Forestry will play a critical role in slowing global warming
June 12, 2008
In addition to reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation — a concept that has won accolades from conservationists and economists — Josep Canadell and Michael Raupach of CSIRO's Global Carbon Project suggest three strategies to mitigate carbon emissions through forestry activities: increasing forested land area through reforestation, bolstering the carbon density of existing forests, and expanding the use of forest products that sustainably replace emissions from fossil-fuels.
"Forests currently absorb billions of tons of CO2 globally every year, an economic subsidy worth hundreds of billions of dollars if an equivalent sink had to be created in other ways," write the authors. "Concerns about the permanency of forest carbon stocks, difficulties in quantifying stock changes, and the threat of environmental and socioeconomic impacts of large-scale reforestation programs have limited the uptake of forestry activities in climate policies [but] with political will and the involvement of tropical regions, forests can contribute to climate change protection through carbon sequestration as well as offering economic, environmental, and sociocultural benefits."
"This '50:50:50:50' estimate shows that even with continuing deforestation over the next 40 years, the mitigation potential is large, in addition to protecting the sink capacity of forest for continued removal of atmospheric CO2."
While there will be challenges with governance, Canadell and Raupach say that sustainability should be a guiding principle in forestry going forward.
"Forestry, and reforestation in particular— like any large-scale transformation of land use patterns—can lead to unintended environmental and socioeconomic impacts that could jeopardize the overall value of carbon mitigation projects," they write. "However, well-directed carbon sequestration projects, along with the provision of sustainably produced timber, fiber, and energy, will yield numerous benefits, including additional income for rural development, prospects for conservation and other environmental services, and support for indigenous communities... Principles of sustainability must govern the resolution of trade-offs that may arise from ancillary effects in order to simultaneously maximize climate change protection and sustainable development."
Josep Canadell and Michael Raupach (2008). Managing Forests for Climate Change Mitigation. 13 JUNE 2008 VOL 320 SCIENCE