Shocker: burning trees release stored carbon

From the Department of Obvious Science and the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, comes this shocking headline:

Washington’s forests will lose stored carbon as area burned by wildfire increases

Even small increases in area burned could have significant impacts on carbon storage

A July 2012 PNW Research Station study explored how carbon dynamics in Washington State may be altered by more-frequent wildfires, triggered by a warming climate. The study looked at the effects of greater area burned on both live biomass and nonliving biomass, such as the dead standing trees and downed wood shown here. Credit: Tom Iraci, US Forest Service

Forests in the Pacific Northwest store more carbon than any other region in the United States, but our warming climate may undermine their storage potential.

A new study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station and the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington has found that, by 2040, parts of Washington State could lose as much as a third of their carbon stores, as an increasing area of the state’s forests is projected to be burned by wildfire. The study—published in the July 2012 issue of the journal Ecological Applications—is the first to use statistical models and publicly available Forest Inventory and Analysis data to estimate the effects of a warming climate on carbon storage and fluxes on Washington’s forests.

“When considering the use of forests to store carbon, it will be critical to consider the increasing risk of wildfire,” said Crystal Raymond, a research biologist based at the station’s Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory and lead author of the study. “Especially in the West, where climate-induced changes in fire are expected to be a key agent of change.”

Trees remove and sequester carbon from the atmosphere, in the form of carbon dioxide, acting as important stores, or “sinks,” of carbon that help to offset its accumulation in the atmosphere. When trees and other woody material in the forest are burned by fire, they release carbon back to the atmosphere, mostly as carbon dioxide, where it may once again act as a greenhouse gas that promotes warming. This land-atmosphere exchange of carbon is increasingly of interest to land managers seeking ways to actively manage forests to store carbon and help mitigate greenhouse gases.

To explore what effect climate-driven changes in wildfire might have on the ability of Washington’s forests to act as carbon sinks, Raymond and station research ecologist Don McKenzie used a novel approach. They combined published forest-inventory data, fire-history data, and statistical models of area burned to estimate historical and future carbon carrying capacity of three regions in Washington—the Western Cascades, the Eastern Cascades, and the Okanogan Highlands—based on potential forest productivity and projections of 21st century area burned.

“Forests on both the eastern and western slopes of the Cascade Range will lose carbon stored in live biomass because area burned across the state is expected to increase,” Raymond said. “Even small increases in area burned can have large consequences for carbon stored in living and dead biomass.”

The researchers looked at live biomass, which includes living trees and vegetation, as well as nonliving biomass in the form of coarse woody debris, which includes dead standing trees and downed logs. Both contribute to the carbon cycle, but in different ways—living biomass removes carbon from the atmosphere as vegetation grows, and coarse woody debris releases carbon over time as the material decomposes.

Raymond and McKenzie projected forests of the Western Cascades to be most sensitive to climate-driven increases in fire, losing anywhere from 24 to 37 percent of their live biomass and from 15 to 25 percent of their coarse woody debris biomass by 2040. These forests store significant carbon and typically burn with high severity, killing many trees and consuming coarse woody debris.

On the other side of the mountains, the researchers also projected a decrease in live biomass by 2040—of anywhere between 17 and 26 percent in the Eastern Cascades and in the Okanogan Highlands—but no change in coarse woody debris biomass, or possibly even an increase, because coarse woody debris biomass increases as trees are killed by fire and subsequent low-severity fires burn only a small portion of it.

“Changes in fire regimes in a warming climate can limit our potential to use forests in the Pacific Northwest to store additional carbon and to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide,” Raymond said.

Understanding the possible effects of more area burned by fire can help managers decide whether forests need to be actively managed for their fire potential to minimize carbon loss.

###

To read more about the study, visit http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/11-1851.1.

The Pacific Northwest Research Station is headquartered in Portland, Oregon. It has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington and about 425 employees.

=============================================================

From SOS Forests:

Data are from the National Interagency Fire Center.

There are some evident trends.

1. Total acres burned has increased from the 1960’s to this Century, from an average of 4.6 million acres per year to 6.8 million acres per year.

2. Average acres per fire has also increased, from a low in the 1970’s of 21 acres per fire to 83 acres per fire in this Century.

3. Number of fires per year has decreased from a high (1975-1984) of nearly 190,000 fires per year to 83,000 fires per year this Century.

Fewer but larger fires this Century, and more acres burned in total.

To me this suggests a legacy of poor fuel management rather than “global warming”.

 

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73 Responses to Shocker: burning trees release stored carbon

  1. Urederra says:

    Phlogiston is also released in the process, or so I read.

  2. crosspatch says:

    Only partially true. The fires actually SEQUESTERED more carbon than would otherwise be the case. Yes, the burning caused the release of carbon stored as wood. But that carbon would have all been released anyway as those trees died. The only thing that changed was the timing of it and the coming years will actually see a reduction in carbon release because there will be fewer trees decaying now that they have burned. It evens out. BUT! The charcoal that is left is very stable, will be covered with debris and buried. This carbon will remain out of the system for thousands, perhaps millions of years. You can dig today and find charcoal from fires thousands of years ago. That is carbon that was sequestered by nature and never released to the atmosphere by decay.

  3. Robert says:

    Exacty as you would expect. Fire suppression means fewer but much larger fires over time…global warming has nothing to do with it.

  4. highflight56433 says:

    Yellowstone seems to have recovered. So has the Mt St Helen area. Areas I see burned, all seem to return to “normal” (what ever that is). Based on the new emerging policy to “let them burn” the study’s findings is “shocking.”
    1. Total acres burned has increased from the 1960’s to this Century, from an average of 4.6 million acres per year to 6.8 million acres per year.
    2. Average acres per fire has also increased, from a low in the 1970’s of 21 acres per fire to 83 acres per fire in this Century.
    3. Number of fires per year has decreased from a high (1975-1984) of nearly 190,000 fires per year to 83,000 fires per year this Century.

