Part 5. Climate and Energy Series A forester replies:
As to planting trees being a Band-Aid, I would say, yes and no. The larger ecosystems that surround and support us – be they rainforests, temperate forests, extensive prairie root systems or the oceans – manifest a genius for sequestering carbon. We need to enhance that capability while we simultaneously work to stop Jonesing on fossil fuels. Protecting forests, managing them naturalistically to augment their growth and carbon uptake, and restoring wetlands can sequester up to 25-30% of carbon emissions – a solution that works with the grain of nature, as opposed to hubristic ideas like seeding the oceans with iron or spraying chemicals into the atmosphere.
Pursuing such solutions will also help us better understand the connection between our wellbeing and the health of natural systems. Humans are part of those systems, not above or outside them. Nature is our home and life-support system, not merely a source of our raw materials and a sink for our wastes.
Another potentially helpful approach is to increase the amount of wood in buildings. Because of advances in engineering, it is now possible to build 10- to 20-story buildings of wood, which will provide triple benefits: (1) the carbon will be "tied up" in that wood for a long time; (2) concrete and steel are extremely energy intensive building materials, so replacing them reduces a building’s carbon budget; and (3) wood is a beautiful building material.
We must work both to eliminate carbon emissions and to increase the ability to sequester carbon as we make the transition.
Edited to fit my 250-word limit. To join the conversation, please send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. I am particularly looking for new ways of understanding the climate and energy question and workable solutions.