GHGs In the News

A selection from the many news items, most recent at the top

Nitrogen crisis from jam-packed livestock operations has ‘paralyzed’ Dutch economy
By Erik Stokstad in Science Magazine Dec 4, 2019

COP25 may put climate at greater risk by failing to address forests
by Justin Catanoso oin news.mongabay.com Dec 2, 2019. “Policy experts warn that global forest conservation is not yet being actively incentivized as part of carbon market discussions, a possible lapse apparently backed by Brazil and the government of Jair Bolsonaro which has declared its plan to develop the Amazon basin — the world’s largest remaining rainforest and vital to sequestering carbon to curb climate change. COP25 also seems unlikely to address the UN biomass carbon accounting loophole, which allows nations to convert obsolete coal plants to burn wood pellets to produce energy, with the carbon emitted counted as “zero emissions” equivalent to solar and wind. Scientists warn that biomass burning, far from being carbon neutral, is actually worse than burning coal.”

Lost trees hugely overrated as environmental threat, study finds
Ohio State University highlighted in Science Daily Nov 4, 2019.

Climate emissions from tropical forest damage ‘underestimated by a factor of six’
Graham Readfearn in https://www.theguardian.com/ Oct 31, 2019. “Study co-author professor James Watson of the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society said: “We have been treating forests as pretty one-dimensional, but we know degradation impacts carbon….When countries declare greenhouse gas emissions from changes in forests, they do not account for the CO2 that forests would have continued to soak up for decades had they not been cleared or damaged. This is a measure known as “forgone removal”…“We have only looked at tropical forests and we have not looked at woodlands,” Watson said. “We also don’t look at the boreal forests which are the biggest game in town. Those numbers would be staggering. This story would be seriously worse if we looked at the whole vegetation estate. “From a policy point of view, this is a horror story, but it also points to a simple solution,” he said, adding that keeping forests intact and properly accounting for the benefits would put countries like Australia at a “massive competitive advantage”. Lead author Sean Maxwell of University of Queensland said: “Usually only ‘pulse’ emissions are considered – these are emissions released the instant intact forest is destroyed. Our analysis considers all impacts such as the effects of selective logging, forgone carbon sequestration, expanding effects on the edges of forests and species extinction.” The article refers to this paper: Degradation and forgone removals increase the carbon impact of intact forest loss by 626% by Sean L. Maxwell et al, 2019 Science Advances 30 Oct 2019: Vol. 5, no. 10, eaax2546 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax2546

With looming loss of European subsidy, wood pellet industry faces turning point
Elizabeth Ouzts in www.energynews.us, Oct 29, 2019. “Activists in the southeastern U.S. see shifting politics in the United Kingdom as the best chance to curb demand for pellets.”

Drax strengthens biomass sustainability policy
By Drax Group | October 17, 2019 in Biomass Magazine. “Drax has strengthened its biomass sustainability policy and set up an independent advisory board (IAB) of scientists, academics and forestry experts to ensure the biomass the company uses to generate renewable electricity meets the highest standards…The Forest Research report recommends 15 key criteria to deliver sustainable biomass that has the best outcome for the environment. These include favoring biomass that is associated with activities to conserve and enhance forest growth and productivity and a commitment not to take from sources that lead to deforestation….The company has plans to go further in its decarbonization with the development of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage technologies which could enable Drax to become the world’s first negative emissions power station in the 2030s.”

Planting a Trillion Trees Will Not Halt Climate Change
Texas A&M AgriLife on newswise.com Oct 17, 2019. “A group of 46 scientists from around the world, led by Joseph Veldman, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University, are urging caution regarding plans to address climate change through massive tree planting.”

EASAC’s Environmental Experts call for international action to restrict climate-damaging forest bioenergy schemes
European Academies Science Advisory Council Sep 10, 2019

Logging study reveals huge hidden emissions of the forestry industry
By Michael Le Page in new Scientist 10 Sep 2019. “The wood industry is a massive source of uncounted carbon emissions, according to a pioneering study in North Carolina. The same is probably true globally…The good news is that Talberth’s study also showed that if land owners adopted “climate smart” practices, forests in North Carolina could soak up 3 gigatonnes of CO2 over two or three decades. That would cancel out 20 years of the state’s carbon emissions. The main such practice would be to cut trees every 60 or 90 years rather than every 30 years or less. Those cuts should be done in small patches rather than clearcutting vast areas. And foresters should grow a mix of native species rather than monocultures of alien species. Such forests would store more carbon and support more wildlife.”

