The scientific world was shaken recently with a report published in Nature, lead-authored by Joeri Rogelj of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, which suggested that that we have already crossed an important global sustainability threshold. The report argues that, “the window for limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius with high probability and without temporarily exceeding that level already seems to have closed.” Under conventional thinking, it is undoubtedly closed, however we can still achieve our sustainability goals through negative-emissions technologies. The report makes the case, as have others, that emissions reduction strategies alone are ineffective. In other words, if we don’t start aggressively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we are in deep trouble.
Readers of this newsletter, and followers of Reforest The Tropics in general are already well aware of this reality. We have been showing the math for years. There is simply too much CO2 already present in the atmosphere. We have reminded supporters that the residency rate of atmospheric CO2 is hundreds of years and we have drawn the inescapable conclusion that if we do not pull it out of the atmosphere in large quantities, then all our emissions reductions efforts are futile. We have shared the knowledge that even if we were to reduce our emissions to zero, today, the planet would still experience significant climate change due to the longevity of existing, excessive CO2. Of course, the only reliable, efficient, and safe means of accomplishing large-scale carbon extraction is through massive reforestation efforts in tropical zones. Our friends at the Woods Hole Research Center have consistently reinforced this message. In their latest newsletter, President and Executive Director, Dr. Philip Duffy argues that “it’s too late to control climate change solely by reducing future emissions of greenhouse gases—there’s too much CO2 in the atmosphere already for that to be sufficient.” Dr. Duffy continues that the “time-honored process of photosynthesis” is key to removing excessive atmospheric CO2.
Given this knowledge, it may seem strange that more focus is not given to the tropical reforestation solution. Skeptics of the reforestation approach tend to point to two challenges. First, it is argued that large-scale reforestation may adversely affect our ability to feed the planet, as agricultural land is transitioned to forest. Under conventional reforestation models, this argument has some small validity. The RTT model, however captures and stores CO2 much more efficiently than traditional models. Not only is our rate of capture 3-5 times greater than common models found throughout the literature, but our ceiling is much higher as well. Most forests (including old growth primary rainforests) tend to max out at 250-400 metric tons CO2 per hectare (with limited exceptions). RTT forests reach 500 metric tons within 25 years and some of our older research plots have reached over 2000 metric tons in a single hectare! The implications are clear. We need much less land dedicated to carbon sequestration if we are using the RTT model. Also, skeptics contend that forests are risky due to land-use changes. Again, this is a valid criticism if we look at typical reforestation efforts. The RTT model distinguishes itself in its ability to provide competitive income for a farmer. Our goal is to create a forest that can compete with cattle farming as a viable land-use option. Data from RTT forests shows that a farmer can earn a decent living through forestry and has no economic reason to ever cut the forest down. This income can last for generations, as RTT forests are designed to be productive indefinitely
It is time that the promise of the RTT model be shared with the world. We need your help. Please join us in our efforts to nudge business leaders and policymakers from their slumber in respect to the potential of tropical reforestation in general and the immense power of the RTT model specifically.
This past February marked the 10th consecutive month in which the average global temperature set a record for warmth. Scientists are warning that the current rate of warming is unprecedented in the known history of our planet. As our globe continues to warm, it is becoming increasingly clear to even the most entrenched skeptics that we have a responsibility to address the excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
When a corporation, institution, individual, or other entity wishes to balance their carbon emissions, they often first turn towards efficiency measures. Light bulbs are changed, insulation is installed, packaging is reduced, transportation is addressed, and other activities are pursued that limit energy use and reduce carbon emissions. Even the most aggressive investments into energy efficiency however will not yield carbon neutrality. The one option to balance remaining carbon emissions is the pursuit of carbon offset projects.
The World Bank has stated that carbon is the world’s fastest growing commodities market, with an annual value approaching $200 billion. These carbon offsets come in various forms. Most common are credits that are given for renewable energy projects (solar, wind, geothermal, etc), improved forest management (managing forests in a manner that allows them to store more carbon than the norm), credits for avoided deforestation or degradation (the UN’s REDD mechanism allots credits to countries that limit deforestation beyond historical averages) and reforestation.
Fraud in the carbon market
A closer look at the inner workings of these strategies, however, exposes some uncomfortable realities. Horror stories of massive fraud are easy to find on the internet and exist across all sectors of the carbon market. Due to lax regulations and the difficulties in monitoring, various bad actors have gamed the system to issue millions upon millions of fraudulent carbon credits. An investigation conducted by INTERPOL in 2011 revealed that “up to 90% of all carbon trading in some countries was a result of fraudulent activities. This fraud was estimated to have resulted in the losses to several governments of around 5 billion euros in just over 18 months.”
These examples have soured many individuals, policy makers, corporations, and institutions on the validity and efficacy of carbon trading and have hampered the global effort to combat climate change. These entities, already facing the burden to invest in sustainability, now face the added and unfortunate challenge to ensure that the carbon they are dealing with is in fact legitimate.
The Reforest The Tropics Difference
Reforest The Tropics recognizes this challenge to buyers, and has committed to provide offsets of the highest quality and of the greatest transparency than any available. RTT has both its methodology and its calculations for its carbon capture audited by an independent forestry consultant every two years. RTT also offers Gold Standard verification of its carbon as required by its partners. Gold Standard carbon undergoes rigorous examination to ensure that it is accurately measured and reported.
Another mechanism to ensure carbon transparency is the individualized manner in which we operate. RTT tailors each project to a specific sponsor. Rather than the purchase of ‘pooled’ carbon from a large and ambiguous forest, RTT plants specifically for each sponsor. When a new forest is planted, the sponsor receives the GPS coordinates for the forest plot, and a large sign is installed to identify the sponsor and the details of the project. RTT sends photos and reports to each partner with the idea that sustainability initiatives will be most successful if emitters have an intimate connection to their project. Sponsors are even encouraged to visit their plots in order to experience their sustainability efforts firsthand. No other program offers this level of transparency for the carbon it captures.
The explosive growth of the carbon market is testament to the responsibility that buyers feel towards our environment. Although some will continue to seek the cheapest carbon credits available, they are risking an outcome that amounts to little more than empty bragging rights. Buyers that are seeking to make a true difference in the climate change equation are encouraged to seek carbon credits that they can see, measure, and touch with their own hands. RTT is proud to provide this option.
– Greg Powell, RTT Director