Is Australia a net source, in terms of carbon dioxide, or a net sink?

By November 27, 2019Other

This question troubles some people, and on this website, and on many others, you’ll find contradictory answers: it’s a net SINK! No, it’s a net SOURCE! My past position was that by and large Australia was a net sink, though since we export a lot of coal, we’ve passed on some of our GGE to other countries. In short, I don’t think it’s a question of enormous significance. But others are sure that it is, so I thought I should do some more work on the subject and provide interested readers with a little background.

Let’s start with the notion of sinks and sources. Carbon sinks are natural systems of some kind — plants, soils and oceans — that take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it. A carbon source is what you might expect it to be: a volcano is one example, human activity in burning fossil fuels is another, while cement-making, deforestation, crop-growing and farming animals are four other examples. We ourselves pump out carbon dioxide (and some methane, too) every time we breathe out or pass wind. In a model world, sinks and sources finally balance each other in net terms. So plants use C02 for photosynthesis and release it through respiration, oceans take up and release carbon dioxide, as do soils. 

The bit that is different is the human addition, only about half of which seems to be taken up. The other half is added to what there is already in the atmosphere, about 400+ parts per million. Most land, most people and most industry are in the northern hemisphere, so the northern hemisphere is a bigger source of human GGE than the southern. Because carbon dioxide is a well-mixed gas, it is not long before the proportions are much the same in each hemisphere. Oh, there is a jagged edge to the growing carbon dioxide line, as in the growing season of the northern hemisphere the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is consumed at a rapid rate, slowing down in the northern winter.

That’s the background. I haven’t filled the page with tables, graphs or numbers, because all this is reasonably well known, and I think uncontroversial. Once Australia signed up to the Kyoto Protocol it became necessary for us to measure where carbon dioxide was being generated by human activity, otherwise the whole business of carbon- offset trading couldn’t operate for us. So we set to with a will, and Australians are good at this type of task — we did the world’s first modern census. The IPCC had already set out what it wanted, so we followed that pattern.

After a few years those entrusted with the work thought it would be a good idea to include the whole Australian land mass as the foundation for their database, and did so. If I’d been part of the team I would have agreed. The IPCC was not interested in whether Australia was a net sink or a net source, and our people didn’t explore that question either.

The blogosphere controversy, nonetheless, is about whether or not Australia as a whole is a source or a sink. If it is a source, then for alarmists it is imperative that we reduce our GGE; if it is a sink, then it doesn’t really matter, unless you think that Australia should be leading the world — and some do. The Australian National Greenhouse Accounts for the first quarter of this year show a tiny increase from the first quarter of 2018. I can’t copy things from the pdf, but Figure 4 at page 7 shows that electricity generation produced a third of our GGE, transport nearly a fifth and agriculture a seventh. The puzzle lies in a category called LULUCF, meaning ‘Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry’. LULUCF is the only area where the outcome is negative, that is, a decrease in GGE. The decrease was only 19.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, while human-induced emissions were more than 550 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Does that mean Australia is a net gigantic  source? I shook my head at the ratio. It just didn’t seem to make good sense.

Yet the truth is that I don’t know. If you look up LULUCF you will find that it refers to ‘direct human-induced changes in carbon stocks’.  I’m quoting here from the IPPCC Good Practice Guidance for LULUCF. At once there is a quandary. I take it that a state forest, of which Australia has a large number, is a forest in LULUCF terms, even if no logging takes place (and only a tiny proportion of our forests is logged). But what about a national park? You can’t log them, and if you could the only area that was ‘forest’ would be the area set aside for logging. The same would apply if some part of a national park were open to mining, for uranium, for example. We have a lot of national parks and other like areas, nature conservancies, wild-life reserves, special habitats and the rest. They do not seem to me to be examples of ‘human-induced changes in carbon stocks’.

What about public land not elsewhere defined? My memory  is that in England, to take that example, there is no public land, as we understand it. In England it is Crown land, and it is not available to you. But Australia has a hell of a lot of land that is just land (technically it is Crown land too, but not in the English sense). Public land is owned by the Commonwealth, a state government or a local council. There may be things you aren’t supposed or allowed to do there, like collect timber, or light fires or dig for oil without a licence. But it’s not farmland, there are no fences, it isn’t being ‘used’ in any productive way; in my view it would be drawing a long bow to say that it is being ‘managed’. So is it part of LULUCF or not? What about roadsides and railway edges? What about mangroves (11,500 square km)? What about IPAs (indigenous protected areas)? There are 48 million hectares of them. And so on. Most of the arid inland Australia is public land, and much of it is a mixture of scrub and grassland. Australia, unlike the countries of the EU, is a big place, and a lot of that land is neither freehold or leasehold. Is public land included, and what would all that mean?

You can get a sense of all this by going to The Australian National Greenhouse Accounts paper Australian Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry Projections to 2030 of September 2013. There doesn’t seem to be a more recent such publication The first thing to be aware of is that just about every number is an estimate of some kind, inferred from something else, or modelled. Satellite data are the basis ofthe Full Carbon Accounting Model (FullCAM), which estimates the biomass of vegetation on lands across Australia, the carbon stored in above and below ground vegetation and soil, and emissions resulting from land management activities. 

Second, while there’s a sense of ‘human-induced’ in the reference to land management in that quote, there’s no division between natural and managed. It is as though the whole Australian land mass is the field of this paper. You would think that, for example, the great Australian soil mass, of 7.7 million square kilometres, is either gaining or losing carbon dioxide in net terms, but I can’t find an estimate about whatever is happening to it. There is nothing about mangroves, 18 per cent of the Australian coastline. While there is legislation to protect them, does anyone ‘manage’ mangroves? I don’t think so, from what I have read.

