Enormous quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from clear-cutting in Canada are going unreported, a major US environmental group warns. As the country’s vast boreal forest is one of the world’s great carbon storehouses, this new and unrecognized source of emissions could have profound consequences for keeping a lid on climate change.
But is it true that Canada isn’t tracking what’s going on in the woods?
The National Resources Defense Council, one of America’s largest environmental non-governmental organizations, with 2.4 million members, last week issued a report based on in-house modelling saying that a million acres of boreal forest are logged each year, responsible for 26 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. This is about the same as the emissions of 5.5 million cars. The author says that this significant source of emissions is not measured or accounted for in Canada’s national or provincial greenhouse gas registries.
However, scientists with the Canadian Forest Service have been measuring the emissions from this logging for the last 12 years, as well as tracking emissions from other parts of the logging life cycle, including from the burning of residues to avoid fire risk and when left-over wood decomposes. These researchers also track regrowth of forests after harvest and the consequent draw down of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. These inventories of the carbon flux (the difference between carbon absorption and carbon release) are also reported to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and posted on the website of Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The tracking and reporting of the carbon flux is important because in order to reduce atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, countries need to do two things: They need to reduce and ultimately eliminate emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. They also need to boost the uptake of carbon sinks, notably forests, which actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
Energy economist Mark Jaccard helped design BC’s carbon tax, and he still supports it. But he questions just how politically viable a stringent tax—at the level needed to meet climate targets—can really be. So he also continues to explore how other policies that the public find more acceptable could work.