500 words; epic human frailty

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On my way to work, I was listening to an RN Breakfast interview with a representative of the Commonwealth Secretariat, who was describing the ‘radically new’ approach to addressing the challenges of climate change. One such revelation was ‘working with nature to find solutions’. When pressed, the interviewee said this meant taking lessons from nature and applying them to engineering solutions.

An example; there is too much CO2 floating around in the atmosphere and not enough locked away (sequestered) in the ground. Nature, it seems, has a few ways of sequestering carbon, one of which is….trees.

Woah woah woah…trees turn CO2 into something that isn’t CO2? Yep, the Commonwealth Secretariat doesn’t just make coffee and organise the dry cleaning of the Commonwealth Manageriat.

So I thought; OK, what’s the easiest, most efficient trees CO2-sequestration process?

Is it;

A) stop cutting down trees that sequester carbon? Also, plant some more?

B) dream up some other hugely carbon intensive industrial process that uses orders of magnitude more carbon to establish than sticking a sapling in the ground?

Guess which one the engineers went for? That’s right, a new form of concrete that sequesters CO2, so when you build a new building out of concrete (one of the most intensely carbon heavy products known to man) it will perform some of the same sequestration as a tree.

Some people like to build houses out of trees. They grow the tree, cut it down, build their house and another one grows in its place. Architects have also figured out how to build large structures out of engineered structural timber, instead of steel and concrete, two materials with very high embedded energy.

To be sure, this is not an argument about whether planting more trees would ‘fix’ global warming. It is a discussion about the most efficient tree-like way to sequester CO2. My money’s on….a tree.


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