In partnership with Dogwood Alliance, CSE has completed a two part series that summarizes what we know about the climate impacts of industrial logging activities in North Carolina. In Part I, and similar to previous work in Oregon, CSE found that if properly accounted for, greenhouse gas emissions from the logging and wood products sector would represent one of the most significant sources in the state. In Oregon, CSE and Oregon State University both estimate the sector to be the state’s largest emitter. In North Carolina, and as documented in Part I, it is likely to be third. Details about Part I can be found here.
But GHG emissions are only half of the story. The other half is about all the ways industrial logging practices make the land and its rural communities more vulnerable to climate change. Part II of the report takes a deep dive into the data and science documenting how clearcuts, timber plantations and dense networks of logging roads greatly increase the risk of water shortages, landslides, floods, droughts, heat waves, toxic algae blooms and invasive species. These threats are already on the rise due to climate change itself, but are being amplified by short rotation timber plantations that feed markets for biomass energy, paper, and mass timber products.
Part II also discusses the many policy interventions available to transform this sector from a major climate threat to a major climate solution. This can be achieved, for example, by modernizing state forest policy to make climate smart practices the law, setting aside public forests as forest carbon reserves and regulating logging related emissions through a market based mechanism like forest carbon taxes.
Key findings from Part II:
- The logging and wood products sector in North Carolina is very carbon intensive and is likely the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions despite being excluded in the state’s official greenhouse gas inventory.
- This sector is also making North Carolina’s rural landscape more vulnerable to climate change by amplifying risks that are already on the rise.
- In particular, clearcutting, short rotation timber plantations, dense logging road networks, liberal application of pesticides and fertilizers and other industrial forest practices are making the landscape more susceptible to wildfires, floods, landslides, storms, insects and disease, water shortages, nutrient pollution and harmful algae blooms.
- Climate smart alternatives to these practices will reduce logging related emissions, bring carbon storage and sequestration back towards nature’s baseline, and make the landscape more resilient to climate change.
- Governor Cooper and North Carolina’s General Assembly have a wide range of policy tools available to phase out harmful industrial logging practices and scale up climate smart alternatives.
- These policy tools can be grouped into five basic categories: (1) reducing demand for carbon intensive wood products; (2) steering public investments towards sustainable forest management; (3) modernizing North Carolina’s forest practices laws and rules; (4) implementing market based strategies to incentive climate smart practices, and (5) disclosing the climate impacts of industrial forest practices in greenhouse gas inventories and periodic forest resources assessments.
Over the next several years, CSE will be working with Dogwood Alliance and other partners in North Carolina to educate the public and decision makers about the urgency of speeding the transition to climate smart alternatives.