We all know that trees absorb carbon dioxide, helping to offset a bit of the over-consumption of fossil fuels happening on our planet. But a recent study by the US Forest Service shows the role of our forests might be even larger than previously reported, absorbing one-third of carbon emissions annually.
According to the US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, “This study shows the important role global forests play in keeping the air clean and it also broadens our understanding of how climate change relates to forest management in today’s world.”
Typically 2 acres of rainforest will absorb 300-400 tons of carbon annually. However, while the forest can hold onto that carbon while alive, if burned or otherwise degraded, that carbon sink is lost and/or re-released into the atmosphere. Therein lies the rub. We need to hold onto the global forests we have, through healthy management. In the US, this means avoiding fire suppression. Just look at the fires burning in the southwestern US to see how well fire suppression has worked for us. In other countries, this means avoiding deforestation for other uses, such as livestock and development.
The study found that global forests have annually removed 2.4 billion tons of carbon and absorbed 8.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or about one-third of fossil fuel emissions annually from the period of 1990-2007. That’s a lot of gallons of gasoline.
If we want to keep this little Turtle Island we call Earth going long enough for us to raise the next generation, not to mention teach them how to ski in a warming environment, we need to look to the health of our forests. That’s not to say that you should go plant a tree in order to offset your 15 mpg Hummer. I’ve never seen the logic in carbon offsets as a means to assuage our over-consumptive lifestyle.
I for one, want to keep our winters white. Hell, I want to keep our winters, period. So I’m glad that the US Forest Service is armed with better data about just how important the global forests are to the environment. Now the question becomes, how to take this study and put it into action.
According to a recent article on Planet Change, Norway has pledged US $4 billion to help developing countries, such as Brazil, Indonesia, Tanzania and Guyana, fight deforestation. With its up-close-and-personal view of shrinking glaciers, Norway is leading the world in the right direction.