A new study led by Yale University concluded that using wood, rather than employing steel and concrete, in building and bridge construction would significantly prune the levels of global carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption.
To an outsider, this may seem illogical. Cutting down forests, especially when those forests are located on public land, has received heat in the media. If trees store carbon, getting rid of them would unload destructive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, right? Wrong, the Yale study argues.
While stories and images of slash and burn agriculture and clear-cutting spread like wildfire in the media, the amount of wood harvested is actually about 20 percent of annual wood growth, the researchers calculated.
Increasing the yield to 34 percent and substituting wood for steel and concrete building materials would have “profound and positive effects,” a statement released by Yale said.
“This study shows still another reason to appreciate forests — and another reason to not let them be permanently cleared for agriculture,” said Chadwick Oliver, director of the Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry at Yale and lead author of the new study. “Forest harvest creates a temporary opening that is needed by forest species such as butterflies and some birds and deer before it regrows to large trees. But conversion to agriculture is a permanent loss of all forest biodiversity.”
Specifically, the statement mentions two points:
CO2 emissions related to the processing and use of steel and concrete could be reduced if wood products were used instead. The study says that cutting and using more wood would decrease global emissions from 14 to 31 percent.
More wood products available means more wood available to burn as an energy source. The study’s authors say that wood could supplement fossil fuels enough to reduce global consumption of fossil fuels by about 12 to 19 percent.
To paraphrase the Yale study: With the construction of buildings, bridges and other infrastructure expected to boom in the coming decades, so too will fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions unless global-minded organizations push for an increased reliance on wood products.
The study is titled “Carbon, Fossil Fuel, and Biodiversity Mitigation with Woods and Forests,” and was co-authored by Yale’s Nedal Nassar, and Bruce Lippke and James McCarter of the University of Washington.
Editors, HF. “Yale Study: Save Forests by Planting, Cutting More Trees.” Hardwood Floors. Hardwood Floors Magazine., 7 Apr. 2014. Web. 28 Apr 2014.