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When it comes to sucking up carbon, not all trees are equal | CBC News


May 14, 2021

Hello, Earthlings! This is our weekly e-newsletter on all issues environmental, the place we spotlight developments and options which are shifting us to a extra sustainable world. (Sign up right here to get it in your inbox each Thursday.)

This week:

  • When it involves sucking up carbon, not all bushes are equal
  • The unstoppable David Attenborough
  • How do you implement carbon pricing past borders?

When it involves sucking up carbon, not all bushes are equal

(Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP through Getty Images)

This e-newsletter has usually regarded on the half bushes can play as a part of the local weather change resolution, with their potential to suck carbon out of the ambiance and retailer it.

As with a lot else, nevertheless, there’s nuance — we must be cautious about assuming bushes alone can save us. With wildfires and pure die-off, bushes typically give off extra carbon than they soak up.

And in the case of sequestration, some bushes and their ecosystems look like more practical than others over time.

With that in thoughts, it’s notable to see a brand new tree-related carbon venture discovering favour with some high-profile companies. Proctor and Gamble, Apple and Gucci have all introduced initiatives to guard and restore the mangrove, a woody tree or shrub dwelling in salty coastlines within the tropics and subtropics.

Mangroves (just like the one being repopulated within the picture above) maintain a specific attract as carbon sinks. “At a high level, [mangroves] are salty and wet, and that keeps the carbon from breaking down,” Jen Howard, senior director of the blue carbon program for the American non-profit Conservation International, advised GreenBiz

Conservation International says mangroves, which have been in decline in recent times, can sequester as much as 10 instances as a lot carbon in comparison with terrestrial forests.

Tania Clerac, dean of the varsity of environmental and pure useful resource sciences at Fleming College in Peterborough, Ont., mentioned through e-mail that mangroves and terrestrial methods “do store carbon in different ways, with trees storing carbon in their biomass, and mangroves sequestering it in their soil.”

“The soil among mangroves has low biological activity and therefore that carbon is released slowly.”

Clerac suggests mangroves should not actually be considered as an both/or situation in the case of sequestration, or higher or worse than others, however as one risk. “Especially given that the solution of mangroves is not a possibility in Canada.”

This nation’s managed forests have been a “significant carbon sink,” says Natural Resources Canada on its web site, given how the forests have steadily added carbon to that which was already saved.

But the NRC additionally notes that “in recent decades … the situation has reversed in some years: Canada’s forests have become carbon sources, releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than they are accumulating in any given year.”

Several components got here into play, together with a rise within the space consumed by wildfires yearly, and dramatic shifts in yearly harvest charges, with will increase within the 1990s after which sharp decreases with the worldwide financial recession, NRC mentioned. 

Environmental activists have lengthy referred to as for defense of old-growth forests particularly, noting their carbon storage skills, together with their ecosystems and the wealthy biodiversity discovered inside them.

But what about on a person stage? Could a home- or landowner make a distinction by planting some extra bushes?

“In terms of non-forest conditions such as a yard that is currently mown lawn or low-density garden plants, including more trees will help improve carbon sequestration,” Clerac mentioned. And some bushes could possibly be more practical than others.

“As far as planting individual species on a carbon-per-centimetre-diameter basis, the best are deciduous species, often called hardwoods, particularly those that are long-lived, such as sugar maple, oak, black walnut and hickory,” mentioned Clerac.

Some softwoods, akin to purple pine and white pine, are additionally good at storing carbon. Next come softer deciduous bushes like birch, purple or silver maple and poplar. Conifers like cedar or larch sequester much less carbon. 

But once more, there’s nuance to this.

“This does not account for the rate of growth, so although some [trees] may grow more slowly and in the short term store less carbon, in the long term they are longer-lived and will store more carbon,” Clerac mentioned.

She has an extra suggestion for growing the carbon storage skills of bushes: doing what you may to combat invasive species, such because the emerald ash borer, which has killed ash bushes all through jap North America.

“This beetle did not have a fantastic ability to spread on its own, yet it did,” Clerac mentioned, with folks shifting infested wooden round, which led to “a lot of tree mortality and carbon release.” 

“When someone reports an invasive species and follows rules around moving wood products, the health of our trees and forests benefits, and so does their ability to sequester carbon.”

Janet Davison

Reader suggestions

Mary Staszuk mentioned the latest article on decreasing beef consumption is “very interesting but it is not quite so simple. What is not mentioned is the fact that in order to produce milk, cows must have a calf every year. Something has to happen to those calves. Most of the males and some females will end up as beef. If cow herds are reduced because of reductions in beef consumption, it will impact many dairy products such as cheese, butter, cream and milk. Those products will be in shorter supply and many jobs lost in their production.”

R.P. says, “I just read your article…. I guess you resort to provocative issues to spur people to read. Thankfully the article is quite balanced — even mentioning matters not accounted for. This subject is so complex! Not everyone can tolerate a vegan diet, which needs supplementation for key factors like vitamin B12. Others cannot adjust to certain plant protein sources such as soy. Complicating all this are food allergies!

“Food consumption could be very private relying on one’s genetics, in addition to consuming historical past and well being historical past. The extra you may appeal to and encourage readers to keep away from toxins (synthetic sweeteners, meals closely handled with pesticides, and so forth.) and shift to wholesome meals (extra greens, some fruits), the higher will probably be for all. Keep up the nice, wise, balanced work!”

Old issues of What on Earth? are right here.

