The Role of Sequestration in Reversing Anthropogenic Climate Change: An Update 


Last month I suggested a limit of USD 5000 and 1 tCO2e ration per person per year for an equitable and sustainable world. (1) Today’s update concerns an article I wrote five years ago about the role of sequestration in reversing anthropogenic climate change. (2) After this year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report came out in October, Peter Wadhams, an expert especially on sea ice but who is also known for his climate realism as a scientists before all others, drew the attention of his listeners and readers to the role carbon sequestration in keeping temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels: it is an aspect of what the world needs to do that the IPCC failed to discuss in its report. (3) He noted that to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees C rise against pre-industrial levels, we have to sequester 20 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year from the atmosphere, or half of what is currently being emitted every year.

It turns out this is very doable. Five years ago when I wrote about the role of carbon sequestration  I set a much more stringent target than the target Peter Wadhams sets this year. I thought we should sequester enough carbon dioxide all in one shot to get back to 250 ppm concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from the present 400 ppm. I was planning to plant all trees to sequester all excess accumulated emissions in one year. It meant each person needed to plant 13,881 trees. In fact even that would be doable provided each had 2 hectare of land, as in my area the average density of trees in a self regenerating forest is over 5000 per hectare. But what Peter Wadhams suggested in October works out to  just 303 trees each for all of the 3 billion adults in the world. In my measurements of tree growth I get 12 kg wood/tree/yr, which with 0.5 of it as C on average is say 22 kg CO2 sequestered per tree per year. So the  3 billion adults each must plant and maintain just  20 bn / 3 bn / 0.02 tCO2 = 303 trees each.

These trees should not be touched except to enhance photosynthesis as necessary.They should be naturally regenerating forests, and each person and each generation’s role should be to protect ecological succession in them. Depending on local soil conditions at the starting stage, whether depleted or still with some organic matter and microbes, some help at the early stage to  encourage the growth of lichen and herbs might be given; and depending on the proximity to natural forests and seed dispersing animals coming in, secondary perennial and canopy trees may also have to be sown by hand; similarly  after 3-5 years to make things happen quickly the perennials can be pruned by hand to give the  canopy trees the maximum amount of light. This kind of assisted natural regeneration can be done by anyone with access to a bit of land with help of the forest department officials or local practitioners. Food species can be mixed into the species mix.(4)

The programme and machinery of rationing money and commercial energy combined with sequestering carbon dioxide through natural forest growth on any and every patch of available land, is a very doable vision of a global programme and machinery to reverse anthropogenic climate change and deliver equity and sustainability. Recently the philosopher Slavoj Zizek suggested that the Yellow Vests in France “should be given the vision of a society where the price of fuel no longer matters.”  (5) Well I hereby offer my vision to him and anyone else. Do share with who ever you think would gain strength from knowing there are many of us working on making this vision a reality, including of course with any Yellow Vest activists, with my very best wishes.


(1)  The Role Of Sequestration In Reversing Anthropogenic Climate Change


(2) The USD 5000 Per Person per Year Sustainable World Economy

(3) EXCLUSIVE! Dr. Peter Wadhams on IPCC SR 1.5 Report (short version)

(4) The principles of ecological succession have been mimicked by foresters, agro-forestry practitioners, indigenous people and agricultural labourers across the world for millenia. The techniques they use are called forestry, permaculture, syntropic agriculture, agro-forestry and similar terms in English these days.

(5) How Mao would have evaluated the Yellow Vests

Anandi Sharan was born in Switzerland, lives in Bangalore and last year worked in Araria District Bihar, India. She works on trying to find the best money system to help people adapt to climate change especially in India.



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