Monday, April 26, 2010

Tree Cooling

There's a tree that could singlehandedly end global warming forever. The princess tree, Paulownia Tomentosa, has a number of remarkable traits that make it perfect for sucking tons and tons of carbon out of the air. For one, it grows exceptionally fast. It grows as tall as I am in the first three months of its life. This growth is made of carbon that it sucks from the air, with a little nitrogen from the soil.
For another, it's very tolerant of climate and pollution. It can grow from 60 degrees north latitude to 60 degrees south latitude. It grows in all soil types, and grows thick and strong roots, stabilizing soil.
Most remarkably at all, it can regenerate from a stump. Every seven years, you can cut it down, harvest the wood, (which can be made into everything from houses to guitars), and it'll regrow from the stump. An economical carbon sink.
Each seven year cycle, about 2 tons of carbon are sucked out of the air and made into wood. Wood that can be sold to a number of industries. Or just stacked in a warehouse. Unless you burn it, or it rots, it's out of the atmosphere.
Earlier, I calculated the amount of carbon that would have to be sunk to end the problem, and it would take a forest of some 100 billion trees to do the trick. Which woulds like a lot, certainly, but 100 billion trees worldwide. The earth is fairly big, and I'm sure that the room for 100 billion trees is there somewhere. Perhaps on the grasslands of Africa. Perhaps on the great plains of the central US. Perhaps on the dry and dusty Australian outback. Perhaps in the less-inhabited west of China. Perhaps the steppes of the central Asian countries and southeastern Russia. Perhaps all of these together.
We're pretty much insisting on using carbon-based fuels. It would be best if we did a little something to clean it up.


ralleywolf said...

Good post! I really like this idea.

themadengineer said...

I'm worried about the economics of it. The best price I've found for a transplantable tree is $25, and I'm sure it's possible to get the seeds, but I haven't seen them for sale anywhere.
If Cap and Trade passes, I should hope that planting this kind of tree would issue additional carbon credits.

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