European forests cannot further curb global warming, French study warns

(EurActiv, 11 Oct 2018) European countries should not heavily rely on their forests to absorb carbon dioxide but instead preserve them from climate change, according to a study published on Wednesday (10 October) in the scientific journal Nature. EURACTIV France reports.

The Paris Agreement of 2015 mentions the importance of forests as carbon sinks because they are capable of removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Researchers have studied various forest management strategies in Europe, such as maximising CO2 storage or reflecting more light which is then directed back into space.

However, those simulations do not take into account possible reforestation or deforestation.

The amount of carbon removed by trees over 90 years (2 parts per million) is reportedly low compared to the quantity of CO2 released into the atmosphere if global warming continues on its current course.

This scenario would represent around 500 parts per million, according to Guillaume Marie, a climatologist at the Université de Paris-Saclay.

In order to absorb 8 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2100, conifers would need to replace deciduous trees over an area equivalent to that of Spain. Conifer trees would be the best species for removing carbon in this part of the world. However, their darker colour would undo these gains by driving global warming, the researchers explained.

“The standard mistake is thinking that CO2 sequestration means climate cooling,” Marie told AFP. “This is the case if we don’t change the planet’s optical, chemical and physical properties. But, by promoting coniferous forests over deciduous forests, we are changing the colours of leaves”.

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EurActiv, 11 Oct 2018: European forests cannot further curb global warming, French study warns