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Carbon storage in WA state forests is too small and too risky to play a serious role as a climate change mitigation tool

Filed under: — david @ 4 November 2016

Guest post by John Crusius, Richard Gammon, and Steve Emerson

The scientific community is almost universally in agreement that climate change (and ocean acidification) are severe threats that demand a rapid response, with putting a price on fossil fuel CO2 emissions being a top priority. Far and away the single biggest contributor to climate change is CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Indeed, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel emissions in recent years have been roughly ten times higher than emissions from the next largest global source, land use change, including deforestation (Le Quéré et al., 2015). Despite the small size of carbon fluxes from forests, enhancing carbon storage in forests is often discussed in WA state as a tool to fight climate change. There was one such claim in the Seattle Times OpEd from October 21 by Mathew Randazzo. We challenge these claims that forest carbon sequestration in WA state can significantly help solve climate change. Randazzo does not spell out in any detail what he means. As always, details matter in such discussions, as the science is complex. We focus here on some of the best available science on the climate and carbon storage impacts of forests, and provide references at the bottom of this article from some of the premier scientific journals in the world.

It is easy to understand why many wish carbon storage in WA state forests to be a viable tool to fight climate change, as forestry is an important industry in WA state. Such a solution, at first glance, seems like it could support the local forestry industry and create local jobs. However, mitigating climate change requires responses that make scientific sense. Devoting resources to forest carbon sequestration is largely a distraction from the real work needed to mitigate climate change, which is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, most importantly of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion. But before we explain the counterintuitive science, we wish to acknowledge at the start that there are many excellent reasons to support planting trees in WA state and to support the local forestry industry. However, mitigating the threat of climate change is not among those reasons, based on the available science.

In temperate parts of the world (mid to high latitudes), such as the Pacific northwest, the impacts of forests on climate are complex. Forest growth does take up CO2 from the atmosphere, which is the impact on climate many think of. However, forests have other, lesser known impacts on climate as well, including trapping moisture below the forest canopy and altering the way sunlight is reflected off the landscape (termed albedo). In temperate regions such as WA state, forests can actually warm the climate via these impacts on trapping moisture and reflectivity (albedo) more than they cool the climate by taking up CO2. This has been pointed out in a recent article on reforestation and forest management in Europe over the last 250 years that caused a net warming, not a net cooling (Naudts et al, 2016).

It is in the tropical and subtropical latitudes, far south of WA state, where science indicates carbon storage in forests could have the most beneficial effect on the world’s climate and could possibly help to buy time until society reduces fossil fuel emissions substantially (Houghton et al, 2015). Even in the tropics, relying on forest carbon storage is risky. Carbon stores could be re-released back into the atmosphere at any point in response to fire or disease, each of which can be made worse by climate change. Indeed, one recent study of forests in the Amazon region concluded that forests there went from taking up CO2 to releasing it during one dry year (Gatti et al, 2014). Furthermore, there have been suggestions that tropical forest may become a source of CO2, even in the tropics, in response to greater extremes of rainfall (Gatti et al, 2014). In order for carbon storage even in tropical forests to be beneficial, it must remain stored essentially permanently (for many hundreds to thousands of years). No one can guarantee that future climate change, disease, and/or land use change won’t cause release of this forest carbon back into the atmosphere, which would bring us back to the starting point, before any forest carbon storage efforts were even attempted.

It is urgent that society act quickly to minimize the risks posed by both climate change and ocean acidification. However, any solution must stand up to the rigorous test of the best available science. We quote from some journals cited below. “Considering carbon storage on land as a means to ‘offset’ CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels (an idea with wide currency) is scientifically flawed” (Mackey et al, 2013). “Today’s forest management is more of a gamble than a scientific debate” (Bellassen and Luyssaert, 2014). “Above-ground carbon in forests represents a vulnerable pool of carbon, subject to droughts, fires, insects and other disturbances. Thus, the management of forests to accumulate carbon must not delay or dilute the phasing-out fossil fuel use. On the contrary, the deliberate accumulation of carbon on land may be of little long-term benefit” (Houghton et al, 2015). “Relying on biospheric sequestration is not without risk, because such sequestration is reversible from either climate changes, direct human actions, or a combination of both” (Pan et al, 2011). The best science tells us that relying on storage of carbon in WA state forests is risky at best, and quite possibly counterproductive. It is also in many ways a distraction from the essential efforts to reduce emissions of CO2 from fossil fuels.

