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Carbon sinks won't solve global warming -- Only solution is to cut CO2 emissions

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Source: Planet Works

See Also:
Download summary and full report.
Planting Northern Forests Would Increase Global Warming.
A Modest Proposal to Stop Global Warming By Ross Gelbspan.

Carbon sinks won't solve global warming - report

UK: July 9, 2001

LONDON - Forests and farmlands cannot be relied on to soak up environmentally damaging greenhouse gases, and cuts in emissions are the only long-term way to reduce global warming, scientists said on today.

A new report by Britain's Royal Society said too little is known about how much farmlands and forests, so-called carbon sinks, can absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. Carbon sinks will be a major issue in Bonn next week when environmentalists and policy-makers resume international climate talks, which have been jeopardised by the withdrawal of the United States from the Kyoto agreement on global warming.

In its report, the independent body of top scientists said better methods are needed to verify the impact of carbon sinks on global warming. Reducing the amount of CO2 from burning fossil fuels should be the main way to reduce global warming.

"These carbon sinks are of rather limited size and also will only work for a relatively short duration, a few decades. That means they can't make a major contribution to reducing carbon emissions and solving the global warming problem," said Professor John Shepherd, an author of the report.

SHORT TERM SOLUTION

Carbon sinks and emissions trading, essentially a market for buying and selling the right to pollute, were the main stumbling blocks at the failed United Nations conference on climate change in The Hague last year.

The United States, Japan, Canada and Australia wanted more emphasis on carbon sinks in achieving the CO2 emission cuts set in the 1997 Kyoto protocol on global warming. The pact commits developed nations to cutting emissions of CO2 by an average of just over five percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

Officials gathering in Bonn on July 16 for two weeks will try to get the talks back on track, despite the withdrawal of the United States earlier this year.

Shepherd, the director of Britain's Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, said carbon sinks were diverting the talks from the main issue which is cutting emissions.

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According to the report, carbon sinks and soil absorb about 40 percent of CO2 emissions and could soak up as much as 45 percent.

But it added that the maximum that could be absorbed would only be equivalent to a quarter of that needed by 2050 to prevent major rises in global temperature.

"Our view is that the argument is being diverted into what is really a rather unproductive area and people should get back to talking about carbon emission reductions at source by use of renewable (fuels) and whatever else they think is necessary," said Shepherd.

The scientists also warned that in the future carbon sinks could become a source of CO2. They could release greenhouse gases, such as methane.

"The primary benefit of land carbon sinks is that they can be effective immediately and provide a financial incentive for the preservation and sustainable use of forests and agriculture land," the report said.

But the long-term solution must be cuts in CO2 emissions through energy saving and replacing fossil fuels with renewable and nuclear energy.

Story by Patricia Reaney

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE

See Also:
Royal Society Press Release
Download summary and full report.
Planting Northern Forests Would Increase Global Warming.
A Modest Proposal to Stop Global Warming By Ross Gelbspan.

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