Can Paraguay really be carbon positive?

On March 7 of this year, NASA released a study in which it determines the global carbon balance1 (difference between what is emitted and what is absorbed or captured).

Based on this study, some media outlets at the regional level, such as “La Nación” in Argentinatwo and ABC Color3 , from our country, spoke with great confidence emphasizing ideas such as; Paraguay has a favorable carbon balance, or extensive cattle ranching is not the problem, but the solution.

In the face of all this, it is extremely necessary to make some clarifications:

1-About the study of the carbon balance

The aforementioned study investigates data from NASA’s OCO-2 satellite to determine what is absorbed and emitted in terms of greenhouse gases (GHG) globally. Studies of this nature are called “top down” studies, as they take into account satellite estimates and mathematical models to obtain the corresponding CO2 count. The best known are the “bottom-up” studies (bottom-up), which are basically the National Inventories (INGEI)4which carry out a calculation taking into account the magnitude of each activity at country level, and then integrate that same balance at global level.

From the beginning, those responsible for the study make it clear that this is a pilot study and that it is a methodology intended to support GHG inventories at the national level and the “global balance sheet” of the UNFCCC.5.

On the other hand, this study does not include in its calculations methane gas (CH4), the main emitting element of extensive livestock worldwide. This particular fact is of paramount importance in understanding the degree of inconsistency in the aforementioned comments.

2-Paraguay with positive carbon balance

Simply put, this idea refers to the fact that the country absorbs or captures more greenhouse gases than it emits. In the journalistic articles cited above, sectors linked to agribusiness and extensive livestock use the NASA study to conclude that Paraguay absorbs more gases than it emits (therefore, climate policies are good) and that this occurs thanks to livestock production and agriculture large-scale extensive

In this sense, it is extremely necessary to make it clear that nowhere in the study is any similar conclusion established. On the contrary, the main element of analysis of the impact of livestock in terms of greenhouse gases, “methane gas”, is not even part of the process of analyzing the results. Therefore, it cannot be established that this or that region of the planet has a positive carbon balance if one of its main elements is not considered.

Paraguay and deforestation

In fact, Paraguay contributes little in terms of percentage of GHG globally. However, the little that is contributed is very much related to a chain of negative effects on nature, assuming that one of the biggest contributors in this context is “deforestation”. microclimate changes that develop at the local level: the modification of the hydrological balance that leads to a change in rainfall, which in turn has a close connection with the increase in the thermal sensation and the change in the winds, without forgetting the increased risk of erosion and desertification. (Especially in fragile ecosystems like the Chaco)

In addition to generating environmental changes at the local level, it considerably increases the vulnerability of the national territory to the global changes that are taking place and reduces the possibilities of recovering damage.

3-A “very clear” political intention. Keep legitimizing withdrawals

Although agricultural activity is capable of absorbing more carbon than it emits (which is not true), Paraguay is still responsible for high methane gas emissions. Using this as a basis to justify the persistence of the model ignores that the main cause of emissions, “land use change” and livestock activity (responsible for further deforestation), generates other environmental problems due to the loss of forest mass, such as how changes in rainfall, increased vulnerability to winds, increased wind chill and loss of biological diversity

It seems ironic to be the country most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in South America6in addition to being one of the countries with the highest deforestation rates at the continental level7but still be a positive carbon balance?? agricultural and livestock frontier.






5 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


7 Segundo-pais-mas-deforestador-de-sudamerica/


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