Deforestation is the second leading cause of global warming and produces about 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions(1). Scientists say that deforestation in tropical rainforests adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than the sum total of all the cars and trucks on the world’s roads.
How do forests help us?
There are many benefits of forests, which include:
- Remove and store carbon from the atmosphere
- Make and release oxygen
- Shade and cool homes
- Reduce flooding and prevent soil erosion
- Clean the air and water
Read the following article about the important role our forests play on addressing climate change written by one of the group’s advisors, Professor Bill Moomaw.
Studies have shown that older trees absorb more carbon than younger trees, therefore it’s important that we protect these older forests and protect the forests that are becoming older.
What is Proforestation?
Proforestation is an approach where existing forests are kept intact for the purpose of maximizing carbon sequestration and ecosystem services. Bill Moomaw’s article, Intact Forests in the United States: Proforestation Mitigates Climate Change and Serves the Greatest Good, explains why proforestation is the best strategy to increase negative emissions using forests and how to best implement it.
The Issue Around Bioenergy/Biomass
“According to Professor Bill Moomaw of Tufts (lead author on several IPCC reports), “wood energy is not low carbon.” While forest-based bioenergy is widely considered to be a renewable fuel source (new trees can grow to replace those that are consumed) burning wood to generate electricity is typically 50 percent more carbon-intensive than coal-fired generation(2). Today 60 percent of the European Union’s renewable energy comes from bioenergy. It does not make economic sense to import eight million tons of wood pellets yearly across the Atlantic Ocean – but the British government provides over $1 billion in annual subsidies to utilities to pay the cost of pellet production and transport. The U.S. forest products industry and U.K. power companies are profiting from activities that have serious harmful impacts on Earth’s climate. A significant percentage of U.S. southeastern forests have been clear-cut to supply this subsidized demand. And efforts are well underway to do the same in the northeast. We need to stop this trend!
This article describes these dynamics in detail.
Bill H. 853/HD. 1419 would remove incentives for biomass and garbage incineration from the Massachusetts Alternative Portfolio Standard, so that these technologies would not be subsidized through Massachusetts’ clean energy programs. Read more about it.
Bill H. 897 – protects all state conservation land as parks or reserves where forest ecosystems are guided primarily by natural processes. This action will fight climate change by reducing carbon loss and increasing carbon sequestration. The bill would preserve 13% of the state’s land base and 21% of forest lands, including large contiguous landscape blocks that are needed to avert plant and animal extinctions, and offer safe havens for humans and wildlife alike. It would also provide a wide array of other public benefits, such as clean air and water, recreational opportunities, and economic diversification. This bill allows management flexibility to address public health, safety, and other concerns. It will cost nothing to implement.
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The Issue of Solar vs. Trees
Significant progress has been made to create a solar ordinance in Northampton that balances the need to protect trees with the need to develop ground-mounted solar arrays. At a meeting of the city’s Legislative Matters Subcommittee of City Council on May 13, a draft was approved that requires Special Permitting (not just Site Plan Review) for anything involving over 2 acres of tree removal. To obtain a special permit, the developer would need to submit a report that shows the development does not adversely impact the environment according to a detailed set of scientific criteria. Read the current draft.
If you live in a town where this issue is pressing, you may want to urge your town to pass a temporary moratorium on permitting large scale solar arrays on land that you need to cut down trees for it until they can better research and pass stronger local regulation. The town of Leicester has model language available.
Please download and read the transcript of a video Professor Bill Moomaw made that touches on the issue of trees and solar panels.
(2)”Carbon emissions from burning biomass for energy,” Partnership for Policy Integrity.