Part of the Answer to Climate Change May Be America’s Trees and Dirt, Scientists Say

Nov. 14, 2018 | Josh Haner | The New York Times [excerpt}

WASHINGTON — When people think of potential solutions to global warming, they tend to visualize technologies like solar panels or electric cars. A new study published on Wednesday, however, found that better management of forests, grasslands and soils in the United States could offset as much as 21 percent of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

At the high end of the projections, that would be roughly equivalent to taking every single car and truck in the country off the road.

The paper, published in the journal Science Advances, identified a number of promising strategies, like replanting trees on degraded lands, changing logging practices to better protect existing forests and sequestering more carbon in farmland soils through new agricultural techniques.

“We’re not saying these strategies are a substitute for getting to zero-carbon energy; we still need to do that too,” said Joseph E. Fargione, a scientist at the Nature Conservancy and lead author of the study. “But we think that natural climate solutions generally get overlooked. And we found a lot of opportunities here to help mitigate climate change.”

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The researchers contended that many of these actions are relatively affordable. For example, they calculated that reforesting unused land around the United States would cost between $10 and $50 per ton of carbon dioxide avoided. That is cheaper than many subsidies to encourage clean energy, and in line with the cost per ton of several recent carbon tax proposals.

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