12. All states shall negotiate to preserve and protect forests and enhance carbon sinks

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Rapporteur: Metta Spencer

Carbon Sinks

A carbon sink is a reservoir that stores carbon, keeping it sequestered instead of circulating in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. Plants, the ocean, and soil are the main carbon sinks in nature. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air for use in photosynthesis, leaving some of this carbon in the soil when they die and decompose. The oceans also store much of the planet’s carbon dioxide.

All of these sinks are being ruined by human activities today, and heroic measures are required to protect them and use them even more extensively to sequester carbon and prevent runaway global warming. Here we will examine these natural carbon sinks as well as some technological inventions that are being proposed for use in capturing and storing or recycling carbon.


Some nations occupy land with large carbon sinks such as rainforests. And some nations — especially the industrially advanced ones — emit disproportionate amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. We are all being challenged now to reduce such emissions, mainly by using less fossil fuel. People living in rich countries find this especially hard to do, for we are accustomed to the use of abundant energy. At the same time, we are asking people in the less developed countries not to adopt the same greenhouse gas-emitting technologies that had made us rich. This is unfair, but it is also essential. Every country must cut back, including both those that caused most of the global warming problem itself and those blameless ones that will be forced unjustly to sacrifice. But naturally, not all countries seem willing to accept the necessary deprivations.

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John Postman

We should GENERALLY protect forests, but not those in permafrost. They are speeding up the melting–at least most the those in the Arctic. If anything, they should be cut down.

Adam Wynne

Bryophytes and cryptogamic covers are an often overlooked carbon sink. These terms refer to organisms such as algae, lichens, and mosses. In some regions – such as certain areas of Iceland – these are one of the few plant-like organisms which grow. As such, it is important to address their role in broad and specific ecological systems – as well as their role in assisting with global climate change. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry noted that these organisms were often omitted from climate models and started researching the role that these played in greenhouse gas cycles. “Mat-forming… Read more »

Adam Wynne

An interesting article on Popular Mechanics about a newly emerging field of science (pyroaerobiology) which examines how forest fires spread life – specifically microbial life. Interestingly, on a tangentially related note, scientists working at the Chernobyl site noted that radiation contamination impedes fungal, insect, and microbial activity (such as decomposition) and can contribute to the increased risk of large forest fires – such as through a larger layer of leaves, old trunks, etc. on the forest floor. A summary: “Pyroaerobiology, a new field of science with a badass name, seeks to understand how colonies of bacteria, fungi, archaea, and viruses… Read more »

J.T. Nowina

Besides carbon dioxide we have to worry about methane too. It is apparently produced mainly by the agricultural sector — either by ruminant livestock or by rice paddies. But there are methanotropic bacteria that consume methane. From what i have been reading, they live mainly in swamps and waterways. But shouldn’t there be more of them and shouldn’t they live in pastures where the cows produce all that methane? Does anybody know much about these little guys? They sound like things we want to make friends with.

Frank Sterle Jr.

Who needs carbon “sinks” when, as the subconscious general mentality allows us, Earth’s entire atmosphere and water systems can be and are used as our carbon dumps? Perhaps due to (everyone’s sole spaceship) Earth’s large size, there seems to be a general obliviousness in regards to our natural environment. It’s as though throwing non-biodegradable garbage down a dark chute, or pollutants emitted out of exhaust and drainage pipes, or spewed from sky-high jet engines and very tall smoke stacks—or even the largest contamination events—can somehow be safely absorbed into the air, sea, and land (i.e. out of sight, out of… Read more »

New Discovery on the Mechanics of Keeping Carbon in the Soil and What It Means For Your Pastures By Kathy Voth / On Pasture. October 21, 2019 . https://onpasture.com/ Imagine you’re a carbon molecule floating in the atmosphere and your mission is to get from there into the soil and stay there for decades. Your first step – slip into a plant through an open stoma. Stomata are microscopic openings on the surfaces of plant leaves that allow for the easy passage of water vapor, carbon dioxide and oxygen. They are crucial to the function of leaves as photosynthesis requires… Read more »

