“Older forests store a lot more carbon than young forests, and much of it is returned to the atmosphere quickly when harvested and planted with young trees.” – Beverly Law, professor emeritus of global change biology at Oregon State University
Before the Industrial Revolution and all its consequences – from the polluting effects of mass production to the fossil-fuel-burning trains and trucks needed to transport goods – our atmosphere’s balance was maintained by the planet itself. Forests consumed CO2 and generated oxygen in just the right mix for life on earth to thrive. Healthy soil, enriched by millennia of decaying plant matter and maintained by careful and conscious small-scale farming, also kept carbon out of the atmosphere and made it easier for crops to weather droughts, blights, and cold spells.
As the modern era demanded more of everything – more clear-cutting of forests to supply the demand for wood products, open land, and highways, more short-term yield from the soil despite long-term depletion, more large-scale livestock farming, more burning of coal and petroleum – the planet’s ability to stay ahead of CO2 emissions went seriously out of whack. Studies estimate that human activities in the industrial age have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by 45 percent. We’re already starting to see an impact as the planet’s temperature rises, and every species – including humans – will feel the effects across our ecosystem.
Some of the exciting offset programs available today aim to protect the earth’s ability to regulate its own atmosphere and manage greenhouse gases. When you fund an offset through ClimateHound, your support may go to initiatives that protect existing old-growth forests from harvesting by the lumber industry. This kind of effort can also help to preserve biodiversity among both plant species and the animal species who depend upon forest environments. Despite the appealing vision of planting new trees to save the climate, it’s hard to achieve the same impact with these efforts and verify their legitimacy. ClimateHound and the offset industry as a whole are considering appropriate standards that ensure planting initiatives are thoroughly vetted and effective. Offsets tied to soil health are grounded (no pun intended!) in the understanding that plants flourish in rich, delicious dirt, and they can store more carbon everywhere from their leaves to their roots. Offsets can fund the switch to low-till farming, cover cropping, crop rotation, and other farming strategies familiar to our ancestors – and help to recover the earth’s atmospheric balance for future generations.