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Counting captured carbon

Posted June 5, 2013


Policy makers need to count carbon ‘stocks’ in the land and sea alongside current reporting of greenhouse gas emissions in order to plan long-term responses to climate change, says a leading economist.

“Regularly and comprehensively reporting carbon stocks in fossil fuels, biomass and soils at the national level will provide valuable information to help policymakers better understand human influences on the global carbon cycle and inertia in the climate system,” said Dr Judith Ajani, a fellow at the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society and HC Coombs Policy Forum.

Carbon stocks refer to the quantity of carbon contained in a reservoir or system which has the capacity to accumulate or release carbon.

Dr Ajani will use a lecture at the Crawford School of Public Policy on Monday 27 May to argue the case for more comprehensive carbon stock reporting.

She said that policymakers are currently preparing climate change responses without all the information they need.

“Scientists report that around two thirds of our global carbon emissions aren’t currently accumulating in the atmosphere, but in the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems,” Dr Ajani said.

“These reservoirs create delays in the climate response to fossil fuel combustion by accumulating much of the difference between the inflows of carbon emissions to the atmosphere and the permanent outflows.

“Substantial information gaps exist about the carbon stocks in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, in their biomass and soil, and their potential for accumulation.”

Dr Ajani will present national carbon stock accounting frameworks to complement current methods, and discuss the opportunity to communicate fundamental differences among carbon reservoirs: in their carbon stock stability, restoration capacity and density. These differentiate fossil carbon reservoirs from the biocarbon in ecosystems and enable different types of fossil fuel and biocarbon reservoirs to be defined.

“National carbon stock information will significantly enhance information for climate change policymakers: in long term planning for our economy and in land-use decision making with competing claims on land and water for food, carbon storage and biodiversity,” Dr Ajani said.

Source: Australian National University

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