REFA - Reforastation of Australian Continent
The Author: Ergun Çoruh, 10 January 2015
We crossed the critical threshold of 350 ppm CO2 concentration in the Earth atmosphere around 1990s. We are now at 400 ppm and it gets worse every year. Beyond this threshold global temperature will continue to grow. Science predicted (1), transforming all of the energy production companies to use zero-emission technologies would not be sufficient to save the planet. We need to discover ways to reduce CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, and return it below 350 ppm, in addition to migrating energy production to zero emission technologies. This may only be possible by sucking CO2 from the atmosphere and storing the carbon away. One of proposed methods is to use re-forestation as a carbon sink.
The author sees himself as an amateur futurist, he is not an expert in any of the fields that might be relevant for this concept. He likes daydreaming, stirring ideas, asking odd questions, and getting people solve problems rather than himself solving them. Thankfully he does not claim he is right all the time. In fact most often than not he wishes to be wrong to learn the truth. It is evolving ideas, human creativity and learning excite him most. Hence the author’s elaboration of the idea shall be limited by his imagination, and he happily accepts it.
This paper discusses the possibility of re-forestation in the Australian continent as a carbon sink to reduce C02 concentration in the atmosphere.
This idea needs calculations and a goal on how much sinking effect should be aimed. My wild question is, with deployment strategy that spans 50 years, can this solution alone reduce the CO2 concentration by 10 ppm by the year 2150? We can play with numbers, but my gut feeling is, this solution alone may not be enough to go below 350 ppm. We would need more disruptive technologies, and other ideas to contribute to the global aim of going below 350 ppm. In other words we don’t have a magic bullet, we probably shouldn’t seek one.
Australia is a vast continent (7,686,850 km2) with unique geography, climate, and ecology. It has low population density of 3 people per square kilometre. Its desert areas constitute 35% of total land area. That is a lot of empty area, with enormous potential to help us solve the climate problem.
The idea involves several components:
The idea involves several components:
— Identify potential areas of reforestation. Not all areas would be suitable.
— Observe water from space and identify reservoirs.
— Analyse and aggregate geographic, ecological and climate data including sporadic bushfire patterns.
— Analyse and re-assess the project’s goal.
— Invent re-use a plant type, use genetic engineering as required.
— The plant should not have detrimental impact on continental flora and fauna.
— The plant should grow slowly (1–3 years), should have high longevity, its dead-form should have properties for becoming a versatile re-cycle material.
— The plant should be durable against bushfires.
— Plantations should be controllable, i.e. the plant should not be a macro “weed”.
— The plant in its dead form should have economic and scalable properties, such as elasticity, strength and weight that would allow it to be harvested and easily transported to become raw material for 3D printers, structures or buildings.
— A plant that can replace plastic in many areas would be the holly-grail technology.
— Desirable: A plant with reflective leaves can produce green energy. This is a crazy idea we can at least talk about.
— Survey vast areas using spontenous wi-fi technology and drones before, during and after deployment. Spontenous wi-fi using multi-hop routing would allow drone squadrons to travel and cover vast areas of land in close proximity for surveying and controlling things like water dispatching and distribution. Also make drones to use solar energy. Deploy and distribute solar energy sub-stations for drones to land and re-charge their batteries.
— Use self assembled 3D printing to assemble small water pipes. They will weave themselves like spider webs, they will form large lattices. Harness water reservoirs identified during initial survey or even use seawater as water source.
— Get Energy Companies to invest initially 10% of their time on this, make them shareholders. The raw output (the plant’s trunk), the technologies invented and its side industries will be their return on investment, through direct ownership or partnership. There is no reason for Energy Companies not to diversify their portfolio with high tech innovations such as spontenous drone squadrons, self assembling pipes and so on. In the end They may start calling themselves as “Carbon Sink” companies as well as Energy Producers.