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Climate change, carbon sequestration and Tasmania

By Fred Gale - posted Thursday, 28 August 2008

Climate Change is challenging all of us to rethink our current policies, practices and decision-making arrangements.

Around the world, governments, business and civil society actors are grappling with climate change, seeking approaches that will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to acceptable levels at reasonable cost.

While the onus to reduce GHGs lies mainly with the direct generators of greenhouse gases - notably the coal and oil industries - forests can play a crucial role in mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon.


This is increasingly being recognised by international policy makers and experts who are promoting Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) as a key component of the second, post-2012, Kyoto commitment period.

While the increased attention being paid to the role that forests can play in mitigating climate change is welcome, future policies must not result in ecosystem degradation, loss of biodiversity, interference with hydrological cycles, or disentitlement.

Three major difficulties confront business, environmentalists and governments as they prepare their policies on climate change.

For business and labour, the drive to expand production may lead them to oversell the value of forests as carbon sinks, leading them to play down the role forests play in delivering a broader array of economic, social and environmental benefits linked to tourism, watershed protection and biodiversity.

For environmental groups, the drive to protect native forests and wilderness, may lead them to overlook the threat global warming poses to wilderness itself as warmer temperatures increase the number and severity of wildfires and pest attacks.

For governments, the drive to get (re)elected may require them to respond favourably to industry pressure, leading them to back carbon sequestration projects that marginalise new economy, environmental, community and Aboriginal interests.


To avoid these three dangers, we require a new forest politics in Tasmania - one that delivers an optimum forest policy that will secure the benefits of REDD without incurring significant costs.

Overselling carbon sinks?

The forest industry has a vested interest in promoting the benefits of forest-based carbon sinks.

In an extended recent discussion by Malmsheimer et al (2008) in the Journal of Forestry, a very strong case is made for including forests as part of the solution to climate change.

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First published in the Tasmanian Times on August 25, 2008. This article is adapted from a speech given by the author to the Environment Tasmania Forum to Address Gunns’ Pulp Mill and Climate Issues on August 20, 2008.

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About the Author

Dr Fred Gale is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Government, University of Tasmania, Launceston.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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