So I rang up, and talked to a helpful guy from the Department of Environment and Energy who agreed that I was asking difficult but interesting questions. He directed me to the 350 pages of Volume Two of the National Inventory Report 2017, published earlier this year. This is a splendid account of what is known and modelled, with wonderful maps, comprehensive tables and easy-to-understand text. Unfortunately, it does not anywhere answer my question, and indeed it hardly refers to ‘human-induced changes to carbon stocks’ at all.

To repeat, asking whether or not Australia is a net sink was not the job of our clever people. Having said that, it also seems that those concerned forgot about the need to distinguish between what naturally occurs and what human activity has done. I’m not blaming them, it wasn’t quite their job, but it is an awkward lacuna from my point of view. It’s reminiscent of the IPCC’s failure to distinguish the natural from the human-induced in global warming.

So, is Australia a sink or a source? My tentative answer is that no-one knows. But this is a progress report, and I’ll keep on working at it. In the meantime, someone else might come up with some answers, and I might have missed something blindingly obvious. It happens to us all.

Join the discussion 87 Comments

  • Karabar says:

    Why is this relevant? One of the biggest reasons we are saddled with the superstitious nonsense about ‘gerbil worming’ is that discussion inevitably reverts to who and how much CO2 is released into the atmosphere, when the ratio in the atmosphere compared with that in the seas is about 1.5% and is determined by Henry’s Law and nothing else. The planet and its atmosphere is in no way similar to a ‘greenhouse’ and non-condensing gases play no role in the weather. In addition, the hypothesis that ‘warming’ is a result of how much CO2 is in the atmosphere can be easily and completely disproved because said ‘warming’ is a fallacy.
    The entire issue is tantamount to discussions 500 years ago as to whether werewolves were more ferocious than vampires. Eventually, as the cooling that arises from cyclical changes in the sun, or when the poles shift in 2045, the entire hoax and sham will finally be acknowledged.

  • Neville says:

    This is a very good post Don and you are a very thorough fellow to say the least.
    Don’t forget that the CSIRO states that the SH is a net sink and the NH is the net source and that’s good enough for me for now. Today about 0.8 bn people are in the SH and about 6.9 bn people in the the NH or about 6.1 bn more to provide that net co2 source.

  • Some interesting figures regarding Australian emissions:

    For the period 2006–2015, only 45% of anthropogenic emissions are estimated to stay in the atmosphere. Estimated uptake from the land accounted for 30% of emissions and 25% was by the oceans.

    Global GHG emissions for 2016 = 36 Gt
    Australia GHG emissions for 2016 = 0.41 Gt

    55% natural uptake of 36 Gt global emissions = 19.7 Gt. Assuming all nations are credited for a share of oceanic uptake proportional to their land area, Australia’s share of natural uptake = 1.0 Gt. Considering uptake by land area alone, Australia’s share of natural uptake would still be 0.54 Gt.

    (Note: A study published in Science several years ago on CO2 uptake by soil in desert areas found uptake comparable to moderately vegetated areas. The mechanism is unknown.)

    No matter how you figure it, Australia appears to be a net CO2 sink. This is also affirmed in global CO2 monitoring by the Japanese Ibuki satellite. The high per capita emissions for Australia is a red herring. Australia appears to be the only advanced economy that is a CO2 sink. We are absorbing emissions from other nations and should be receiving an emissions credit. Obsessing over our emissions and saddling ourselves with the highest electricity prices in the world is beyond stupid.

    • Chris Warren says:

      This is a con:

      “Assuming all nations are credited for a share of oceanic uptake proportional to their land area, ”

      This is false:

      “No matter how you figure it, Australia appears to be a net CO2 sink.”

      All that “is beyond stupid.”

      Under present policies no OECD nation will ever be a net sink while ever new (additional) suburbs and transport corridors are introduced over previous grass or farmland.

      • The figures cited are readily available and not controversial. Labels and assertions are only argumentum ad ignorantia. Offer some opposing evidence and there will be something to debate.

        • Chris Warren says:

          Walter Starck

          The onus is on you to substantiate your claims. Not make claims (which have no evidence) while declaring others as “beyond stupid”.

          You reap what you sow. You are the epitome of “argumentum ad ignorantia.”

      • Boambee John says:


        “Under present policies no OECD nation will ever be a net sink while ever new (additional) suburbs and transport corridors are introduced over previous grass or farmland.”

        Excrpt that almost the first thing that happens when a new suburb is occupied is (relatively) mass planting of lawns, annual plants and shrubs. Depending upon the relative age of the cleared vegetation, the new suburb could rapidly become a sink.

  • Mike Burston says:

    PLants photosynthesise more efficiently with enhanced CO2 levels. In arid climates such as Australia that means they can manage with less water, hence we’re likely a net sink. NASA imagery supports this

  • Neville says:

    Sorry, above should read that the total world population is 7.7 bn people, 6.9 bn in the NH and 0.8 bn in the SH.
    That means that NH is 8.63 times the pop of the SH and NH is about 276 times the pop of Australia.

  • Neville says:

    We could also include Australia’s very large exclusive economic zone ( EEZ) and it is one of the largest in the world and includes parts of Antarctica and the cold southern ocean.
    See discussion at the govt link. Prof Bob Carter mentioned this on a number of occasions.

  • Neville says:

    Here is Willis Eschenbach’s 2014 WUWT post about the IBUKI satellite details on co2 sinks and sources.
    Argentina, Brazil and Australia are the largest sinks, see fig 3. But add in our EEZ and we would be the largest sink.
    Whether this is fair or not is another matter.

  • Neville says:

    Here again is Chief scientist Dr Finkel testifying before the Senate about Australia’s co2 emissions.
    We could reduce all of our emissions to ZERO and it would make NO difference.

    • Chris Warren says:

      I could testify that if I paid no tax, that it would make no difference.

      Fortunately more intelligent folks can see the fallacy here – but not denialists.