John Crusius, Ph.D.
Richard Gammon, Emeritus Professor, UW Department of Chemistry, UW School of Oceanography
Steven Emerson, Professor, UW School of Oceanography


Bellassen, V., and S. Luyssaert (2014), Managing forests in uncertain times, Nature, 506(7487), 153-155.

Brienen, R. J. W., et al. (2015), Long-term decline of the Amazon carbon sink, Nature, 519(7543), 344-+, doi:10.1038/nature14283.

Gatti, L. V., et al. (2014), Drought sensitivity of Amazonian carbon balance revealed by atmospheric measurements, Nature, 506(7486), 76-+, doi:10.1038/nature12957.

Houghton, R. A., B. Byers, and A. A. Nassikas (2015), COMMENTARY: A role for tropical forests in stabilizing atmospheric CO2, NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE, 5, 1022-1023.

Le Quéré, C., et al. (2015), Global Carbon Budget 2014, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 7, 47-85,
771 doi: 10.5194/essd-7-47-2015.

Mackey, B., I. C. Prentice, W. Steffen, J. I. House, D. Lindenmayer, H. Keith, and S. Berry (2013), Untangling the confusion around land carbon science and climate change mitigation policy, Nature Climate Change, 3(6), 552-557, doi:10.1038/nclimate1804.

Naudts, K., Y. Chen, M. J. McGrath, J. Ryder, A. Valade, J. Otto, and S. Luyssaert (2016), Europe’s forest management did not mitigate climate warming, Science, 351(6273), 597-600, doi:10.1126/science.aad7270.

Pan, Y. D., et al. (2011), A Large and Persistent Carbon Sink in the World’s Forests, Science, 333(6045), 988-993, doi:10.1126/science.1201609.

20 Responses to “Carbon storage in WA state forests is too small and too risky to play a serious role as a climate change mitigation tool”

  1. 1
    Hank Roberts says:

    Can you clarify one thing?
    When I moved to Seattle in 1970, the Olympic rain forest was extensive, mostly old growth or old second growth after 1800s high-grade logging of the biggest trees. That’s land under National Forest (Dep’t of Agriculture) ownership. It’s since been logged, almost entirely.

    Can you compare the net carbon sequestered in old growth forest, to that sequestered in managed timbering?

    I ask because I bought ten acres of almost-old-regrowth in the mid-70s for preservation, before I knew much about climate change. (I did pick a place above the last warm period’s high ocean stand, figuring, hey, the ice caps might melt … imagine my surprise on that.)

    I’m the only person in that county who hasn’t logged since that time. The neighbors watch it attentively for timber thieves now and say it’s the only place around that doesn’t get awfully hot during the summertime. Last biggish trees and undisturbed soil — so I’m saving it hoping someone will use it as a baseline for ongoing comparison over time. (Anyone doing forestry research, contact me …)

    “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to leave alone. ” — Thoreau

    I’m not surprised to hear that agricultural forestry won’t be helpful in capturing carbon.

    I’d like to see something informative about whether preservation of old growth is considered useful — as I often see the argument that cutting the old trees benefits carbon capture by encouraging tree farms.

  2. 2
    sidd says:

    Re: Hank Roberts: old growth carbon sequestration


    “Thus, large, old trees do not act simply as senescent carbon reservoirs but actively fix large amounts of carbon compared to smaller trees; at the extreme, a single big tree can add the same amount of carbon to the forest within a year as is contained in an entire mid-sized tree. The apparent paradoxes of individual tree growth increasing with tree size despite declining leaf-level [Ref. 8–10] and stand-level [Ref. 10] productivity can be explained, respectively, by increases in a tree’s total leaf area that outpace declines in productivity per unit of leaf area and, among other factors, age-related reductions in population density.”

