(Flickr photo/Joshua Mayer)
Projects (and/or programs) are sometimes about launching new software, building bridges, or researching a new technology. Many of my most recent posts have been about the ocean – here we return to solid ground. This article is about a program to create new natural forests to store carbon.
In a recent issue of Nature, the “Comment” section is about the need to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees C to avoid dangerous changes in climate. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says that around 73o billion tons of CO2 must be taken out of the atmosphere by the end of this century to achieve this goal.
To put this amount in context, we’re talking about an amount of CO2 equal to that produced since the industrial revolution from the following countries: The US, the UK, Germany, and China.
Using forests to sequester CO2 is not only safe and proven, it also has the benefit of providing jobs, aiding in water management, and preserving biodiversity.
First of all, and this should seem pretty obvious, if more forest is needed, deforestation must stop.
In addition, significant efforts to allow natural forestation must be launched. And one has. It’s called the Bonn Challenge (see http://www.bonchallenge.org). From their web page:
The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to restore 150 million hectares of the world's degraded and deforested lands by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. It is overseen by the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, with the International Union for Conservation of Nature as its Secretariat.
For a review of this Challenge, you can view this video:
You can look up your own country’s commitment levels by going to the “Commitments” section of the webpage. Here is the detail on the US:
But there’s a threat to this project. Half of the pledged area in the full set of commitments is set to become plantations of commercial trees, not natural forest. Plantations end up releasing the carbon back into the atmosphere approximately 15 years, as opposed to a natural forest which will sequester carbon for many decades.
Where should the forests be created? According to the article, they should be planted in the tropics and subtropics.
In Part 2, I’ll discuss the “how” of reforesting, and in Part 3 I’ll cover some of the governance (and enforcement) issues of deforestation.