Here’s a brilliant article that will make you want to turn your lawn into something more convenient. But it doesn’t suggest that you turn it into a forest. Why not? That’s what the world really needs — about two trillion additional trees, and your lawn is the best place for you to plant your share of them. Still, this great article may motivate you to turn in the right direction. Please share it with everyone you know who has control of a piece of land that’s not already devoted to food crops or trees. “Why Everybody Wants a Lawn: And… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Shocking statistics. Do lawns have a greater or lesser ecological / environmental impact than cases where people simply pave over them (either with asphalt or interlocking brick)? When people pave over these surfaces, it often increases the albedo effect – as well as reduces soil health. Is this a better or worse trade-off than a uniform grass lawn? I have noticed this trend of paving over front yards (not for car parking – but for landscaping purposes) in several urban districts in Toronto. I am additionally shocked to hear the estimations for how much fuel is spilled in relation to… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Several years ago, I used to use sugar cane paper (notebooks) when writing notes – particularly in high school and first year of university. I have not seen these notebooks for sale for a while – though will check more stores the next time I go to buy a notebook. This paper was made from leftover components of the sugar cane industry – which made a paper similar to contemporary wood pulp paper. I recently looked back into this and it turns out there is some research in the field – as it reduces waste from the sugar industry –… Read more »

Mike Roddy

I’m tired of Americans pointing fingers at places like Borneo and Brazil. We consume 25% of the earth’s wood products,
and build houses out of lumber, 1/3 of which comes from Canadian clearcuts. Our “green” organizations are scared of the American timber industry. Until that changes, we all go down.

Adam Wynne

What are your thoughts on this trend of timber-based high-rises? The University of Toronto is proposing plans for a 14-storey high rise adjacent to the Munk School of Global Affairs – but it will be constructed of a timber frame… I think context is important… how do the clear-cuts (as bad as these are) compare in Borneo vs. Brazil vs. Canada? Are some more sustainable sources of lumber than others? Surely clear-cutting is not the best forest management strategy by any means. What role does reclaimed lumber play in relation to ecological / environmental impacts? I heard several years ago… Read more »

Mike Roddy

Timber high rises are a PR effort by companies like Weyerhauser and Georgia Pacific. It’s ridiculous to build high rises from wood, which is both heavier and weaker than steel. They are strictly PR stunts, subsidized by the timber industry. No architect or engineer would design them on his own. When one of them catches fire, and they can’t put it out, we will hear all kinds of excuses. Anything but the truth.

Adam Wynne

Allegedly the timber components are stronger than conventional wood – as they are multiple layers of wood glued together. This increased density of material additionally assists with fire prevention purposes. Do you have any insight – from your perspective – as to why wood skyscrapers have become somewhat popular in Scandinavia?

Adam Wynne

Chicago and London are both researching wooden skyscrapers 80-storeys tall, whereas Taiwan has one planned (70 storeys) for 2041. Is this possible with the compression that will be exerted on the on the wood materials as the weight of the upper floors press down on the base? How will these survive potential intense storms and/or earthquakes? Even if it is possible, is it wise to construct such large buildings out of a material such as wood?

Adam Wynne

“Canadians asked to find ash trees in a bid to preserve the species: Co-ordinator for the National Tree Seed Centre in Fredericton, McPhee is asking Canadians to help him find mature stands where seeds can be gathered and later stored for future generations in the centre’s deep-freeze vaults. “We’re looking to protect the genetic diversity of the species,” McPhee said in an interview. “We’re looking for natural stands of trees that are in seed …. We want Canadians to be our eyes — to let us know they’re out there.” “Jon Sweeney, a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service,… Read more »

Adam Wynne

An interesting article by Julie Jocsak at the Saint Catharine’s Standard (1 March 2019) around the restoration of oak savannah ecosystems in the Niagara region of Ontario. Many oak savannas have been over-taken by introduced and invasive species, threatening endemic and native eco-systems’ flora and fauna.


