Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags , ,

Can planting trees solve climate change?

Jesse Reynolds, LEGAL PLANET

Unfortunately, a new scientific paper overstates forests’ potential

Today, The Guardian reports:

Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis

Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists…

As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”.

global tree restoration potential

Global tree restoration potential

And the underlying scientific paper, published in Science, makes an unambiguous claim:

ecosystem restoration [is] the most effective solution at our disposal to mitigate climate change.

[See also the press release from ETH Zurich.]

That is, the authors claim that reforestation is more effective than reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Unfortunately, this is misleading, if not false, as well as potentially dangerous. It is misleading for several reasons.

– The authors do not define “effective.” Many policies and actions that could achieve a single given objective are impossible or undesirable.

– They do not consider cost. Planting trees requires arable land, physical and natural resources, and labor, all of which could be used for other valuable purposes. The most recent assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave a range of $20 to $100 per ton of removed carbon dioxide (CO2), [PDF, p. 851]; which is roughly the same costs as many means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are presently under discussion.

– The authors do not consider how such reforestation might come about. This land — roughly the size of the US, including Alaska — is owned and managed by many private persons, companies, nongovernmental organizations, and governments. How these numerous diverse actors could be incentivized or somehow forced to undertake expensive reforestation efforts is important unclear.
They do not consider the rate of carbon removal. The IPCC gives a high-end estimate of 14 billion tons CO2 per year [PDF, p. 851], whereas humans’ emissions are about 40 billion tons per year. Thus, at this generous rate, reforestation could only compensate for a third of current emissions, with not impact on accumulated atmospheric carbon dioxide. Furthermore, the amount of removal suggested by the new paper would require about 55 years.

– The authors simply assume that all potentially forested land “outside cropland and urban
regions” would be “restored to the status of existing forests.” People use land for purposes other than crops and cities. For example, humans’ largest use of land — agricultural or otherwise — is rangeland for livestock. Thus, the paper implicitly assumes a dramatic reduction in meat consumption or intensification of meat production.

– They reach a remarkably high estimate of carbon removal per area. This paper indirectly says that 835 tons CO2 could be removed per hectare (that is, 10,000 square meters), whereas the IPCC report on Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry reaches values from 1.5 to 30 tons per hectare.

– In a critique, Pros. Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis say “The authors have forgotten the carbon that’s already stored in the vegetation and soil of degraded land that their new forests would replace. The amount of carbon that reforestation could lock up is the difference between the two.”

– The paper does not address the (im)permanence of trees, which could later be cut down.

A recent investigation by a reporter at Propublica concluded:

In case after case, I found that carbon credits [for reforestation] hadn’t offset the amount of pollution they were supposed to, or they had brought gains that were quickly reversed or that couldn’t be accurately measured to begin with. Ultimately, the polluters got a guilt-free pass to keep emitting CO₂, but the forest preservation that was supposed to balance the ledger either never came or didn’t last.

Ultimately, if cost, feasibility, and speed were no matter, then one simply could claim that permanently ending the use of fossil fuels tomorrow is the most effective. This statement would be true, but largely irrelevant.

Read more at https://legal-planet.org/2019/07/05/can-planting-trees-solve-climate-change/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Forests, Land UseTags , , , ,

Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis

Damian Carrington, THE GUARDIAN

Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists, who have made the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas.

As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”.

The analysis found there are 1.7bn hectares of treeless land on which 1.2tn native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined. Tropical areas could have 100% tree cover, while others would be more sparsely covered, meaning that on average about half the area would be under tree canopy.

The scientists specifically excluded all fields used to grow crops and urban areas from their analysis. But they did include grazing land, on which the researchers say a few trees can also benefit sheep and cattle.
Let nature heal climate and biodiversity crises, say campaigners
Read more

“This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who led the research. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”

Crowther emphasised that it remains vital to reverse the current trends of rising greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and forest destruction, and bring them down to zero. He said this is needed to stop the climate crisis becoming even worse and because the forest restoration envisaged would take 50-100 years to have its full effect of removing 200bn tonnes of carbon.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting-billions-trees-best-tackle-climate-crisis-scientists-canopy-emissions

Posted on Categories Forests, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Toilet paper is destroying Canada’s forests

Eillie Anzilotti, FAST COMPANY

Toilet paper is made from wood pulp that comes from Canada’s forests, which lost 28 million acres between 1996 and 2015. But if you look beyond the big brands, there are way more sustainable options out there.

