Trying to bury carbon dioxide deep underground is another fashionable green fantasy. It consumes big dollars for taxpayer subsidies but coal and gas producers will love it as it wastes energy and will increase demand for reliable energy. Artificial carbon capture is an unnecessary waste - the grasslands, forests, crops and continental shelf of Australia sequester far more carbon dioxide than Australia emits from all energy, transport, agriculture and mining sources.
Australia has 440 million hectares of grasslands – that 4.4 M sq km is larger than Europe’s total area of 3.5 M sq km. We also have 147 million hectares of native forests, 1.8 million hectares of plantations and 4% of the world’s global forest estate. Australia has the world’s sixth largest forest area and the fourth-largest area of forest in nature conservation reserves. We are not short of trees.
Australian forests absorb 940 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, over double our domestic and industrial emissions of 417 million tonnes per annum. Add to that the absorption of CO2 into our massive area of grasslands, crops, soils and continental shelf waters and Australia does more than its fair share of CO2 sequestration (which means our grasslands and forests are starving for more CO2).
Trees, grasses and crops need more carbon dioxide plant food and the slight increase in global atmospheric carbon dioxide has led to a significant expansion of forests, grasslands and crops and reduction of the world’s deserts.
All vegetation needs solar energy, carbon dioxide, rain and soil to grow. Green apologists claim that harvesting trees for wood-fired power stations is a net zero process because burning wood recycles CO2 into the atmosphere. But they forget the energy needed and emissions created in logging, chipping, transport and replanting forests.
Burning coal or grazing cattle are both net–zero on different time scales.
Grass extracts CO2 from the atmosphere. Cattle and sheep convert grass into wool, leather, energy, protein, fat, bone and milk for human use - all part of the natural global food chain. Some of the carbon compounds consumed by cattle are quickly returned to the atmosphere in burps and farts. Some of the carbon in milk and meat is recycled quickly via human emissions, but most is sequestered into human bodies or in wool and leather products. Burial of human bodies sequesters more carbon deep underground. The grass-cattle-human chain is a net zero process that is quicker than the very long net zero process in waiting for new trees to grow. Adult cattle and sheep produce new offspring within one year, one after another, and they grow quickly. They are harvested, milked or shorn far quicker than new trees can grow and be harvested.
Without cattle and graziers, grasslands would be fuel for monstrous bushfires or fuel for termites and wood-rot – all of which put more carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. And if grasslands and croplands are smothered in trees, there will be no food. The Kyoto Agreement land sterilisation is achieving this foolish outcome.
Real red meat is green - it lives on grasses and sequesters carbon dioxide. The consumption of meat, milk and cheese cannot change long-term climate. Our teeth and gut flora have evolved for eating and digesting meat. The war on cattle and sheep is a ploy by vegan activists using the climate bandwagon trying to force consumers to live their way of life. In our democracy, we tolerate them with bemused amusement. In their intolerant world, we are on their hit list.
The main population centres of Australia are in the south-east. Forests, grasslands and crops in this area fix about 30% of all of Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions. As always, it is rural Australia that supplies the population centres with food, minerals and energy. But farmers bear the brunt of unworkable carbon “farming” schemes and miners face silly carbon-capture schemes all devised by green-smoothie shiny-bums in tax-funded ivory towers.
Rural and regional Australia should be rewarded, not punished, for productively absorbing giga-tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Supporting data for the above article can be found in Professor Ian Plimer’s latest book “Green Murder”(www.greenmurder.com) which will be released by Connor Court Publishing in late November. Pre-publication orders are discounted and signed.
Stop Burning Trees:
Viv Forbes is a geologist and economic analyst, who farms in Australia.