    AND …. A fast majority of logging industry has been shipped out of country since the sixties and thus there is more to burn. ????

  5. Big D in TX says:

    Urederra says:
    July 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm
    Phlogiston is also released in the process, or so I read.
    *******************************************************************************
    Heh heh.
    One of the coolest things I ever learned as a kid was exactly how fire works, and how there are different types of fire (hence the need for a variety of extinguishers), and that it is a fair question to ask: is fire alive?

    Feynman gave an interesting mental image of it as well, I believe in one of his televised interviews.
    He said (paraphrasing here) to imagine when you play mini golf, there is a hole at the top of a small hill. The ball and the hole represent oxygen and carbon, for example a log. The two can sit next to each other all day and do nothing until you energize them. Give that ball a hit and it can roll uphill, where it wants to go in the hole and snap into place, chemically speaking… not enough energy (i.e. a hot day) and it rolls back down hill, too much and it can skip over the hole and go down the far side (like blowing out a flame), but just right, and it will snap into place and release a big burst of energy that gets more balls rolling, giving you that wonderful self sustaining reaction (with available fuel) we know as fire.

    But this is all just for fun in our heads, for as he later reminded the viewer, all reality is just a bunch of tiny, tiny, tiny bits jiggling together in a particular fashion.

  6. Gary Pearse says:

    Back to my “worst ….blank….in-over-60-years model which predicts this type of thing (also floods, droughts, snowfall, tornadoes, hurricanes,,,- I’ve commented (and predicted) with this model over the past few years. I’m disappointed that they don’t show the data pre-1960. I “predict” that there were similar highs centred around 1950. I’ve been threatening to do an article on this but I’m too busy trying to make money in a tough “climate”.

  7. ColdinOz says:

    Crosspatch is correct. Just to add that new regrowth with sequestrer more carbon still. Research in the Northern territory down here in Oz has demonstrated that aboriginal burning practices actually sequestrer carbon. If I can locate the appropriate link I’ll post it in a later comment.

  8. David Larsen says:

    Poor fuel management, maybe. Fires are as natural as lighting, floods and other events. Homeostasis is the natural process of a system taken out of its natural state and then returning back to that state. It has been going on for billions of years and will continue to do so. Just watch out for the picturesque view of the river or mountains. We have had huge fires in Montana this summer including the Ash Creek fire of 250 THOUSAND acres. Barely a word on national news. We currently have around 5 at this time in Montana taking place. Most are trying to be contained at this time.

  9. Gary Pearse says:

    I bought William Briggs’s fine book on statistics “Breaking the Law of Averages”. I’m a bit of an editor of sorts and there are a large number of typos and other errors in the English,(want an edit Dr. Briggs?) but it is a great book on what probability is and isn’t and the nature of uncertainty (we are all more certain than is warranted) – highly readable for even non-mathematicians and a good read for math-types – a good way to get an insight into probability rather than the hazardous plugging values into formulae (I’ve had to re-read some sections more than twice – probably because of my age). .

    About the forest fires: Dr. WB would point out that statement A = the title of the paper under discussion” is a tautology and therefore is true with a probability of 1. We don’t even need an “E” which is the evidence, or E= “trees are made of carbon” could be used for comfort, How did I do Professor Briggs?

  10. Sparks says:

    “Trees remove and sequester carbon from the atmosphere…” Oh! Thanks for that Einstein, also did you know Trees release Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere during that rare occasion when they aren’t on fire? They release it at night time and during winter, so in theory the more trees there are the more Carbon Dioxide there is to be released into the planets atmosphere. More trees equates to More atmospheric Carbon Dioxide in circulation, which is beneficial to the biosphere as a whole.

    In Fact, the Carbon locked up in Coal was once in the atmosphere it was beneficial to life on earth then and it still is to this day. Another fact is; when Carbon Dioxide is generally a low lying gas but as it cools it falls lower to the ground, and when Carbon Dioxide receives energy from the sun, warms and expands it is still generally a low lying gas, where Carbon Dioxide actually receives excessive amounts of energy from the sun similar to the process of the Planet Venus the Carbon Dioxide rises higher into the atmosphere where it actually Blocks a lot of the sun’s energy from reaching the surface.

    So, When you go to offset your carbon footprint with your hard earned money (sucker), Remember that it will end up in the Atmosphere at some stage, guaranteed!

  11. Phil Howerton says:

    Long article in today’s Wall Street Journal about all the pollution being released by wood and trash burning electric generating plants. And all the subsidies they get.

  12. TXRed says:

    And next do you suppose that they will discover that water can be wet?

  13. Scarface says:

    Wow, they might even discover that water is wet! And that a week has 7 (I repeat: 7) days!
    Interesting times we live in. And all of that thanks to mandatory made global warming. The joy!

  14. This from twitter:

    @ScotClimate: Scottish Government found to have lied on key figure. Is the Scottish Climate Bill dead?. Will the minister resign? http://bit.ly/OwkVl1

    The Scottish government lied to politicians about key financial data which was central to the argument for the bill when they passed the Scottish Climate Change Bill. The government citing Stern said that the economic cost of a 2-3°C rise would be “between 5-20% of GDP”. In fact Stern suggests there may not be any net economic harm quoting figures of 0-3%

    The figures are so key to justifying the bill, that it really is difficult to see how this bill could withstand a legal challenge.

    … but the scandal gets worse. The Scottish paper (The Courier) which broke this story seems to have been lent on to remove the story. Presumably by someone in government.

    This is about as bad as we can get. It appears the world’s most enthusiastic government for climate change is now embroiled in lies & cover-up.