Stand.Earth/NRDC Report

If you’re a person living in America, you probably churn through the equivalent of 141 toilet paper rolls each year. It’s not often a thing you think about closely. Toilet paper is sold in abundance in the U.S.; you can buy 36-packs off Amazon. The supply, it seems, is limitless.

But it’s not without impact. Much of the pulp that makes up the tissue used in America comes from the boreal forest of Canada. The forest, which spans over 1 billion acres, holds at least 12% of the world’s carbon stores in its flora and soil. But the logging industry is decimating the resource. Between 1996 and 2015, over 28 million acres of the Canadian boreal were cleared by industrial logging, which directly feeds the tissue industry. Virgin pulp, which goes into toilet tissue, accounts for around 23% of Canada’s forest product exports. Not only is this terrible for the climate, but the industry is also destroying the habitat of numerous animal species and more than 600 indigenous communities.

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Stand.Earth spells out the dangers of the logging industry, specifically for the creation of tissue products. The major toilet paper suppliers in the U.S—Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, and Georgia-Pacific—which own recognizable brands like Charmin and Quilted Northern, are a significant part of the problem, according to the NRDC. “People don’t really think about their toilet paper purchases as environmental decisions,” says Shelley Vinyard, boreal campaign manager at NRDC. “But most major household brands that people buy are made from 100% virgin forest fibers.” In the report, the NRDC includes a helpful scorecard that shows which brands perform the worst and best on environmental measures; popular ones like Charmin scored an F. (When asked about the report, Kimberley Clark and Proctor & Gamble both noted their wood comes from sustainably managed forests and that they support the standards supplied by Canada’s Forest Stewardship Council, though they didn’t mention any efforts to shift the material they use. Georgia-Pacific didn’t respond.)

Read more at https://www.fastcompany.com/90363370/theres-an-overlooked-product-that-you-definitely-use-thats-destroying-the-worlds-forests

Posted on Categories Forests, Habitats, Land UseTags , , , ,

Sonoma County couple ordered to pay nearly $600,000 for damage to protected property

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma Land Trust Stewardship Director Bob Neale had seen pictures.

So he thought he had a good idea of what awaited him when he went out to inspect a protected piece of land on the north flank of Sonoma Mountain a few years back. A concerned neighbor had reported heavy equipment and questionable activity on property protected under a conservation easement and, thus, intended to remain in its natural state.

But while photos conveyed “a sense of it, it’s nothing compared to actually seeing it,” Neale, a soft-spoken man, said of the environmental damage he witnessed that day in 2014. “I was not prepared.”

Neale and an associate found a patch of private landscape above Bennett Valley scraped down to bedrock in some places and a trenched, 180-year-old oak uprooted and bound so it could be dragged to an adjoining parcel to adorn the grounds of a newly constructed estate home, according to court documents.

That heritage oak and two others the landowners sought to move over a haul road they bulldozed through the previously undisturbed site all died, along with a dozen more trees and other vegetation, according to court records.

The damage would eventually prompt Sonoma Land Trust to sue the property owners, Peter and Toni Thompson, a highly unusual step for the private nonprofit. Last month, it prevailed in what representatives hailed as a landmark legal victory.

The court battle came well after the full extent of the losses was discovered on the 34-acre conservation property. Grading for the haul road in 2014 removed more than 3,000 cubic yards of dirt and rock, the ruling found. No permits were obtained for any of the work, according to court documents.

The Thompsons had construction crews dredge an existing lake on their adjacent 47-acre residential spread, known as Henstooth Ranch, and dump the soil on the protected parcel, extending the haul road to accomplish that work, according to court documents.

“It was,” said Neale, a 25-year veteran in the open space field, “really the most willful, egregious violation of a conservation easement I’ve ever seen.”

