A few things have happened recently, both good and bad, that makes me wonder if we are doing our share to avert an impending climate disaster. On the good side we have signed and ratified the COP21 climate agreement and just announced a positive policy to introduce some electric transport. On the negative side we have delayed the closure of the Huntley power station coal fired boilers and Fonterra are opening two new dairy processing plants which will use coal to dry the milk into powder.
The best outcome that we can hope to achieve is a 1.5 C increase in temperature above 1880 (about where we are now) and it requires that we stop burning fossil fuels immediately, change our farming systems and then start removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
We are clearly not going to do that but it does highlight the situation that, as we get further into the century and the climate disasters start to get much worse we will have to act rapidly to stop using oil and coal and start to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
If the single Huntly coal fired boiler is running at near capacity, it will be burning around 1000 tons of coal a day or 365,000 tons a year. To sequester the CO2 from this burning we will have to plant 40 trees per ton and this will amount to 14,600,000 trees for every year of operation.
The Fonterra boiler may burn 100 tons of coal a day for each operation and just one will burn 36,500 tons of coal a year and they will need to plant 1,460,000 trees a year to soak up the CO2 they are putting into the atmosphere.
The scale of the problem is huge but avoiding it today only piles up problems for the future and we have already wasted thirty years when the problems have been apparent but the people and the politicians political will have not been there and prepared to face the facts and take action.