Energy and Global Warming News for April 27: US & Canada lose higher percentage of forests than Brazil; Business groups say climate impasse undermines clean energy

US & Canada Lose Higher Percentage of Forests Than Brazil

All I can say is wow! Mongabay is highlighting a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which reveals that between 2000 and 2005 over one million square kilometers of forest were chopped down worldwide, with both the United States and Canada losing a greater percentage of forest than the poster children of tree destruction, Brazil and Indonesia.

Brazil Has Highest Area Loss, But Average Percentage

There is a little bit of stats parsing going on here: Looking at the seven nations which have more than one million square kilometers of forest still remaining–that’s Brazil, Canada, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Russia, and the United States–Brazil still led the pack in terms of area cleared, with about 33,000 square kilometers of both rainforest and tropical dry forest cleared per year, for a total of 165,000 square kilometers lost. That represents 3.6% of it’s total forest cover at the start of the period examined.

However, though Canada and the United States lost less forest cover by area (160,000 and 120,000 square kilometers, respectively), in percentage terms Canada lost 5.2% of it’s total and the US lost 6% of total forest cover.

Keep in mind, the global average for the time period was 3.5%.

The main drivers of forest loss in the US during this time period were fire and beetle infestation in Alaska and the western states, “large-scale logging in the southeast, along the western coast, and in the Midwest.”

US Southeast Among Highest Rates of Global Deforestation
The report concludes,

The often publicized phenomenon of forest conversion within the humid tropics is observed in our results, but significant [gross forest cover loss] is evident in all biomes. For example, rates of GFCL in regions such as the southeast United States are among the highest globally.

Read more, about the distribution of forest loss by ecosystem: Mongabay

Here’s the original paper: Quantification of global gross forest cover loss

See also “Is human-caused climate change killing the great forests of the American West?

Business Groups Say Climate Impasse Undermines Clean Energy

The Capitol Hill politics bogging down a climate bill in the Senate are also hobbling investments in low-carbon energy and prompting calls from some business groups for action.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to travel Tuesday to a Siemens Corp. wind turbine facility in Fort Madison, Iowa, Tuesday as part of the White House effort to tout the economic, environmental and national security benefits of clean energy investments. The company expanded the plant, adding more than 600 jobs with capital from the stimulus package and tax credits.

Siemens, a unit of the German parent company Siemens AG, is representative of thousands of companies looking to capitalize on a carbon-constrained economy. It is building a range of products that would be attractive if there was a cost for emitting carbon. Besides efficient motors and generators, they are also developing technology to capture emissions from coal plants, have a retro-fitting business that installs energy-efficient equipment in buildings, and plan to expand their solar power unit in the U.S.

Nearly every sector of the energy industry is in some way affected by Congressional deliberations on climate and energy policy, whether it is makers of wind turbines and solar plants, utilities planning nuclear power projects or companies that make natural-gas generators and clean-coal technology. While some want to see a carbon market that will create demand for their products, others say they want to get clarity on how the new emission rules will affect their plans.

May the Trimmest Building Win

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced an energy efficiency contest to help buildings around the nation trim their consumption.

Called the National Building Competition, it is patterned after “The Biggest Loser,” an NBC show that spotlights overweight contestants trying to lose weight. The competitors include an office building in Midtown Manhattan, a department store in Southern California, a medical center in Cleveland and elementary schools in Colorado and New Jersey.

“We came up with the idea that most everyone could relate to the idea of losing weight, and that having U.S. buildings try to shed their energy waste made sense,” Maura Beard, a spokeswoman for the E.P.A.’s Energy Star program, said in an e-mail message. “We felt people could follow the contestants, relate to their efforts and encourage similar changes in buildings across the country.”

The 14 contestants, selected from among 200 applicants, will be encouraged to improve their efficiency by taking simple steps like turning off lights, unplugging power charges and switching to automated temperature controls.

The New York City participant, a 23-story building built in 1896 at 522 Fifth Avenue, at 44th Street, is owned by Morgan Stanley.

Cape Cod Project Is Crucial Step for U.S. Wind Industry

More than 800 giant wind turbines spin off the coasts of Denmark, Britain and seven other European countries, generating enough electricity from strong ocean breezes to power hundreds of thousands of homes. China’s first offshore wind farm, a 102-megawatt venture near Shanghai, goes online this month, with more in the pipeline.

But despite a decade of efforts, not a single offshore turbine has been built in the United States.

Experts say progress has been slowed by a variety of factors, including poor economics, an uncertain regulatory framework and local opposition.

When the Obama administration announces a decision this week on the most prominent project “” Cape Wind, off the coast of Massachusetts “” it could have implications from Long Island to Lake Erie. An approval from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar might well nudge the project to completion as the nation’s first offshore wind farm. On the other hand, some developers say a thumbs-down could gut America’s offshore wind industry before it ever really gets started.

“It is imperative that Cape Wind gets built “” we need the momentum,” said Peter Giller, chief executive of OffshoreMW, an upstart developer with ambitions to build two 700-megawatt projects off the shores of New Jersey and Massachusetts.

