New climate report calls for urgent action to protect U.S. forests

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, March 22, 2017

According to a new report released today [March 21] on the International Day of Forests, a massive scale-up in forest protection in the United States is critical to solving the climate crisis and providing a safety net for communities against extreme weather events. Despite its importance, forest protection in the United States is not currently seen as a climate priority, and government and industry often promote increased logging as a climate solution.

“In order to meet the ambitious goals set forward by the Paris Climate agreement, the United States is going to need to aggressively reduce emissions from fossil fuels while also accelerating the removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide by protecting and restoring forests here at home,” said Dr. Bill Moomaw, a climate scientist who co-authored the report with Danna Smith, executive director of Dogwood Alliance, who has been a leader working on the front-lines of industrial logging in the U.S. for over 20 years.

“The Great American Stand: US Forests and the Climate Emergency,” highlights how standing forests represent our best available technology for removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it long-term. Meanwhile, the rate and scale of logging in U.S. forests for wood, paper and fuel are among the highest in the world. Logging, past and present, has significantly degraded U.S. forests’ climate stabilizing capacity, and a new path must forward must be created in order to restore U.S. forests for their climate benefits.

“Forests are both vital to solving the climate crisis and are our best protection against the worst impacts of climate change,” said Smith. “Our hope with this new report is that leaders across federal, state and local governments, businesses, nonprofits and citizens accelerate actions to protect and restore our nation’s forests to help solve the climate crisis and protect our most vulnerable communities from the worst effects of climate change.”

Key findings Include:

• It is only through protecting and restoring forests and rapidly phasing out fossil fuel use, that we can actually reduce the dangerous concentrations of carbon currently in the atmosphere to safe levels.

• Forest disturbance from logging in the United States is quadruple that of South American rainforests and is degrading the nation’s potential forest carbon sink by at least 35 percent

• The latest Environmental Protection Agency reports of greenhouse gas emissions calculate that U.S. forests are removing an amount of carbon from the atmosphere equal to a mere 11-13 percent of our nation’s emissions, half that of the global average of 25 percent and a fraction of what is needed to avoid climate catastrophe.

• The failure to transparently report forest carbon sink degradation and carbon emissions from logging in EPA national greenhouse gas emissions reports is shielding the world’s largest forest products industry from accountability for climate impacts and preventing much-needed climate progress.

• 85 percent of the carbon lost from forests between 2006 and 2010 was from logging, 5x that of drought, insects, fire, wind and forest loss due to conversion, combined.

  Burning trees in place of fossil fuels for energy accelerates, not reduces, carbon emissions while also further reducing forests’ ability to provide critical climate mitigation and other ecosystem services.

• Two of the most costly natural disasters in the world in 2016 resulted from flooding across the Southeast where logging rates are highest, disproportionately impacting people in rural communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and whose economies are struggling.

• Expanding forest protection and restoration can make our communities more resilient and mitigate the costs of extreme weather events by increasing natural flood control and helping to stabilize fresh water supplies.

• New investments in forest protection and restoration can drive business innovation and create new economic opportunities for rural communities.

Despite a growing understanding of the critical role standing forests play in the fight against climate change, increased logging is often promoted by government and some in the forest industry as a climate solution. In the past three years the forests of the coastal South have become the largest source of wood pellet exports to Europe, where they are burned in power stations to generate electricity as a “climate friendly” alternative to coal.

“We cannot log and burn our way out of climate change,” stated Moomaw. “Logging forests and burning trees to generate electricity in place of coal while not counting the emissions may help governments meet their emission goals, but the atmosphere and climate is where the real accounting takes place. While forests have been successfully regulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 300 million years their potential to address climate change in the coming centuries is significantly underestimated.”

Standing forests provide a proven means for atmospheric carbon removal and storage that can operate at the necessary scale and time frame to keep the world from going over the climate precipice. Forest protection, restoration and expansion must therefore become a top priority in America’s climate agenda. The report calls for a new generation of government and corporate policies that recognize the climate, water and community benefits of standing forests.

To download the report, visit:

SCOT QUARANDA is the communications director for the Dogwood Alliance. Contact him at 828-242-3596 or