  • Chris Warren says:

    As I understand it – LULUCF only concerns deforestation, aforestation and reforestation from 1990. So public land or roadsides and railway edges that are unchanged since 1990 are not part of LULUCF calculations. There are supplementary aspects but it seems this is left to national governments to include or not.

    Developing a new suburb in Canberra over previous grassland, bush or farmland (as at 1990) is an increase in CO2 emissions (or a decrease in CO2 sink).

    Removing trees and grass from Northbourne Av and replacing with concrete tramlines is a decrease in CO2 sink.

    The trees, on Black Mountain, unchanged from 1990, are not part of LULUCF even though they may absorb CO2.

    If I am right – then this LULUCF regime fixation on 1990 is the Achilles Heal of GHG accounting because much of global warming was caused by pre-1990 activities.

    • JMO says:

      Yes Chris you made a good point about individual tax payments. But would you pay extra tax and wreck your finances in the knowledge a far richer taxpayer ( say second richest in the land and certainly not a developing one ) has somehow been given Carte Blanche ( by no less than the former world’s most powerful man) to not pay until 2030? So, fine, you pay your tax according to the law or agreement by the ATO – no more no less. Same with our agreed Paris commitment – 26-28% reduction by 2030; no more no less.

      You mentioned about Canberra. It was our loony Green left who DEMANDED a late 19th-early 20th relic to trundle along Northbourne Ave for their support in the ACT Legisltative Assembly and in full knowledge that hundreds if not a thousand beautiful trees will be killed – yes “killed”. The tram has cost nearly $2bn ( up from $650 million estimate). They have done the same all over Canberra, thousands of trees got the chop. And they have the temerity to call anyone, or any residents association who oppose these developments as ludites or knuckle draggers. I did vote Green sometimes instead of Labor, but never never again. Take it from me they are hypocrites and dangerous people. For the first in my life I voted Liberal at the last ACT elections and will do it again in 2020. I cannot believe it had come to this- but that is life.

      And since you love using the word “denialist”, I can use another “d” word – doomster. The idiotic climate doomsters cannot or refuse to acknowledge the hypocrisy of this loony Green/ Labor ACT toy government. These climate doomsters absolutely refuse to answer 2 questions – where is the empirical evidence that the CO2 molecules (NOT carbon atoms) are the main or only cause of the warming and, accept they were WRONG on each and everyone of the prothoria of doomster predictions made so far. And boy, have kept a list of them. And do not go on about the science is settled, settled science is 1 theory,1 model and it works; not 107 odd and none work.

      Finally, you have 2 choices, if the climate doomsters are right then there is nothing you, I or we can do. China, India and USA will not stop emmitting to save the planet. So you can worry, moan and fear the next 10 -12 years. Or, say no, the doomster predictions have shown to be completely wrong, the sceptics and denialists are right and enjoy life; NOT worry about emissions, temperatures and every weather event. If noting else, you would have enjoyed 10-12 years before the sky glows red and we are all fried.
      Hint, it ain’t going to happen, so stop being a prat and cease using the word “denialist”.

      • Boambee John says:


        Actually there is a third choice.

        Those who are absolutely convinced that anthropogenic CO2 is the problem shoukd accept the reality that China, India and other developing nations will continue to increase their emissions at a faster rate than developed nations can reduce their emissions, and focus instead on adaptation to the inevitable (as they see it) disaster. Future increases in CO2 levels are inevitable, regardless of the hopes of the IPCC and others.

        The first step in adaptation must be provision of reliable, continuous, affordable electric power to enable civilised life to continue. Thisis not feasible with renewable power and storage sources at their current level of development. If fossil fuel sources are as damaging as the true believers claim, to only realistic option for a nation like Australia, with limited potential hydro power sources, is nuclear power.

        Next, we must have reliable water supplies. If electric power is the destructive force claimed, then desalination plants are not the solution. More storage (as different to hydro power) dams are essential.

        Finally, we need some Dutch engineers to advise on construction of sea walls, again if the true believers are correct about sea level rise.

        Even if CAGW turns out to be grossly exaggerated, the power sysyems and new water storage will not be wasted, while the sea walls need not be built until the risk is clear.

    • Tezza says:

      But most human emissions of greenhouse gasses have been post-1990, so those comparatively minor pre-1990 emissions must have been particularly potent. Or perhaps other natural forces were more powerful. You’d have to wonder ….

    • Boambee John says:


      “As I understand it – LULUCF only concerns deforestation, aforestation and reforestation from 1990. So public land or roadsides and railway edges that are unchanged since 1990 are not part of LULUCF calculations.”

      First, glad to see that you have taken up my point from the bushfires thread, about LULUCF not covering the entire continent.

      Second, it is important to note in this debate that LULUCF is a legal technicality for Kyoto and later accounting purposes, it is NOT the complete Australian CO2 sink. The areas outside LULUCF also have photosynthesising vegetation that absorbs CO2, and adds to the sink total.

      To prove that Australia is not a nett CO2 sink, you will have to estimate the total of non-LULUCF sinks and add it to the LULUCF total, then compare to our emissions.

  • Chris Warren says:


    If you conducted yourself without your Neville-language such as;

    knuckle draggers
    dangerous people

    I would consider your claims but in fact you are the dangerous “prat”.

    Doom is on the agenda if GHGs continue to accumulate – there is no alternative.

    Doomsters is inappropriate as the correct term is “antidoom-sters”.

    If doom was not a likelihood consequence, noone would be concerned about global warming.


    • Boambee John says:


      “Doom is on the agenda if GHGs continue to accumulate – there is no alternative.”

      True. As long as China, India and others continue to increase their CO2/GHG emissions at a faster rate than developed nations can possibly reduce theirs, then, if you are correct about the central position of these gasses in climate (a point of dispute), then the doom you forsee might be inevitable.

      But the logical response is not to continue to destroy our economic capacity to help ourselves, but to look to adaptation to change. See my post above.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    “Doom is on the agenda”, and has been on the agenda for at least the past twenty years. But Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Mauritius are still securely above the waves.

