Can US forestry mop up all US CO2 emissions?

Larry Caldwell larryc at teleport.com
Tue Dec 1 09:33:50 EST 1998


In article <yGKr0KAdA+W2Ew2r at thopkins.demon.co.uk>, 
thopkins at thopkins.demon.co.uk writes: 

> The extract below appeared in the news group uk.environment.

> Can any US foresters throw any light on this one, please. I wrote to the
> uk.environment group and said I would put the question to
> bionet.agroforestry as it's full of US forestry professionals.

> >I wish I could remember more of the details, but I read the other day
> >that the US has determined that it reclaims virtually all of the
> >carbon dioxide it produces via forestry growth.

Total nonsense.  The USA burns about 800 million metric tons of coal a 
year, over 2 million metric tons a day.  The only nation that burns more 
coal is China, at over a billion metric tons a year.  

Forests are essentially carbon neutral.  Young forests fix carbon for 
perhaps 100 years before entering steady state, where wood decays about 
as fast as it is grown.  Forest products removed from the cycle by being 
milled into durable goods like housing remove some carbon from the 
atmosphere, but most of it will be back into the air within a century.

Likewise, agricultural lands are essentially carbon neutral.

The main mechanism for scrubbing CO2 out of the atmosphere is formation 
of carbonate marine skeletons, which sink to the bottom and eventually 
become chalk, limestone and marble.  The steady buildup of atmospheric 
CO2 shows that nothing is keeping up with our appetite for fossil fuels.

-- Larry



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