The Climate Gift that, Perversely, Keeps on Giving

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"The Climate Gift that, Perversely, Keeps on Giving"

Carbon neutrality gifts are one of this year’s hip, eco-political holiday items. But if you were hoping to off-set your greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees, ecologists will tell you it is probably “pointless.”

Siberian ForestThe idea has been to plant trees since forests absorb carbon dioxide and help cool the air. However, forests at certain latitudes (typically in the northern hemisphere) have a warming effect because they retain heat in their canopies. Conversely, natural terrain (especially snow) reflects most sunlight back into space.

Confusion can be traced to the difference between reforestation and afforestation, both policies that are encouraged in the Kyoto Protocol. Second to fossil-fuel combustion, deforestation is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, pulling back on deforestation slows emissions while reforestation compensates for them by sequestering carbon and restoring natural habitat.

Ideally, afforestation (or just forestation) would do the same, but, as the ecologists conclude, it can cause unintended consequences. Over and over again, the environment teaches us just how carefully we must tread on this planet.

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3 Responses to The Climate Gift that, Perversely, Keeps on Giving

  1. […] ClimateProgress has covered one tricky facet of our forests before by looking at how misplaced afforestation can propel warming. Now word is spreading that plantation forests for biofuel and ethanol crops are rivaling natural forests. In the process, clearing the land emits mass amounts of carbon dioxide and the ecosystem replanted to harvest fuel tends to be worse for the environment. […]

  2. maynet okey says:

    In the process, clearing the land emits mass amounts of carbon dioxide and the ecosystem replanted to harvest fuel tends to be worse for the environment

  3. Therefore, pulling back on deforestation slows emissions while reforestation compensates for them by sequestering carbon and restoring natural habitat.