    But they can’t be! They are the sacrificial icons, except that they are refusing to die. Breaking news: no-one cares.

    • Chris Warren says:

      Bryan Roberts

      Why would you change my statement “Doom is on the agenda if GHGs continue to accumulate” to merely;

      “Doom is on the agenda”?

      Are you saying that if GHG’s continue to accumulate, that parts of Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Mauritius will not be under water?

      If so, what magic are you relying on?

      Why the dirty trick?

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        Chris, I can quote whatever parts of your statement I like, if they help me make my point. It is an indisputable fact that the small Pacific nations show no signs of disappearing (see Bureau of Meterology Pacific Sea Level Bryan RobertsMonitoring Project), and will not disappear any time in the forseeable future.

        • Chris Warren says:

          Yes of course you can selectively quote to suit yourself. This is the only way you can paddle your canoe.

          Low lying islands will disappear when sufficient land ice melts. This is indisputable.

          • Boambee John says:


            “Low lying islands will disappear when sufficient land ice melts. This is indisputable.”

            Indeed it is indisputable. Please provide your forecast of how long it will take for “sufficient land ice” to melt. No need for excessive precision, to the nearest 50 years will be adequate.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            “Low lying islands will disappear when sufficient land ice melts. This is indisputable.”

            Sorry, no. Researchers at the University of Auckland have shown that the land area of the island nations has actually increased, despite whatever sea level rise has actually occurred.

            “A University of Auckland study (Patterns of island change and persistence offer alternate adaptation pathways for atoll nations, Paul S. Kench, Murray R. Ford & Susan D. Owen) examined changes in the geography of Tuvalu’s nine atolls and 101 reef islands between 1971 and 2014, using aerial photographs and satellite imagery. The paper claims that local sea level has risen at twice the global average (~3.90 + 0.4 mm.yr-1). That translates to about six inches over the 43-year period. However, the study found eight of the atolls and almost three-quarters of the islands grew during the study period, increasing Tuvalu’s total land area by 2.9 percent, even though sea levels in the country rose at twice the global average. ”

            So, Manhattan might disappear, but Tuvalu will almost certainly survive LOL.

          • Chris Warren says:

            Bryan Roberts


          • Boambee John says:


            Is your definition of cherrypicking summarised as “any research that doesn’t agree with your beliefs”?

            How are you going with cherrypicking some research to respond to my question “Please provide your forecast of how long it will take for “sufficient land ice” to melt. No need for excessive precision, to the nearest 50 years will be adequate.”

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Chris, since you cannot provide any evidence to the contrary (there isn’t any), I cannot be accused of ‘cherry-picking’. I am simply reporting a published article. You can deny their conclusions if you wish, the way you dismiss any other data that do not fit your narrative.

      • Boambee John says:


        “Are you saying that if GHG’s continue to accumulate, that parts of Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Mauritius will not be under water?

        If so, what magic are you relying on?”

        At this stagemyou are relying on the “magic” of computer models for your claims about inundation of islands, and for the rest of your forecasts of “doom”.

        So far, those models do not have a solid record as forecasting tools, as even NASA has admitted.

  • Boxer says:

    Don, you appear to be entangled in the definition of a “forest”.

    Forest is a vegetation type and has no relationship to ownership or the degree of management. Vacant crown land, managed or commercial state forest, any of the conservation reserves and parks (this group tending to be left to their own devices until they are flattened by wildfire), and private forested land are all the same in terms of being “forest”. The boundaries between forest, woodland and heathland are fairly vague in common usage, though there may be ecologists here who can provide technical demarcations.

    In the context of carbon accounting the definition is very broad and can include various forms of “tree”, all the way down to the large shrubs like eucalyptus mallee. I am a bit rusty on all this because I didn’t take a enough notice of some of the details when I worked alongside this area, as I thought it was a prime example of how playing with numbers and semantics could be used to make rent seekers rich. However if you want to pursue it, I am sure there is someone inside the FullCAM community who can give you the full run down. I think the contact you made was the wrong person because I am absolutely sure there are numerous people who understand the FullCAM model, and I am reasonably sure it would be based heavily upon satellite imagery. Of course once these people understand your position on CAGW, they will think of you as immoral, and may either brush you off, or humour you until their next meeting approaches. After all, their salaries are paid by the global warming panic industry, and in my own experience they will assume you are in the pay of The Fossil Fuel Industry, while being quite oblivious to their own vested interests in the matter. They will even deny having a vested interest, which shows how adaptable is the word “denial”.

    In carbon accounting, everything from soil carbon through to tall native forests, including pasture, crops, regenerating brigalow, farm revegetation, commercial plantations, harvested/regenerated native forest, and the hallowed Old Growth Forest (a vibrant swell of organ music in the background) is in the mix. It is an area populated by earnest and well motivated scientists, confused bureaucrats, outright exploitative rent seekers, and every variation in between. There is inevitably a lot of interpolation and extrapolation – I remember listening to a conversation where a scientist related how appalled a bureaucrat from our fair capital was when he (the Canberran) realised that the soil carbon numbers being thrown around in national public debate at that time were based upon two (2) paddocks. I am sure it’s more than 20 paddocks now.

    I have a concern about carbon accounting that relates to the perception that a forest is a carbon sink. A recently planted or regenerating forest will certainly accumulate carbon, but only compared to the quite recent preceding point in time where it was disturbed (which is why it is now recently planted and/or regenerating). Sometimes this can be a process that moves carbon into storage – say if a forest is harvested and the wood is used in long term structures, and then the forest regenerated. But “carbon forests” are not harvested, or only sometimes anyway. They are storing carbon that was sequestered underground millions or years ago, so it is only reasonable to assume that carbon forests will last a similarly long time.

