Forests Need more than Raking

November 19, 2018

Nature can help soak up carbon, as long as we keep it swept up and raked, apparently.


There is no arguing that trees are magnificent and deserving of all the compliments. In the wake of the major United Nations climate report, many scientists have pointed out the urgency of preserving forests, nature’s finest carbon dioxide sinks. Yet forests aren’t the only answer — we need all ecosystems on deck. And according to a new study, changing land management to increase carbon storage could offset a whopping 21 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The study, published on Wednesday in Science Advances, found that natural solutions to global warming could offset the amount of pollution equivalent to what’s released from every car and truck on the road in the nation. Along with forests, coastal ecosystems, grasslands, and farmland all have the potential to sop up a significant portion of the world’s greenhouse gases. The study, which involved 38 researchers, looked at 21 different natural measures that could prove essential in the unfolding climate catastrophe.

“The overall magnitude of the potential was really surprising to me,” said Joseph Fargione, the principal author on the study and The Nature Conservatory’s director of science for North America. “There are a lot of things people may not realize have the potential to store carbon and contribute to solving climate change.”

Fargione noted that natural solutions don’t just trap carbon but come with co-benefits to human health and the ecosystem. For example, rotating cover crops (plants grown in the off-season to protect the soil), can store half a ton of CO2 per every acre. On top of that, cover crops can build soil health, hold onto nutrients, and reduce nutrient and sediment pollutions.

Reforestation topped the list of the biggest carbon sinks, with an absorption potential equivalent to taking 65 million passenger cars off the road. Forest and fire management, such as biomass thinning and prescribed burns, go hand-in-hand with reforestation efforts. Given that trees are such excellent carbon sinks, they also run the risk of releasing all that carbon when burned in catastrophic wildfires, like the ones currently raging across California. Fargione said that restoring the natural fire regime could prevent major carbon loss and, more importantly, “save homes, save lives, and improve air quality.”

Among the 21 solutions, the study highlighted ten that could account for 90 percent of the mitigation potential. These included shifts in agricultural practices, such as improved nutrient management on farms, the use of biochar (a carbon-rich soil amendment) and cultivating crops between rows of trees (known as alley cropping). Also on the list: restoring the nearly one-third of U.S. marshes subject to freshwater inundation, which would reduce methane emissions, as well as preserve the natural carbon sinks found in grasslands and forests. Urban sprawl is the largest driver of forest loss in the United States, so better zoning and land management could also significantly prevent deforestation (while also making cities more livable).

The solutions, however, aren’t one-size-fits-all and need to be tailored to each region. “We can’t tell everybody they have to do exactly the same thing,” said Alison Eagle, a scientist on the Environmental Defense Fund’s sustainable agriculture team. She pointed out that in places where there is a significant nutrient deficiency, fertilizer can help improve productivity while using less space — thereby preventing deforestation.

New York Times:

“These fires aren’t even in forests,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Rather, the Camp and Woolsey fires, which are ripping through Northern and Southern California, began in areas known as the wildland-urban interface: places where communities are close to undeveloped areas, making it easier for fire to move from forests or grasslands into neighborhoods.

A 2015 report by the United States Department of Agriculture found that between 2000 and 2010 (the last year for which data was available), the number of people moving into the wildland-urban interface had increased by 5 percent. According to the report, 44 million houses, equivalent to one in every three houses in the country, are in the wildland-urban interface. The highest concentrations are in Florida, Texas and, yes, California.

Meanwhile..insightful observers noted that in Trump parlance, “managing” forests means opening up more public land to loggers


Brazil’s new foreign minister believes climate change is part of a plot by so-called “globalists” to help China overtake western economies and destroy traditional culture.

Ernesto Araujo was appointed to the key post on Wednesday by president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who won last month’s general election. Araujo, 51, is known for controversial right-wing ideology and belief in conspiracy theories, and his new appointment seems to have done little to soften his stance.

According to The Guardian, Araujo claims climate science is mere “dogma” and said his objective is to “help Brazil and the world liberate themselves from globalist ideology”—one that he considers inherently anti-Christian.

Like his new foreign minister, Bolsonaro appears more interested in exploiting Brazil’s natural resources than protecting the environment. This approach extends to the Amazon rainforest—the world’s largest and most biodiverse forest.

Conservationists and climate change activists—already concerned following Bolsonaro’s election—will be be given little comfort by the fact the president-elect is surrounding himself with senior ministers of the same mindset.

