Maine's Forests Offer a Climate Solution

Maine's Forests Offer a Climate Solution

Forests are a critical element of taking on the climate crisis, and the trees in Maine are especially powerful carbon storage tools, argues Alec Giffen in a Bangor Daily News op-ed. Giffen is a senior forest science and policy fellow at the New England Forestry Foundation and was the former director of the Maine Forest Service.

"Western and northern Maine provides the last big block of undeveloped forest of its kind in the world and provides some of the best remaining habitat,” he writes. “Our efforts can and should strengthen ecological values.”

Maine’s forests are made up of over 23 billion trees, which draw carbon in through their leaves and store it in their trunks. By applying climate-focused forest practices, these trees have the potential to absorb even more.

News Center Maine: How Maine woods are being affected by climate change, November 15, 2021.

Why This Matters

Worldwide, forests absorb about a third of the carbon released by burning fossil fuels -- and conversely, deforestation is the second-largest cause of emissions after the burning of fossil fuels. In Maine, almost 90% of the state is forested, but an estimated 10,000 acres of forestland is cut down each year and converted for agricultural, development, and other uses. A recent report by the Maine Climate Change Council called for the state to protect more of its forestland due to its carbon storage capabilities -- and a long list of additional benefits, including providing clean drinking water and safeguarding important bird habitats.

Woodland Trust: How trees capture and store carbon, May 27, 2021.

Conservation International: What on Earth is Irrecoverable Carbon?, March 31, 2021.

Forests Are Climate Control

In addition to taking in carbon, forests also help regulate local temperatures more immediately. A study published last week found that forests help keep the planet an average half-degree Celsius cooler when "biophysical effects -- from chemical compounds to turbulence and the reflection of light -- are combined with carbon dioxide.”

"The biophysical factors don’t cool the planet, but they do change the way we experience heat, and that matters,” Deborah Lawrence, professor at the University of Virginia and the lead author, told the Guardian. The heart of the tropics is at the heart of the planet and these forests are critical for our survival.”

BBC: The Tragedy Of Deforestation | Climate Change - The Facts, November 11, 2021.

Forest 500: A climate wake-up - but business failing to hear the alarm on deforestation, January 12, 2022.