from them: the millions of tons of carbon captured can be pumped to the ground to extract oil.
Proponents promote this improved carbon storage oil recovery method as a system in which all pairs win, both from an emissions point of view and from a commercial point of view.
Using captured coal to extract oil is not a new process, although it has not been implemented in the industry, in part because research is still needed to demonstrate that this may be an economically viable technology.