In an October post on his personal blog, Araujo said climate change “has been used to justify increasing the regulatory power of states over the economy and the power of international institutions on the nation states and their populations, as well as to stifle economic growth in democratic capitalist countries and to promote the growth of China.”

Disparaging references to globalism or globalists forms a key pillar of far-right ideology across the world, as demonstrated in the U.S. by President Donald Trump and many in the “alt-right” community. The words have also long been used as a thinly-veiled anti-Semitic slur, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Carlos Rittl, the executive secretary of the Brazilian Climate Observatory, said Ajauro’s appointment “would be really bad for the country’s image if he brings with him his ideology,” especially given Brazil’s prominent role in combating climate change and environmental conservation.

Another post said “Marxist intellectuals” and the country’s center-left Workers Party are “criminalizing sex and reproduction, saying that all heterosexual intercourse is rape and every baby is a risk to the planet as it will increase carbon emissions.” Ajauro went on to suggest the Workers Party was attempting to criminalize red meat, oil, air conditioners and Disney movies. The post provided no evidence for the allegations.

Ajauro is a vocal supporter of Trump. Last year, Reuters explained, he published an article titled “Trump and the West” in which he said Brazil had to embrace Trump’s brand of nationalism to recover its “Western soul.” This, he said, entailed putting Brazilian interests above all else.




16 Responses to “Forests Need more than Raking”

  1. rsmurf Says:

    What a frigging dumbass!

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Here we go—-another buzzword—-“Natural Climate Solutions” (NCS for short). The Grist piece is just one of many lately touting this “solution”. Unfortunately, it is just more bright-sidedness and wishful thinking that ignores the reality pointed out in the NYT and Newsweek pieces.

    • I think the NCS is for the current ecosystem to eliminate humans. Nature is a real mother in that regard.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Yep, Nature always bats last, and we play by her rules.

        We think we deserve to rule the planet and abuse the biosphere to get “rich” and express ourselves as “modern” humans. The only question is how many other living things will we take to extinction with us—-will anything be left to repopulate the planet?

  3. John Says:

    Reblogged this on jpratt27 and commented:
    Listen to the scientists

  4. […] via Forests Need more than Raking | Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]

  5. Sir Charles Says:

    Give this moron a rake then.

  6. Sir Charles Says:

    Meet the Prisoners Being Paid $1 an Hour to Battle the Deadly Climate-Fueled Fires of California

    Isn’t tax fraud a crime?

  7. George Montgomery Says:

    As they are saying in Finland, “Rake America Great Again!”

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Do you have to post that smug bastard’s picture?

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Yes, Sir Chucky simply HAS to post that smug bastard’s picture—-because Sir Chucky is an attention-seeker and just HAS to get noticed, so he will post all sorts of inane crap. Four of the twelve comments on this thread are his, and they are non-substantive.

        Where was Chucky anyway in the days after the mid-terms? Were all the Russian trolls ordered to stand down for a while after Hump’s massive “victory”. As he has done before, is he now lulling us to sleep with irrelevancies and redundancies so he can later slip the “beef” into the hamburger during the runup to 2020?

        Just now finishing up a very disturbing book—House of Trump House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia,by Craig Unger, Dutton, 2018. It outlines the ways the Russian Mob (read criminal oligarchs who have stolen Russia’s patrimony and government—led by Putin) have spent the last 30 years working to destroy the west and the USA in particular. Anyone who reads it will understand why my crap detectors keep getting set off by Chucky.

  8. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Rather, the Camp and Woolsey fires, which are ripping through Northern and Southern California, began in areas known as the wildland-urban interface: places where communities are close to undeveloped areas, making it easier for fire to move from forests or grasslands into neighborhoods.

    It’s important to note that California has the recurrent problem of the Santa Ana winds, so gaps are less effective: The embers just fly farther.

  9. Gingerbaker Says:

    Reforestation? I seem to recall reading that forests are net carbon emitters rather than net carbon absorbers, due to the elevated temperatures we are seeing now?

    Also, most trees live a hundred years or so. Then they die, rot, and release their carbon. A healthy forest contains trees in all phases of that carbon cycle. How does reforestation make much sense as a carbon reduction plan?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      No, GB, healthy natural forests around the world are still carbon sinks, although elevated temperatures may cut their efficiency. Maybe you’re referring to many tropical rain forests, which, because of clearing for pasture and cropland, timbering, and general thinning have become net emitters. If we were to “reforest” we could begin to reverse and undo all the damage man has done. Ask Mother Nature how that makes sense as a “carbon reduction plan”—-she invented it many millions of years ago.

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