  15. Steve says:

    Wild fires never happened before 1960???

  16. Smokey says:

    Big D in TX,

    Of course fire is alive. It grows, then it dies. It consumes plants. Flames multiply and propagate. Just as in organisms, fire burns fuel using oxygen. You can have a fire in your home, just like a pet.

    I can’t think of any definition that applies to life that does not also apply to fire.

    And back by popular demand, a chart of past atmospheric CO2 levels.

  17. Skeptik says:

    Steve says:July 24, 2012 at 2:30 pm
    No wild fires, only slightly angry ones.

  18. GeoLurking says:

    Interesting… Total Acres Burned seems to have been on a flat to declining trend up until about 1995-1996.

  19. Louis says:

    In one day, one large tree can lift up to 100 gallons of water out of the ground and discharge it into the air. Since water vapor is a much worse greenhouse gas than CO2, shouldn’t we burn down all the trees to stop them from releasing sequestered ground water into the air? /sarc

  20. Caleb says:

    Assuming that there exists a climate cycle of sixty years, (on average,) we should look back sixty years to the year 1952, and see what the forest fire situation was at that time.

    What was the forest fire situation during the Dust Bowl, in the 1930′s?

  21. crosspatch says:

    We, if you look up the latest greenie nut buzzword, it is called “biochar”. The charcoal that is very stable and stays out of the system for a long time.

  22. crosspatch says:

    For example, here is a paper on the subject:

    Carbon sequestration through charcoal formation in Amazonian forest fires

    http://150.163.34.246/col/sid.inpe.br/mtc-m17@80/2006/12.07.12.25/doc/Carbon%20sequestration.pdf

  23. RobW says:

    ” but our warming climate may undermine their storage potential.”

    Clearly the author doesn’t live in the same Pacific Northwest I do. Its been cold, cold cold for the past five years. Warming my a**.

  24. Chris says:

    Cut down the trees and make them into houses. Carbon sequestered.

  25. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    When I was a kid we lived in Ibadan, Nigeria. We furriners spoke of this ‘forest fire’ thing and people asked us to explain what it was. “The forest catches fire and it all burns!”

    They laughed at us at the thought of such a thing. Nothing was more impossible than the burning of a jungle. “What a silly idea! Ha ha!”

    A warmer world is a wetter world. Wet forests are very difficult to burn – try it in Vancouver. It is even difficult to dry chopped wood enough to get to burn at all. It is obvious that alarmists are claiming that if it is hotter, it has to be drier, just like on a hot summer day, it is hot because it is dry therefore GW = dry.

    Well, that does not fly in the tropics. Hot means it is going to rain (again). I know a Dutch nun-doctor who worked 110 miles out of Kinshasa, so remote she could only get to the city for one week per year. She said she knew it was ‘dry season’, “when it did not rain continuously”.

    If you want to fear something tropical, fear filaria and shistosomiasis and trypanosomiasis and hookworm and fungus that gets under your toe nails.

  26. R. Shearer says:

    Thankfully, the atmosphere, ocean and biosphere will take up every bit of it.

  27. David Ross says:

    crosspatch wrote:
    “Only partially true. The fires actually SEQUESTERED more carbon than would otherwise be the case. Yes, the burning caused the release of carbon stored as wood. But that carbon would have all been released anyway as those trees died. The only thing that changed was the timing of it and the coming years will actually see a reduction in carbon release because there will be fewer trees decaying now that they have burned. It evens out. BUT! The charcoal that is left is very stable, will be covered with debris and buried. This carbon will remain out of the system for thousands, perhaps millions of years. You can dig today and find charcoal from fires thousands of years ago. That is carbon that was sequestered by nature and never released to the atmosphere by decay.”

    Very interesting. I looked around to see if anyone had done peer reviewed studies.

    Holocene Climate and Carbon Sequestration via Black Carbon Burial in Sediments
    http://thescholarship.ecu.edu/handle/10342/3731
    …such wildfires may also have led to CO2 sequestration by formation of pyrogenic black carbon (BC) followed by its subsequent burial. In this manner, climate-driven wildfire occurrence and corresponding BC formation and burial is a negative feedback loop in the carbon cycle.
    —————————

    Their results were inconclusive but these guys fared better.

    —————————
    A Holocene record of climate-driven shifts in coastal carbon sequestration
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2008GL036875.shtml
    A sediment core collected in the mesohaline portion of Chesapeake Bay was found to contain periods of increased delivery of refractory black carbon (BC) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The BC was most likely produced by biomass combustion during four centennial-scale dry periods as indicated by the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), beginning in the late Medieval Warm Period of 1100 CE. In contrast, wetter periods were associated with increased non-BC organic matter influx into the bay … The finding that carbon sequestration in the coastal zone responds to climate fluctuations at both centennial and millennial scales through fire occurrence and nutrient delivery has implications for past and future climate predictions. Drought-induced fires may lead, on longer timescales, to greater carbon sequestration and, therefore, represent a negative climate feedback.

    Related studies
    https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2010NE/finalprogram/abstract_168807.htm

    https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2009SE/finalprogram/abstract_154941.htm
    —————————-

    But these guys argue that soil type affects the likelihood of charcoal being burnt in subsequent fires.

    —————————-
    Biomass burning in boreal forests and peatlands: Effects on ecosystem carbon losses and soil carbon stabilization as black carbon
    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2011AGUFMGC34C..04T
    Our studies of combustion severity and black carbon concentrations in boreal soils show a negative relationship between concentrations of black carbon and organic carbon in soils post-fire.

