"Increasingly, companies are releasing new net-zero goals to neutralize their
greenhouse gas emissions in the future. And instead of substantially reducing
their carbon emissions, a lot of those pledges rely on using a technique called
forest carbon capture.
But a new study reinforces what scientists have been saying for a while:
counting on trees to do the dirty work of removing the CO2 we have put on the
atmosphere won’t be enough to stop climate change.
A paper published today in Science
posits that, if we stop all human
management on forests (for example, wood harvesting) under current climatic
conditions and with the CO2 concentration that already exists, their
aboveground biomass could increase by up to 44.1 gigatons of carbon.
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. However, it would mean a 15–16
percent increase over current levels of carbon storage, which equals about four
years of current CO2 emissions by human activities.
Without strong reductions in emissions, the paper concludes that this strategy
has a low potential to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The
researchers also highlight that the forest carbon sink (its ability to absorb
carbon) should be preserved to offset residual emissions from sectors where
they are unavoidable, rather than to compensate for present emission levels.
Forests act as carbon sinks because, as trees grow, they use CO2 in the
photosynthesis process and turn it into plant matter, or biomass. They also
store carbon on the ground by enhancing the soil’s organic matter. That is why
forests play a key role in preventing the planet from overheating.
In places where logging or other issues have damaged the forest, restoring the
area could enhance the amount of carbon absorbed there. This kind of
“repairing” is what is being sold as one of the solutions to suck CO2 from the
atmosphere — while giving a free pass for companies to keep their “business as
usual” emission levels.
But there is a limit to what forests can actually do."
Via Frederick Wilson II.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics