Carbon Capture and Storage, or “CCS,” is a developing technology that allows one to: (1) “capture” the carbon dioxide emissions associated with fossil fuel burning; and (2) sequester, or “store,” the captured carbon dioxide somewhere other than the atmosphere, such as in coal beds or saline formations.
The main benefit of CCS is that it can divert the greenhouse gas CO2 from the atmosphere, thereby helping to mitigate climate change. Critics argue, however, that the economics of CCS are uncertain, and that CCS reduces the incentive to develop renewable energy sources—the only truly sustainable solution to climate change. In 2005, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published an authoritative report summarizing emerging CCS technology.
Whether you are for or against CCS, there’s no dispute that the popular press has taken note of this intriguing technology. Last month, Scientific American posted an article discussing CCS, and the Economist published an informative summary of the benefits and controversy surrounding CCS.
Lost in the debate, however, is careful consideration of forestry as a viable alternative to CCS. In response to the Economist article, Professor Pekka Kauppi of the University of Helsinki wrote a letter to the editor, in which he noted:
In looking for cost-efficient CCS, please step up and walk to your window, where you may see a tree. The evolution of woody plants has solved the problem of capture (photosynthesis) and storage (formation of durable cells) at minimal cost.
Here at Reforest The Tropics, we couldn’t agree more. Forests indeed represent a form of “old-school” carbon capture and storage. Beyond “capturing” and “storing” carbon, forests carry the added benefits of being pleasant to walk through and friendly to wildlife. Moreover, the RTT model posits that carbon-offset forests can also be profitable for the farmers on whose land they are grown.
While renewable energy is no doubt the long-term key to climate change mitigation, we must remember that, in the interim, forestry provides a natural, safe, affordable, and pleasant form of CCS, which is free from many of the risks and uncertainties associated with cutting-edge CCS technology.