Friday, February 6, 2015

Trees Can Save the World


One year of research by Oxford University scientists and they managed to learn that the best technology to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and in the process, try to reverse global warming. It is trees.
Like everybody else, they looked for intricate solutions and these methods ranged from capturing emissions from factories and power stations to extracting carbon dioxide directly from the air, and even adding lime to oceans to increase their absorption of the gas.
It is a given that we should act fast. On May 10, 2013 the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, USA breached 400 parts per million – the highest it has been in millions of years.
Projections from the World Bank suggest that the global average temperature could rise by up to 4 degrees over pre-industrial levels by 2100 if current pledges to cut emissions are not met, with a 20% chance of exceeding 4 degrees even if they are. This would put us in a world very much unlike the one we currently enjoy, and which allowed civilisation to rise and flourish.
The Copenhagen Accord accepted 2 degrees of warming as a ‘safe’ limit based on scientific evidence of the time. Recent research suggests that to have a 50% chance of staying under 2 degrees, global emissions must peak by 2020 at the latest, followed by 5% reduction every year thereafter. 
In 2011-12, global emissions grew by 3%, and even the global financial crisis – and its effects on economic activity and production – only reduced emissions by 1.4%. There is also evidence to suggest that a 2 degree rise over pre-industrial levels would actually be more damaging than previously predicted, so we may well need to peak and decarbonise even faster.
Therefore, this Oxford study which was released on February 03, 2015 took on greater significance because none of the possible solutions appraised were more promising than planting trees or baking waste wood to form a type of charcoal that can be added to soil. Plus the fact that afforestation and biochar are really low-cost.
[In case, you still couldn’t figure it out, NETs are technologies that remove CO2 emissions from the atmosphere – also known as carbon dioxide removal or CDR technologies].
The university found that deploying NETs by 2050 could help to draw 2.5 years of CO2 from the atmosphere, almost exclusively using afforestation, biochar and improvements to soil carbon. However it warned that their deployment doesn’t mean “business as usual” and shouldn’t foster continued fossil-fuel use.
Undoubtedly, there are those who question the effectiveness of these NETs. I am not going to talk science here – the bigger question is whether we can afford to ignore anything that could potentially help relieve our climate predicament, including negative emissions technologies.
After all, when we plant trees, we are greening the landscape. The world today is a concrete jungle – therefore, greening adds aesthetic quality and a human dimension to the urban design for the creation of a more pleasant cityscape. Not to mention other benefits as well.
Trees – they may yet be our savior!

Yesterday, I was at the Sunway University Toastmasters meeting and I was the Table Topics Evaluator. I am almost always pleasantly surprised at our meetings because the speeches and evaluations are generally good. Yesterday was no different.
But what was even more special was the fact that our role players did a magnificent job. The Grammarian was both punctilious and meticulous in his report and he took almost 5 minutes. Not many Grammarians will do justice to the time allocated except maybe at Taman Indrahana meetings. The Ah-Counter was amazing because she managed to catch me with two speech crutches. This shows that she had pricked up her ears all through the meeting and she was really, really attentive. And our own club member who took up the General Evaluator role rose to the occasion and she gave an in-depth and thorough report – and believe it or not, that was her maiden attempt.
I am giving this meeting an 8.5 over 10 score. A great meeting!


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