Yes, we can reforest on a massive scale – but it’s no substitute for slashing emissions
By Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis in www.climatechangenews.com July 5, 2019

Yes, Planting Trees Can Fight Climate Change — If We Do It Right
By Crawford Kilian Today | TheTyee.ca July 25, 2019. “New forests can store vast amounts of carbon, but we need a thoughtful global approach”

Finland’s forestry myth undermines its radical climate ambition
By Kaisa Raitio in www.climatechangenews.com July 9, 2019. “The next EU presidency wants to drive the climate agenda, but its forestry industry is bad for carbon emissions, biodiversity and its indigenous Sámi people…Evidence shows that discourse on the bioeconomy has been used to legitimise re-industrialisation of forest policies in a similar fashion in other countries, although expanding the forest industry and mitigating climate change are, in their present form, deeply incompatible.”

Protecting carbon by protecting forests
GEORGE WUERTHNER in missoulian.com July 8, 2019 “Currently, there is a bill in the Massachusetts legislature that would ban logging on all of the state lands. The premise of the legislation is that logging contributes significantly to CO2 emissions. The legislation sponsors argue that the best use of Massachusetts state-owned property is to maintain intact forests for carbon storage.”

BECCS critical to achieving a net zero Britain
Renewable Energy Association June 25, 2019 BECCS refers to “Bioenergy paired with Carbon Capture and Storage”/ Also view UK law commits to net-zero emissions, REA says BECCS is needed By Erin Voegele | June 27, 2019 in Biomass

Even the IPCC undersells the climate emergency
On Conservation Bytes, Mar 31, 2019

Industrial wood burning is adding to climate change
BY PETER RAVEN AND MARY S. BOOTH, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS on thehill.com Mar 8, 2019 “America is exporting huge amounts of our forest wood for burning in European power plants and other places around the world, even though science shows this wood is worse for climate change than the fossil fuels it is replacing…Now the promotion of wood is being challenged by scientists and other advocates, both in the U.S. and Europe. Last week, the Partnership for Policy Integrity and more than two dozen investment organizations petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require companies making and using wood pellets to substantiate their claims of climate benefits so that investors will not be misled…Data from the U.S. Energy Department’s own Energy Information Administration shows that treating biomass as carbon neutral increases its use, and consequent carbon emissions….We don’t have centuries or even decades to win the climate battle. A special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released last year finds that holding the increase in global average temperature to even remotely safe levels requires that global carbon dioxide emissions peak by 2020 and decline rapidly to net zero by 2050…There is also increasing evidence that global warming is approaching self-reinforcing “tipping points” — like the melting of polar ice or the dieback of tropical forests — that could cause irreversible, self-perpetuating climate change. It is irresponsible to increase carbon dioxide levels from burning wood in the belief that it will re-absorbed in decades or centuries, by which time it will be far too late to prevent catastrophic climate impacts.”

Carbon black is the new green(wash)
Questionable claims about forestry and climate change from forest ecologist Jim Pojar. In www.interior-news.com, Feb 27, 2018

Machine converts forest debris into biochar
GEORGE PLAVEN Capital Press, Feb 4, 2019

Air pollutants from US forest soils will increase with climate change
Science Daily, Jan 22, 2019, comments on “Ryan M. Mushinski, Richard P. Phillips, Zachary C. Payne, Rebecca B. Abney, Insu Jo, Songlin Fei, Sally E. Pusede, Jeffrey R. White, Douglas B. Rusch, Jonathan D. Raff. Microbial mechanisms and ecosystem flux estimation for aerobic NOy emissions from deciduous forest soils. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019; 201814632 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1814632116”

How much can forests fight climate change?
By Gabriel Popkin In Nature, International Journal of Science, Jan 15, 2019 “Trees are supposed to slow global warming, but growing evidence suggests they might not always be climate saviours”

Subsidies of up to £1billion given to firms for burning wood in power stations could be axed – as critics argue it creates same CO2 as coal
By Colin Fernandez The Daily Mail January 14, 2019

EIA updates bioenergy forecasts for 2019, 2020
By Erin Voegele Biomass Magazine January 15, 2019