    —————————–

    Biochar (Wikipedia)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar
    Switching from slash and burn to slash and char techniques in Brazil can decrease both deforestation of the Amazon basin and carbon dioxide emission, as well as increase crop yields. Slash and burn leaves only 3% of the carbon from the organic material in the soil.[37]

    Slash and char can sequester up to 50% of the carbon in a highly stable form.[38] Returning the biochar into the soil rather than removing it all for energy production reduces the need for nitrogen fertilizers, thereby reducing cost and emissions from fertilizer production and transport.[39] Additionally, by improving the soil tilth, fertility, and productivity, biochar – enhanced soils can indefinitely sustain agricultural production, whereas non-amended soils quickly become depleted of nutrients, forcing farmers to abandon the fields. This produces a continuous slash and burn cycle and the continued loss of tropical rainforest. Using pyrolysis to produce bio-energy also has the added benefit of not requiring infrastructure changes the way processing biomass for cellulosic ethanol does. Additionally, the biochar produced can be applied by the currently used tillage machinery or equipment used to apply fertilizer.[40]

    ——————–

    Of all the carbon capture schemes I’ve read about bio-char looks like one of the most promising. But I think better forestry management with planned burns is better than some of the industrial processes being proposed.

    ——————–
    ‘Biochar’ goes industrial with giant microwaves to lock carbon in charcoal
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/mar/13/charcoal-carbon
    Giant microwave ovens that can “cook” wood into charcoal could become our best tool in the fight against global warming, according to a leading British climate scientist.

    Chris Turney, a professor of geography at the University of Exeter, said that by burying the charcoal produced from microwaved wood, the carbon dioxide absorbed by a tree as it grows can remain safely locked away for thousands of years. The technique could take out billions of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year.

    Fast-growing trees such as pine could be “farmed” to act specifically as carbon traps — microwaved, buried and replaced with a fresh crop to do the same thing again.

    Turney has built a 5m-long prototype of his microwave, which produces a tonne of CO2 for $65. He plans to launch his company, Carbonscape, in the UK this month to build the next generation of the machine, which he hopes will process more wood and cut costs further.

    He is not alone in touting the benefits of this type of charcoal, known as biochar or biocharcoal. The Gaia theorist, James Lovelock, and Nasa’s James Hansen have both been outspoken about the potential benefits of biochar, arguing that it is one of the most powerful potential solutions to climate change.

    ———————-
    You gotta love the name of one of the directors -Mike Ashburn.

  28. Gary Pearse says:

    Crispin in Waterloo says:
    July 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm
    When I was a kid we lived in Ibadan, Nigeria. We furriners spoke of this ‘forest fire’ thing and people asked us to explain what it was. “The forest catches fire and it all burns!”

    They laughed at us at the thought of such a thing. Nothing was more impossible than the burning of a jungle. “What a silly idea! Ha ha!”

    Hi Crispin, I was a geologist with the Geol. Survey of Nigeria in the 60s working up in Northern Nigeria.dry savannah. Global warm was already a fact of life with temps in the 40s in the dry season. During the short rainy season, if you saw a drop of rain fall and you were 20 metres from shelter you were soaked in seconds and could barely see the shelter. I made the mistake of bringing temperate country clinical thermometers with me, They blew up on the first day I was there! The trees in the scattered trees in savannah grassland (called orchard bush because of the spacing) were fireproof! Now why do you suppose that is?

  29. John Bell says:

    The word “impact” always gets lots of use when alarmists publish stories on warming/climate change, so that the story has more impact.

  30. David Ross says:

    Chris says:
    “Cut down the trees and make them into houses. Carbon sequestered.”

    Yep, but not just houses. Glulam is made from strips of wood glued together to make beams larger than any tree the wood came from. You’ve probably seen it used in kitchen tables and worktops (it is very resistant to warping), or in the roof of your local swimming pool (chlorine attacks steel beams).

    Large section wood is not the fire hazard you might think. In a fire the outer layer becomes charred and insulates the interior (which is why people chop firewood into small pieces). In the past wood has been used because of its fire resistance. They were called “slow burning mills” (i.e. they burned but didn’t collapse).

    Or instead of recycling paper, (which uses lots of chemicals to bleach it and which cannot be done indefinitely as the fibres become shorter each time), turn it into a slurry and pump it into abandoned coal mines. Harvest any methane and leave the rest. Laying down the carbon economy of the next interglacial :)

  31. A forest fire will prevent methane emissions from decaying organic material.

    Methanogenesis or biomethanation is the formation of methane by microbes known as methanogens. Organisms capable of producing methane have been identified only from the domain Archaea, a group phylogenetically distinct from both eukaryotes and bacteria, although many live in close association with anaerobic bacteria. The production of methane is an important and widespread form of microbial metabolism. In most environments, it is the final step in the decomposition of biomass.

    Any study of forest fires and GHGs that doesn’t include methane is junk IMO.

  32. polistra says:

    Local forestry officials are more honest, blaming a lack of logging and an increase in insects.

    Lack of logging is partly caused by the murderous “Endangered Species” tyranny and partly by the murderous “Free Trade” tyranny.

    Bugs are partly caused by the murderous EPA’s insane insecticide rules and partly by wind turbines slaughtering bats in order to increase consumption of coal and natural gas.

    In other words, the problem is caused by a multi-flank multi-decade genocidal siege by giant corporations and stock speculators, all aimed at enriching themselves and starving the poor.

  33. You know what else is released in a hydrocarbon inferno? Water! The most deadly substance on Earth.

  34. Arthur Hughes says:

    We all agree that buildup of C02 is dangerous for the planet. The problem is that few have come up with a viable solution that will be adopted by enough nations. The US can cut back on burning coal and oil but our efforts will amount to little if China and India and others continue to increase their C02 emissions. There is one solution that everyone can agree on: convert the world’s deserts to forest and grassland. There is a great proposal at http://www.adamsmithtoday.com : “How to reduce C02 in the air by 8 billion tons per year”. It provides a workable solution that will actually generate a return and be accepted by both developed and underdeveloped nations.

