Saturday, January 10, 2015


REFA - Reforastation of Australian Continent
The Author: Ergun Çoruh, 10 January 2015

The Problem
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.

Author’s Note
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.

The Idea
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:
  • Research
    — 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.
  • Technology
    — 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.
  • Deployment
    — 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.
  • Economy
    — 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.

1 comment:

lucychili said...

This is a volunteer group that does provide trees for reveg.

Another group for reveg for farmers

70% of AU is arid.

Like other places Australia has a lot of fracking starting.

All the water in the great artesian basin has been given free to fracking interests.
All farmers and communities pay for a share of a limited amount of water.
This is a big concern.

Also fracking leaks methane into the water and into the atmosphere.
Can you imagine fighting fires with water that combusts out of the tap in an atmosphere which also has methane.
Fracking is a very scary prospect re fires.

A lot of the farming communities are getting pushed out by fracking.

A lot of the desert country already has plant life which is native to those areas.

The Nullabor plain between SA and WA is called that because it doesnt have trees naturally due to the desertness.

It is possible that species could be found that could be put into the landspcae. Currently the scrub there is native scrub but the rainfall means not trees.

We could have more trees planted into arable land.
One of the problems is that the cities are expanding into the arable farming land.

In part this is because there are 2 main supermarkets Coles and Woolworths which have both been squeezing farmers out of business by paying very low amounts for their food crops.
The farmers sell the land, the developers build houses.
More people commuting from further out.
House blocks are small which do not have a lot of room for trees on them.
This means we are building desert on arable land. I expect we are not the only place with this problem.

Housing affordability is a growing issue. Housing in the cities is sometimes empty because people can't afford it and the owners claim a loss on their tax. More people are becoming homeless.

More trees is constructive direction.
I think like most places there are a lot of political and economic pressures pulling in different directions.

Big increase in mining recently.