    “It was remarkable how we were able to examine this question on a global level, thanks to the sustained efforts of many programs and individuals.”

    Out of curiosity, Mr. Roberts, have you any measurements of trees in your tree stand ?

    But I must admit the validity of the argument that forests are quite vulnerable.


  3. 3
    Toby Thaler says:

    I find this article very odd. It seems to me it sets up a straw argument—that proponents of carbon sequestration in forests are arguing it can mitigate for all fossil fuel use. I do not know anyone who makes that argument.

    I am not a scientist, but I have been following forest carbon science closely for many years; I have been active in policy and legal actions concerning private, state, and federal forest lands in Washington State for forty years. The named target of this post’s argument is an op-ed in the Seattle Times by a state DNR employee (also a non-scientist policy analyst) arguing against Initiative 732 (carbon tax). The debate over 732 has been very intense and divisive within the environmental community in Washington. Search “732 carbon divisive in environmental community”. This video by Van Jones is a good statement (12 minutes).

    This “Carbon storage in WA state forests” post is not a comprehensive review of the Coastal forest management issue; how could it in five paragraphs. No one argues that putting the Coastal forest on a longer rotation and conservative management will “solve” civilization’s carbon energy addiction. But ecologically sustainable management will provide many ecosystem services in addition to (documented) increases in sequestration rates, like clean water and wood for use. I am surprised that three UW oceanographers didn’t mentioned the value of a functioning temperate rain forest ecosystem on the North Pacific in an article about forest carbon management in Washington State.

    Hank Roberts: I came to Seattle (from Spokane via NYC) in 1972. The only old growth I bought was a 1900 house in Fremont. I am on the board of the Olympic Forest Coalition. My Olympic connections are long and many. I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you in person. 206 697-4043

  4. 4

    Isn’t the Boreal forests at serious risk of dying off from lack of snow cover that protects their root system from freezing? Aren’t they then a liability for CO2 release?

  5. 5
    Lance Olsen says:

    OK, carbon capture and storage in forests may indeed be a “distraction” for some, but many of the people following climate science are easily capable of considering these approaches in tandem. Dismissing forests’ potential role as a distraction is the weakest part of the authors argument

    That said, yes, forests and their capacity to function as a carbon capture and storage system are certainly vulnerable, and clearly at risk of shifting from sink to source as we enter a new climatic regime. Forest protection thus lies increasingly with the pricing of carbon. Much the same reality applies equally to farming, another player in determining whether land is sink or source.

    We face a great tangled knot. To “save” forest or farm, it’s paramount that we save the atmosphere, and must do it so that forest and farm can do their bit in saving the atmosphere. Ergo, as the authors correctly assess, a price on carbon has to be effected, and very quickly. Trouble is, that extremely worthy effort may now be too late to prevent forests’ shift from sink to source.

  6. 6
    L. Edwards says:

    I agree with the essay that offsetting is a non-solution. In that regard and concerning the Oct. 6 ICAO accord on aviation, there are two editorials by industry trade journal Aviation Week & Space Tech that expose the fallacy of the substantial offsets the accord relies upon, as well as its other substantial failings. (Refs. below). Those offsets are sure to be aimed primarily at forests, meanwhile allowing – for decades to come – essentially uncontrolled growth in both the airline industry (seat-miles and ton-miles flown) and its actual fossil-sourced GHG emissions.


    “Is ICAO’s Landmark Emissions Plan a Joke?” (podcast). Discussion by three editors of Aviation Week & Space Tech. 10/13/16

    Fottau, A. (2016). “Why ICAO’s emissions deal will not make a difference – No pain, no gain.” Aviation Week & Space Tech, 10/20/16.

