Harvesting more wood for use in bridges and buildings and using less steel and concrete would sharply reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and lower carbon dioxide emissions, a study led by Yale University has found.
By increasing the amount of wood that’s harvested annually from 20% of sustainable growth to 34% of sustainable growth, carbon emissions could be reduced by between 14% and 31%, scientists from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the University of Washington’s College of the Environment said.
A summary of their findings published at ScienceDaily.com said that by replacing concrete and steel with more wood, the consumption of fossil fuels could be trimmed by as much as 19%.
Chadwick Oliver, director of the Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry at the Yale school, said that making steel, concrete, and brick adds up to about 16% of fossil fuel use globally. When you add transportation, the share rises to between 20% and 30%, he said.
Benefits for the forest
About 12.5% of the world’s forests are located in reserves. Oliver said that encouraging a mix of forest habitats and densities in non-reserved areas would have two other benefits — a lower risk of catastrophic wildfires, and the preservation of biodiversity in the world’s ecosystems. “Forests historically have had a diversity of habitats that different species need,” Oliver said. “This diversity can be maintained by harvesting some of the forest growth. And the harvested wood will save fossil fuel and CO2 and provide jobs — giving local people more reason to keep the forests.”
The study, “Carbon, Fossil Fuel, and Biodiversity Mitigation With Wood and Forests,” was published online last month. It’s a free download.