However, timely as this report undoubtedly is, it does not address an even more neglected potential for reductions in net carbon emission: that of carbon sequestration, or storing carbon in soils and vegetation.
Scottish Natural Heritage reports (Nature of Scotland, spring 2009) that Scotland’s forests currently remove about 10 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions and that our peatlands have the potential, if undamaged, to absorb 40 per cent of the emissions from domestic electricity consumption. And yet, the present dominant land management practices in our uplands, those of red deer stalking and grouse shooting, are inimical to carbon sequestration. Stalking requires high deer number and grouse moors are burnt, both of which prevent woodland regeneration. Other impacts include soil compaction and degradation, pollution and sedimentation of rivers, and increased rate and quantity of run-off, leading to greater flood risks.
Some enlightened private estates, such as Glenfeshie in the Cairngorms, have greatly reduced deer numbers and are witnessing a transformation as native woodlands expand, soils recover and wildlife flourishes. Elsewhere, over vast areas, our uplands remains overgrazed or burnt.
The Scottish Government has famously embraced the ambitious slogan of Scotland as the “Saudi Arabia of Renewables”, but our similar potential to be the “Amazon of Sequestration” appears to have been neglected.
Nethy Bridge, Inverness
THE report by the Green Alliance on the need to further decarbonise our infrastructure is yet more evidence of the influence of the Green Luddites on our political system.
Decarbonisation has become a new religion with its high priests and catechisms foretelling doom unless we do as they say. But decarbonisation has already cost the economy dearly, and threatens our future reliable electricity supply by forcing the closure of thermal power stations. Scotland’s carbon dioxide emissions are minuscule in any case.
They say less should be spent on roads. Really? Of all UK inland freight, 82 per cent is transported by road. Of all passenger journeys, 83 per cent are by car. Far from reducing expenditure on roads we should be pouring money into our decaying road network. As a start we could plan to resurface all our motorways and A-class roads with a quiet smooth finish. This would make road travel more comfortable by reducing road noise inside the vehicle as well as reducing noise for those living roadside. Fuel consumption and tyre wear are also less on modern smoother surfaces, which also have anti-skid properties.