  7. 7
    Terry Mock says:

    The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet

    World’s First Planting of a Champion Redwood & Sequoia Forest

  8. 8
    t marvell says:

    The effect of trees on climate is largely down-wind. That is especially true of Washington state, where much of USA is down-wind. Trees keep the air moist through evaporation, increasing cloud cover (which reflects sunlight) and fostering more vegetation (carbon capture).

  9. 9
    Doug Heiken says:

    While I do not disagree that curtailing fossil fuels should be top priority for climate policy, this post gives a pessimistic and incomplete view of the role of forests.

    (1) Mid-latitude forests do help store carbon unless they are in very snowy places that gain albedo after disturbance. Many of Washington’s forests are only covered in snow briefly over the course of a year.

    (2) Forest stands can emit carbon (and always have), due to disturbance such as fire, but forest emissions are off-set by forest growth. If individual stands do emit carbon they do so asynchronously. Some forests emit while others sequester. When the system is viewed at the landscape scale, the “risk” is diminished.

    (3) Our forests currently store far less carbon than their biological potential due to aggressive liquidation of the old growth that once existed. By conserving forests, (and avoiding logging) they can increase carbon storage over vast landscapes, and so so relatively securely (e.g. maritime forests with long fire return intervals).

    (4) Even if forests do emit carbon, those emissions will be worse if we do not conserve forests. Le’s not make a bad situation worse by dismissing forests as inconsequential.


    (5) One may argue that logging one states forest won’t make a difference in the global scheme of the climate problem, but as Voltaire said, “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” Recognize that global warming will not be solved by one miraculous technological fix or by changing one behavior or one economic activity. The whole global carbon cycle must be managed to reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon uptake. Recent evidence supports the conclusions that all net emissions of greenhouse gases are adverse to the climate. None can be considered de minimus.

    One must avoid minimizing forests contribution to carbon emissions and global warming by saying the effects of this project would be negligible on a global scale. This is not an appropriate framework. Global climate change and ocean acidification are the result of the cumulative effects on the global carbon cycle which is spatially distributed. There is no single culprit, nor is there a silver bullet solution. All emissions are part of the problem, and all land management decisions must be part of the solution. Since the global carbon cycle is spatially distributed, carbon storage and carbon emissions will always we spread out around the globe, and the carbon flux at any given place and time may appear small, but cumulatively they help determine the temperature of our climate and the pH of our oceans. Given the current carbon overload in the atmosphere and oceans, the carbon consequences of every project must be carefully considered (rather than dismissed as negligible).

    The Whitehouse Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) guidance on agency analysis climate change under the National Environmental Policy Act recognizes that disclosure of the incremental nature of GHG emissions attributable to any given project is merely a restatement of the nature of the climate problem itself.
    77 Fed. Reg. 77802, 77825. (Dec. 24, 2014).

  10. 10
    John Crusius says:

    The simplest response I can offer is to quote the Mackey (2013) paper cited in the main text, which confirms what you are saying about the value of preserving the old-growth forest. Mackey says, “Ecologically mature (>200 years) and old-growth forests aged up to 800 years can continue to function as sinks. Old-growth tropical forests accumulate around 5 Mg C km–2 yr–1 in living biomass, which could be yielding a carbon sink of 1.3 Pg C yr–1 (0.8–1.6 Pg C yr−1) across all tropical forests (Luyssaert et al, 2008; Lewis et al, 2009). We reiterate, however, that the mitigation value of tropical forests — and old-growth forests in general —does not lie in their present, transient function as carbon sinks. In terms of carbon mitigation policy, the primary reason to conserve forests is the carbon stocks they contain. The idea that replacing primary forests by plantations will ‘create sinks’ and thereby be positive for climate mitigation is incorrect, as it fails to account for the loss of carbon stock from the primary forest (Dean et al, 2012). Furthermore, plantation forests store less carbon than the pre-existing natural primary forest, secondary (regenerating) natural forests or a primary forest under the same environmental conditions (Liao et al, 2010; Danielsen et al, 2009; Kanowski et al, 2011; Thompson et al, 2009).