In his blunt 57-page ruling, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Patrick Broderick sided strongly with the land trust, calling out the Thompsons for “knowing and intentional” violations of a legally binding conservation deal. He said the couple had shown a “persistent failure to tell the truth” as the case unfolded and had “demonstrated an arrogance and complete disregard for the mandatory terms of the easement.”

Broderick ordered the couple to pay more than $586,000 in damages toward environmental restoration and other costs outlined in a judgment finalized last week.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9556824-181/sonoma-county-couple-ordered-to

Posted on Categories Forests, Land UseTags , , ,

Op-Ed: Build to Survive: Homes in California’s burn zones must adopt fire-safe code

SACRAMENTO BEE EDITORIAL

After the apocalyptic Camp Fire reduced most of Paradise to ashes last November, a clear pattern emerged.

Fifty-one percent of the 350 houses built after 2008 escaped damage, according to an analysis by McClatchy. Yet only 18 percent of the 12,100 houses built before 2008 did.

What made the difference? Building codes.

The homes with the highest survival rate appear to have benefited from “a landmark 2008 building code designed for California’s fire-prone regions – requiring fire-resistant roofs, siding and other safeguards,” according to a story by The Sacramento Bee’s Dale Kasler and Phillip Reese.

When it comes to defending California’s homes against the threat of wildfires, regulation is protection. The fire-safe building code, known as the 7A code, worked as intended. Homes constructed in compliance with the 2008 standards were built to survive.

As many as 3 million homes stand in what the state calls “very high fire hazard severity zones,” according to Cal Fire. These areas, where the climate and the presence of combustible foliage can lead to tinderbox conditions, are destined to burn. The data on which homes survived the Camp Fire should be a call to action for every city in the danger zones.

Unfortunately, short-term thinking can triumph over common sense. Cities facing severe fire risks can avoid compliance with the fire-resistant building codes, or choose to avoid their obvious advantages, despite the fact that “a new home built to wild-fire-resistant codes can be constructed for roughly the same cost as a typical home,” according to a report by Headwaters Economics.

Take Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood, where the Tubbs Fire killed five people and destroyed 1,321 homes in 2017. The neighborhood wasn’t considered a fire hazard zone, unlike some other areas of Santa Rosa. The Tubbs Fire proved otherwise, but Coffey Park still isn’t designated as a “very high fire hazard zone” by Cal Fire.

“City officials are OK with that,” according to The Bee. “Although developers rebuilding Coffey Park are being urged to consider fire-resistant materials, city spokeswoman Adriane Mertens said the city doesn’t see any reason to impose the 7A code in the neighborhood.”

Mertens suggested high winds on the night of the fire meant officials have no reason to require fire-safe construction as Coffey Park is rebuilt. One fire scientist called Santa Rosa’s stance “an error in judgment.”

Folsom also appears to have its head in the sand with regards to fire risk. It’s allowing the Folsom Ranch development to be built without adherence to the fire-safe code. The parcel of land south of Highway 50 was formerly managed by Cal Fire and designated as a moderate fire risk zone, which would trigger the fire-safe building requirements. Once Folsom annexed the land for the new development, the city decided to opt out of the 7A code because the area was never considered a “very high” fire hazard zone.

The city will require “vegetation management” plans and fire-resistant fencing. But they may eventually put 25,000 people into non-fire-safe housing in an area Cal Fire knows has a higher risk of burning.

Getting officials and developers to follow the fire-safe code in increased risk zones is hard. But the even bigger problem is how to retrofit the millions of homes built before the new standards existed.

“What are we going to do about the existing housing stock that’s been built in these places?” asked Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at UC Santa Barbara interviewed by The Bee. “For the existing housing stock that’s out there, that isn’t built to these codes, we have a massive retrofitting issue on our hands.”

“You’ve got to get in and retrofit,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, citing McClatchy’s reporting during a press conference at the state’s Office of Emergency Services operations center.

