Saving What Remains
Carbon Offset Programs
Plants take carbon dioxide out of the air during the process of photosynthesis and use it to makes sugars for growth and metabolism. Carbon is stored in wood and other tissues until the death of the plant when the stored carbon is released to the atmosphere via burning or decomposition or recycled in the forest ecosystem.
Given this process, industry can "offset" same of their carbon dioxide emissions by sponsoring the establishment of reserves or by funding improvements in degraded forest that sequesters an amount of carbon equivalent to their emissions. The US power-generating industry has been the most active to date in such off-set programs positioning themselves now to be able to take advantage of carbon trading when it is established.
One entire branch of carbon trading is based on the fact that as trees grow they absorb carbon dioxide. Growing forests and plantations absorb carbon, while old growth forests are in a state of equilibrium and no longer take up carbon. There is new concern that forests will make poor carbon sinks if temperatures rise. When plants are not photosynthesizing, they are respiring - taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. Whereas the uptake of carbon through photosynthesis is an instantaneous process, respiration increases with temperature which - in the case of global warming - has about a 50 year log time due to the thermal inertia of oceans. So as temperature increases catch up with the rise of carbon dioxide levels, respiration rates of soils and plants will also increase (initially at an exponential rate), releasing more carbon into the atmosphere. Even though atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will be increasing, extra carbon dioxide has a diminishing effect on plant growth so the net result will be to balance out what initially looked like carbon sinks in planting forests.
The Kyoto Protocol only recognizes credits generated through anthropogenic activities since 1990. Nonetheless, the carbon trade in North America and Europe could be worth $30-100 billion once it is fully operational.
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Foods & Genetic Diversity
Medicinal Drugs & Pesticides
Types of Reserves
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Copyright Rhett Butler 1994-2005