Q&A About Forests and Global Climate Change
Publication Date: September 2001
Publisher(s): Reason Public Policy Institute
Author(s): Kenneth Green
Concerns over the potentially negative effects of prolonged global warming have generated interest in restraining the buildup of "greenhouse gases" in the atmosphere. Currently, human-generated emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases total about 8.2 billion metric tons of carbon per year (about 1.35 metric tons per capita per year). Global carbon dioxide emissions contained about 8.2 billion metric tons of carbon in 2000 and, with "business as usual," could reach 14.5 billion metric tons in 2050. Despite many remaining uncertainties in scientific understanding of climate change, most initiatives propose to slow or stop the buildup of greenhouse gases by reducing fossil fuel use. Such policy options are likely to have little positive impact on climate, but could result in negative impacts on energy production, national economies, and personal autonomy. An alternate approach that is gaining more attention is Removing--sequestering--carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere and storing it in a variety of ways in forests and other large masses of plant life. Forest sequestration offers a win-win approach to global warming. Enhancing sequestration would slow any climate change that might occur due to greenhouse gas emissions, while offering immediate environmental benefits.