    [Moderator's Note: Let's be real clear here: you are NOT Arthur Hughes, the author of the article you link to. You are a student at Western Connecticut State University who has no clue as to what we all agree to and apparently has no clue about the issues. If you wish to continue to comment here, get up to speed and be honest. If this is a drive-by.... well don't let the door hit on your way out. -REP]

  35. Wade says:

    “Washington’s forests will lose stored carbon as area burned by wildfire increases”

    Well, where did you park your squad car, Dick Tracey? I would have never figured that out if not your insights gleamed from grant money.

  36. Don J. Easterbrook says:

    Before blaming ‘global warming’ for fires, maybe these ‘experts’ should look at what has actually been happening in the Pacific Northwest–gradual cooling, not warming, for the past 14 years. So does this mean we should blame global cooling for the change in fires?

    Another factor is the killing of significant acreage of trees by bark beatles, making for larger, hotter fires.

    Also, the largest forest fires occurred about a century ago–huge areas burned because there weren’t enough people to put them out. A number of years ago, the forest service adopted a policy of letting many firest burn, rather than putting them out, on the crazy idea that it cleaned out the underbrush and made future fires less likely.

  37. Gunga Din says:

    Steve says:
    July 24, 2012 at 2:30 pm
    Wild fires never happened before 1960???
    ====================================================
    They weren’t our fault till then, that is, nobody figured out a way to tax us for them till then.

  38. pat says:

    Gunga Din -
    speaking of taxes:

    24 July: Forbes: Larry Bell: Carbon Taxomania: Bipartisan Stupidity On Steroids
    If it wasn’t bad enough to impose an Obamacare tax on the right to breathe, some, including certain very misguided conservatives, now propose a new tactic to tax the air. This isn’t the first time that contrived climate alarmism premised upon human CO2 causation has was attempted using a doomed cap-and-tax plan, followed by draconian EPA regulatory attacks on fossil energy under cover of its Clean Air Act. The latest gambit is to add a carbon tax to the anti-fossil assault arsenal. And this time, it isn’t only left-wing lunacy.
    On July 11, the usually conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) co-hosted a hushed-up meeting with the liberal Climate Crisis Coalition (CCC) to discuss how to enact a carbon tax in a lame duck Congressional session either this fall or in the 113th Congress. That was the fifth meeting they have sponsored on this subject. While the most recent gathering, the “Price Carbon Campaign/Lame Duck Initiative: A Carbon Pollution Tax in Fiscal and Tax Reform”, was represented by Washington Examiner sources as simply some economists brainstorming, the meeting’s discussion topics suggest a very clear agenda. The first session addressed “Detoxifying climate policy for conservatives”. Session II was titled “Framing and selling a carbon pollution tax.”AEI’s director of economic policy studies, Kevin Hassett, a free-market economist and regular National Review contributor, defended his organization’s role in hosting the carbon tax meeting, stating: ”In recent years, AEI has been accused of being both in the pocket of energy companies and organizing to advocate a carbon tax. Neither is true. AEI has been, and will continue to be, an intellectually curious place where products aren’t influenced by interested parties, and ideas are welcome in seeking solutions for difficult public policy problems.”.
    Yet the participation and messaging certainly wasn’t dominated by curious, idea-probing conservatives. Representatives were present from numerous liberal groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, Public Citizen, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Brookings Institute, the Climate Action Network and Clean Air-Cooled Planet…
    Earlier that same week, former South Carolina GOP Congressman Bob Ingliss, launched a new organization to promote carbon taxes, the Energy and Enterprise Initiative. The non-profit was funded by the decidedly left-tilting Rockefeller Family Fund and the Energy Foundation. Ingliss, who no longer has anything to lose, had previously proposed a carbon tax bill in the last Congress. He was subsequently defeated in a primary contest by a stronger conservative, now-Representative Trey Gowdy…
    First, there is no proven climate crisis, not one caused by human CO2 emissions…not by anything else we have influence over…not any pending catastrophe at all. At least not until the next in a regularly scheduled series of Ice Ages arrives. All the really scary stuff that gets dutifully trumpeted in the “mainstream media” is based totally upon theoretical general circulation computer models that have no predictive capability whatsoever.
    As an e-mail comment expressed by one of the climate modelers in connection with the notorious ClimateGate scandal candidly observes: “It is inconceivable that policymakers will be willing to make billion-and trillion-dollar decisions for adaptation to the projected regional climate change based on models that do not even describe and simulate the processes that are the building blocks of climate variability.” Another admits: “…clearly, some tuning or very good luck [is] involved. I doubt the modeling world will be able to get away with this much longer.”.
    Despite a lack of any empirical evidence that a global warming crisis exists, much less one caused by human carbon emissions, our government has pumped many billions of research dollars and has imposed many billions more in regulatory costs purportedly intended to address this “problem”…
    The hard fact is that there is no viable alternative energy source which can even seriously begin to replace dependence upon fossil energy, either for electrical power or for automotive fuel. There are certainly none that can compete in free markets, not even with massive subsidies…
    In light of these unjustifiable costs, arguments that a carbon tax makes more sense than any other device which imposes horrendously expensive restrictions upon a fundamental atmospheric agricultural nutrient are completely air-brained.
    Penalizing free and natural plant food as a “pollutant” is blooming idiocy!
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2012/07/24/carbon-taxomania-bipartisan-stupidity-on-steroids/

