California Needs Forests to Fight Climate Change, but They Are Going up in Smoke | Top News
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California’s record wildfires pose a problem for the state’s plan to use its forests to help offset climate-warming emissions.
It is unclear how much California’s plan for becoming carbon-neutral by 2045 depends on its forests. But as climate change fuels increasingly frequent and intense blazes, any plan that relies on keeping forests healthy could be frustrated.
California’s climate-change agenda is among the most ambitious in the United States, but thanks to wildfires, forests are “part of the problem, not part of the solution,” Edie Chang, a deputy executive director at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), told Reuters.
With global efforts to cut the use of fossil fuels falling short of what is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change, scientists believe capturing climate pollution already emitted will be necessary to limit warming. Maintaining the health of forests, which suck up and store carbon, are among those solutions.
The most populous U.S. state has suffered five of its six largest wildfires in history this year as heat waves and dry-lightning sieges coincided with drier conditions that climate scientists blame on global warming.
This year, a record 4 million acres in California have burned, releasing decades of stored carbon into the atmosphere. That amounts to more than 200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, assuming the scorched acres held similar amounts of carbon as acres burned in previous years, said Emily McGlynn, an environmental economist at the University of California, Davis.
That is equivalent to nearly half the state’s annual human-caused emissions.
And that is just for 2020.
Between 2001 and 2014, California’s forests and natural lands lost an amount of carbon equivalent to 511 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, McGlynn said – roughly the same amount emitted by the state’s transportation sector over