Californians have come to associate the beginning of May with the start of the season for wildfires, but due to the severe drought the state has been experiencing, wildfire season has turned into more of an all year round occurrence. The fact that California has now become a source for carbon emission has led to governor Jerry Brown’s goal of reducing emission levels to 40 percent below that of 1990 levels by 2030, which is a difficult challenge to accompllish, to say the least.
Patrick Gonzalez, the leading climate change scientist from the National Park Service, has researched and studied data from different satellites as well as measurements of stored carbon in vegetation within the state of California and the his findings are almost scary. The state has 26 national parks and the amount of carbon that is being stored in each of these 26 parks is equivalent to the average amount of carbon emissions that come from 7 million Americans every year. Furthermore, the number has decreased dramatically in just the last 10 years because of forests and other nature born landscapes that have been removed for reasons of development, agriculture and wildfires.
Soil and Trees hold a lot of carbon and in order for California’s carbon emissions to decrease, deforestation needs to be acknowledged as a major contributor to the problem. Governor Brown announced his goal for California last week, which is a provisional move towards achieving the ultimate goal of an 80 percent level decrease of carbon emissions by 2050, which was originally a plan devised by former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
There is an extremely high percentage of trees destroyed for purposes such as to burn for fire as a heat source, logged for timber, placed underneath pavement for urban developing and plowed for agriculture. Each time a tree is chopped down, the percentage of carbon emissions increase. California has now become a source for the emissions of carbon, instead of being what the Environmental Protection Agency would describe as a carbon sink, meaning the storage of carbon inside forests and vegetation outweighs the effect emissions have on them.
Poor fire management has resulted in two-thirds of California’s land emissions, which is a direct result of wildfires that were not managed or contained properly and effectively. With the drought, water probably will not be available to put these wildfires out. Along with all the trees that would be lost, so does the storage that is needed for carbon.
According to California’s Nature Conservancy’s climate program director, Louis Blumberg, it is a necessity that the issues of deforestation become a main topic of discussion during statewide climate conversation. Blumberg stated that it will be impossible to hit Brown’s targeted percentage of reduced levels of carbon emissions if one of the biggest reasons for it is not being properly addressed and dealt with.
During an inaugural address this past January, Brown stated that there needs to be some type of management plan created for rangelands, farms, wetlands and forests in order for there to be a place for carbon to be stored. The National park Service and the Nature Conservancy have come together with regulators of the state to track how much of an impact climate has on deforestation and then come up with policies that will protect trees for carbon to be safely stored away.
The efforts to reduce carbon emission have already taken action by use of electric vehicles and rules set for power companies for pollution reduction. There could be another useful tool for effectively reducing carbon emission, Global Forest Watch (GFW) and Global Forest Watch Fires (GFWF).
GFW allows for occurrences of deforestation to be seen by satellite images and will soon have the ability to make deforestation predictions, giving authorities time to prevent it from happening at all. GFWF is a platform based online for the monitoring and responding to land and forest fires that cause deforestation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region with real-time satellite data from NASA’s Active Fires system.
This technology could be extremely helpful for California as an option for managing the deforestation issues that are inevitably pulling the state further away from the goal of carbon emissions reduction. California has become a source for carbon emissions and in order for there to be any chance of correction, deforestation must be made a priority.
Opinion By Kameron Hadley
Photo By Dain Sandoval- Creativecommons Flickr License