Forests, soils, oceans and the atmosphere all store
carbon, which moves among those different carbon pools over time; these
four different carbon stores form the active carbon pool. If one of
these pools absorbs more carbon than it gives off, it is called a 'sink'
in the climate jargon, while a source emits more than it absorbs. Destroying
forests - turning them from a sink into a source - will shift the balance
within the active carbon pool towards higher concentrations in the atmosphere
and lower levels of carbon stored in the world's forests, but it will
not increase the overall amount of carbon that interacts with the atmosphere.
Another important carbon store are the world's fossil
fuel deposits. But this particular carbon store, buried deep inside
the earth, is naturally separated from the carbon cycling in the atmosphere,
unless humans decide to release it into the atmosphere when we burn
fossil fuels like coal, oil or natural gas. Any releases from this pool
of carbon will increase the amount of carbon available to the active
carbon pool. This is the crucial difference overlooked by those who
advocate carbon sink credits to halt climate change.
The argument to use carbon sink credits to halt
climate change is thus based on the faulty assumption that 'carbon is
carbon', an assumption that ignores the different interactions of the
carbon with the atmosphere, depending on where the carbon is stored.
In addition to this basic fallacy, there are further
flaws of the concept once
we look more closely at the Kyoto Protocol itself. These include the
carbon accounting framework of the Kyoto Protocol and environmental
and social shortcomings.
The following reports also provide additional information
about the problems associated with carbon sinks accounting:
The role of land carbon sinks
in mitigating global climate change.
The Royal Society. Policy Document 10/01. http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/files/statfiles/document-150.pdf
Full Carbon Account for Russia
IIASA Interim Report IR-00-02. http://www.iiasa.ac.at/Publications/Documents/IR-00-021.pdf
Sinks in the Kyoto Protocol:
A dirty deal for forests, forest peoples and the climate
The Carbon Shop: Planting