Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

What is Irrecoverable Carbon?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Irrecoverable Carbon

Mains level: Global carbon sinks

Researchers have identified and mapped 139 gigatonnes (Gt) of “irrecoverable carbon” in some of the world’s major forests and peatlands — including the Amazon and the Congo — to avoid catastrophic climate change.

What is Irrecoverable Carbon?

  • The concept of ‘irrecoverable carbon’ was introduced in 2020.
  • All kinds of ecosystems — lush rainforest, muddy peatland, shady mangroves — contain eons of stored carbon, captured by photosynthesis.
  • Per square kilometer, the forests are among the most effective carbon stores in the world; but they’re also some of the most difficult to restore.
  • If destroyed, these ecosystems could take decades or centuries to regenerate.
  • In other words, the 139 gigatons of carbon contained in these areas are effectively irrecoverable if released due to anthropogenic activities.
  • Once released in air, it can be recovered but would take centuries to fully recover or naturally reintegrate.

What is the new research?

  • In the new study, researchers have identified and mapped carbon reserves that are “manageable, are vulnerable to disturbance” and cannot be recovered by 2050.
  • They held study of peatlands of the Congo Basin and Northern Europe; and in North America, the mangrove swamps of the Everglades and old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest.
  • 2050 has been set as the deadline for taking global carbon emissions to net zero in order for Earth to avoid warming at 1.5-2 degrees celsius above the pre-industrial levels.
  • To mitigate such a warming scenario, it is imperative to conserve the ecosystems with 139 Gt carbon.

Key findings

  • Amazon is the biggest carbon sink on earth, holding 31.5 Gt irrecoverable carbon.
  • Brazil has the second-largest irrecoverable carbon reserves, after Russia that holds 23 per cent of the total irrecoverable carbon outlay in the world.
  • The second-largest reserve of carbon, at 132 Gt, comprise the islands of Southeast Asia, with their equatorial rainforests.
  • The Congo basin is the third-largest hotspot of irrecoverable carbon with over 8 Gt of carbon reserves, according to the study.
  • Australia, which has become a hotspot for wildfires, is home to 2.5 per cent of the world’s carbon reserve along its coastal mangroves and forests in the southeast and southwest.

Why conserve these forests?

  • These regions are already being ravaged by wildfires and exploited for resources by mining and oil industries.
  • Since 2010, agriculture, logging and wildfire have caused emissions of at least 4 Gt of irrecoverable carbon.


UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch