California Planted Trees to Fight Climate Change. Those Trees Are Now on Fire.

Posted: August 30, 2021 by oldbrew in climate, Emissions, flames
Tags: ,


Smoke from a California wildfire [image credit: BBC]

Factors such as poor forest management policies, as mentioned by the previous US President, and arson don’t get a look in here, as it’s all about ‘fighting climate change’ and ‘the climate crisis’ and suchlike pop slogans. Nevertheless the author makes a good point about some of the hazards of so-called carbon offsets. Quote: “We’ve bought forest offsets that are now burning” – Microsoft’s carbon program manager at a carbon removal panel earlier this month.
– – –
California’s emissions reduction program is going up in smoke because regulators severely underestimated the impact of climate change–fueled wildfires, claims Jacobin mag.

In 2013, California passed a landmark law that capped greenhouse gas emissions, but let companies offset their pollution overages by investing in forest preservation throughout the country — the idea being that trees absorb excess carbon from the atmosphere.

The statute was considered a model initiative to combat climate change, while providing businesses some flexibility in reducing their pollution.

Eight years later, though, there is a big problem: As of last week, there were more than forty-one thousand wildfires across the country, torching more than 4.6 million acres — a swath nearly the size of New Jersey.

And more than a hundred fifty thousand of those acres have been in West Coast forests that were supposed to be offsetting corporations’ carbon emissions.

When the original program was conceived, California presumed that some forests would naturally burn — and therefore the law required polluters to buy slightly more woodland as an insurance mechanism to account for such losses.

But experts say the amount of woodland set aside in these so-called “buffer pools” wildly underestimated the amount of trees that are now burning in the era of climate change.

And companies that invested in forestland to counter their greenhouse gas pollution and look responsible are not obligated to invest more when wildfires subsequently incinerate those offsets.

The result: The fires are now burning up the much-touted emissions reduction projects that are necessary [Talkshop comment – allegedly] to combat the climate crisis.

Continued here.

  1. Coeur de Lion says:

    In the USA, wildfire areas burnt were five to ten times larger in the 1930s depending on which year compared, Relax. Well, maybe stricter rules about picnics.

  2. Curious George says:

    Paradoxically, these fires are a result of a hundred years of firefighting efforts. Before the arrival of palefaces, California natives burned forests about once in five years.

  3. HiFast says:

    Planting trees is indeed a good thing….but then you have to manage that young forest: thin the trees, graze the ground level, and have prescribed burns every few years.

    Log it, graze it, or watch it burn.

  4. Saighdear says:

    Management. …
    M A N A G E M E N T …. that’s the word . few know anything about it, but all clamour to do it.
    Like a Child in charge of an Aircraft, ney a Country! ( which entails so many more controls )
    few understand what is involved. ( Scientists, Lawyers, Accountants? ) More I think about it, only ones knowing anything seems to be the Gravy-Train Faithful.

  5. Chaswarnertoo says:

    Plant and leave, watch it burn. Manage it as crop and gain the benefits.

  6. oldbrew says:

    Also from the article:
    BP, the multinational oil and gas company, recently touted its investments in carbon offsets after spending more than $100 million to purchase thirteen million emission credits from the massive Colville carbon-offset project in Washington state. But this summer, roughly fifty thousand of the project’s four hundred fifty thousand acres burned to the ground.

    $100 million! And that may not be the last big burn there…

    Western Wildfires Are Sending Carbon Offsets Up in Smoke
    The offsets’ vulnerability to wildfires shows they’re a flawed climate tool, particularly as big blazes become more common.

    The Bootleg Fire is the nation’s largest wildfire of the season and has spread across more than 400,000 acres of Oregon and California. It has torched 24% of one such project known as Klamath East—a 400,000-acre forest owned and operated by the Green Diamond Resource Company—according to analyses by CarbonPlan, a nonprofit research firm that specializes in investigating carbon removal programs.

    Two other blazes, the Summit Creek and Shoal Creek Fires, are currently tearing through an offset project in eastern Washington state that is operated by BP (yes, that BP) on the Colville Indian Reservation. Four percent of the project has burned down so far, and the flames are expected to spread in the coming days as temperatures rise again.

