Climate Change and Forests

Jefferson WildernessScientists have been saying for years that human-caused warming of the globe is real. Only recently has the general public come to realize the grave consequences that a warmer planet would have and that climate change is truly one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced.

It begs the question: What can we do to stop it?

Part of the answer is right here in Oregon's towering old-growth forests. Scientists have found that the Northwest's giant trees are also giant carbon sinks, catching the pollution that causes the planet to warm.

So the answer to the question: "What can we do to stop global warming?" is to protect our old-growth forests that are the natural warriors, quietly fighting the global warming battle for us.

Forests and Carbon

Forests play an important role in the global carbon cycle. Trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere when they grow, and they release CO2 to the atmosphere as they decompose. Forests help reduce global warming when they grow and absorb more carbon than they emit. Forests can also worsen climate change when trees emit more carbon than they absorb. For instance, logging stops trees from growing, and accelerates the transfer of carbon from the forest to the atmosphere, through fragmentation, accelerated decomposition, and combustion. 

Over the past two centuries, forest conversion and forest management have contributed a substantial fraction of the excess CO2 observed in the atmosphere. Today’s management choices will determine whether forests continue to be part of the problem or become part of the solution. 

Two reports from Oregon Wild on northwest forests and global warming

Climate ControlHow Northwest Old-Growth Forests Can Help Fight Global Warming
Oregon's Carbon Sinks: an Oregon Wild report localizing national analysis by the Woods Hole Research Center

The Impacts

Oregon Wild is also keenly aware of the adverse impacts climate change could have on our natural treasures. From reduced snowpack, to changing habitat, global warming presents a threat to the special places we cherish in Oregon.

That's why we teamed up with multiple conservation groups and the Western Environmental Law Center to sue the federal government to allow for more stringent auto emissions standards. This is new territory for us, but global warming could impact so much of Oregon's wildlands, wildlife and wild rivers that we felt compelled to act.

Photo by John Waller.