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10 Things to Know About Forests and Climate

Global warming is a planetary emergency. But we can still avoid the worst impacts of climate change if we manage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.
by

Sierra Club BC

on 17 February 2016

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Transcript of 10 Things to Know About Forests and Climate

10 Things
To Know About
Forests and Climate

Photo: barunpatro, sxc.hu
Global warming is a
planetary emergency
. But we can still avoid the worst impacts of climate change if we manage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.
So far, about half of our greenhouse gas emissions get
absorbed by oceans and plants
on land, primarily forests.
One of our best opportunities to
reduce emissions and sequester carbon
is to protect our forests and soils.
Deforestation and bad logging practices
are causing
massive emissions
Nature is
our best ally
in the fight
against global warming
Originally, forests covered
50%
of the world’s land mass. Today, it’s about
30%
.
Deforestation has released
120 billion tonnes
of carbon into the atmosphere.
Every year deforestation and degradation contribute about
20% to our global greenhouse gas emissions.
Video: UK Forestry Commission
Our temperate rainforests are among the
best
carbon banks
in the world
Maps of the world’s forests show that there are
few places in the world where

trees grow as tall
and forests store as much carbon per hectare as the temperate rainforests along the West Coast of North America.
A
single hectare of rainforest
can store over 1,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare.
Map: NASA
Forest Height Map
Old-growth forests
continue to
sequester carbon
When old growth is clear-cut,
up to half of the carbon
is released into the atmosphere. Only a small portion of the carbon remains stored in wood products long term.
Contrary to a widespread misconception most old-growth stands continue to
sequester carbon over time.
Avoided logging of old-growth rainforest is one of the
most immediately effective actions
to reduce emissions.
Tonnes of carbon sequestered
per hectare by old growth forests
Second growth
takes decades
before it helps to fight global warming
A
re-growing forest needs decades
until it sequesters more carbon per year than the ongoing annual release from the clear-cut; and centuries until the total carbon stored is equal to the lost old-growth forest.
From a carbon perspective converting old growth to second growth is
like giving away a safe and full bank account
with a decent interest rate in exchange for a start-up bank account with almost zero money and the promise of spectacular growth based on unreliable forecasts.
B.C.’s forests are no longer a
carbon sink
but a massive source of carbon
Until a decade ago our provincial forests were a carbon sink helping to slow global warming, Today, they are a massive carbon source,
releasing 82 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually
, more than our “official” emissions (62 million tonnes).
These emissions are caused by
climate change impacts
like the Mountain Pine Beetle and increasing number of fires as well
ongoing poor forest management
(52 million tonnes).
The fact that
forest emissions are not counted
as official emissions does not make them go away. We can no longer afford to neglect our forests!
Photo: TJ Watt
B.C.‘s old-growth forests are
becoming
non-renewable
"Temperate rainforests have so far shown to be more resilient to climate impacts compared to other forest types of the province. But
B.C.’s ecosystems will shift
and species migrate in a changing climate.
If we cut down old-growth forest today, these forests
will not grow back as we knew them
. Old-growth forests are effectively non-renewable resources in the present circumstances.
For that reason alone, you could argue that the remaining large intact areas of old-growth temperate rainforest - globally rare to begin with -
should not be logged
.”
- Ecologist Dr. Jim Pojar
Current and projected mean temperature in B.C.
The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements
offer a way forward.
While most of the productive old-growth forests in the southern part of B.C.
has been logged...
The Great Bear Rainforest in the North and Central Coast is the
largest, mostly intact temperate rainforest
in the world.
The final steps of the globally celebrated agreements for healthy rainforests and healthy communities were announced in February 2016.
They provide a model to inform solutions to protect coastal rainforest elsewhere.
Map: Dave Leversee/Sierra Club BC
The old-growth rainforest valleys of Clayoquot Sound are
not yet fully protected
In Clayoquot Sound, the
largest cluster of intact old-growth rainforest
valleys on Vancouver Island, approximately 74,000 hectares of intact rainforest valleys remain unprotected by law.
Sierra Club BC and our partners in the Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance seek to
work collaboratively
with First Nations to safeguard the old growth valleys through
conservation financing
, similar to the mechanism used to create new protected areas in the Great Bear Rainforest.
Clayoquot Sound - Photo: Tofino Photography
Protection of old growth forest is
urgent for climate and species
A provincial old-growth conservation strategy, including
phasing out logging of rare old-growth
ecosystems, is urgent for our climate and our species.
Avoided logging of old growth forest helps immediately to
reduce B.C.’s carbon dioxide emissions
and to allow salmon, bears, wolves and many other species a fighting chance to adapt to a changing climate.
Forestry can contribute to the low carbon economy of the future, but not without
increased forest conservation and improved forest management
.
Photo: TJ Watt
Learn more:
www.sierraclub.bc.ca
2010 data. Graphic: CO2Now.org
http://www.sierraclub.bc.ca/sign-up
Full transcript