Of the many ways to reduce greenhouse gases (GHSs) emissions and concentrations, the most familiar are increasing energy efficiency, conservation, and using cleaner alternative energy sources.
Less familiar yet equally essential is using forests to address climate change. Forests can both prevent and reduce GHG emissions while simultaneously providing essential environmental and social benefits, including clean water, wildlife habitat, recreation, forest products, and other values and uses.
Preventing GHG emissions can be done through:
Reducing Atmospheric GHG can be done through:
- Wood Substitution — Substituting wood for fossil fuel-intensive products addresses climate change. For example: lumber, wood panels, and other forest products used in contruction store more carbon, emit less GHGs, and use less fossil energy than steel, concrete, brick, or vinyl, where manufacturing these products required more energy and produces substantial emissions.
- Biomass Substitution — Biomass can offset fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, gasoline, diesel oil, and fuel oil while supporting rural economies and fostering new industries.
- Wildfire Behavior Modification — Wildland fires are a major source of GHG emission and reducing them prevents the release of carbon stored in the forest. One fire — the July 2007 Angora wildland fire in South Lake Tahoe, burned 3,100 acres of forestland emitting the equivalence to the GHG emissions generated annually by 105,500 cars.
- Avoided Land-Use Change — More carbon is stored in forests than in agricultural or developed land. Globally, forestland conversions released an estimated 136 billion tones of carbon, or 33% of the total emissions, between 1850 and 1998- more emissions than any other anthropogenic activity besides energy production.
- Sequestrating Carbon in Forests — Forests of all ages and types have remarkable capacity to sequester and store carbon. However, it depends on the health and productivity of forests. Active forest management is needed to maximize forests capability to sequester and store carbon.
- Storage in Wood Products — Even though harvesting temporarily reduces the forests ability to store carbon, carbon continues to be stored in forest products. The carbon in lumber and furniture, may not be release for decades.
Forest Carbon Offset Projects
The role of forests and forest products in preventing and reducing GHGs is beginning to gain recognition in market-based policy instrument for climate change mitigation. Forestry is one category of products that can create carbon dioxide emission reduction credits for trading to offset emissions from industrial and other polluters. Several project types may be eligible including afforestation, reforestation, forest management to protect or enhance carbon stocks, harvest wood products that store carbon, and forest conservation or protection.
It is beyond argument that forests play a decisive role in stabilizing the Earth's climate and that prudent management will enhance that role. Forest management can mitigate climate change effects and, in so doing, buy time to resolve the broader question of reducing the nation's dependence on imported fossil fuels.
To learn more on how forest conservation and management is part of the climate change solution, read, Forest Management Solutions for Mitigating Climate Change in the United States
This report is the most in-depth compilation of credible science outlining how forests and forest management is a part of the solution to Climate Change.