  39. P Wilson says:

    From what we are told, de-forestation is considerable, though by no means recent. Serengeti used to be forest, yet, since trees store carbon naturally, we are told, their loss means more aerial c02. However, the paradox is that there are more trees than 100 years ago, and even in the USA (according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation). According to them, By 1997, forest growth exceeded harvest by 42 percent and the volume of forest growth was 380 percent greater than it had been in 1920.” The greatest gains have been seen on the East Coast (with average volumes of wood per acre almost doubling since the ’50s) which was the area most heavily logged by European settlers beginning in the 1600s, soon after their arrival, Today, the preservation of national parks and planting more trees than are harvested, so it looks like in the USA there will be more trees and forests than hitherto, and therefore, according to the logic of this study, by inference, there should have been more c02 100 years ago. At least 500ppm.

    since this is not the case, the study is somewhat spurious. By quite magnitiudes in fact

  40. pat says:

    24 July: Reuters: Susanna Twidale/Stian Reklev Barclays sells carbon project developer Tricorona
    Barclays BARCR.UL has sold Sweden-based carbon project developer Tricorona back to the company’s management, the UK-headquartered investment bank said on Tuesday, two years after it bought the firm for $159 million…
    Barclays bought Tricorona in July 2010 for around $159 million, representing a 40 percent premium over the company’s shares before deal was announced.
    Back then, the U.N.-backed carbon credits Tricorona originates and sells were priced around 13 euros each, a far cry from the record low of 2.82 euros plumbed by benchmark futures last week.
    http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/07/24/us-barclays-tricorona-idINBRE86N0JN20120724

  41. Mac the Knife says:

    “To explore what effect climate-driven changes in wildfire might have on the ability of Washington’s forests to act as carbon sinks, Raymond and station research ecologist Don McKenzie used a novel approach.

    They sure did! You can find that novel in the environ-mental fiction section at your favorite book store. We have had very few days that met the average daily highs or daily average lows since the middle of January! We have been consistently running 5 – 10F cooler than ‘normal’ and have experienced continued higher levels of rain up to last weekend. I struggled to find a dry spot on the lawn for our 4th of July barbeque and celebration.. and we wore jackets when we were lighting fireworks off after dark! This week we are forecast to meet our average temps and have no rain. It is just dry enough now to proceed with excavation for a garage/shop foundation, a project that had to be repeatedly put off as it would have turned into ‘an ole pig wallow’ in short order!
    MtK

  42. captainfish says:

    “Raymond and McKenzie projected forests of the Western Cascades to be most sensitive to climate-driven increases in fire, losing anywhere from 24 to 37 percent of their live biomass and from 15 to 25 percent of their coarse woody debris biomass by 2040. ”

    … so they pulled a 30% projected impact number out of a hat and… voila!! Their results show a 30% impact. wow. Stupid “normal science”.

  43. more soylent green says:

    I really hope we didn’t spend our tax dollars on this.

    Next up: MacArthur Genius Grant to study if excessive eating may cause weight gain

  44. Joe Shaw says:

    Even if one accepted the premise that increasing temperatures will result in long term increases in fires (I am skeptical of this since total acres burned is poorly correlated with temperature), and neglecting sequestration due to char burial discussed above, the only way this would reduce net carbon sequestration would be if total live and debris biomass decreased. It seems quite implausible that warmer temperatures and higher CO2 concentrations that the authors appear to postulate (I say appear since the abstract does not state the underlying temperature, CO2 or precipitation assumptions and the paper is paywalled) would reduce total biomass.

    On the positive side the projected changes in biomass by 2040 are testable and relatively near term as projections go. Does anyone have a reference for data on biomass and trend in the Pacific Northwest and other areas?

  45. Aussie Luke Warm says:

    “…forests need to be actively managed for their fire potential to minimize carbon loss.”

    Ummmm, how about managing them to minimise loss of human life?

    [Moderator's Comment: OK. I cheated a little... I said, I know where this person is, checked the IP and was right. I've got friends close by and they have stories to tell; I hope yours has as good an ending. The blunt, good sense that characterizes your people needs to re-assert itself. Best wishes. -REP]

  46. Paul Jackson says:

    Biochar is just one of those ideas that has the ring of truth to it, the process put carbon into the ground, provides a large surface area for beneficial microbial life to exist, and it’s absorbency moderates wide swing of nutrient levels in the soil. I’ve thought very seriously about trying it in my own garden on about half of it to see how it works out for me. There is enough conflicting reports in literature that it may well be a YMMV thing, even if it does make sense to me.

  47. P Wilson says:

    AGW protagonists aren’t interested in human life. They’re interested in their own dogma

  48. Aussie Luke Warm says:

    my previous post:

    “…forests need to be actively managed for their fire potential to minimize carbon loss.”

    Ummmm, how about managing them to minimise loss of human life?

    [Moderator's Comment: OK. I cheated a little... I said, I know where this person is, checked the IP and was right. I've got friends close by and they have stories to tell; I hope yours has as good an ending. The blunt, good sense that characterizes your people needs to re-assert itself. Best wishes. -REP]

    P Wilson has picked up the point I saw too. Didn’t mean to be out of line if I was. Even though I was aiming soley at what I perceived to be yet another example of the “humanity last” attitude of CAGW proponents, did I inadvertantly smear proper scientific inquiry in that sometimes science qua science sounds like that? Also, yes we have had some terrible bushfires in Victoria, Australia in recent years, just as you have had in California, so maybe my angle was subconsciously influenced by a raw nerve. And we will re-assert ourselves next election when we ditch our watermelon government and its crazy co2 tax. All strength to WUWT! You are a friend to Australian voters.

  49. Robert Austin says:

    The idea of man made or controlled carbon sequestration is beyond stupid. It is stupid to the nth power.

  50. OssQss says:

    So, basically the Environistas/Climonistas have caused the problem by stopping the culling of vegetation. Irony, in the end?

    Am I wrong?

    Think about it!