There’s also a radio show and podcast! Caring about climate change often means feeling bad about your carbon footprint. But new research from Harvard quantifies how major oil companies used a page from the tobacco industry playbook and shifted responsibility away from themselves and onto consumers. This week, What on Earth host Laura Lynch hears from the research authors, Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes. What on Earth airs Sunday at 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m. in Newfoundland. Subscribe on your favourite podcast app or hear it on demand at CBC Listen.

***New newsletter alert! Our colleague Peter Armstrong has a newsletter called Mind Your Business, a weekly guide to understanding what’s happening in the worlds of economics, business and finance. Subscribe to it here.

The Big Picture: The unstoppable David Attenborough

They used to call James Brown the hardest-working man in showbiz, but if the Godfather of Soul were alive today, he’d have strong competition from David Attenborough. The 95-year-old broadcaster does more than entertain, of course — he’s the voice of countless nature documentaries and a renowned environmental activist. While he has done other documentary work as well, his stature is largely the result of the success of the BBC series Life on Earth (1979) and The Living Planet (1984), which were both epic in scope and showcased the latest innovations in film cameras. Since then, Attenborough has amassed a staggering body of work, including Planet Earth (2006), two Blue Planet docs and the eight-part Netflix series Our Planet (2019). Last year, he released the autobiographical David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet. In January of this year, he narrated a BBC series called A Perfect Planet, followed up a few months later by Life in Colour, a Netflix show exploring the role of colour in the natural world that also sets a new bar for jaw-dropping footage. Attenborough is currently working on a new BBC series called The Green Planet, set to debut in 2022, all while advocating environmental causes. Truly, a force of nature.

(Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

Hot and bothered: Provocative ideas from around the web

  • Airports are sprawling spaces. This is intentional, because planes need a wide berth. But some clean energy advocates say that some of those open spaces could be used for arrays of solar panels.

  • The unpredictable journey of debris from a Chinese rocket recently was a reminder of the space junk that could fall to Earth. But a new study suggests that with higher carbon dioxide levels, which lowers the density of our upper atmosphere, it’s possible more of that kind of junk could end up staying in space.

Fear of climate change rust belt has governments considering carbon border levy

(B. Rentsendori/Reuters)

If you thought Canada’s carbon tax was controversial, just wait for the global equivalent being negotiated behind closed doors.

It’s not a secret. In fact, the new charge got its own subheading in the recent federal budget. The plan is to “make it possible for rules on a worth on carbon air pollution apply pretty between buying and selling companions,” said the budget document. “This ranges the enjoying subject, ensures competitiveness and protects our shared setting.”

The idea of a border charge is meant to address concerns that in countries with a price on carbon — like Canada — domestic players are at a disadvantage compared to imported goods from countries without those regulations. The fear is that it could entice companies that need aluminum, for example, to source it from the U.S. or somewhere else that doesn’t have a carbon tax because it’s cheaper than Canadian-made aluminum.

The “border adjustment” would be a levy to make sure imports are subject to something similar. 

Without a set of rules to equalize the economic cost of fighting climate change across national boundaries, countries like Canada and the U.S. or trade blocs like the European Union will be at a huge trade disadvantage to those like Russia or Brazil, where climate rules are light or non-existent.

As with Canada’s domestic carbon tax, the battle over whether to impose a border charge will be political, said Gus Van Harten, a legal scholar at Osgoode Hall in Toronto and an early proponent of carbon equalization payments. 

But he said opponents will find it harder to convince voters that preventing carbon cheating by foreign producers is bad for Canadians and Canadian jobs when the alternative is to create a new Rust Belt of obsolete industries caused by climate change rules. 

“A [domestic] carbon tax is extra simply misconstrued as choosing from somebody’s pocket,” he said.

According to University of Calgary economist Jennifer Winter, some industries “could be completely happy” about a border adjustment because it would protect them from foreign competition, including poorer countries that don’t have stiff carbon rules.

It could also affect consumer prices. While things like cars made in Germany would be no more expensive, the new charge would raise the cost of goods imported from less regulated countries. Without a carefully agreed structure, such rules could be used for plain old protectionism, leading to tit-for-tat countermeasures and hurting world trade. 

Among the complications will be trying to put an equivalent carbon cost on different countries’ climate change rules.

Canada has a national carbon tax, but the U.S. does not. Europe uses a system of trading carbon credits that has become increasingly expensive for its domestic producers. The cost of flexible regulations, which some say are a more effective tool, is difficult to quantify.

Trying to determine the carbon content of every imported part or ingredient will be difficult and could lead to mountains of documentation. That is why the first version of the levy will likely only apply to products like steel, aluminum and cement, where the carbon content is relatively easy to determine. But there are further difficulties.  

For example, how would you credit China’s large investment in electric transport? How would you offer credits for the cost of U.S. President Joe Biden’s plan to invest in a green economic transformation?

Even if there are no further delays and Europe unveils its carbon adjustment proposal in July, that is expected to be just the first step, leading to a long period of internal and international negotiation. Canada is already in international talks with what the budget calls “like-minded companions,” and plans to start consultation with provinces and territories this summer.

But according to Angelo Katsoras, a geopolitical analyst and author of a recent National Bank of Canada report, a carbon border tax is inevitable.

“For Europe, it is a matter of financial survival,” Katsoras said, and that applies to other countries like Canada and the U.S. now tightening greenhouse gas rules.

“I believe it has turn into politically unsustainable to proceed to place in stringent targets with out a carbon border tax.”

Don Pittis

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Editor: Andre Mayer | Logo design: Sködt McNalty

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