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Trees are the Key to Addressing Climate Change - IPCC

7th May 2014

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that trees are currently the only technology that can effectively capture and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can be controlled in two ways:

1. Prevent such gases (which predominantly originate from the burning of fossil fuels) from entering the atmosphere in the first place;

or

2. Remove such gases from the atmopshere and store them in a manner that prevents the harmful effect their increasing levels can have.

The past decade has shown that the world is not committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by any amount that would prevent the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, and that these levels may have already passed any level that can be considered acceptable. Therefore attention must be turned to removing existing emissions. Current technology for removing such emissions involves stripping emissions from power plants before they are emitted and storing them deep underground, a technology known as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Currently the only alternative is by planting trees (or woody vegetation in general), which sequester carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it within their woody biomass, both above and above ground. When trees are harvested for timber, some of the stored carbon is returned to the atmosphere and the process must start over.

In contrast the ecological growth pattern of bamboo mean that if planted on degraded land in a manner that does not involve the removal of other vegetation, bamboo can provide a much more effective and longer term solution for the sequestration and storage of carbon dioxide than other vegetation. Why? Because when harvested only a portion of the plant is removed each year, and it is rapidly replaced within a single growing season. This rapid growth and replacement pattern means that bamboo plants form a permanent carbon sink, even under a scenario of sustainable harvesting.

If the world's attention is turning to trees, forests and vegetation in general as the quick solution for climate change, bamboo has a critical role to play. EcoPlanet Bamboo's pioneering work in developing methods to quantify the carbon sequestration and storage properties has paved the groundwork for increased focus on bamboo within the international climate change debate, while our Nicaraguan projects have shown that 1,000 hectares of planted tropical clumping bamboo can sequester approximately 750,000 tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and store this over an indefinite period.

Read the IPCC's full report here

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