  51. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    What will the global warming farrago have to say about Mother Nature? She is constantly starting fires all over the world. Will she get sued?

    Cyclical fires on Earth, 2000 to 2010, as detected by Terra and Aqua satellites

  52. GeoLurking says:

    Re: “Biochar” using a microwave.

    Microwaves use electricity. Reflex Klystrons or Magnetrons are the typical generating device. When you get up into the higher power levels, the energy consumption goes up also.

    How much coal or natural gas must be used to generate the electricity to drive one of these ovens? I’ve seen $65 per ton noted in this thread. Does that include the fuel to cut the tree down and section it so that it fits in the oven? How about the cost in fuel to drag/transport it to the oven? What about the wages for the loggers and oven operators?

  53. Bryan A says:

    Interestingly enough the statistics in the SOS Forests graphs above seem to indicate a sort of paradigm shift in Acres burned and average acerage per fire since the early 70′s as well as in the numbers of wildfires through the 70′s. This appears to coincide with the Forestry Department’s “Let-It-Burn” policy of 1968 and later adoption in 1972

    http://www.x98ruhf.net/yellowstone/fire.htm
    “The “natural burn” policy

    The 1988 fire season in Yellowstone began when a single lightning strike set a small group of pines ablaze on June 22. Officials weren’t initially worried. A Yellowstone Public Affairs Specialist said “We knew it had started naturally, and we assumed the summer rains would keep it in check. What we didn’t know was that [the] summer was going to be one of the driest and windiest since the park was established in 1872.” The fires were initially allowed to burn under the controversial “natural burn” policy. This policy allowed fires to run their natural course as long as they were not caused by human activity (such as fires started by improperly extinguished camp fires or careless use of cigarettes), and as long as the fires did not threaten human lives, property, endangered species, or natural features. The origins of this policy extend back to 1968 when the National Park Service officially recognized that fire was essential for the maintenance of an ecosystem. A policy was adapted in 1972 that reflected this position”

  54. The idea of man made or controlled carbon sequestration is beyond stupid. It is stupid to the nth power.

    And yet human beings have been controlling fires in the Pacific Northwest since the ice melted 12,000 years ago. And longer than that on other continents.

    The idea that climate governs forest fires is laughable. Tropical forests burn quite nicely. Amazon savannas are testament to millennia of human-controlled fire regimes. Anthropogenic fire has dominated Africa for 1.8 million years or so.

    I know, it’s hard to get your mind around the notion that human beings were effective masters of fire and of their landscapes long before inept Europeans bumbled over here. Not what you were taught in your progressive public school, from which mental confines you have never escaped. But the reality of history is that human beings have always dictated fire wherever they have lived. Which is almost everywhere.

    As for carbon sequestration, forests around here fix carbon at the rate of a couple of tons per acre per year. If that carbon had gotten stored on the forest floor over the last 12,000 years, it would be 1,000 feet deep. But it isn’t, which shoots that ridiculous theory in the head.

    The carbon cycles. It comes in via photosynthesis; it goes out via fire and decay. Temperate forests of today are not Carboniferous swamps. No coal building up. The carbon cycles. The paper is indeed novel in this respect: it proposes that carbon cycling is something new — which it manifestly is not.

  55. dp says:

    I presume you all know the same CO2 release happens in Brazil when they burn the cane fields as part of the process to produce Ethanol. Growing up in Hawaii the cane field fires were a major source of entertainment for us kids from Portland, OR. We’d seen only the teepee burners (beehive burners as they’re called in Kanuckistan) there. So very controlled yet still exciting. We had no idea the oceans would rise to our rooftops as a result. Now, 60 years on, I’m still waiting for that inundation. And rocket belts and flying automobiles. More science lies, I guess.

  56. noaaprogrammer says:

    The weather thus far this year in Washington State is not conducive to high fire indexes – cool and rainy. It’s just creating thicker underbrush for larger future fires. So which is better: smaller, frequent fires on relatively young forest stands, or a few larger fires on older growth?

  57. crosspatch says:

    One must also understand that a fully mature forest is a net zero in carbon absorption from the atmosphere. Once it is fully mature, there is as much decaying matter releasing CO2 as there is new growth. It reaches equilibrium. A growing forest will be a CO2 sponge with its rate of total absorption rapidly increasing and then dropping off as it reaches maturity. What that means is that in addition to the carbon now sequestered in charcoal for thousands of years, we will not see a burst of new growth that will absorb more CO2 over the next 200 years than it otherwise would have if left in its previous state. The end result will be an overall net reduction in atmospheric CO2.

    Say you have some quantity of CO2 in biomass that we will call X. After the fire burns, much of that carbon is deposited into the atmosphere but some of it (Y) is left as charcoal which remains in the ground. When the biomass again reaches quantity X, the amount of carbon in that forest is now X+Y. Another fire of the same size would then create 2Y amount of sequestered carbon and so on. Forest fires are net reducers of atmospheric carbon and speed up the process of removing CO2 from the air.

  58. John Trigge (in Oz) says:

    Australia’s Voldemort tax (even our Government ads for our carbon tax do not mention it by name) is planned to pay overseas green schemes billions of dollars to grow more trees. If they burn, do we get our money back?

  59. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Urederra said on July 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm:

    Phlogiston is also released in the process, or so I read.

    And here I thought phlogiston was released to make comments on WUWT, which I’ve read.
    ;-)

  60. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    Don’t worry the rising seas will put out the fires.

    I renewed the electrics in a friends house and my mate did the plumbing. After we finished and he had payed us I said ” Don’t worry if the electrics catch fire his leaky plumbing will put it out in no time!”

  61. Never mind the ‘released carbon’ (dioxide!) but many tree species depend on fire to help reproduction. Fires clear ground areas, letting in light to increase low growing species which helps the indigenous animal species. Wildfires are not new but been burning on the planet since plants developed. We now have thousands of plant species so wildfires are good not bad for the environment.

