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Science

A Unique Solution: Put the Trees in the Ground

forest Innovative solutions could very well be vital in the coming years, if we are to solve the worsening pollution of our planet. Whether or not you attribute its increase to global warming, carbon dioxide has long been on the rise and subsequent damages have been seen worldwide in flora and fauna ecosystems.

One of the principal sinks for the carbon we do produce, or that exists naturally, are trees. Naturally, as intelligent humans, we’ve decided to cut down as many of those trees as possible. We cut them down, we burn them, and we destroy entire ecosystems while also destroying our own future.

However a novel idea has been raised by Fritz Scholz and Ulrich Hasse from the University of Greifswald, and has been published in the journal ChemSusChem.

The pair suggests that we should deliberately plant forests which will, naturally, inhale a measure of carbon dioxide. This is so far what we’re well aware of, and it makes sense. However as the pair note in their essay (PDF), “…there is only one solution to the carbon dioxide problem, and that is the permanent removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

An interesting note is the focus on ‘permanent’. From the essay, “…that sink [biomass, ie, forests, etc] is not permanent, or only for a negligible part (some swamps and bogs), as most ofthe biomass is either naturally recycled by aerobic decomposition processes or used by humans for burning.”

So their plan is simple; bury the trees that have captured the carbon so that the carbon cannot be naturally released back in to the atmosphere.

The advice is that forests should be planted in locations that will later be buried, such as open brown coal pits or other surface mines. They should be filled with wood, and then covered with soil, cutting it off from the air, leaving it unchanged over vast periods of time.

At the moment, the planets annual carbon dioxide release is 32 gigatons per annum. To cover this amount of release, the authors suggest that a total of “1.01 billion hectares of forest area would be required, given that 50% are in the tropical and 50% are in the moderate climate areas.”

This may seem like a lot, but to put it in perspective, the amount of primeval forest that we ourselves have destroyed over the past century equates to 1 billion hectares. And that is in the tropical areas, which means that Scholz and Hasse’s plan has the potential to bind twice the amount of carbon dioxide output currently made by planet Earth.

“The forests should be planted in countries that are suitable for growing forest and also have the necessary sites for burial of the wood,” stresses Scholz. “Other countries, the primary consumers of fossil fuels, can pay them for it. This would produce a global trade that would benefit everyone involved.”




4 comments
  1. Jim47

    I’d love to study the math on this. Something in this “solution” just doesn’t add up, but without the math that went into it, I can’t begin to figure out what it is, or if I’m just using radically-different assumptions than the authors did. The CO2 in the air came from somewhere. Current assumptions are the net increase is due primarily to the digging-up and burning of fossil fuels. But that is only the left-hand side of the equation. The right-hand side of this study appears to also have the assumption that we have been destroying carbon sinks faster than we have been producing CO2. Yet the next increase on the one side is roughly the same as the net decrease on the other, according to the article, above. Something isn’t making sense to this former-math-turned-physics major.

  2. Hans

    This is very intersting. How long does it take to bind all that CO2 though (40 years to grow all those trees)? Does it make sense to use some of that lumber though? If I think about using it in construction, or furniture, or paper, all that CO2 would probably not be released for quite some time (and even if those things get thrown out, and either recycled or end up in the landfill burried).

    I will read up on it and maybe find some more answers in the essay.

    Interesting concept though. This reminds me that:

    Everything is Rethinkable!

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