Forests may prevent more CO2 emissions than the equivalent acreage of biofuels
The latest proposal to include airlines in European emissions trading schemes will have predictable results:
“If the idea of emissions trading is to make energy intensive activities more expensive, then there will be some impact on ticket prices,” said Andy Kershaw, Climate Change Manager at BA.
For obvious reasons, consumers will always end up footing the bill when businesses pay the true cost of protecting the environment. That reality is not hard for most of us environmentalists to understand. It costs to protect the environment.
When done properly, carbon sinks appeal to me for several reasons. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:
Though most Americans could probably name cars, trucks, and industry as major sources of CO2 emissions, the clearing and degradation of forests actually accounts for approximately 20 percent of annual CO2 emissions worldwide. This is more than the annual CO2 emissions generated in the United States by burning fossil fuels.
The EPA claims that growing a Douglas fir forest for a century or so is 25% to 50% more efficient at reducing CO2 buildup than using an equivalent amount of land to grow biofuels. In other words, if you grow, say, switch grass hay to produce electricity you will allow roughly 25% to 50% more CO2 to remain in the atmosphere than if you had planted a fir forest on the same amount of acreage and used coal to make electricity. You can imagine how this might be possible if you have ever stood in an old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest and looked up at the giant trees. Now, of course you can’t grow a fir forest in switch grass country, so that was not the best analogy.
Carbon sinks also provide clean water and wildlife habitat, and promote biodiversity. They kill (save) several birds with one stone. If enough forest is locked away in carbon sinks to cause a lumber shortage, you could expect housing to cost more. This could force housing to be smaller and more efficient, which will in turn use less energy. Carbon sinks could become a win-win situation for the environment.