fighting for natural co2 removal

The discussion that led to treeconomics


I wanted to conclude our discussion with Malcolm at the faculty club.

I know you wanted his thoughts about paying landowners not to cut trees. Which is great.

But some interesting assumptions were revealed.

For example, the assumption that trees reach “maturity” and are no longer absorbing carbon. As I pointed out, older trees continue to absorb carbon, growing in density, height and girth … and, counter-intuitively for us, they absorb carbon at a faster rate as they grow older. In retrospect, this is obvious: a larger organism has a greater metabolism.

The death of a tree after a few centuries doesn’t matter, because we have less than a decade to bring the earth back to net zero in greenhouse gas emissions.

Every time a tree is cut down, not only is one removing an entire ecosystem’s worth of carbon: one is also releasing about half of the tree’s stored carbon in processing.

But, worse, one is destroying an ever-improving carbon-removal machine!

Imagine if expensive co2-removal machines were installed by one group of people, and a subsequent group dismantled them. That’s what is happening with all tree removal today.

Given the deadline on civilization here, no trees should be cut down, and no ecosystems destroyed. We should be re-wilding like mad, encouraging an ecological global culture.

By the same token, no old buildings should be torn down, and no technology thrown away, since new resources would be required (like the removal of trees and ecosystems) to replace them.

So, as a net calculation, the construction of wood buildings does not sequester carbon. It stops the carbon sequestration provided by the lives (trees and wildlife) that donate all the materials in the supply chain.

Looking forward to discussing this in the future,