Tom Evslin: Zero net emissions does not require zero use of fossil fuels

This commentary is by Tom Evslin of Stowe, an entrepreneur, author and former Douglas administration official. It is republished from the Fractals of Change blog.

In the introduction to its May 2022 special issue SAVING FORESTS, National Geographic says “Each year forests and other vegetation absorb up to a third of the CO2 released from burning fossil fuels.” The implications of that statement are clear: if we reduce emissions from fossil fuels by two-thirds and preserve our vegetative cover, we will be at zero net emissions. We will NOT be increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. If we reduce emissions a little further or plant more trees, we’ll start to reduce the concentration of CO2 and temperatures should start to decline if atmospheric models from the UN are correct.

Tom Evslin

The SAVING FORESTS issue gives many examples of using trees to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and sequester carbon in the ground including better management of existing forests, reforesting abandoned farmland, controlled burns, and replanting burned areas with a mix of species less likely to fuel infernos. All these cost money; the logical question to ask, project by project, is “does this project remove more CO2 from the atmosphere per dollar spent than, for example, subsidizing electric cars?” But the question is never asked. Any money allocated to planting more trees must, apparently, be in addition to the nearly limitless cost of eliminating all fossil fuels.

On page 73 of SAVING FORESTS, in an otherwise excellent article on threats to trees, author Craig Welch contradicts the introduction and writes “The planet won’t stop warming until we completely [emphasis mine] halt fossil fuel emissions.” This is nonsense, of course, because it’s only net emissions which count. Earth isn’t punishing us for the hubris of burning fossil fuels; but authors like Welch typically include a ritualistic condemnation of all fossil fuels in their articles to protect themselves from the suspicion that they are proposing carbon reduction methods which might compete with eliminating fossil fuels. They are intimidated by the green industrial complex which brooks no challenge to any of its schemes to replace fossil fuels no mater how impractical, slow, or expensive. That means that tree-plantings aren’t allowed to compete for climate mitigation dollars with schemes like subsidies for electric cars or reliance on battery technologies which don’t exist yet.

Equating the end of all fossil fuel use with the net zero goal means that we don’t prioritize our reductions because “all” fossil fuels are bad. If we confuse the goal of zero net emissions with a needless jihad to replace all fossil fuels, we squander wealth, deny people a way out of poverty, and quickly forfeit support for the programs necessary to reduce emissions.

A two-third reduction in net emissions in a reasonable time is doable if not easy. The world as we know it doesn’t have to end. Good news.

The National Geographic issue on trees is full of good strategies for maintaining and even increasing plant-based reductions in net emissions. But fear of offending the all-fossil-fuels-must-go crowd prevents the magazine from following its own facts to reasonable conclusions and policy recommendations.

Image courtesy of Public domain
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3 thoughts on “Tom Evslin: Zero net emissions does not require zero use of fossil fuels

  1. I have to laugh at these Climate Change freaks.

    How about encouraging less consumerism?
    They never seem to do this.
    How about saving your money, buying a top quality one, and buying it once- instead of a cheap one from China every few years.

    We live in time now where we are no longer producing the top quality American goods that we once did, and all of us are now on a constant rotation of replacing everything we own as it all breaks down.

    We have the ability in this country to produce things that could last for our entire lives- and yet we don’t.
    Now think about why this is and why it’s not happening.
    Think about the money people would have if we were not buying couches and washing machines every 5 years.
    Think about all the hours you are forced to work just to keep all your ‘stuff’ going.
    Our landfills are overflowing with cheap Chinese crap and yet where are all the treehuggers out there demanding that we open up our factories again so that we can produce our own high quality exceptional American goods again?
    Our cars are not the problem, it’s the brainless consumerism that create low wage jobs and mountains of CRAP that is now a serious problem to get rid of.
    But yet who is moving the culture towards curbing all of this?

    We grew up with 3 pairs of pants- if we were lucky- and now most newer homes have walk in closets the size of small bedrooms.. and the people that have these homes want to take our cars away.

  2. Your points are well taken but need to be further enhanced by the latest data and analysis that shows CO2 is not the boogeyman we have been misled to believe the last 30 + years by those paid to promote the idea. The atmosphere, mainly due to the beneficial characteristics and impact of H2O absorption spectra, is highly stable moderator of global temperatures. There is no impending climate emergency and CO2 is not the control parameter of global temperatures, that accolade falls to H2O. CO2 is simply the supporter of life on this planet as a result of the miracle of photosynthesis.
    Do we want the following to be our legacy that actions in 2022 bankrupted our grandchildren?
    MIT Professor, emeritus, Richard Lindzen:
    “What historians will definitely wonder about in future centuries is how deeply flawed logic, obscured by shrewd and unrelenting propaganda, actually enabled a coalition of powerful special interests to convince nearly everyone in the world that carbon dioxide from human industry was a dangerous, planet-destroying toxin.
    “It will be remembered as the greatest mass delusion in the history of the world – that carbon dioxide, the life of plants, was considered for a time to be a deadly poison.”

    I would encourage folks to read the attached. https://clintel.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/WCD-version-06272215121.pdf

  3. One way to reduce CO2 emissions is to stop exhaling. The best thing that could happen for our planet would be if all the fools screaming this nonsense would just stop breathing.
    Our Earth would continue as it has the last few billion years, but more peacefully.

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