CO2 Sequestration in Forests

Posted on 2019-01-14 by lars
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We were just discussing here (locally) how one could “pay up” for its CO2 (or generally climate-related) resource usage. I am not that much convinced of these programs where you could buy yourself off, for example where you pay a sum per kilometre of air travel. For a start, the prices seem to be ridiculously low (see source below) but also the type of projects supported in these projects — to me — sound a little bit whitewashed.

Whether it is building solar power or educating children, a) none of the projects is actually scrubbing any CO2 from the athmosphere, b) it seems not to be considered, that the projects themselves have to be build and consume resources themselves, and finally c) especially the education programs are only bad disguises for shoving the problem towards future generations. More in the sense of: hey, I do not want to restrict myself, but let me support you (my future children) in getting rid of all the waste I produced.

Towards the sources, german wikipedia links a study of the german government, which sets the amount of damage per ton of CO2 at 180,-€ 2. A quick glimpse at one of this “climate compensation” websites comes up with a price of roughly 20€ pre ton.

Now, I was thinking along the lines, what would be a sensible requirement for an acceptable way of compensating for the damage inflicted, or maybe “resources used” to phrase it less aggressively? I think, if you try to not lie to yourself, you have to chose methods that actually remove the given amount of CO2 out of the athmosphere, additionally to the current state. Thus, although generally positive, simple conservation of forrest will not cut it. And educating children is not even fulfilling this fundamental requirement. But then, what is left?

I found Tocchi 2018, a paper where the CO2 reduction (by sequestration, i.e. binding of CO2 in (plant) matter) is calculated based on the mass of trees. By rule of thumb this would mean that you would have to pay for on year of an acre (~4k m²) of maple-beech-birch forest — which is at least growing for 25 years for a single flight from Frankfurt to New York. By above requirement, you would have to establish this forest in an area that had little or no CO2 storage before (for example one of the parking strips of a large mall).

Thus, how much would it cost to compensate for — in the sense of covering the damages inflicted by — the 36c3? Without running the numbers I very much assume that re-foresting the area of Leipzig Messe would not cover much of the carbon footprint of the congress. Aside from the problems arising from the deconstruction — finding a new venue for the 37c3 probably would be one of the smaller problems afterwards.

But, would it be helpful to state the scale of the challenge for a climate-positive Congress in this way?

Regards, Lars

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