Thursday 28 November 2019

Tree hugging nonsense, election special

The election falls even further into farce today. It truly is an election special.

Labour announce they are going to plant 2 billion trees, the Lib Dems 30 million and Tories 20 million.

What is the point of all this and why have none of them thought anything through, I see Guido already had a stab at this but has got a few bits wrong, so here we go:

A) You need 45 trees to store one ton of carbon dioxide, of course this is only store so you can't go cutting them down again.

B) The UK carbon output is is 367,000,000 tons per year according to the UK Government estimates (down 38% in 10 years, which is rather impressive, almost entirely down to swtiching coal for gas power stations).

C) So you would needs 16,515,000,000 trees to make the UK carbon neutral.

So two billion trees will balance off about 12.5% of our current carbon output, at the usual density for tree planting of 2000 trees per hectare, that gives us about 1 million hectares needed - about 5 times the size of greater London or half of Wales.

The Government, including all property and building, only owns about 6 times the size of London in property.In addition, tree don't grow all over the mountains of Wales or Scotland so vast areas of wilderness you can't turn to forest. 

So for Labour, they would have to buy huge amounts of private land and return it to forest. As well as the army that would be needed to do all this planting - tens of thousands of full time people for decades. .

If you actually wanted to make the UK carbon neutral, the simpler and more realistic plan would be to buy Ireland which is quite flat, at 8.5 million hectares, and turn it all into a forest. This would make the UK carbon neutral.

For crying out loud this is so stupid. Esepcially when thanks to climate change and more CO2 more trees are going to grow anyway. Also there are actually some quite good ideas like planting billions of trees across Africa to stop the spread of the Sahara - trees are needed unlike the UK where we need arable land to feed oursleves and live in.


Anonymous said...

If you don't cut down a tree, but leave it to die and rot, much of the stored carbon will be released as CO2. Fungi digest dead wood, oxidise it for energy, and release CO2.

Some of the deeper roots may not rot, and nor will trees that die in acid swampy soils like those that formed the coal measures. But in Britain, most will rot.

The leaves that fall every Autumn also rot and release CO2.

If you cut a tree down and use the wood for furniture or building construction, you can delay the process of rotting for a century or more.

Don Cox

Anomalous Cowshed said...


What's wrong with a nice shrubbery?

iOpener said...

Or you could just accept that a warmer UK would be a very good thing, whereas a colder UK would result in London being a few miles south of a glacier stretching to the north pole.

Matt said...

What makes you think Labour would buy private land when it could be confiscated much more cost effectively? No moving your farm to Switzerland to avoid the thieving bastards like the utilities have done.

DJK said...

I don't think Labour said where they would plant the trees, so this could just be a case of diverting the entire foreign aid budget to planting trees in Africa.

andrew said...

@Anomalous Cowshed

Ask Roger the shrubber

In these strange economic times demand for shrubbery just has not been what it used to be.

In other news, there is hope - some person in Dublin (? - R4 on Tues am) has come up with a way of turning the waste product from making beer into fuel - this waste used to go to landfill, and produce bad gasses.
The fuel is carbon-neutral as the exhaust gas ~ the carbon needed to grow the crops.
More reason to drink beer as well.
Sometimes genuine progress is made at one stroke - both economically and culturally.

andrew said...

... or should that be two stroke?


YDG said...

"You need 45 trees to store one ton of carbon dioxide, of course this is only store so you can't go cutting them down again."

No, no, no, no. This is a golden opportunity to wrap ourselves in the green flag, extort money out of the EU, abolish unemployment in rundown areas, provide fuel for future generations and make chunks of the country geologically stable again.

1. Plant a few hundred thousand trees.

2. Wait a bit.

3. Chop them down, and - this is the clever bit - put them in the empty and disused coal mines - of which we have a great many. Thus creating lots of "green" jobs in run-down, former mining communities - so we should be able to get squillions in EU subsidies; CAP subsidies for growing the trees; eco subsidies for burying them - maybe even regional development subsidies for the jobs in disadvantaged areas.

4. As the underground galleries fill up, seal them with concrete. The wood might still decay but the carbon is trapped underground.

Repeat steps 1-4 for as long as we have space underground - probably centuries - but meanwhile ...

5. Wait a bit more

6. The trees sealed in fairly airtight underground chambers have turned back into coal so we can dig it back up and use it as fuel! How "green" is that?

7. Sell this service to foreigners ie Dear China/India/wherever - bung us some cash and we'll bury even more trees to off-set your CO2 production.

Am I too late to apply for a patent?

Bill Quango said...