Two Points of View on controlling western wildfires:

Forest can take care of itself
George Wuerthner, Fire Ecologist, Opinion in paysonroundup.com, Jan 1, 2019

Biomass mandate could save lives as well as the forest
Peter Aleshire roundup editor in paysonroundup.com, Jan 1, 2019

COP24: Key outcomes agreed at the UN climate talks in Katowic
CarbonBrief Dec 16, 2018

Conservationists clone massive redwood tree stumps to fight climate change
CBC Radio Dec 20, 2018 “”I’m of the opinion, if you use super computers and math, that if every single human being on the planet … planted four trees a year … in 20 years, we could reverse our CO2 levels back to the level of 1959. We can do this. We don’t have to go down with the ship.” – David Milarch. View Archangel Ancient Tree Archive

Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe
By Abrahm Lustgarten in NY Times, Nov 20, 2018. “A decade ago, the U.S. mandated the use of vegetable oil in biofuels, leading to industrial-scale deforestation — and a huge spike in carbon emissions.”

Scientists Highlight Forests’ Critical Role in Climate Mitigation
Catherine Benson Wahlén for IISD Knowledge Hub, Nov 13, 2018. “The Climate and Land Use Alliance released a statement from 40 scientists that argues that the preservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests is critical for limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.”

‘Tipping points’ could exacerbate climate crisis, scientists fear
www.theguardian.com Oct 9, 2018. “IPCC report ‘underestimates potential of these key dangers to send Earth into spiral of runaway climate change’ ”

How ‘enhanced weathering’ could slow climate change and boost crop yields
Guest Post on Caron Briefs by Prof. David beerling, Feb 19, 2018

EU forests can’t help climate fight: study
by Patrick Galey in phys.org Oct 10, 2018. “A climate Catch-22″…The so-called “sink-maximising” forest plan, which could save the equivalent of 8 billion tonnes of C02 by the end of the century, would require converting an area the size of Spain from deciduous to coniferous forest. The authors of the study, published in the journal Nature, said the resulting darkening of the landscape would offset in temperature any relative gains in carbon reduction…. “If you favour coniferous forests over deciduous, you darken the leaf colour, which is an important factor in calculating atmospheric temperature.”

COMMENTARY: Natural gas is helping N.S. cut CO2 levels — study
John Hawkins, President of Heritage Gas in the Chronicle Herald Oct 2, 2018 “converting a 2,000 square-foot home with four occupants to natural gas from heating oil can reduce carbon emissions by four tonnes per year, that equals every second Heritage Gas customer taking a car off the road.” View related Gardner-Pinfold report. Should Natural Gas rather than coal be our reference for assessing carbon neutrality of forest biomass?

Forests cut warming better than technology
Tim Radford in Climate News Network, sep 11, 2018. “Biofuels are no easy answer to climate change. Nor is storing captured carbon dioxide. The world’s great forests cut warming better than engineered solutions can”.

Backing Sununu, Enviro Groups Say Biomass Pollutes And Costs Too Much
NHPR Sep 4, 2018 Also see Sununu poised for veto override fight (Sep 4) and Loggers, Environmentalists Rally Against Energy Bills Veto (Sep 6). AND Biomass saved with overridden veto (Sep 13, 2018). It’s not about climate!

New UK Biomass Policy Removes Subsidies For High-Carbon Wood Pellets
Partnership for Policy Integrity. Sep 3, 3018

How Wildfires Can Affect Climate Change (and Vice Versa)
BY BOB BERWYN, INSIDECLIMATE NEWS AUG 23, 2018. “It’s complicated: While CO2 causes long-term warming, aerosols can have both a warming and a temporary cooling effect.”

Climate change is making trees bigger, but weaker
By Lakshmi SupriyaAug. 22, 2018 for Science (Higlights from a paper in Forest Ecology and Management: Wood density reduced while wood volume growth accelerated in Central European forests since 1870, Hans Pretzsch et al., 2018

‘Active’ management wrong answer trying to stop big wildfires
By GEORGE WUERTHNER on www.heraldandnews.com Aug 21, 2018

The European Union just made bioenergy worse for biodiversity
ConservationBytes.com, Aug 21, 2018. Related: Revised European Union renewable-energy policies erode nature protection,
Klaus Josef Hennenberg et al, 2018. Nature Ecology and Evolution 20 August 2018 Volume 429, 1 December 2018, Pages 589-616 “Decreasing wood densities during the last century, Important for assessing growth trends and C-sequestration, Implications for forest management and wood utilization” ..but increased growth mor e than makes up for less carbon sequestered/unit of wood.

