February 7, 2019

Carbon Sinks, Reprise and Expansion


A true carbon sink

Here’s an extension of an earlier piece.
I’ve learned about sinks mostly from books, such as the USDA SARE’s book on soil building, books on trees and forests, and James Lovelock’s Gaia books. I’m not sure about a specific website, though a quick search brought up lots of what look like basic primers. One must be use care, though, since lots of sites are “mainstream” and therefore prone to be deceptive about the great capacity difference between natural sinks and industrial monoculture plantations. But it’s the same difference as with biodiversity – a natural ecology is vast in capacity and diversity, a monoculture by definition is sterile and shallow.
A sink is a mode of carbon storage in a non-atmospheric form. The longest term and most capacious sink is the transfer of carbon from the air (via rain) and terrestrial rock to the ocean, where algae use it to form skeletons which then settle to the ocean floor and become limestone sediment. Over geological time some of this carbon eventually is released volcanically as CO2. Over billions of years the geophysiological process has acted to reduce the atmospheric carbon content to compensate for the gradually increasing radiance of the sun, in order to maintain comfortable temperatures for life. (One can view this teleologically or as an emergent system, according to taste.) Much carbon also was sunk as dead plant material which eventually congealed as fossil fuels, which modern civilization is irrevocably committed to returning to the atmosphere by burning every last BTU worth it can, toward total destruction and self-destruction. Global heating therefore is likely to render much of the planet uninhabitable (and pretty much all of it unarable) for humans and other large mammals well before major sea-level rise and other such effects hit their stride.
The ocean has absorbed a great amount, though there’s evidence that it’s reaching saturation. And higher carbon concentrations are driving acidification which hinders the ability of oceanic algae, coral, and others to incorporate carbon into their exoskeletons. So one of the potential tremendous positive feedback loops is when global heating and higher CO2 concentrations cause the ocean to flip from being a sink to an emission source.
Vast amounts of methane are sunk in the northern permafrost and as frozen clathrates in shallow Arctic waters. As the Arctic heats up (it’s heating at a much faster rate than the global average) the permafrost’s melt rate, already rapid, will speed up, while the clathrates will begin to melt. This feedback loop brings a high likelihood of a huge non-linear methane surge at some point in the near future.
Then there’s shorter term ecological sinks. The everyday carbon cycle has plants extract CO2 from the air and embody it in their tissues. Most of this returns to the air as the plant dies and decomposes, but a small amount is kept in the soil as organic carbon. The longest lasting forms in the soil are humus and charcoal. The longest lasting plant tissues are the wood of living and growing old-growth trees. Natural forests incarnate the most carbon of any ecology. The older and more evolved the forest, the more carbon it incarnates and the more it will incarnate going forward. Wetlands and grasslands also are capacious sinks.
Contrary to the lies of governments, corporations, and fake “environmental” NGOs, monoculture tree plantations and other monocultures are very weak sinks with little capacity. To destroy a natural forest and replace it with a plantation equals a huge net emission of CO2, as well as the lost capacity of what that forest would have stored over the coming centuries.
A “constructed wetland” is similar. It’s an anodyne thing to put in the place of a destroyed natural wetland where it will in a very meager, inadequate way try to serve as a substitute. (This is a typical example of modern civilization’s decadence of destroying what works and is necessary and then trying to substitute something which doesn’t work.) Mostly it’s for propaganda purposes, for governments, corporations, and NGOs who collaborate in destroying the Earth. It cannot substitute for a real wetland for any of the “services” wetlands give the Earth – sinking carbon, controlling water flow, being habitat for diverse wildlife (flora and fauna).
Therefore there is no substitute for a complete and permanent ceasefire, a permanent end to the destruction of natural sinks, and no subsitute for letting forests, wetlands, and grasslands resume their natural ranges in their natural ways, and leaving them all alone. Anyone who claims to want to mitigate the climate crisis (and the ongoing sixth mass extinction and every other part of the general ecological crisis) but who advocates anything less than this, let alone the further destruction of natural forests, is a fraud and a liar. The mainstream climate movement not only doesn’t want to draw a line on the destruction of sinks, but its Paris scam actively wants to escalate and accelerate the destruction of ALL forests through its massive subsidies for the “biomass” scam and crime, which means killing trees to burn their wood pellets for electricity and heat, and to use them for biofuels. This is the most vile ecological crime of all. More on the Paris deforestation onslaught in an upcoming piece.


  1. It’s probable that humanity has already set into motion a series of events which will inevitably lead to our extinction, but as long as I’m alive I intend to do what I can to turn things toward a more positive future for our progeny.

    Comment by VernonHuffman — February 7, 2019 @ 10:39 am

    • I’ve dedicated my life to that. Part of that is warning against the death trap which guarantees extinction to those who don’t get out of it. If as a writer I can help present the necessary alternative to all the traps and scams and frauds of the destroyers, I can help build the necessary movement toward the post-industrial, post-civilization, restored traditional ecological way of living, the way humans thrived within Gaia for so many thousands of years.

      While Homo domesticus certainly will become the ultimate victim of its own mass extinction campaign, I have expectations that a redeemed Gaian humanity will continue. With any luck many of the traditional and indigenous peoples who still endure today will make it through.

      Comment by Russell Bangs — February 7, 2019 @ 10:48 am

  2. […] than 5-10 degrees Celsius. How much higher depends solely on how long industrial emissions and destruction of sinks continue.   As if these goals aren’t pathetic enough in principle, they’re also […]

    Pingback by The Purpose of Paris | Volatility — February 9, 2019 @ 6:55 am

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