One-third of all the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by humans since the start of the industrial revolution comes from deforestation, wetlands destruction and the degradation of the soils. Land use changes are adding about 14% of the total carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., and burning bioenergy (wood for heat and energy) is adding an additional 4%.
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.
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. 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!
Here’s an article describing these dynamics in detail: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/3/4/18216045/renewable-energy-wood-pellets-biomass
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 here:
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.
The Issue of Solar vs. Trees
Northampton is currently revising its solar ordinance to deal with the balance between forest protection and the needs of solar development. Northampton residents/climate activists who support sensible solar installation AND preservation of our tree canopy are strongly encouraged to attend the following upcoming public meetings to discuss this ordinance (18.231) on:
-April 25 & May 9 at 7pm, Council Chambers (City Planning Board meetings); and
-Monday, May 13 at 5pm, Council Chambers (Legislative Subcommittee meeting).
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 until they can better research and pass stronger local regulation. Model language from the town of Leicester can be found here.
Please download and read the transcript of a video Professor Bill Moomaw made that touches on the issue of trees and solar panels.