Clearcutting, Climate Change, and the Center for Biological Diversity

“A clearcut is about as beneficial to the climate as a new coal-fired power plant.”

– spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity

Spin consumes science

Such a sound bite is ‘spin;’ and we should not confuse such political posturing with fact. Perception trumps truth and the California Air Resources Board has caved to political pressure from CBD and its ilk, reversing its earlier decisions on carbon protocols. We should not be skipping and shouting yippee! The result runs counter to the goals and the scientific truths CBD professes to hold.

The Science of Carbon Sequestration

In the section on the Forest Sector the IPCC uses peer-reviewed science to back its priorities for using trees to reduce the affect of carbon-based fuels. These methods are:

1) carbon conservation,

2) carbon sequestration and storage,

3) carbon substitution.

Carbon conservation practices include preventing the conversion of forests to other land uses e.g., agricultural uses or subdivisions; and controlling major fires and pest outbreaks.

Carbon sequestration and storage practices include expanding forest area and/or biomass of natural and plantation forests.

Carbon substitution in general means substituting wood products for non-wood building materials, i.e., cement-based and metal-based products, rather than using fossil fuel-based energy and products.

Because forests are “renewable resources,” displacing fossil fuels for low energy-intensive wood products has, according to the IPCC, “the greatest mitigation potential in the long term.

Clearcutting is not the bogyman

If the CBD and other green organizations cared about human-caused global warming they would embrace forest management, including even-aged. They would promote using California forests for the wood products that store carbon. They would demand that the national forests begin harvesting timber in greater quantities. Our California forests have the capacity to produce all the wood we need and export some as well, yet we import 75% of our wood. You can bet the wood we import wasn’t harvested under restrictions as comprehensive as those within California’s Forest Practices Act. Did any of the harvests have a Timber Harvesting Plan that took water and wildlife into consideration?

Logging in California does not equal deforestation. As a forester, I have seen the before-and-after of tree cutting and I have watched forests over decades. I support conserving trees. I also support harvesting trees responsibly. We need to grow more trees.

We must use the wood we grow as a substitute for metal, concrete, and plastics wherever possible. As Greenpeace co-founder and another environmental heretic, Patrick Moore, points out, “Wood is the most renewable and sustainable of the major building materials. On all measures comparing the environmental effects of common building materials, wood has the least impact on total energy use, greenhouse gases, air and water pollution, solid waste and ecological resource use.” Don’t believe him or me? Read this peer-reviewed paper “Carbon dioxide balance of wood substitution: comparing concrete- and wood-framed buildings,” by Leif Gustavsson, Kim Pingoud, and Roger Sathre. Their research indicates “wood-framed construction requires less energy, and emits less CO2 to the atmosphere, than concrete-framed construction.”

CBD and their ilk promote Kabuki environmentalism with the “zero-cut” illusion of preservation, getting wood from countries with lax environmental enforcement. It’s unadulterated NIMBYism.

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