“Net zero” is the concept that I can carry on my climate-wrecking activities by paying someone somewhere to do something that removes CO2 from the air. Then typically there is a date put on it: “Net zero by 2050” used to be popular, but now it has been advanced to, say, 2043. Whoopee!
Net zero by 1970 may do some good, but time machine research is even less successful than fusion power research, which is “promising to deliver effectively free power within 30 years,” and has done so for about 40 years already.
The typical carbon-soaking activity is the planting of trees. The first issue is that tree seedlings are delicate babies that need looking after. In many cases, the trees are planted and die. Then the same area and people provide a venue for someone to pay for new seedlings that are planted and die. Net carbon soaked up: zero.
But suppose the trees survive. If they stand there indefinitely, a now-permanent forest, great. Often, though, the plantation is a commercial enterprise. That’s fine, depending on what the produce is used for. It may be “biofuel:” burning the timber to generate electricity, or wood pulp: using it to make paper and cardboard. In both cases, you’ve compensated for generating CO2 in one place by later releasing the locked-up CO2 in another.
The trees may be oil palm, or fruit-bearing. This is a lot better, but then, being a commercial exercise with every expectation of a profit, why does it need a subsidy that allows someone to stop generating CO2?
Next point is, where are these trees planted? We hope it’s on degraded land that was stripped of forest by previous unwise owners, or in areas where trees will bind soil that’s rapidly eroding, or in urban areas where they provide multiple benefits, or as wildlife havens on farms. However, instead there may be a sleight of hand. Clearfell a forest, then replant the area and get someone to pay for it. The new plantation is nothing like the complex, living ecosystem it has replaced. Deforestation then reforestation is one of the many drivers of our extinction crisis.
Another way to “net zero” is Carbon Capture and Storage. This is another mirage that “we are sure will be commercially viable — one day.”
There is an alternative to Net Zero: Degrowth. In a planned way, reduce the economic activities that are wrecking our life support system.
Live simply so you may simply live.
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Well said. Thanks.
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