Better Forest Management, Wooden Buildings Would Lower Carbon Emissions

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A recent webinar hosted by Grow Smart Rhode Island illustrated the connection between forest health and new wood construction technologies in a combination that can significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Presentations by Frank Lowenstein, deputy director of the nonprofit New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF), and David Odeh, principal at North Providence-based Odeh Engineers Inc., highlighted the ‘We Need the Forest to Fight Climate Change’ webinar discussion.

Although they offered different areas of expertise, they connected on the central issue: good forest management and innovative construction using new wood products will lessen carbon emissions.

Lowenstein issued an oft-repeated warning: “We will see enormous damage from climate change with each increase above 1.5 degrees Centigrade by 2030,” he said. “The damage increases with each point-5 percent.” The difference between a 2 percent and a 3.1 percent temperature increase would cause more than $40 trillion in damage by the end of this century, he said.

“We’re already seeing the extremes of this with flooding, heat, fires, storms, hurricanes,” said Lowenstein. “It will only get worse unless we take steps to avoid it, and the best use of forests can help with this.”

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Lowenstein told the June webinar audience that conserving forestland and managing growth properly, including the sustainable harvesting of timber, will help store greater amounts of carbon.

Conversely, he said, failed management will lead to worsening climate emissions.

“Trees store carbon,” he said. “It’s that simple. Sustainable harvesting is critical. This requires that architects, engineers, and planners must include sustainability in their construction plans.”

Odeh agreed with Lowenstein’s assessment and shared information about new construction methods that allow wood products to be used in buildings up to 85 feet high. He focused on what are known as heavy-timber products, essentially long wooden planks that are fused together to produce a sturdy construction material.