While no-one doubts the critical role that trees play in our ecosystem in relation to the cleaning up of carbon dioxide emissions, the David Suzuki Foundation has weighed in on the tree offsetting debate to question the effectiveness of such programs compared to uptake of renewables such as wind power and solar energy.
Responding to a story on Canada’s The Tyee, the David Suzuki Foundation said said that tree-planting projects are not the most effective way to avoid dangerous temperature levels as a tonne of carbon stored sequestered in a forest is not equivalent to a tonne of offsets generated by energy efficiency programs or renewable energy projects.
The Foundation says that it is much more difficult to gauge amount of carbon that trees absorb from the atmosphere than it is to quantify reductions in fossil fuel use. Levels of greenhouse gases sequestered by tree-planting offsets can also vary wildly depending on the species, climate, geography and methods used for establishing and maintaining such projects.
Trees are also at risk from natural phenomenon including wind, insect infestations and fire. When a tree dies or is killed, much of its carbon content is given back to the atmosphere as it decomposes or is burned.
The other pressing issue according to the Foundation is time – trees can take years to sequester appreciable levels of carbon, whereas the greenhouse gas reduction benefits from solar power systems and wind turbines can be relatively immediate.
While the David Suzuki Foundation strongly advocates the planting of trees to address many issues including global warming, when it comes to carbon offsets, the organization maintains that consumers and companies should invest products that are timely, permanent, and accurately quantified under such certifications as the Gold Standard, a certification that tree planting projects cannot be granted due to their potentially unstable nature.