Assembly Bill 38 is a good place to start. The bill by Democratic Assemblyman Jim Wood of Santa Rosa would provide $1 billion in loan funds to help homeowners retrofit their properties. It’s not enough money to retrofit every home, but it’s a start and that can raise public awareness of the dire need for fire-safe retrofits in hazard zones.

The state fire marshal is currently developing a list of low-cost fire retrofits that the state plans to promote once it’s finalized in 2020.

In addition, Cal Fire is revising its fire zone maps, and the “very high fire hazard” zones will surely spread over a larger portion of the state. This time around, local officials won’t be able to opt out of the requirements, as they can under current law.

A series of recent “atmospheric river” storms made fire season seem like a bad memory. But it’s all too easy for most Californians to forget that these rains feed the growth of vegetation that turns into kindling.

Thanks to McClatchy’s analysis, we now know fire-safe building codes can mean the difference between survival and destruction. When the next big incinerating fire barrels down on a city full of ready-to-burn homes in the hazard zone, we can’t claim we didn’t know better.

Source: https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/editorials/article229425004.html

Posted on Categories ForestsTags , , ,

Wet winter in Sonoma County may have helped spread virulent oak disease

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Now that the North Coast is finally drying out from an unusually wet winter, concern is growing over the potential rapid spread of sudden oak disease, renewing calls for the public’s help tracking the deadly forest pathogen.

“Now is when we might expect the pathogen to take off a bit,” said Kerry Wininger, a UC Cooperative Extension staffer in Santa Rosa.

Wininger is a local organizer of annual sudden oak death surveys known as the SOD Blitz. This year’s survey occurs from April 25 to 28 across Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Organizers are hoping for a good turnout of volunteers, who will become educated spotters and collectors to help scientists slow the disease’s spread.

A relatively dry winter in 2017-18, coupled with the attention paid to devastating wildfires, appear to have dampened public concern over sudden oak death. But experts say conditions are ripe now for a resurgence of the disease. In addition, there’s heightened worry about a new, more virulent strain of the pathogen gaining a hold on the North Coast and causing more devastation.

Wininger said one of the highlights of this year’s surveys is the unveiling of a new test for the European strain in time to possibly thwart its spread. The new strain has been detected in Oregon.

“We want to nip it in the bud, if it’s here,” Wininger said.

Phytophtora ramorum, the pathogen that causes SOD, most often is spread by water droplets blowing from the leaves of infected bay laurel trees. There is no cure, only preventative measures or destroying oak and tanoak trees that succumb to the pathogen.

Read more athttps://www.pressdemocrat.com/lifestyle/9481637-181/wet-winter-in-sonoma-county

Posted on Categories ForestsTags , ,

Group gets $1 million for Sonoma Valley fire prevention efforts

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Protected Wildlands Map

Cal Fire has awarded more than $1.7 million for wildfire prevention in Sonoma County, with the bulk of the money going toward a coalition working to reduce fire risk on public lands in Sonoma Valley.

The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative received more than $1 million, allowing it to conduct controlled burns, clear brush and thin forests. The newly formed group of private and public agencies oversees 18,000 acres of fire-prone areas along Highway 12 that include Hood Mountain Regional Park and Sugarloaf Ridge and Trione-Annadel state parks, which were burned in the Tubbs and Nuns fires.

“The areas that we’re talking about have a long history of fire,” said Tony Nelson, longtime Sonoma Valley program manager for the Sonoma Land Trust, which is part of the collaborative. “It has burned in the past and we know it will burn again. The vegetation is not going to stop growing, so we need to not stop managing our natural systems with fire, as well as (need to) maintain safety.”

The collaborative also includes state and regional parks, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Audubon Canyon Ranch and the Sonoma Mountain Ranch Preservation Foundation. The group is a product of discussions predating the 2017 wildfires that raced over the Mayacamas Mountains and left behind scorched ridgelines, charred trees and ashen soil. The firestorm renewed conversations on how to prevent large-scale blazes.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9512516-181/group-gets-1-million-for?sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Forests, Land UseTags , , , ,

Why your house may burn while your neighbor’s survives the next wildfire

Dale Kasler and Phillip Reese, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

The sky was turning orange and the embers were flying from the Camp Fire when Oney and Donna Carrell and Donna’s father sped away from their Paradise home.