Decades of Climate Policy Failure in Canada: Can we Break The Vicious Cycle?
Meinhard Doelle on Dalhoousie University blogs, Aug 8, 2018. “The experience with the development of climate mitigation policy in Canada points to a failure to draw an appropriate line between the legitimate role of affected industries and their undue influence over policy. Affected industries have an important role to play in helping to find effective, efficient and fair ways to reach a given policy goal, such as the decarbonization of our society. However, we continue to cross this line by giving those industries a role in deciding whether we will even work toward critical societal goals at all, and at what pace.”

Thanks to climate change and wetter weather, forest soils are absorbing less methane
August 6, 2018, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Jamie Sayen: The truth about mega-biomass
Concord Monitor, July 19, 2018. A familiar story: “Paul Doscher writes in the July 12 Monitor that electricity generation in biomass plants provides urgently needed markets for wood of low economic value. He argues that caring forest landowners cannot afford to conduct “timber stand improvement” cuts unless there is a market for that low-value wood – a legacy of past forest mismanagement…Doscher – former vice president at the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests, a group now lobbying to influence the legislation in question – failed to mention several essential facts about mega-biomass…”

Bioenergy the turning tide: Biomass emissions are not carbon neutral – we need to change how we account for them
by Eddy Issacs, July 12, 2018. University of Calgary School of Public Policy blog

Pruitt’s parting shot: a Clean Power Plan that will actually increase CO2 emissions
Partnership for Public Policy Integrity (USA), July 6, 2018

Third N.H. biomass company winds down operations following Sununu energy bill veto
Ethan DeWitt in Concord Monitor, July 3, 2018. They are closing it down because fossil fuels are cheaper and the Trump people don’t believe in climate warming. In this case, a lot of people who do accept the science on this issue will also be happy because the science also says most of these forest biomass operations are far from carbon neutral.

Push to Burn Wood for Fuel Threatens Climate Goals, Scientists Warn
By Bob Berwyn, for insideclimatenews.org, June 24, 2018. Scientists say a new EU renewable energy policy on biomass is ‘misleading’ and will raise emissions. U.S. [and Canadian] forests are being turned into wood pellets to feed demand.

The UK’s move away from coal means they’re burning wood from the US
By Carolyn Beeler and James Morrison on www.pri.org June 20, 2018. “Wood pellets, or biomass fuel, are generally made from sawmill waste and logging leftovers, like this pile at a harvest site in Greensville County, Virginia. But the process sometimes also relies on whole, mature trees, which many researchers say eliminates any environmental benefit to the fuel.”

European Academies Science Advisory Council: Commentary on Forest Bioenergy and Carbon Neutrality
Full document: Commentary by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) on Forest Bioenergy and Carbon Neutrality
EASAC Jun 15, 2018 Concise statement. Thanks to PR for passing this one on

Reality check: biomass is unnecessary for the reliability of uk electricity supply—and so are continued subsidies to drax power
NRDC Issue Brief, June 2018. “A groundbreaking new study debunks an industry-led argument in the United Kingdom that biomass ensures the reliability of a flexible, low-carbon electricity system. According to the analysis, in 2030, and as soon as 2021, the United Kingdom can meet year-round electricity demand with a grid increasingly dominated by solar and wind—and no biomass, even under the most challenging conditions.”

Drum Head split on the risks and rewards of Goldboro LNG project
AAron beswick in the CH, Jun 8, 2018. Nova Scotia GHGs etc. discussed. Also, fitting in with this story…

Deforestation: Some of the photos taken May 18 and posted in WWNS Jun 8, 2018

W&WNS received this note and accompanying images (taken May 18) a while back from a concerned Nova Scotian. “Hey just thought I would send you a few pictures of the LNG site in Goldboro. This land was expropriated in 2009 with help from Mr [Lloyd] Hines [Liberal MLA, former Minister of Natural Resources; current Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewa]. Was a nice property at one time What happens if it doesn’t go ahead? 200 acres of wasteland, what a shame. This used to be a beautiful place full of wildlife. Not one thing green left alive.”