    An unharvested forest will reach maturity in time, and from then on it is no longer a sink. A mature forest is in balance, where the rate of photosynthesis is equal to the rate of carbon emissions from plant respiration and decomposition or combustion of natural losses, losses such as leaf fall, bark shedding, limb fall, fire, tree senescence and death. A major source of carbon emissions from forests is the process following disturbance (natural or human) where regeneration of large numbers of trees leads to self-thinning, where most of the young trees die as a minority of the most competitive individuals dominate the stand and consume most of the resources. No forest actually lives forever. There may be some vegetation types in the world underneath which peat is accumulating over thousands of years, as it used to during the Carboniferous, but this would be a very minor effect with our current relatively low levels of atmospheric CO2.

    So we see well-meaning people tick the box on their airline booking to have their emissions offset. This money then goes off to employ people to do all sorts of things, like plant trees on farms. Some seedlings survive, and some are eaten by the sheep. The plantings grow up and in my experience they are always planted too densely, so after a decade or two competition becomes so severe that large proportions of the trees die as the “carbon forest” starts to self-thin. Now and then an escaped stubble fire sweeps through, CO2 is emitted, and everything is reset to the beginning. Auditing all this is a perpetual cost and I wonder if it even happens. If you thought some of the bluegum forest investment operations were Ponzi schemes ….
    Or the money goes off to pay traditional land holders in a developing country to not log a bit of forest that they were really and truly were going to log. Is it assumed that this forest is a carbon sink? Because it isn’t if it’s mature. I am sure all this is managed as well as an Australian carbon forest, so sooner or later the traditional owners will convert the forest to a palm oil plantation because that will pay them some real money and they will be able to see their children get an education. That’s what nearly all of us would do.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Boxer, thank you for this most interesting account of the forest. I don’t think I am entangled in it. Rather, LULUCF is about ‘direct-human-induced changes to carbon stocks’. So ‘forests’ should appear in LULUCF when something is done in them through human activity that leads to a change in carbon. But, as you say, there’s a lot going on in forests of all kinds that is not due to human activity, and the changes thereby produced ought not to be in LULUCF. Nonetheless they affect whether or not Australia is a sink or a source.

      As far as I can see there are no measurements other than from satellites that would allow us to say anything with real confidence. Certainly we cannot use LULUCF as a proxy.

  • Chris Warren says:


    I wish more folks were aware that:

    “An unharvested forest will reach maturity in time, and from then on it is no longer a sink. “.

    Additionally, any new plantings must surely be replacing trees that covered the land before European settlement and are very unlikely to be an offset of fossil fuels.

    However harvesting wood and using it for bridges, buildings, sleepers etc. is a legitimate carbon sink, provided the source woodland regrows.

    • Boxer says:

      Regarding the new plantings on cleared land, it appears to just be a case of setting a baseline date and then measuring or planning on changes since that date (1990?)

      The practice of using cleared farmland as a baseline or pre-existing condition, ignoring the fact that a lot of farmland previously carried woodland, forest or native scrub (heathland) is common, even if a bit arbitrary. Europe was once timbered from one side to the other, but clearing was well under way before Europeans came to Australia, so I think we are in plenty of company on that score. Similarly, no one talks about the conservation issues around clearing and species extinction in Europe in the distant past. Over there, it all happened before anyone was measuring these things, whereas Australia and other “new world” countries are often blamed for having terrible extinction records.

      This kind of double dipping and clever accounting is rife – I gather Germany uses the fall of the Berlin Wall and the global financial crisis to make the maximum use of widescale closures of East German factories (for economic reasons) to gain green credits for reducing CO2 emissions. In Oz, Canberra virtually confiscated private commercial land use rights in parts of Qld and NSW by banning clearing (which is actually the repeated re-clearing required to maintain pasture). Farmers were not compensated for this loss of production, but we use the regrowth to make our carbon accounting look good.

      All this creation of artificial markets to achieve some other benefit is where the commercial bottom-feeders are found. Just stir up money into the air where it is easy to get at, scoop up as much cash as you can, and then sell up and move on to the next muddy pond.

    • Boambee John says:


      “Additionally, any new plantings must surely be replacing trees that covered the land before European settlement and are very unlikely to be an offset of fossil fuels.”

      “Must surely” is an evidence free assumption. You need to go back to descriptions by early settlers that there was very little undergrowth in areas where the (photosynthesising) undergrowth is now thick. Try Bill Gammage, The Biggest Estate on Earth for some introductory reading.

    • Boambee John says:


      ““An unharvested forest will reach maturity in time, and from then on it is no longer a sink. “.

      Sounds like a good argument for logging old growth forest?

  • Peter E says:

    Setting aside some of the debate above, which wanders well away from the subject, this is a fascinating question. I doubt that I’ll begin work on the subject but I would be interested in any conclusions. Meantime, this whole column and the comments could usefully be brought to the attention of those sections of the media who are open to debate (Chris Kenny, Andrew Bolt and others). What I have drawn from the above is that it reinforces the Chief Scientist’s comment that Australia makes little difference. So in my view we should withdraw from Paris and rapidly decrease remaining subsidies to renewables, leaving the market to decide how we should get our energy.

    • Neville says:

      Yes Peter E we should withdraw from Paris or Dr Hansen’s “fra-d and BS” fiasco ASAP and stop wasting billions $ on stupid S&W for a guaranteed ZERO return.
      BTW here’s a great new video starring Steyn, Watts, McIntyre and McKitrick as they pull apart the super expensive cult of the last 30+ years. These very intelligent blokes make a great case for doing nothing about so called CAGW and the sooner the better.

      • Kneel says:

        Likely, the best case would be a “results based” exercise.
        Windmills and solar panels are nice enough I suppose, but do they achieve any reduction in CO2?
        Given the tonnes of steel and concrete needed for construction of wind or the high temperatures and chemicals needed to make a solar panel, plus the additional grid capacity that has to be built, and the approximate 10 year lifetime of these things, it seems unlikely they even break even – any of them.
        So even if i were to accept that CO2 is a problem (I’m not convinced it is), the solution doesn’t appear to be renewables – despite massive investment, and subsidies that tripled the price of electricity, Germany increased it’s CO2 emissions. Even worse, the “green jobs” creating windmills have now been moved off-shore because energy is too expensive in Germany. Looks like all pain for no gain.

