Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Urban Forests Key to International Climate Responses

A study released yesterday [press release ] by Georgia Tech planning Professor Brian Stone recommends planting millions of trees to create extensive new urban forests as a key part of international climate response plans. That's one conclusion of his look at the climatic impacts of deforestation and urbanization.

Stone's key finding is that:

Across the U.S. as a whole, approximately 50 percent of the warming that has occurred since 1950 is due to land use changes (usually in the form of clearing forest for crops or cities) rather than to the emission of greenhouse gases.

That offers a strong argument for recognizing how key land use is to responding to climate change. It's also a call to recognize the importance of local governments:

As we look to address the climate change issue from a land use perspective, there is a huge opportunity for local and state governments...Presently, local government capacity is largely unharnessed in climate management structures under consideration by the U.S. Congress. Yet local governments possess extensive powers to manage the land use activities in both the urban and rural areas.

Coming a few weeks before the Copenhagen negotiations, this is a well timed report. Both land use related emissions and local governments have been slowly acquiring a greater profile in international climate change negotiations.

Strangely, most reports on the study are running under the title "Reducing Greenhouse Gases May Not Be Enough to Slow Climate Change." Eye-catching, sure. But not really accurate. The real strength of this report seems to be (I say seems because the full text is yet to appear on the publisher's site) that it has put solid, nationally specific, numbers behind an argument that has long been made about the importance of local land use planning.

And did I mention that green streets aren't bad looking either? (image: treecanada.ca)