“I thought, ‘Oh, well, the house is done,’ ” Oney Carrell said.

A few days later, they learned otherwise. The Carrells’ home survived the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history with a couple of warped window frames, a partially charred down spout and a stubborn smoky smell inside.

Most of their neighborhood was destroyed. A guest house in their backyard, where Donna’s father lived, was reduced to ashes, along with a couple of sheds. Yet their beautifully restored 1940 Studebaker sat untouched in the garage.

The arc of destruction the Camp Fire carved through Paradise was seemingly random: Why were some houses saved and others incinerated? As millions of Californians brace for another wildfire season, a McClatchy analysis of fire and property records shows the answer might be found in something as simple as the roofs over their heads — and the year their house was built.

A landmark 2008 building code designed for California’s fire-prone regions — requiring fire-resistant roofs, siding and other safeguards — appears to have protected the Carrells’ home and dozens of others like it from the Camp Fire. That year marks a pivotal moment in the state’s deadly and expensive history of destructive natural disasters.

All told, about 51 percent of the 350 single-family homes built after 2008 in the path of the Camp Fire were undamaged, according to McClatchy’s analysis of Cal Fire data and Butte County property records. By contrast, only 18 percent of the 12,100 homes built prior to 2008 escaped damage. Those figures don’t include mobile homes, which burned in nearly equal measure regardless of age.

“These are great standards; they work,” said senior engineer Robert Raymer of the California Building Industry Association, who consulted with state officials on the building code.

Yet despite this lesson, California may end up falling short in its effort to protect homes from the next wildfire.

Read more at https://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/fires/article227665284.html

Posted on Categories Forests, Sustainable LivingTags ,

Wiped out: America’s love of luxury toilet paper is destroying Canadian forests

Sam Wolfson, THE GUARDIAN

Link to report and sustainability scorecard for paper products

We’re all becoming more aware about the damage single-use plastics and fast fashion has on the environment. Yet there is one product we all throw away every single day that, so far, has not been a major part of conversations about sustainability: toilet paper.

But America’s heavy use of toilet paper – particularly the pillowy soft kind – is worsening climate change and taking “a dramatic and irreversible toll” on forests, especially the Canadian boreal forest, according to a new report by two major environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Stand.earth.

The boreal forest covers almost 60% of Canada and is home to 600 indigenous communities. Its huge size means it can absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the equivalent to the annual emissions of 24m cars each year.

The report found that major brands’ refusal to switch to sustainable materials in toilet paper is having a devastating impact on forests and climate. About 28m acres of Canadian boreal forest have been cut down since 1996, an area the size of Pennsylvania. Virgin pulp, the key ingredient in toilet paper, accounted for 23% of Canada’s forest product exports.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/01/canada-boreal-forest-toilet-paper-us-climate-change-impact-report

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Forests, Land UseTags , , , , , , ,

Napa County wineries, environmentalists clash over proposed land-use rules

KPIX

A land-use fight is brewing in Napa County pitting environmental activists on one side and winery owners on the other.

The county is considering new environmental rules that opponents say could make some properties impossible to build on. If approved, they would apply to every property of an acre or more in unincorporated parts of Napa County.

Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting was packed with people concerned about the proposed county ordinance to increase protection of trees and watershed throughout the county. Climate protection activists say it’s needed because winemakers are now expanding up into the hills and removing native trees to do it.

“The valley floor is largely planted out,” said Jim Wilson, a member of an activist group called Napa Climate Now. “A lot of times, a forest is on the land that they want to develop and removing that forest is just a matter of getting down to business.”

The ordinance would ban private property development on any land with a slope of more than 30 degrees. It would also prohibit development within 35 to 65 feet of creeks and require keeping 70 percent of trees on a parcel. If property owners do remove trees, they would have to set aside three times the area of those trees’ canopy as undeveloped, open space.

Read more at https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2019/02/21/napa-county-wineries-environmentalists-proposed-land-use-rules/