  • Neville says:

    The Royal Academy of Engineering now warn that Ex Reb are destructive and they don’t support much of the new technology etc that would overcome so much of their so called CAGW.
    They also say that the sky is the limit, but this won’t bother these ignorant fools or their supporters on this blog. Does anyone think that these fools care about data/evidence or new technology or the scientific method? No these destructive fools would rather STOP DEVELOPMENT and waste endless trillions $ on a guaranteed ZERO change to temp or climate by 2100 and way beyond. Here’s the GWPF coverage of their report.

    “Ahead of a new report, calling for the rapid scaling up of Britain’s engineering biology sector, experts said that scientists and engineers were on the brink of solving many of the major problems linked to climate change and environmental pollution.

    But they said many protesters were simply unaware of how much was already being done to tackle global issues, such as the development of specialist materials to clean up the oceans, green fuels, bugs being engineered to churn out biodegradable plastics, meat alternatives and even environmentally friendly hair dye.

    Speaking about Extinction Rebellion at a briefing in London to launch the report, Ian Shott, Chair of the Enterprise Committee, at RAEng said:

    “They are in danger of being somewhat destructive rather than creative and supportive of the solutions that are available.

    “If some of that energy could be redirected that might be helpful.

    “We now have the opportunity to design new materials and solutions from first principles, so the sky is the limit.”

    • Boambee John says:


      Neither China nor India will stop increasing their CO2/GHG emissions within the timeframes sought by the IPCC and its acolytes. Therefore, IF the alarmists are correct, the only rational action is adaptation. Even if they are not correct, the steps towards adaptation (see one of my posts above) will still be valuable.

  • Neville says:

    Remember when the Oreskes fool called Dr, Hansen, Bill Gates etc DENIERS? Of course they wisely promoted Nuclear energy.
    They were deniers because at the Paris conference they accurately told the world that S&W would never be a base-load, reliable form of energy to power the world.
    This was Dr Curry’s summary of the Oreskes slur in 2015.

  • Neville says:

    Here is a recent talk with Prof William Happer and his laid back style is compelling compered to the screaming and yelling from some of the Ex Reb kiddies and the ongoing climate porn from the clueless Greens, Labor left , MSM etc.

  • BoyfromTottenham says:

    A lot of talk here about land being a CO2 source or sink, but my geology textbook says that the oceans contain about 1000 times more CO2 per m2 than land, and a small change in temperature will cause large amounts of CO2 to be absorbed or out-gassed. We all know from a day at the beach that the top metre or so of ocean waters in the mid latitudes heat up every day and cool every night, and of course vary with the seasons. As 70% of the earth is ocean, surely this effect alone would account for far more CO2 sourcing and sinking that the remaining 30%?

  • Neville says:

    Here’s more about the co2 emissions fra-d and con trick. Nearly all the increase in emissions over the last 30+ years have come from China, India and developing countries, yet the OECD countries are expected to cough up 100 bn $ a year after 2020. YES that’s 100 bn a year. Fair dinkum who signed us up to this lunacy?
    China now warns that failure to pay these so called reparations will put at risk the entire program to fight their so called CAGW.
    This from China the country that is by far the world’s largest emitter of co2 and generates 66.7% of their TOTAL energy from coal, while the USA now generates just 17.1% of TOTAL energy from coal. See IEA data, I’ve linked to many times.
    Australia should pull out of this fra-dulent circus ASAP and refuse to pay one cent in compensation for any of this silly nonsense.
    Don’t forget that the Concordia Uni study ( Mathews et al) attributed just 0.006 c of the global temp increase since 1800 to Australia.
    Just think of the scientific+ health+ engineering+ farming breakthroughs etc since that time and the very high life expectancy enjoyed now by the rest of the world.
    That average life expectancy today for the world’s 7.7 bn people is about 70 years and China’s average life expectancy today is about 76 years.
    In 1800 average life expectancy for the 1 billion people alive then was under 40 years of age.
    Exceptions were the UK and Holland, but by only a few years. Here’s the link to their reparations madness.

    • BoyfromTottenham says:

      Neville – ‘Fair dinkum who signed us up to this lunacy?’ Your question may have been rhetorical but our stupid pollies signed up for this lunacy over a decade ago, followed by more stupids in every federal parliament since, that’s who. Any yes, none of them as far as I can remember had the cojones to call out this for what it is – a huge con job on the developed world, orchestrated by the UN. When the hell are they going to wake up!

      • Chris Warren says:

        Unfortunately thousands of scientists, governments, international organisations, non-Murdoch journos, and millions in the street are asking:

        When the hell are you going to wake up!

        • spangled drongo says:

          Still waiting for evidence!

        • Boambee John says:


          Well, at least you finally woke up to the reality that LULUCF does not represent the entirety of the Australian CO2 sink.

          When will you wake up to the reality that the GC models, upon which you base your forecasts of future disaster, have essentially no useful forecasting ability? Even NASA has acknowledged that reality.

          Once the incapacity of the models is accepted, the only worthwhile actions are those that produce real benefits in any climate scenario at reasonable cost. Reliable electric oowerk HELE or nuclear, water storage to support an expanding population, and modest continuing, open minded, research.

  • Neville says:

    Gosh even Rudd’s wife is on par with her dopey husband when she talks about their CAGW.
    She thinks that the Coalition govt have caused some of the fires in NSW. It seems they should have done more, yet Dr Finkel tells us that we could cease all emissions and it still wouldn’t make a difference.
    So why are these people so keen to display their ignorance and total lack of simple logic and reason?
    Let’s face it, the simple sums couldn’t be easier to understand. How much further do we have to dumb it down just to suit the Rudds and other clueless lefties?