  62. MattN says:

    Didn’t we start intentionally setting prescribed burns after Yellowstone? The whole reason Yellowstone was so bad was we put out every little fire (most/all caused by lightning) and messing with Mother Nature’s house cleaning.

  63. Jimbo says:

    It’s funny how since the world has been warming since the end of the Little Ice Age boreal forest fires have been in decline. NEVER let evidence get in the way of a good fairy tale.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/06/27/more-heated-media-prepping-tomorrow/#comment-1020170

    Just as burning trees release more co2 so the trees that grow in their place will…………

  64. beng says:

    ***
    Louis says:
    July 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    In one day, one large tree can lift up to 100 gallons of water out of the ground and discharge it into the air.
    ***

    Without researching, for a large tree, I think you’re about an order of magnitude too small.

  65. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    @Gary Pearse says:

    “I was a geologist with the Geol. Survey of Nigeria in the 60s working up in Northern Nigeria.dry savannah. Global warm was already a fact of life with temps in the 40s in the dry season. ”

    Well, the drying cycle of the Sahel was starting in the 60′s. I presume you have heard in the media how the Sahel has been advancing into the desert, northward, since about 1983? No? Well, that is amazing. I wonder how such a remarkable, blessed change of events could have been missed by a balanced approach to environmental news.

    “During the short rainy season, if you saw a drop of rain fall and you were 20 metres from shelter you were soaked in seconds and could barely see the shelter.”

    Thermals. Make good, short, sharp showers. During droughts First Nations in Canada used well-timed grass fires to induce thermals to seed clouds with PM to make it rain.

    “The trees in the scattered trees in savannah grassland (called orchard bush because of the spacing) were fireproof! Now why do you suppose that is?”

    Fireproof trees like blue gum, many acacia varieties and thick-barked evergreens are proof of evolutionary advantages to deal with frequent fires.

    Interestingly, in the centre and west of Tanzania there used to be no trees in the grasslands and no tsetse flies. After the great red water disease epidemic of 1893-95 killed about 95% of the cattle (which were keeping the trees down), thornveld encroachment started. A tsetse fly only travels about 50m in open sunshine (they hate sunlight – get sunburned) so they were not a problem. Once the trees got re-established sleeping sickness (once again?) became a huge problem. Nothing to do with temperature or rainfall, just cattle v.s. trees.

    It is possible increased rainfall with a gently warming climate may play a role but it is so cyclical it is next to impossible to separate the cycles and the trend. All said and done, traditional forests are very fire resistant, pine plantations (etc) not so much.

  66. Gail Combs says:

    Arthur Hughes says:
    July 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    We all agree that buildup of C02 is dangerous for the planet. The problem is that few have come up with a viable solution that will be adopted by enough nations….
    _______________________________
    What WE?

    I am all for releasing as much CO2 as possible!
    I LIKE a greener world.
    I LIKE plants that are drought resistant.
    I LIKE C3 plants that form most of our food and were in danger of CO2 starvation.
    Heck, I LIKE to keep on breathing and CO2 is absolutely necessary for animal respiration.

    What I DO NOT LIKE is the return to glaciation, an absolute given. Interglacials are Russian roulette glaciation is not. link

    What I DO NOT LIKE is the swindlers and conmen using propaganda to steal from me and every one else! Here are just a few links: link and link and link and link and link and link and link and link

    The danger from “Global Warming” is “Hypothetical” The DEATHS from “Global Warming” policies ARE VERY VERY REAL!

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule. Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping, and unintelligent. –H. L. Mencken

  67. anthropic says:

    I’ve read that close to 40 million acres a year burned during the 1930s, quite a lot more than currently.

    Also, it seems ironic that, for all their supposed love of carbon-sequestering trees, environmentalists have blocked attempts to spray them for the beetles. Not only would this save literally millions of trees, it would also make forest less susceptible to fire. Dead trees dry out quickly and are a major hazard. But the spray contains small amounts of DDT, so by definition it must be evil. Pity.

  68. Gail Combs says:

    John Trigge (in Oz) says:
    July 24, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Australia’s Voldemort tax (even our Government ads for our carbon tax do not mention it by name) is planned to pay overseas green schemes billions of dollars to grow more trees. If they burn, do we get our money back?
    _____________________
    You have all those ?mothballed? desal plants so why don’t you Aussies grow your own trees and get the bucks from the Watermelon gov’t? I am sure you could get a really great lobby going for that idea (Snicker) Hey, I bet you could even get grants for the project from the US government! Just start an NGO and have it pay you $$$ as president. A win win even if the idea flops.

  69. Silver Ralph says:

    Which is why I said many years ago, that planting trees is not an offset for CO2 emissions – because these trees will be used for a number of years, as paper or wood, but then end up rotting or burned. Thus the CO2 is released again. Trees are only a temporary offset at best.

    Trees can only be a complete offset for CO2 if they are buried forever, which is not the plan. So the Carbon Offsetting plan is flawed from the beginning, and we are all being duped by the unscrupulous.

    .

  70. KPeters says:

    I remember hearing in a soil science class 15 years ago that a tall grass prairie sequesters more carbon than a jungle. I think crosspatch nailed it. Fire and non-decomposing charcoal.

  71. LazyTeenager says:

    Hhhmmmm. More fires means more charcoal. Charcoal becomes inaccessible to nutrient cycling and so stores carbon more or less permanently.

    A forest on the other hand has limits on its carbon storage capacity as plants grow, die and decompose.

    So I say it ain’t necessarily so.

  72. Brian H says:

    Bah. Since sequestering carbon is a complete concocted pointless irrelevancy, who the flipping frack gives a flying flart?

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