Purpose. To pose the question, do we need to pursue “net zero” if we are already a carbon sink?
Background. According to the Climate Council “Net zero emissions refers to achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere.”
Proposal. It is time for the Government to stop playing the “net zero” game for two reasons.
- Australia is probably already a carbon sink.
- The push to eliminate fossil fuels in favour of RE is not sustainable with the storage technology that is available at present or in the near future.
By comparing Australia’s annual CO2 absorption with the total Australian emissions, we may conclude that Australia has negative emissions of 523,800,000 tonnes per annum (940,800,000 – 417,000,000) which means that Australia is a CO2 sink.
The data and calculations.
- Australia contains approximately 147 million hectares of Natural Forests (addition to this we have 1.82 million hectares of planting estates and around 440 million hectares of grasslands. With an estimated 4% of the global forest estate, Australia has the world’s sixth-largest forest area and the fourth-largest area of forest in nature conservation reserves.Source.
- The mechanism for carbon sequestration in trees and plants is photosynthesis, the conversion of atmospheric CO2 into plant material using energy from the sun, releasing oxygen in the process. A single hectare of mature trees absorbs approximately 6.4 tonnes of CO2 per year. Source. https://www.sfmcanada.org/images/Publications/EN/C02_Sink_EN.pdf.
A simple calculation demonstrates that the total CO2 absorption is 147,000,000 * 6.4 which equates to 940,800,000 tonnes of absorbed CO2 by Australia’s forests per year.
- According to ‘Our World in Data’, CO2 emissions in Australia in 2017 due to the burning of fossil fuels for energy production and the industrial production of materials such as cement were 417MT. https://ourworldindata.org/co2/country/australia?country=~AUS#what-are-the-country-s-annual-co2-emissions.
Caveat. These calculations will be contested by people using different assumptions about the treatment of grasslands and forests. We will modify our conclusion if convincing evidence and counter-arguments are presented.
Conclusion. Given that we generate less than 1.5% of the worlds CO2 emissions and we are already doing better than “Net Zero” does the Government still need to impose policies designed for carbon mitigation and “decarbonization” of the economy?