    References for the response to comment:

    Dean, C., Wardell-Johnson, G. & Kirkpatrick, J. B. Are there any circumstances in which logging primary wet-eucalypt forest will not add to the global carbon burden? Agric. For. Meteorol. 161, 156–169 (2012).

    Liao, C., Luo, Y., Fang, C. & Li, B. Ecosystem carbon stock influenced by plantation practice: Implications for planting forests as a measure of climate change mitigation. PLoS ONE 5, e10867 (2010).

    Danielsen, F. et al. Biofuel plantations on forested lands: Double jeopardy for biodiversity and climate. Conserv. Biol. 23, 348–358 (2009).

    Kanowski, J. & Catterall, C. P. Carbon stocks in above-ground biomass of monoculture plantations, mixed species plantations and environmental restoration plantings in north-east Australia. Ecol. Restor. Manag. 11, 119–126 (2011).

    Thompson, I., Mackey, B., McNulty, S. & Mosseler, A. Forest Resilience, Biodiversity, and Climate Change. A Synthesis of the Biodiversity/Resilience/Stability Relationship in Forest Ecosystems Technical Series No. 43 (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2009).

    Luyssaert, S. et al. Old-growth forests as global carbon sinks. Nature 455, 213–215 (2008).

    Lewis, S. L. et al. Increasing carbon storage in intact African tropical forests. Nature 457, 1003–1006 (2009).

  11. 11
    Peter T says:

    Leaving the physics aside, this ignores the sociological aspects. Combating climate change is not just about drawing down CO2 (although that’s by far the largest immediate issue). There are many other serious environmental issues that need action (topsoil loss, nitrogen overload, invasive species and species loss, water use…). If we want to preserve the planet, we have to move to a very different outlook. Seeing forests as an environmental guard rather than a resource is part of that. And mobilising to save forests is a good first step to wider environmental politics. Here in Australia, forest policy was the issue that first took off for the Green Party, which now has significant national influence.

    So forest policy might not make any difference to climate change physically, but could be an opening to make a larger difference politically.

  12. 12
    Scott Strough says:

    That “solution” is parallel to Freeman Dyson’s biogeoengineering “solution” of just plant more trees. There are many reasons this won’t work, but the basic one is that planting trees increases stocks, but doesn’t stabilize fluxes. Using the bucket analogy, you have a created a bigger bucket, but still a bucket with no drain. It helps temporarily … until the new bigger bucket gets full. We call that Saturation. It’s a temporary fix that helps, but it is not a long term solution.

    However, maybe even accidently, Dyson might have stumbled onto something that can solve AGW to the benefit of all.

    Atmospheric CO2 level is the primary human impact we can change that directly influences energy flows. It comes down to the carbon cycle and the CO2 fertilization effect. Dyson is correct BTW that there is more carbon in the soil than in biomass and atmosphere combined. Also correct about the fertilization effect on plant growth. This is what is called a stabilizing feedback. The debunkers of Dyson are also correct about the increasing emissions from the labile fraction of soil carbon and biomass as temperature increases. Called a reinforcing feedback.

    Here is where it gets interesting. Dyson AND the vast majority of the Dyson debunking sources have focused on the wrong biome. It is NOT the forest plants that have the capability to mitigate AGW. It’s the grassland/savanna biome that actually can be a forcing for global cooling, and counter the current global warming trend.

    In a forest, the stabilizing feedbacks and the reinforcing feedbacks eventually largely counter each other, and little is done long term to mitigate rising CO2 levels. Once you reach that saturation point you are done. You might even decrease albedo. But grasslands sequester carbon very differently than forests. Most grassland carbon is not sequestered in biomass, nor labile carbon in the top O horizon of the soil, but rather the newly discovered liquid carbon pathway. Grasslands also have higher albedo.

