Writing in High Country News, Rick Craig suggests that the US Forest Service's entry into the carbon offsets game is ill-advised. Here's a snip:
Salvaging the Atmosphere: The Forest Service Joins the Carbon Offsets Game, Rick Craig, High Country News, Oct 15: … On July 25, Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell announced the launch of the Carbon Capital Fund, which will sell carbon offsets to fund tree planting on national forests. … The idea sounds logical enough. In fact, the theory that forests can suck up excess carbon and cool the planet helps drive a market that doubled its revenues last year to $110 million. But the Forest Service's entry into the carbon offsets game comes as doubts about tree planting mount. Scientists are skeptical about its benefits, and the honesty of the unregulated market has been questioned in congressional hearings. Worst of all, critics feel, is the tacit permission offsets give buyers to continue their carbon-emitting lifestyles.See also:
Visit the Web site of the National Forest Foundation, the Forest Service's nonprofit arm, and its Carbon Footprint Calculator can tell you how many metric tons of CO2 emissions you are responsible for. If the result leaves you feeling guilty, don't worry. For just $6, the fund lets you offset 1 ton of carbon by supporting tree-planting projects on the national forests. The transaction is based on the theory that forests act as "carbon sinks," soaking up the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.
But in temperate forests, the concept has not held up well to scientific analysis. Forests do take carbon out of the atmosphere temporarily, but they don’t remove it from the active carbon pool, because their carbon is released when they rot or burn. Cambridge botanist Oliver Rackham, author of a history of Britain's forests, has said that telling people to plant trees to stop global warming is like telling them to drink more water to keep down rising sea levels. …
For an agency with increasingly stretched budgets, however, selling that commodity makes a difference. … And with the agency's million-acre reforestation backlog, there's no shortage of places for consumers to relieve their carbon guilt. [NFF hypertlink added]
Privatization by Many Means: Carbon Offsets Edition, Forest Policy …, Aug 27Cross-posted from Forest Policy …
Carbon Offsets: Modern Day 'Indulgences'?, Ecological Economics, Feb 20