Limiting carbon dioxide in atmosphere requires thinking about both sides of the equation

Posted by Kathy Lambert on Tuesday, May 1 2012


Kathy Lambert

Editor's Note:  We recently published a Fellows in the News item about Kathy Fallon Lambert's article in BioScience, which forecasts the loss of biomass in Massachusetts forests in coming decades.  Kathy sent us her thoughts on the research and the policy implications of it.

This research from the Harvard Forest is important in the larger context of EPA's recent rule to limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. If our objective is to limit the amount of carbon dioxide that accumulates in the atmosphere, it is important to think about both sides of the equation -- how much is emitted and how much is taken up and stored. If forests store less carbon in the future, there is even a stronger imperative to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in order to prevent a net increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Of course, improving both sides of the equation would have the most benefits -- and that means both reducing inputs and sustaining uptake and storage. Forests provide an existing, low tech, relatively inexpensive way to meet that need. The forecasts done by the scientists remind us that we cannot take this capacity for granted in New England. One reasonable response is to support the efforts of private forestland owners in New England to conserve their forests.

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