Forests and Global Warming
Forests help protect against global warming
Global warming is perhaps the most serious and far-reaching environmental threat we face today. From melting permafrost in Alaska to melting glaciers on Mt Hood, global warming presents serious negative consequences not only to fish and wildlife, but to our economy as well. Here in the Pacific Northwest, researchers predict global warming will negatively impact salmon populations, increase shoreline erosion on our coasts, reduce winter snow pack, increase summer drought and decrease soil moisture.
Global warming is attributed to an increase in greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, which results from burning fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum. Years of scientific research and study have led to a clear agreement by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and thousands of scientists that the earth is warming due to human activity.
So, what can be done about global warming? Many technical solutions are available to reduce greenhouse gases, from requiring higher fuel efficiency in automobiles to increasing our use of renewable energy like wind and solar. But equally important is protecting our forestlands.
Forests effectively remove carbon dioxide from the air by ‘breathing’ it in and storing it as carbon in their leaves, needles, trunks, limbs, and roots. The sequestered carbon can be stored for a very long time, especially in old growth trees, which can live for hundreds of years and take an additional 100, 200, or even 300 years to fully decompose.
According to a recent scientific report commissioned by the British government, 18% of all global warming emissions are the result of deforestation. That’s because trees and other vegetation are no longer around to remove carbon dioxide from the air. The result is that carbon dioxide that would normally be stored as carbon in trees is left in the atmosphere as greenhouse gases.
Protecting forestland, especially old-growth trees, is not only important for fish and wildlife, it is a critical component in the effort to fight against global warming.