    Most terrestrial biosphere carbon storage is in grassland (mollic) soils. Where trees store most their products of photosynthesis in woody biomass, grasslands instead of producing a woody tree truck, secrete excess products of photosynthesis (exudates) to feed the soil food web, especially mycorrhizal fungi. Those fungi (AMF) in turn secrete a newly discovered compound called glomalin deep in the soil profile. Glomalin itself has a 1/2 life of 7–42 years if left undisturbed. The deepest deposits even longer with a 1/2 life of 300 years or more in the right conditions. Then when it does degrade a large % forms humic polymers that tightly bind to the soil mineral substrate and can last thousands of years undisturbed. Together they all form what is called a mollic epipedon. That’s your really good deep fertile soils of the world and they contain far more carbon, even in their highly degraded state currently, than all the terrestrial biomass and atmospheric CO2 put together. This LCP is what built those famously deep and fertile midwest soils.

    Even though wood is resistant to decay, the biomass of forests is still considered part of the active carbon cycle (labile carbon) That litter layer on the forest floor is relatively shallow, and most that decay ends up back in the atmosphere, unless locked in some kind of peat bog or permafrost. Tightly bound soil carbon in a mollic epipedon is considered differently than the labile carbon pool. It is the stable fraction of soil carbon, and grassland biomes pump 30% or more of their total products of photosynthesis into this liquid carbon pathway.

    The importance of this recent discovery of the Liquid Carbon Pathway (photosynthesis-root exudates-mycorrhizal fungi-glomalin-humic polymers-mollic epipedon) to climate science AND agriculture can not be stressed enough.

    So while specifically Dyson was wrong and the authors of this article are right, he has identified in the most general terms the pathway forward. “Plants” is too general. Forests is categorically wrong, although we still need them for their rapid buffering capability on climate as well as many other important ecosystem services, not to mention lumber. But the forcing of CO2 mitigation long term comes from the grassland biome, now largely under agricultural management and that is plants after all. Dyson got the wrong plants and the wrong soils, but did hit on the right concept.

    The real question is can this mitigation strategy work within conservative ideals so that a political coalition between both liberals and conservatives can be made to devise a plan acceptable to both? It is pretty obvious that a carbon tax has and will continue to meet with opposition.

    I believe it is possible, yes. But certain areas will take dramatic change for that to happen. Most importantly energy and agriculture. Right now both those sectors have already overgrown what can be sustained. Quite predictable since they were never really sustainable since the industrial revolution anyway. Just took a while for people to realize it.

    For it to happen though, agriculture production models will need to be changed to regenerative systems, energy will need technological fixes like solar and nuclear etc. and overall since population has already exceeded environmental capacity, a large amount of ecosystem recovery projects will be needed as well. So yeah, reforesting can be a part where appropriate. All of these are possible, however I personally believe they are unlikely to happen on their own given social and institutional inertia.

    My focus is on agriculture. Having studied it quite intensely for years, I believe we currently have the ability to fix that one. Only a few minor gaps remain. I can only hope others committed to the other two big ones meet with similar success. But then comes the hard part, actually doing what we know how to do before these unsustainable systems currently in effect start failing world wide, collapsing even our ability to do what we know how to do! That’s the actual tricky part.

    For example, if agriculture fails before we fully institute regenerative models and the infrastructure changes needed, civilization collapses. Not much going to be done about it then. AGW will see to it that all three will fail if changes are not done soon enough. Once again with the potential to collapse civilization, or at least many nations including ours. Again that would make it near impossible to implement what we already know how to do.

    So to fully answer, instead of adding a carbon tax, one way to solve this is simply change what we subsidize. No need for new taxes. In agriculture instead of a buffer stock scheme on over production of king corn, a buffer stock scheme on carbon being sequestered in soils. (grass feed your beef instead of corn by turning cornfields back into prairies) Just redirect the same amount of funds away from one to the other. Same goes for energy. Fossil-fuel consumption subsidies worldwide amounted to $493 billion in 2014, with subsidies to oil products representing over half of the total. Those subsidies were over four-times the value of subsidies to renewable energy. Simply redirect the subsidies for fossil fuels over to renewables. Doesn’t necessarily need to cost one penny more.

    The idea that we are still subsidizing AGW, while trying to find solutions to AGW is quite frankly ridiculous. Goes to the wise old saying, “A house divided against itself can not stand.”

