Saturday, May 3, 2008

Forest foundation study finds wildfires burden climate change efforts

Ledger Dispatch (Amador County, California): When a wildfire strikes California, the state's efforts to stop global warming go up in smoke.

A study released March 12 of four large California wildfires shows they collectively will put an estimated 38 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through fire and subsequent decay of dead trees. Together emissions from fire and decay undo much of the progress California is making to fight global warming. The estimated 38 million tons of greenhouse gases is the equivalent of emissions from seven million cars - for one year. Nearly 10 million tons of harmful greenhouse gases were emitted from the fires themselves, with an estimated 28 million additional tons of carbon dioxide emitted from decay, mostly in the next 50 years.

"Reducing the number and severity of wildfires may be the single most important action we can take in the short-term to lower greenhouse gas emissions and fight global warming," said Dr. Thomas Bonnicksen, a noted forestry expert who authored the report and has studied California forests for more than 30 years.

The study was conducted for the Forest Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes education about the state's forests. The study is based on an analytical tool developed for the Forest Foundation that allows scientists to estimate greenhouse gases emitted by wildfire and subsequent forest decay. The tool, called the Forest Carbon and Emissions Model, analyzes the impact of wildfires on global warming by considering a number of factors, including vegetation density, tree species, mortality caused by a fire, and the removal of dead trees and replanting of new trees….

Firefighters battle a blaze in Southern California, shot by Richard Smith of Orange County, Wikimedia Commons, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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