At least half a dozen offshore wind projects that could provide electricity for hundreds of thousands of customers have already been proposed in the shallow waters off the East Coast and the Great Lakes. Even more are in the paper-napkin stage, including a project that would place a bank of turbines about 13 miles off the Rockaway peninsula in New York.

Although offshore wind farms are roughly twice as expensive as land-based ones, developers and advocates say offshore projects have several advantages. Sea and lake breezes are typically stronger, steadier and more reliable than wind on land. Offshore turbines can also be located close to the power-hungry populations along the coasts, eliminating the need for new overland transmission lines. And if the turbines are built far enough from shore, they do not significantly alter the view “” a major objection from many local opponents.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has estimated that about 90,000 megawatts of electricity could be extracted from offshore winds in United States coastal waters less than 100 feet deep, the easiest and most cost-effective depths. Most of that potential lies in New England, the mid-Atlantic and the Great Lakes.

If the handful of American projects on the drawing board are built as planned, they would produce some 2,500 megawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association, or about as much as two midsize nuclear power plants.

The Cape Wind project would place 130 turbines, each 440 feet tall, over 24 square miles of Nantucket Sound at a likely cost of more than $1 billion.

Opponents have argued that the venture is too expensive and would interfere with local fishermen, intrude on the sacred rituals and submerged burial grounds of two local Indian tribes and destroy the view.

22 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for April 27: US & Canada lose higher percentage of forests than Brazil; Business groups say climate impasse undermines clean energy

  1. BB says:

    That study on ‘tree loss’ is completely ridiculous and you know it.


    [JR: Hard to get ridiculous into PNAS. Not impossible, but hard.]

  2. prokaryote says:

    Climate scientist sues newspaper for ‘poisoning’ global warming debate

    Climate modeller Andrew Weaver launches libel action in Canada for publishing ‘grossly irresponsible falsehoods’

  3. prokaryote says:

    Is climate change South Asia’s deadliest threat?

  4. Dano says:

    A good chunk of what the US and CDN are cutting down are beetle-killed forests. Not saying it is good forest practice, jus’ sayin’. And jus’ sayin’ silliness like what BB posted is comedy, not commentary.



    [JR: Yes, the bark beetle has accelerated tree cutting and forest fires.]

  5. Bob Wallace says:

    RE: The Cape wind project and momentum….

    “It is imperative that Cape Wind gets built — we need the momentum,” said Peter Giller, chief executive of OffshoreMW, an upstart developer with ambitions to build two 700-megawatt projects off the shores of New Jersey and Massachusetts.

    Why does Cape Wind have to be first? Why not take a lesson from Obama’s strategy book and first fight the battles you are likely to win? Build some momentum by having some successes.

    Put all this energy into projects off the Atlantic coast and in the Great Lakes. Let people see first hand what an offshore wind farm looks like. Let people get used to seeing wind turbines and give them some time to think about the benefits.

    Later we can build in the more difficult places. If we need to.

    (I’m all for keeping wind and solar out of the most beautiful places if possible.)

    Seems like we’re spending our time beating on the front door, trying to get someone to let us in. Better, perhaps, to walk around to the unlocked back door….

  6. BB says:


    …I’m not talking about rainforest loss. That’s different.

    I’m talking about that blanket any-tree ‘Tree Loss’ study as it relates to the US/Canada, the study’s caveats, and it’s lack of conclusions.

    JR, in his rightful purview, decided to snip out anything meaningful from my comments…though it is highly ironic, considering that particular tree loss study.

  7. prokaryote says:

    General Election 2010: Britain’s silent, green revolution

    All the major parties are signed up to transforming Britain into a green, low-carbon economy to boost growth, as well as to combat climate change, says Geoffrey Lean.

    No matter how the votes tally up in Brighton Pavilion, the contest has greened British politics – to a degree that would have been unimaginable last time the country trudged off to the polls. All the major parties are signed up to transforming Britain into a green, low-carbon economy to boost growth, as well as to combat climate change.

  8. prokaryote says:

    What is your point? Lack of conclusion? Satelite imagery methodology is by far the best meassure you can have.

    A globally consistent methodology using satellite imagery was implemented to quantify gross forest cover loss (GFCL) from 2000 to 2005 and to compare GFCL among biomes, continents, and countries.

    We kill our ecosystem’s, over profit and by doing so accelerating climate change feedbacks.

    Killer fungus seen in Pacific Northwest

    An Index of Common Tree Diseases
    The Major Disease of Trees in the United States

  9. BB says:


    I made my points…They were reasonable. They were snipped. No big deal…It’s just a comments section.

    They’d likely get snipped again. Peer-review boards do this sort of thing all the time.

    This is a great blog-site. It really is. I read it every day.

  10. Bob Wallace says:

    “The main drivers of forest loss in the US during this time period were fire and better infestation in Alaska and the western states, “large-scale logging in the southeast, along the western coast, and in the Midwest.””

    2000-2005 along the western coast? Certainly not in CA or southern Oregon.

    And certainly not deforestation in the Brazilian sense anywhere along the western coast. Forests are not getting chopped down here to make room for cattle, sugarcane, or any other non-timber use. Trees are cut down, trees are replanted.