  • Whether Australia is a sink or source of GHG emissions appears to have hit an exposed nerve of climate change belief. If it is a sink the entire structure of urgency and righteousness presented by the Climatists becomes effectively infested with white ants. The responsibilities for Australia are also greatly diminished and scepticism becomes the side of reason and moderation.

    The response of The Climatists has been revealing in several important respects:
    • That they feel threatened enough to angrily swarm into a media space they otherwise studiously ignore is telling.
    • That they offer no opposing evidence but rely entirely on pejorative labels, blanket dismissals and personal denigration is indicative of belief based on emotional satisfaction not on reason and evidence.
    • The tactic of demanding evidence that is readily accessible, then categorically dismissing it or ignoring it while switching onto an entirely different demand is a familiar one commonly resorted to by various faith-based beliefs in the face of opposing argument for which they have no answer.
    • That those who profess to be so deeply concerned with the threat posed by Climate Change never find hopeful interest in a possibility anything may not be as dire as they claim but respond only with anger and rejection, makes apparent their fundamental commitment is to the existence of the problem itself rather than to any actual effect it might have.

    So, what is it that makes a belief in Climate Change so appealing regardless of meager supporting evidence with high levels of uncertainty, sundry conflicting evidence and repeated failures of predictions as well as exposures of scientific malpractice?

    The answer is simple. There is much to be gained. For academics of almost any discipline CC affords fulsome public recognition and generous research funding. For the media it offers drama, controversy and conflict. For activists it presents a popular cause, public attention and healthy contributions. For politicians it panders for votes at low risk and for commercial interests there is a promise of lucrative subsidies.

    For all and sundry there is also the appeal of a delicious sense of moral and intellectual superiority for no personal cost or effort but simply for avowing acceptance of the latest one true faith. The appeal for many has been irresistible, especially third-rate academics and others whose aspirations greatly exceed their ability.

    • Boambee John says:


      For some political groups, there is also the quest for power over the lives of others, to be wielded by a self selected “elite” that includes themselves (of course).

      See the statements by Guterres, Figueres and various other UN, EU, IMF and World Bank luminaries about changing the world economic system and redistributing wealth.

      • Neville says:

        You are correct BJ, but I also agree with Walter and I’m sure he fully understands what motivates some silly left wing people.
        But without doubt the so called mitigation of their so called CAGW is the greatest and most expensive con and fra-d in human history.
        Just look up the data/ evidence using all the PR studies available. Then check out the NASA co2 data since the LIA and 1800 to 1988 and 1988 to 2019 to easily prove the case.
        The data now proves that it’s China, India, Asean etc , soaring ahead and leaving the flat-lining OECD a long way behind.

        • Boambee John says:


          See my comment above directed to Chris, stating that the only things Australia should be doing are actions that “produce real benefits in any climate scenario at reasonable cost. Reliable electric power, HELE or nuclear, water storage to support an expanding population, and modest continuing, open minded, research.”

          Strangely, no response!

          • Boambee John says:


            I should have been clearer.

            I agree with you and Walter about the carpetbaggers who have jumped onto the climate change bandwagon.

            However, I think thaf we can more readily survive the financial depredations of those political, academic and business carpetbaggers than we could survive the brutality likely to follow a dictatorial regime determined to punish those deemed to be the “eeeevil deniers”, and determined to reduce tha human “footprint” on the planet BAMN.

  • Neville says:

    More evidence that the watermelons are trying to wreck the world. Or just more stupid, leftist ideology to further change things and reduce our freedoms for a guaranteed ZERO change in climate for 100 years and beyond.
    Of course the cost of their fra-dulent change will be horrendous and would require more dictatorial power country by country. But will the people wake up to this idiocy before it’s too late? I hope so.

    • Boambee John says:


      Chris has never acknowledged that his preferred solution, which involves stopping the increase in world population, and then decreasing that population, can only be achieved in the time frames that alarmists claim are essential by the use of dictatorial power.

  • Chris Warren says:


    Given this trash talk: “watermelons are trying to wreck the world. Or just more stupid, leftist ideology to further change things and reduce our freedoms ”

    Are you a right-wing nutter?

  • Boambee John says:

    Seems that the rhetorical strength of CAGW or simple Climate Change is inadequate. Via Arthur Chrenkoff, an ad agency has pondered the problem and produced suggestions:

    “Global Meltdown, Global Melting

    These options are subtle brand shifts from “global warming,” yet they deliver a more negative image. The names signal that ice caps are melting, but also create a more visceral image in the mind — that real feeling of “melting” when it’s too hot outside. A meltdown is a disastrous event that draws from the ultimate terror of a nuclear meltdown, an apt metaphor for global destruction. In naming, we call metaphorical names “suggestive names,” and they are one of the most popular types of names.

    Climate Collapse, Climate Chaos

    Good brand names instill a clear message or even a direct call to action. Perhaps that’s why climate change isn’t powerful enough: “Change” sounds so neutral. However, there’s nothing neutral about collapse or chaos. Both are states of events that you absolutely want to avoid. They ask each of us to do what it takes to avoid collapsing or descending into chaos. They both also use alliteration — using the same letter or sound at the beginning of connected words — a naming trick proven to enhance memorability.

    Boiling Point, Melting Point

    Arresting brand names often capitalize on vivid visual associations. They refer to a tipping point that we’re catapulting toward and must find a way to avert. Because a boiling point is the point at which liquid vaporizes, it brings forth imagery of rivers, lakes and oceans boiling and disappearing. “Melting Point” paints a clear picture of solid matter melting. As glaciers melt and disappear, so does our way of life.

