Introduction

A range of techniques is employed in teasing out the role of forestry in tackling climate change. Socioeconomic analysis complements the technical data, and in most chapters leads to a policy position being taken. The introduction gives a flavor of the book and summarizes what are considered the major issues surrounding forestry's role.

Global warming is the greatest known challenge facing the world. While future armed conflicts or global pandemics could possibly be more sudden in their devastation, human-induced climate change is already a reality, and we know that, unchecked, it will visit dire consequences on future generations (Parry et al., 2007). We only have a few years in which to act to keep the rise in concentration of greenhouse gases within the limits that will avoid dangerous climate change (den Elzen and Meinshausen, 2007).

In economic theory, and in practice, substitutes for depleted resources are readily available. If we run out of potable water supplies because climate change has affected rainfall patterns we can substitute recycled waste-water or desalinated sea water. When agricultural land becomes scarce we substitute fertilizers and pesticides for land, and so increase crop yields. However, there is no substitute for the capacity of the atmosphere, the oceans and the forests to act as sinks and absorb our gaseous wastes, and we are far exceeding that capacity. Unless these wastes can be channeled into caverns and deep into the oceans, a solution that seems unlikely in the time available, we have little choice but to cut our reliance on fossil fuels and bring the output of greenhouse gases into balance with the absorptive capacity of the planet.

Trees in forests take in carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, and store it as carbon in their leaves, branches, trunks and roots. A tonne of carbon in trees is the result of the removal of 3.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The world's forest 'sink' already holds more carbon than is in the atmosphere (Prentice et al., 2001), but part of that sink is being reduced rapidly by the cutting of forests in tropical developing countries, contributing some 17 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Forestry, which includes the maintenance of existing forests as well as increasing forest area, can make a very important contribution to the mitigation of global climate change, but only a small proportion of this potential is being realized (Nabuurs et al., 2007; Capoor and Ambrosi, 2007).

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

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