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Carbon cycle

Burying trees
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When I read that planting trees to "lock up carbon won't work" because eventually the global wood-stock will burn or rot and release its carbon anyway, I think of coal, locked away underground.

Is it feasible to bury trees at their growth-peak,in some place where they will [without oxygen?] eventually become coal?

By that time humankind will either have become extinct or found a way to safely release the carbon from the coal.

rayfo, Oct 03 2000

Carbon Sequestration http://cdiac2.esd.ornl.gov/index.html
From the U.S. DOE, including links to other sites. [egnor, Oct 03 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Carbon Sequestration Initiative http://web.mit.edu/sequestration/
An industry-sponsored research consortium led by MIT. [egnor, Oct 03 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Capture & Storage of CO2 http://www.ieagreen.org.uk/removal.htm
A good overview of techniques, from the International Energy Association. [egnor, Oct 03 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

CO2 Storage in Saline Aquifers http://www.ieagreen...cs2.htm#co2facility
Statoil have been sequestering CO2 in an undersea aquifer. [egnor, Oct 03 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Stephen Hawking on global warming http://www.times-ar...timnwsnws01023.html
Hawking argues that the human race will be extinct within another millennium. [egnor, Oct 03 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Manfred Stock responds to Hawking http://www.heise.de...ta/jk-03.10.00-003/
Slightly more optimistic. (In German, sorry.) [egnor, Oct 03 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]


       I really hate to tell you this Peter, but as the glaciers melt, they deposit a layer of lighter, fresh water, atop the denser, saltier water - this disrupts the convection cycle that produces warm currents. The result is a drier, colder climate, although I'd expect unpredictability, and wide variations in the meanwhile. Don't throw away the umbrella, but buy a warm coat.
Scott_D, Oct 04 2000

       I have the solution. Elect Gore. He will create a huge government, with ever-expanding paperwork. We can then cut down the trees, turn them into documents, and warehouse them in used missile silos. Gore could then acheive his Orwellian (1984) goals, and end Global Warming in "one swell foop."
pkyb, Oct 04 2000

       Centauri - people, like other mammals, are not a good way of "locking up" carbon, as they are short lived, produce greenhouse gases, and degrade easily once dead.   

       Peter - I may have missed something, but how would higher sea level make *more* of the earth's surface habitable?
Lemon, Oct 04 2000


       Higher Sea's would'nt make much more land habitable directly, Except for creatingnew waterfront properties, and ignoring antarctica... However, the warming that caused it would make much more of Siberia and Canada habitable. Take a look at their land mass. It makes the USA look like a postage stamp! I will assume that this is what the other halfbaker meant.
pkyb, Oct 04 2000


       First of all, the notion behind rayfo's idea is called "carbon sequestration". I'm adding some links to more information about the topic, but there are a number of techniques under investigation; they range from injecting carbon dioxide into deep ocean waters to genetically engineering microbes to extract and concentrate carbon that would otherwise end up in the air.   

       It's possible to bury trees, but it's still generally a better idea to let them grow (and, if they die, plant new ones), since they will consume carbon on an ongoing basis. As Centauri points out, trees have other advantages (though natural forests are better than artificial plantations for most of them).   

       However, almost everyone working on carbon sequestration projects agrees that it is only useful in conjunction with other programs to reduce carbon emissions at the source; even if we implemented every sequestration scheme ever devised to the best of our ability, it would probably still only account for a fraction of the world's current carbon surplus.   

       At any rate, it's an active research area, so I think it's safe to call "baked!".   

       I don't know what to say to the rampantly underinformed comments on global warming. There are certainly plenty of schools of thought, but the fact remains that rapid, unmanaged change on a global scale is almost never a good thing. It's true that life on Earth will almost certainly survive, and even human life will probably not end -- but do we really want to cause another K-T-style mass extinction? If nothing else, it's almost certain to create economic hardship; like it or not, we're still dependent on the ecosphere for the air we breathe and the food we eat. (And that's leaving aside any emotional or moral attachment people might feel to the rest of the species on the planet.)
egnor, Oct 04 2000

       Even if global climate change led to a breadbasket Siberia and Canada - one serious crapshoot - it would be a wealth and income redistribution program of a larger scale than, say, turning the US socialist. A large proportion of the world's people live in what are currently crowded fertile lowlands; flooding and storming them out to make the sparsely settled north more valuable would be either murderous or theft.   

       Of course, flooding them out & then charging them resettlement fees to become rightless low-wage workers would be profitable to some. Cui bono?
hello_c, Oct 04 2000

       A little knowledge is a dang’rous thing ... the wise old turtle said,   

       So when you’re out among halfbakers ... pull in your silly head.
rayfo, Oct 05 2000

       And, to be less experimental; one of the reasons planting trees to lock up carbon works, even though the trees are mortal, is that it assumes the trees will be succeeded by other trees and supported by an increasingly deep layer of biologically active topsoil. It's a carbon *cycle* because when it works the carbon let go by decay is captured promptly by some other life-form.
hello_c, Nov 16 2000

       Why not cut them down, paint them with preservative, and make furniture out of them?   

       AFAIK the main problem with using carbon credits to encourage plantations and reafforestation is that there is no provision in the regime for accounting for what was on the land before the plantation. In other words, it's entirely possible to clearfell and burn an old-growth forest, re-plant it as a monoculture tree farm, and earn carbon credits for doing so.   

       I agree with hello_c's point, but the loss of biomass involved in harvesting the trees could perhaps be offset by fertilizing with urban sewage waste. After it has been used to generate methane and electricity of course :-)
BunsenHoneydew, Dec 19 2002


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