Friday, June 12, 2009

Forests: Big Carbon Sponges

Forests absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide and therefore reduce climate change. The Nature Conservancy has called destruction of forests "the largest overlooked contributor to climate change." Loss and degradation of forests causes 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. A recent article in the LA Times describes how some forests in California are being managed to maximize their ability to absorb and store carbon. A foundation overseeing one of these, the 2,200 acre Van Eck forest, calculated the amount of extra carbon absorbed due to reduced logging there. The approximately 185,000 metric tons of extra carbon being sequestered in this way were sold to individuals and companies for $2 million to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

The World Bank launched the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility in December 2007 to provide incentives to countries with large tracts of forest to keep them standing. These countries now make more money from cutting them down. Industrialized countries, forest communities, the Nature Conservancy, and the private sector will join the partnership to find a way to properly value the carbon-sequestering abilities of forests. Otherwise, the money to be made from cutting down forests for biofuels and palm oil might outweigh the financial gain to poorer countries from keeping their forests, and these vast carbon-absorbing ecosystems, home to great biodiversity, might be further reduced, greatly contributing to climate change.
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Stay cool,

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