  13. 13
    Hank Roberts says:

    To bring the focus back onto the Washington initiative, most of the informed comments I see are that it’s overall a fake-green plan to make business happy without accomplishing anything, a way of undermining serious attempts to address the problem.

  14. 14
    John Crusius says:

    In response to Toby Thaler (comment #3). This blog is focused on science and its intent is to steer clear of politics. But since you brought up i-732, a rigorous, independent analysis of i-732 can be found at (search for i-732).

  15. 15
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Olympic Forest Coalition

    I’ll phone you.

    Check your website, it comes up blank when I look at the link.
    When I put the organization name into a Google search, the first result warns:

    This site may be hacked.
    Proposals for research papers · How to a discursive essay · 2008 ap world history essays · Importance of higher education in todays modern society …

    Looks like someone hacked it. Visit carefully with malware/antivirus protection working, or get your webmaster to deal with it. Stuff happens.

  16. 16
    John Crusius says:

    In response to Hank Roberts’ comment #13:
    I direct you to my comment #14 for independent, rigorous and sensitive analysis of i-732. Not sure where you get your information, but you should really look at the series of posts from Aug 1, 2 and 3. This realclimate site is intended to be apolitical, but I must say in response to your comment that there is a TREMENDOUS amount of misinformation being circulated as pertains to this. Study it carefully and don’t believe everything you hear and read.

  17. 17
    Brian Foster says:

    Having recently spent a sobering vacation in the redwoods and Yosemite, I find there are significant shortcomings in relying upon forests to sequester carbon. First and foremost, all forests are subject to fires which can release all the stored carbon catastrophically in a very short timespan. Secondly, the bark beetles are currently converting these majestic forests from pines into chaparral with very little carbon storage capacity. As the thermoclines move inexorably northward as the climate warms, the bark beetles will follow and destroy those forests as well. There are currently no strategies for limiting the beetle’s spread other than cutting down the dead trees. Cutting down the infected trees would leave the forests without most of the forest. Thus far, California has lost upwards of 66 million trees to the beetles, half of which were lost in the last year.

  18. 18
    Elias says:

    I grew up in Seattle but moved to northern California when I was 18 to be a wildland firefighter and I did that for almost a decade. Some of the biggest fires I ever worked were in the northwest California forests. Trinity and Humboldt. Those areas aren’t like the rest of California: they’re PNW-style forests like back home. Most of the California forests I worked in were a lot sparser. We’d barely scrape the surface to reach good mineral soil to build a fireline in the Sierra Nevada. In Humboldt you were digging an unshored trench that was pushing OSHA limits. But my experience in northwest California tells me that the PNW is not an asbestos forest like we consider it. Give it the right fuel stress and a decent east wind and you’ll see the same sort of fires that marked the longest days of my firefighting career. I don’t know when we’ll see that happen but I sincerely believe it’s a matter of time. Historically some of the largest fires in history were PNW burns; it’s only recently that they’ve been eclipsed. The Tillamook burn may still hold the record for board feet of timber.

    Another observation: taking to the old guys who’d been in these organizations for years, I got the consistent impression that the fires they fought when they were younger and in my position were not as severe as the ones they were dealing with today. Not that some were not destructive, but virtually all of the old hands agreed that the situation had gotten dramatically worse. Even the guys who were rabid Limbaugh fans.

  19. 19
    Toby Thaler says:

    Hank at 15: Yes, OFCO site has been having issues (yup, got hacked). Still down, under repair.

    John Crusius at 14/16: Sightline’s analysis has been criticized extensively. Best (IMO) is at
    (in comment exchange) I suspect you’re aware of it.

    Regardless, I-732 got less than 42% state wide. It was premised on a strategy (cooperation with Republicans) doomed to fail.

  20. 20
    J. P. says:

    Hi there,
    great reading so far,
    may I add a very important website too? It’s the blog about climate change and the solutions to prevent it, written and constantly updated by my brother Alexander, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oxford, and researching about this delicate, but important topic.