LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Reforestation is key to curbing CO2 emissions
The following is a letter to the editor submitted to the Bemidji Pioneer by a reader. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bemidji Pioneer. To submit a letter, email email@example.com or mail it to Bemidji Pioneer, P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.
Kudos to Nicole Ronchetti’s story ( Collaborating for conservation on Page A1 of the March 26 edition of the Pioneer) about the collaboration between Jerry Smith’s cartography class and Hubbard County SWDC and Northern Waters Land Trust.
This project can make a significant contribution to the mitigation of factors contributing to Earth’s greenhouse effect that is taking the blame for climate change.
It’s very gratifying to see deforestation recognized for its role in the enhancement of the greenhouse effect and to see initiatives like this one to return historically forest-covered land to forest cover.
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As the article reported, a forest overstory removes an enormous amount of carbon from the atmosphere in order to build carbohydrate cellulosic plant tissue via photosynthesis and drive other processes of plant life.
Consider the leaves you rake in your yard each fall. That’s all carbon that your trees took out of the atmosphere over the summer. And your trees took out some additional carbon for their growth.
But it’s not often recognized that the energy driving photosynthesis comes from incident solar irradiance.
A significant portion of the solar energy absorbed by a forest overstory is converted to chemical potential energy in carbohydrate bonds. It’s the energy that grows trees and it’s enormous.
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Human-built surfaces that replaced the forests absorb the same solar irradiance, but they can’t convert the energy to chemical potential energy.
They merely absorb the broadband irradiance and convert it to thermal energy. Eventually, they reradiate this energy in the infrared spectral band, the energy band that atmospheric greenhouse gas molecules like CO2 resonate in.
The greenhouse effect involves two components — infrared radiation from the Earth’s surface and atmospheric greenhouse gas molecules to scatter it back down.
Trees do double-duty by taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and by taking substantial solar irradiance out of the thermal inventory (preventing it from being reradiated as infrared).
Reforestation might be the most efficacious action we could possibly take to mitigate the enhancement of Earth’s greenhouse effect, perhaps more important than curbing anthropogenic CO2 emissions.