First, what is a carbon sink?
Basically, a carbon sink is something that absorbs more CO2 from the atmosphere than it releases. A carbon source is the opposite. A carbon sink removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, either by destroying them chemically or by storing them in another form.
The oceans are the largest carbon storage system for carbon dioxide, and also the biggest source of oxygen on Earth.
For example, forests and oceans absorb about half of all carbon emissions. The oceans are the largest carbon storage system for carbon dioxide, and also the biggest source of oxygen on Earth. Excess CO2 dissolved in the oceans is carried away from the surface into the deep waters. It can be immobilized there for several centuries.
Plants grab carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to use in photosynthesis; some of this carbon is transferred to soil as plants die and decompose.
But these carbon sinks are in danger!
As the amount of carbon humans release in the atmosphere is growing, natural carbon sinks cannot cope with it. Deforestation reduces the number of trees in forests, which can turn them into carbon sources rather than sinks, meaning they produce more CO2 than they absorb! Temperatures rising also cause oceanic carbon dioxide “sponge” to weaken.
According to UNESCO, IUCN and the World Resources Institute, forests in classified natural sites are finding it increasingly difficult to contain global warming. Between 2001 and 2020, 10 of the 223 places included in the study became “net carbon emitters”.
The Amazon rainforest, one of largest carbon sinks, often called “the lungs of the Earth”, is under threat. A study published in the journal Science shows that ongoing climate change is lengthening the dry season, which slows tree growth and increases tree mortality. In 2005 alone, CO2 sequestration by the forest decreased by 5 billion tons. This is equivalent to the amount that results from deforestation for agricultural activities worldwide in one year.
So, what can we do?
First, calculate your carbon footprint and find out how you can reduce your emissions. Check out our article to calculate your footprint.
The biggest sources of CO2 come from burning fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil for our homes, cars and flights.
Another major source is agriculture and livestock farming, where pasture and cropland for animal feed production account for 80% of all agricultural land. This is a driver of deforestation in many parts of the world.
Simple tips to help our forests and ocean:
- Limit your electricity consumption
Choose LED bulbs, which have many advantages: they are immediately bright, energy-efficient, long-lasting and produce little heat.
- Less meat, more local and seasonal vegetables
One way to reduce your carbon footprint is to reduce your meat consumption (especially red meat) and to eat locally if possible. But that’s not all: you should also make sure you eat as much seasonal produce as possible.
- Reduce your water consumption
Install a “jet breaker”, on your taps (except for the bathtub), which reduces the volume of water while maintaining the pressure. Simple to install and inexpensive (less than 15 euros), it can save more than 50% of your water consumption on your taps.
If you want to read more about how to reduce your carbon footprint we have written several articles on this, including “Offset your carbon footprint when booking your flight”.