The Ideological Divide
By Ron Kotrba for Biomass Magazine May 23, 2018. “Understanding the positions of those opposed to the wood pellet industry is critical to overcoming and reconciling differences.” Very thoughtful article.

View Also: Prospects of Goldboro LNG plant improve, raising concerns about Nova Scotia’s emission reduction targets
Ken Summers in the NS Advocate Feb 19, 2018

Drax power station aims to cut biomass gases in new pilot
BBC news May 21, 2018 “The UK’s biggest power station has announced a £400,000 pilot scheme to capture the carbon dioxide produced from burning wood pellets.”
Also: New chemistry enables UK negative carbon dioxide emissions pilot
Andy Extance for www.chemistryworld.com, May 24, 2018

Smartphone App Enables Family Forest Owners to Get Paid to Store Carbon
Business Wire, April 30, 2018 “BERKELEY, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–For the first time ever, small forest owners can now access the same carbon market as timber companies to sell carbon credits from their forests through ecoPartners’ platform Forest Carbon Works. This innovative technology provides an alternative for small forest landowners to broaden their revenues beyond timber and cultivate their forests’ ecological value with a fast track to the carbon market. By monetizing the forest as an asset, family forest owners – like Jon and Janice Stewart who are receiving approximately $10,000 annually – can now be paid to sustainably manage their properties.”

Canada’s other contentious energy export sees strong growth potential
By Ian Bickis for the National Observer, April 27th 2018. The article highlights the growing global market for wood pellets, based largely on the concept that burning forest biomass is “carbon neutral”. It also highlights the increasing scientific evidence that in many or most cases, energy generated from wood pellets is far from carbon neutral and its use will actually increase emissions compared to fossil fuels over the the next 20-50 years when it is most critical that we reduce emissions. Interesting comments by Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada:

…such criticism [that wood pellets are worse than coal] is unfounded, with Canadian wood pellet production coming from waste materials like wood chips and sawdust from the lumber mills. That material is already being harvested by the sawmill industry…so instead of wasting it, we’re using it to displace a fossil fuel,” he said.

Georgia Forestry Association Applauds EPA Administrator for Recognizing Carbon Benefits of Woody Biomass
Benzinga, April 23, 2018
“In celebration of Earth Day at Bleckley Elementary School, Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), made a landmark announcement for the agency recognizing that forest biomass is a carbon neutral renewable energy source. See also: The EPA Declared That Burning Wood Is Carbon Neutral. It’s Actually a Lot More Complicated (by Jason Daley for Smithsonian.com, Apr 24, 2018)

Hardwood forests cut down to feed Drax Power plant, Channel 4 Dispatches claims
Ecologist Apr 16, 2018. Typical of the ongoing debate about forest biomass energy. A hardwood forest is clearcut in Virginia USA to make woodchips for Drax Power in the UK. More carbon dioxide is released from burning the wood pellets than from burning coal to produce the same amount of energy. Some excerpts:

The biomass industry and government argue that because wood is a renewable source of energy and trees can be replanted to reabsorb carbon dioxide this policy is good for the environment.

Andy Koss, chief executive of Drax Power, defended the policy of burning wood pellets in an interview with the programme: “I am very comfortable that all the material what we source meets regulatory standards in the UK and meets our very strict sustainability criteria.”

Koss said the site Dispatches had seen being logged was atypical and that the “vast majority” of its wood comes from residue and waste material. He said: “We’ve obviously looked at this as well. The site was a working forest, it was left unmanaged.

“The owner of that forest wanted to clear this using standard harvesting techniques to turn it back into a working forest. That forest is being regrown. We know the owner of that particular tract – that will grow and there will be more carbon absorbed.”

Editorial: Alternative bio-facts? Biomass experts go on the offensive in response to U.K. report
Andrew Snook in Canadian Biomass 2017. “…Carbon contained in woody biomass is already part of the atmospheric cycle, whereas burning fossil fuels is adding carbon to the natural carbon cycle. Biomass is low-carbon because the carbon released during combustion is reabsorbed by the growing forests where it was sourced.”

Our best shot at cooling the planet might be right under our feet
Jason Hickel in the Guardian Sep 10, 2016