    Scorched Earth

    It’s time to take the gloves off and stop pretending. Sometimes a brand name needs to be hyperbolic to truly capture hearts and minds. If we don’t take massive action now, Earth will be uninhabitable — an irreversible barren wasteland. Plants and animals will die. Humans won’t be able to survive extreme weather like floods, droughts and fires. If we don’t change, we won’t even be able to spend time outside. “Scorched Earth” paints the direst picture of what’s to come and what we must avoid and is likely the edgiest brand name from our exploration.”

    It isn’t clear which of these won the ad agency’s prize, or if all are to be deployed in a mass attack on rationality.

  • Neville says:

    Believe it or not this is the top Dem contender running for President in 2020. IOW he’s leading the pack.
    And of course he believes in all the extreme CAGW nonsense as well.

  • Chris Warren says:

    Latest LT temp from denialist Spencer, should send shock waves through honest “skeptics”.

    November 2019 figure of 0.55 is the highest November result on record.

    This represents an ongoing rise of well over 1C per century which means that today’s ice melt is now unstoppable and we need to plan for a new world where all ice has liquified.

    The happiness denialists crow about from past growth based on fossil fuels, has come at the cost of utter misery for many more in the future.

    If CO2 concentration continues to increase – future LT temps can only rise.

    • Boambee John says:


      That reminds me, have you yet prepared your estimate of how long it will take for sufficient land ice to melt to flood low lying islands? To the nearest 50 years would be adequate.

      But could you also provide your estimate for how long it will be until we have “a new world where all ice has liquified.” In this case, to the nearest 100 years would suffice.

      PS, what is your evidence (other than GCMs that NASA does not consider to have any reliable forecasting capability) for the statement that “today’s ice melt is now unstoppable”?

      • Boambee John says:

        PS, Will Steffen et al have offered a broad estimate in Nature:

        “Thus, we might already have committed future generations to living with sea-level rises of around 10?m over thousands of years.”

        Quick maths, 10 m is 10,000 mm. “Thousands of years ” being plural implies at least 2,000 years. Steffen et al are suggesting rises of around 5 mm pa. Still frightened? Are you seriously proposing to destroy the world economy for this?

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      “today’s ice melt is now unstoppable and we need to plan for a new world where all ice has liquified”

      If you seriously believe this, which I doubt, what is your plan?

      • Chris Warren says:

        Bryan Roberts

        Whatever it takes to ensure that CO2 concentrations level off or better yet start to decline.

        This may well need new industry and population policies with appropriate subsidies, supportative mechanisms, and infrastructure.

        • Boambee John says:


          The combination of “Whatever it takes” with a call for “new … population policies” fills me with dread. Perhaps you could expand on the kind of population policies you consider both appropriate and effective.

  • Neville says:

    Dr Curry provides a summary as a lead up to COP 25, Madrid Spain. Many good points and sound reasoning, but today deaths from extreme weather events have dropped by at least 95% ( Lomborg 99%, Shellenberger 99.7%) since 1920. Look up the data for the 1.8 bn in 1920 compared to the 7.7 bn today and THINK about it. I know thinking isn’t a strong component of the daily routine for some people, but we should always live in hope.

    • Chris Warren says:


      Curry would be better employed ensuring that her grandchildren know how to swim.

      • Boambee John says:



        As long as they can at least crawl, they will be able to keep ahead of any sea level rise that occurs in their, and their grandchildren’s, lifetimes.

        You are rapidly descending into incoherent catastrophe speculation.

  • Neville says:

    More clueless virtue signalling or how NOT to save the world from their so called CAGW. Poor Greta probably thinks it’s wonderful and so will the umpteen thousands of delegates/ parasites at COP 25.

  • Neville says:

    Watch and listen to this silly woman at the EU parliament. How do you get these fools to understand proper data and evidence when they even deny the IPCC reports?
    Of course Dr Pielke had the same problem trying to school Obama and his so called Science adviser????? Holdren.
    But it’s wonderful to see the informed scientists present trying to educate her, although I think she would find this is way beyond her understanding and firmly blocked by her religious beliefs.

  • Neville says:

    The extensive snow cover over the USA and NH from late NOV to early DEC is very impressive.
    I talked to a mate who just returned from the US and he said it was bloody cold in the Big Apple and real brass monkeys weather.

  • Boambee John says:

    Did someone get out on the wrong side of bed this morning?

    “Chris Warren
    December 4, 2019 at 5:57 am

    But you are the right-wing parasite.”

    “Chris Warren
    December 4, 2019 at 7:23 am

    Your silly religious beliefs are amusing – please keep it up.”

  • Chris Warren says:

    You really have to feel sorry for our fringe denialists now.

    All their fantasies are collapsing whether fantasy 1 – the world is cooling, fantasy 2 – warming has paused, fantasy 3 – sunspots cause warming, and now the fantasy 4 – Australia is a net sink has collapsed.

    So denialists, without a shred of evidence then started prattling on trying to move the goal posts so that they could inject the concept “net sink” by fraudulently adding in Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). They are running an extreme right-wing agenda against the interests of future generations.

    Evidence adverse denialists should look at the evidence and according to the US government’s NCBI, if you include Australia’s EEZ, Australia still remains a net source.

    See Figure 2 – here:

    It illustrates “The sum of all these sources and sinks represent Australia’s net CO2 emissions (shown by the dashed black line).”

    The whole concept of including EEZ’s is a braindead project as it would mean that small island states – Malta – Fiji – Ireland – Sri lanka, could emit practically unlimited GHGs while claiming they are net sinks.

    This just shows how incompetant and science-phobic our denialists are.

  • Lee says:

    Barrett DJ et al (2002) , CSIRO publish, provides estimates that show sequestration at 700Mt CO2.

    Alternatively The old, Before Finkel, Provided estimates of carbon sequestration. The numbers will have changed. He said 149 million Ha forest, 440 million Ha grasslands. With a minimum of 0.5 tonne/ha. Conversion 3.67 to convert C to CO2.

    Net flux 140m tonne to an unknown upper limit net sequestration.

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