For a few days, the media and global attention was focused with alarm about the Amazon Rainforest up in flames. Yet forest disturbance from logging in the United States is quadruple that of South American rainforests and is degrading the nation’s potential forest carbon sink by at least 35%, according to the forest protection group, Dogwood Alliance. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that U.S. forests are removing an amount of carbon from the atmosphere equal to a mere 11-13% of our nation’s emissions, half that of the global average of 25% and a fraction of what is needed to avoid climate catastrophe.
Not only does logging reduce carbon sequestration capacity, but it is also a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As CSE has pointed out in two separate studies so far, including our most recent report with Dogwood Alliance, logging is one of the top sources of emissions in many states, yet the EPA has consistently failed to account for these emissions in its official GHG inventories, thereby shielding this sector from scrutiny and regulatory oversight.
Perhaps because of this oversight, little attention has been paid to the role of U.S. forests in slowing and mitigating the worst effects of climate change in the presidential elections. Although all of the top presidential candidates claim to embrace a Green New Deal, only Senator Kamala Harris has articulated a detailed outline of how she would protect our private, state and national forest lands.
None of the other leading Democratic presidential candidates plans for forest protection were anywhere near as substantial as Harris’s, but most made mention of the issue. For example:
Mayor Pete Buttigieg: “We will promote conservation of forests and grasslands through voluntary conservation programs, tax incentives, and the carbon sequestration market.”
Vice President Joe Biden: “In 1998, [Biden] was a key champion for the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, which allowed the U.S. to reach agreements with foreign governments to conserve tropical forests in exchange for debt relief (commonly referred to as debt-for-nature swaps).” And he supports “a framework to limit greenhouse gas emissions related to land use, forests, and agriculture.”
Bernie Sanders (I-VT): “We will reauthorize and expand the Civilian Conservation Corps and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Corps to provide good paying jobs building green infrastructure.”
Most surprisingly, perhaps, although Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has gotten kudos for embracing former presidential candidate and Washington Governor Jay Inlsee’s plan on climate change, which some rated the best climate plan of all of the candidates, neither Inslee nor Warren made any mention of forests in their climate plans.
By Daphne Wysham