YDG is a genius!

dearieme said...

There's no need to plant any bloody trees. This is Britain: if you fence off any land below about 1500' to keep out grazing animals, then - except in fens, blanket bog, or the subarctic tundra in the far north of Scotland- woodland will start growing spontaneously.

I'll grant you that if you want trees in Shetland you'll need to plant them - there's a woman who has had success with Alaskan species. But otherwise barbed wire and benign neglect is all you need.

Nick Drew said...

In Britain, burning trees for electricity qualifies as green! We dish out well over £1bn per annum in subsidies for it! And that's at the industrial level (Drax et al), never mind the RHI ...

I know of nobody in the electricity industry who doesn't snort with derision at the stupidity of it - and that includes the people who are doing it

Matt said...

Will Arlene survive the inquiry into RHI? I would imagine so as no inquiry that I can think of manages to actually attach any blame to anyone in the public sector.

No doubt, lessons will be learned - not how to no waste public money, but how to avoid being caught our next time.

A pox on their house.

Anonymous said...

"trees don't grow all over the mountains of Wales or Scotland so vast areas of wilderness you can't turn to forest"

Actually they pretty much did - sheep did the damage. Same in the non-desert parts of Iceland - the trees were all gone within a century or two of Viking colonisation.

E-K said...

Greta Thunberg runs our government.

E-K said...

Climate "Emergency" (BBC all the time)

So that's that then. Brexit is down the list.

L fairfax said...

Also a lot of our rarer species are not woodland species but wetland or heathland species so this could wipe them out if happened.
E.g Large Blue Butterfly, Short tongued Bumble bee etc.

rwendland said...

CU, I make it that 1 million hectares would eventually absorb 100%, not 12.5%, of one year of UK carbon output, based on the info in the Forestry Commission document linked below.

The document says roughly British trees absorb 100 tonnes/hectare of carbon (note not CO2) when fully grown - Corsican Pine is the winner at 135 t/ha, but a mix is about 100.

So the maths goes, relying on my rusty A-level chemistry recollection of atomic weights:

1) 27.3% of CO2 is carbon: 12 / (12 + 16 + 16) = 0.273

2) In 2018, UK net emissions of carbon dioxide were 364.1 million tonnes according to govt stats linked below.

3) Of that CO2, 99.4 million tonnes was carbon: (364.1 * 1000000) * 0.273 = 99.39 million

4) At 100 t/ha 1 million hectares of trees will ultimately absorb all of 2018's UK net carbon emissions: (99.39 * 1000000) / 100 = 0.99 million = ~1 million

Your maths above seems sound, so it seems there must be a clash between our sources on some basic fact. What do you think of these compared to yours?

Forestry Commission document (dated 1989):

2018 Greenhouse gas stats:

CityUnslicker said...

RwenlNd the source I was using said 45 soft trees per tonne, maybe forestry are using different tree types.

Anonymous said...

Where do you find a 38% reduction in the last decade?

All I can find it a 38% reduction since 1990?

rwendland said...

Anon, the 2018 Greenhouse gas stats doc I link just above says:

"The provisional estimates suggest that in 2018, total UK greenhouse gas emissions were 43.5 per cent lower than in 1990 and 2.5 per cent lower than 2017.


The decrease in carbon dioxide emissions was driven by the continuing downward trend in emissions from power stations, with a 9.9 per cent decrease between 2017 and 2018. This is mainly as a result of changes in the fuel mix used for electricity generation, away from coal and towards renewables."

So a bit better with the latest provisional 2018 numbers - my guess CU used the previous year numbers.

rwendland said...

,,, misread what you asked Anon. The doc has figures for every 5 years from 1990, plus 2017 and 2018. It doesn't back up "38% reduction in the last decade".

The highest decade reduction I can see is 30.2% from ~2007.5 (midpoint of 2005 & 2010) to ~2017.5 (midpoint of 2017 and 2018): (373.2 + 364.1) / (557.9 + 498.3 ) = 0.698

The per decade reduction has been accelerating, presumably mainly due to offshore wind going big plus efficiency improvements like better cars and LED bulbs:

1990 to 2000: 6.4% reduction
2000 to 2010: 10.75% reduction
2005 to 2015: 26.8% reduction

E-K said...

The missed point is that Boris steals a march every time he promises Brexit, so the BBC have gone and changed the agenda on Remain's behalf in order to rescue them.

Nearly all Remainers are radical greenists. So the more green politicians get elected to Parliament then the more Remainers are elected automatically too.

Clever, eh ?

This election was meant to be about Brexit !