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This Bolsonaro guy is apparently one of the most dangerous people on the planet. What can the rest of the world do about his policies? https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/02/world/americas/bolsonaro-amazon-deforestation-galvao.html?fbclid=IwAR2NArsRkaN_L4RCO3EjJaJhCltnUxRRjex48wiVK3GUBpsDQ7V01-763Bo

Carol Wells

The permafrost is a huge carbon sink. These wildfires in the Arctic must be speeding up the melting. Does anyone know how much effect they are having?

Beverly Anderson

Seriously, something has to be done urgently about Bolsonaro’s horrible policies. Surely he must be open to a financial deal, isn’t he? Who is trying to organize a campaign to pay him to keep the rainforest intact? I just read an article about how he was elected by a combination of YouTube and WhatApp — though they didn’t intend to do it. It seems that the poor of Brazil rely on WhatApp to get clips of videos that they cannot afford to watch with YouTube (I guess the connectivity price is too high or something). So there were right-wing disinformation… Read more »

This is a serious critique of the potential that forestry offers for reducing climate change. I cannot appraise it but I think it should be taken seriously I hope someone works through the logic.

For First Time Ever, Scientists Identify How Many Trees to Plant and Where to Plant Them to Stop Climate Crisis By Good News Network – Jul 7, 2019 Around 0.9 billion hectares (2.2 billion acres) of land worldwide would be suitable for reforestation, which could ultimately capture two thirds of human-made carbon emissions. The Crowther Lab of ETH Zurich has published a study in the journal Science that shows this would be the most effective method to combat climate change. The Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich investigates nature-based solutions to climate change. In their latest study, the researchers showed for… Read more »

John Bacher

ottAWA THROWS A LIFELINE TO 50 MILLION TREE PROGRAM CUT BY ONTARIO GOVERNMENT The federal government is putting up $15 million over four years to rescue the 50 Million Tree Program which was cut by the Ontario government of Premier Doug Ford in its last budget, CBC News has learned. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna made the announcement today in Ottawa, saying the new cash will extend the program for at least another four years. She said in a statement to CBC News on Tuesday evening that preserving the program will mean cleaner air, a healthier environment and good local jobs.… Read more »

From Derek Markham @derekmarkham Perhaps one day in the distant future we’ll be able to go 3D-print an apple tree, or build an internet-connected modular maple tree from a kit, or have access to hyper-trees that grow at 10X the normal rate, but until that day arrives (and probably for long after), we’ll need to keep buying young trees, planting seeds, and taking cuttings the old-fashioned way, which is actually much simpler and cheaper than any tech solution to anything. They say that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but since we don’t have an… Read more »

There’s a new study proving that there’s enough room on the earth for another trillion trees at least, and if he hurry and plant the right kinds in the right places, we can slow global warming a lot. In fact, when the trees are mature about 40 to 70 years from now, they will be able to reverse most of the damage we’ve done, pulling back a lot of the carbon now in the atmosphere. But we have to hurry, and we have to do it right! It will take many billions of dollars, but it’s still the cheapest and… Read more »

Sam Lanfranco

Depends on one’s perspective. I look at it as 1 person and 4,700 trees.
All we need is 637 other like minded individuals, or 319 at 9,400 trees

You have probably seen this wonderful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSTV-KcAd_0

Sam Lanfranco

One of the problems with tree-centric innovation, and with too much of agriculture and knowledge in general is the failures to (a) collaborate, (b) listen, and (c) learn and then (d) try. In some areas an innovation goes viral almost the minute it proves itself (1970’s use of growth hormones to aid beer production). In other areas, e.g. vaccine, the knowledge is resisted for stupid (and sad) reasons. In the agriculture section here is a new collaboration where I know some of the people on the Indian (ekutir) side. See: https://blooom.farm/ Several years ago I aided a bit in C.… Read more »