    “The Summit Trail Fire, in particular, is uncontained, so we’ll be watching that closely in the coming days,” Joe Hamman, technology director at CarbonPlan, said.

  7. Gamecock says:

    Plant trees in the eastern US, not the west. We don’t get crown fires.

    SAW: If California were a good place for trees, they’d be there. You wouldn’t have to plant them.

    News from 2033 (a parallel): “BP reports that their CCS mine in Carlisle has leaked a quadrillion billion tons of CO2.”

  8. tom0mason says:

    Nature’s stern reply to the human folly of planting but not managing a forest.

  9. Dan says:

    Gamecock: my understanding is that most of the eastern forests are privately owned. Georgia Pacific, Weyerhaeuser, et al plant, manage and harvest the forests for profit, which pisses off the ecowackies to no end. I’m in Nevada, just east of Lake Tahoe, and we’ve been smoked in for a couple of months now. Some days I can’t see my own fence on my 1/4 acre lot.

    Even when lumber was five times higher than normal in the last year, Californians prided themselves on not letting one dollar in royalties be earned from letting logging take place in the Golden State. This devastation, to them, is far preferable. I remember a few years ago when a property owner in the Tahoe basin cut down some dead trees on his property and was fined $10,000 per tree by the TRPA (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency). The madness never ends.

    One of the fires that has been choking us out was started by lightning. The Forest Service decided they would just let it burn. It stayed fairly small for a while then exploded into a huge fire which was only recently contained. Speculation is it had something to do with the difference between normal bureaucratic feet-on-the-desk pay and hazardous duty fire-fighting pay. Don’t know if that’s true but it’s bothersome that nobody has a problem believing it’s possible.

    The only thing keeping us from moving away is the comforting thought that maybe next year there’ll be nothing in California left to burn.

  10. chickenhawk says:

    Greenies can’t be trusted to manage anything sensibly. Harvested wood locks up the dreaded CO2 for decades, if not longer. Carefully managed forest are better for the critters, the plants, and makes Gaia smile.

  11. David A says:

    We Would have saved far more trees by using the plant a tree funds for thinning the forests and clearing out undergrowth and far more controlled burns. California had and still has large forests. However 50 years of suppression and now 20 years of worse suppression has created very dangerous forests. Now the fires are far more destructive, effectively sterilizing the land, killing the seeds. It will take a century or longer for such areas to recover.

    Of course there are far more people living in forest areas now which means two things; far greater property destruction, and more people means more fires, as the vast majority of destructive fires are started by people.

    C02 involvement is minor because it off sets itself. Yes, it stimulates more growth, yet it also keeps that growth greener in droughts. When there is a fire, the trees actually know, and attempt to pull even more water into their needles and leaves.
    The tragic sterilizing fires now are somewhat human caused, however it is human ignorance and lack of wise forest management, not CO2 emissions.

  12. Plain Jane says:

    I am from Australia, and hearing about huge fires in California in planted forests, I am wondering if some of those forests are planted eucalypt forests. Eucalypts LOVE fire, they love to burn. In countries, some in SE Asia where they imported Eucalypts they also imported wildfires that they had never had in the area before. The Eucalyptus species are very aggressive plants and one of their main strategies, and why they have taken over from the Callitris pines that dominated Australia up to the last few ice ages, is to get wildfires going to kill off other trees that cant cope with fire. The hotter the fire the more eucalypt seedlings that will grow back, so thick a snake can hardly get through. It is possible to kill Eucs with fire, but it has to be astonishingly hot fire, but the hotter it is the more seedlings germinate. After a fire Eucs just grow new buds from anywhere along their trunk and branches, epicormic buds, so killing all the branches of the tree wont kill the tree. This is just a quick start to the many ways Eucs are evolved to promote fire. One would need a thick text book to cover most of the ways we know of that Eucs work with fire. If California has Euc plantations, it has wildfire causing plantations

  13. Dan says:

    P.J.: As far as I know, almost all of the forests burning are natural evergreen forests. Northern California is gorgeous country, but not well taken care of. Here’s a good article on the subject:
    The government does as well with forest management as with anything else it attempts.

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