    Additionally the rate of cutting here is greatly down from previous decades. The virgin forest is largely gone and now the slow regrowth cycle is tempering the rate of cutting. The logging industry is a very faint shadow of what it was.

  11. prokaryote says:

    MIssissippi tornado rated a violent EF-4

    The devastating tornado that ripped through Mississippi on Saturday April 24, killing ten, was a violent EF-4 twister with 170 mph winds when it hit Yazoo City, according to a preliminary damage survey by the National Weather Service in Jackson, Mississippi. The tornado touched down near Tallulah, Louisiana, crossed the Mississippi River into Mississippi, and traversed nearly the entire state of Mississippi, carving a 149-mile long path of destruction.

    It is extremely rare for a tornado to stay on the ground this long.

    The world record longest path by a tornado is the 219-mile long path of the deadliest tornado in U.S. history, the violent F-5 Tri-State Tornado of 1925, which killed 695 people in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.

  12. Steve Bloom says:

    Joe, in the fifth paragraph of the forest article you have “better infestation” rather than “beetle infestation.”

    [JR: That isn’t me. That is the original news article!]

  13. mike roddy says:

    Bob Wallace, the western US timber industry is a shadow of what it was because the PNW coastal forests have already been liquidated. They are still destroying everything they can, on shorter “rotations”, too.

    Dano, beetle kills are reinforced by industrial logging, which creates monocultures and hotter local microclimates. Mature forests are far more resilient.

    Logging in the US is currently responsible for about 400 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, though this figure is disguised by net sequestration data.

    Joe, thanks for bringing this up.

    I met recently with a forest ecologist at the University of Washington who estimateds the historic sequestration capacity of PNW coastal forests at more than triple the carbon they are currently holding. Opportunities are huge, in the billions of tons of CO2, not to mention healthier ecosystems and salmon runs.

    We have to stop destroying forests for paper towels, packaging, catalogs, and, especially, two by fours to build very fragile houses from. Substitutes are available for all of these.

  14. Bob Wallace says:

    Mike – that’s what I said. We cut very heavily when there was a lot of old growth. The available old growth has been cut. We are now on a cut-replant-grow-cut rotation. And we no longer foul the streams, etc.

    As for substitutes for houses, I see no signs of that happening.

    Do you know of any CO2 data that compares a “leave them standing” approach vs. “build houses and sequester the carbon for 50-200 years”? And then recycle that wood when the houses are torn down.

    It would, it seems, need to include CO2 measurements for the extra steel/concrete/whatever used in place of the wood.

  15. David B. Benson says:

    Need to plant more and cut less.

  16. Bob Wallace says:

    David B. #18 – Would one billion trees planted in one day be “more” in your book?

    “The target for every village panchayat (council) was to plant 6,000 saplings from 6am to 6pm to achieve the target of one billion. At the end of the day, we found out that we were just just short of the target, but it was still a world record,” the beaming civil servant said.

    Significantly, his scheme has even stopped the migration of poor labourers from the area in search of employment elsewhere during monsoon time.

    “We never thought we would get employment for planting trees and protecting them,” said Paigambarpur village head Indra Bhusan, whose community – like many others – planted over 30,000 saplings mostly on both flanks of the 14km embankment which criss-crosses their village.

    6,000 trees x 7,500 villages = 45,000,000. And a lot of villages way over-performed.

    Not only planted, but maintained. At little additional cost to the government. The Indian government guarantees poor people a small number of paid days of work every year. Mr. Raju used those work days to plant trees. And people will continue to get paid over the coming years based on tree survival rates.

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  18. mike roddy says:

    Bob, I’ve researched this for 15 years, and just wrote a paper on the subject for delivery to an international conference in Sydney this summer. Drop me an email at and I’ll send you a collection of studies.

    I didn’t express myself well in reacting to your statement about the Northwest. I’ve also seen the data about the Southeast. The outgoing head of the FS PNW Research station told me two years ago that they project 25 million acres of US forest loss between now and 2040 or so. Carbon implications are huge.

  19. Andy says:

    According to the USDA the number one cause of forest loss in the Southeast US is conversion to pasturage. The massive holdings of timber companies in the SE have largely been liquidated over the last 10 years. The new landowners (mostly private capital timber investment groups) have broken up large tracts and sold them off where they could.

    This is permanent forest loss. It isn’t part of the usual timber grow and harvest rotation. The pastures are usually planted with a single species of non-native grass such as Coastal Bahia (which another arm of the USDA recommends).

    For years the conservationists have worked with timber companies to manage their lands in ways compatible with fish and wildlife. Now the rug has been pulled out from under them. They’re purchasing as much as they can, but this is a tiny fraction.

    Some of this is ranching operations where beef pays better than wood. A lot of this is simply folks who like the idea of being a cow man and have a hundred acres of pasture and beef to tend in semi-retirement bliss.

    The harvest rotation in the SE is 20 to 30 years. These are sticks that are cut as soon as a few 2X4’s can be stripped out of them or they are reconstituted into OSB, etc. It’s not like these trees have a lot of value. Some land owners wait for the rotation to mature to offset the cost of clearing the land; others simply bulldoze and burn.