If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears the sound

…is it kinda like the Kyoto market trading mess didn’t really fail?

OK, so I’m paraphrasing the philosophical question that paraphrases the issues raised by philosopher George Berkeley (1685-1753) as a way to explore questions about reality and knowledge, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” (See, I knew my degree is philosophy would pay off!)

So, what’s this have to do with climate policy?  Read this:

The government of New Zealand responded with some irritation to [Fred Pearce's] column [in the Guardian newspaper] last week, which castigated a national strategy for meeting its Kyoto climate targets by allowing greenhouse gas emissions to rise by 22% from 1990 to 2007.

All was well, it said. The 600,000 hectares of forests that were planted in the 1990s would soak up all the excess CO2 – around 90m tonnes of it between 2008 and 2012. In fact, the country was likely to be ahead of its Kyoto target of stabilising emissions at 1990 levels.

Interesting, no?  OK, click here and read the rest of this very interesting article.

See, here’s the thing.  People keep telling me that this whole carbon sink-tree planting thing is a good idea for addressing the critical need to reduce green house gases.  But the idea is fatally flawed for (at least) two reasons: 1) carbon doesn’t stay in trees for very long; and2) the tree planting ends up taking the place of changing energy policy because planting trees is nice, making money is nice, meeting targets is nice, but challenging (and changing)  multi-national energy companies–not so much.

So, in New Zealand (aka the real world):

Those forests are not long-term sinks; they are commercial plantations. As [New Zealand's Climate Minister] Smith’s spokesman told me, they “are likely to be harvested in the 2020s”. And, he added: “The government has no intention to ban the harvest.”  When they are harvested their carbon will return to the atmosphere.

Sometime in the 2020s, New Zealand will become responsible for a massive surge in emissions from its forests – just at the time when global demands for ever-deeper cuts in emissions are likely to be going into overdrive.

Planting trees in New Zealand seems to make people think we’ve done something to “combat” climate change, when really things have gotten worse, in this case 22% worse.

So tell me again about how this all makes sense….

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