Our forest sequestration project cuts across many social worlds, such as climate scientists, environmental scientists, soil scientists, biologist, ecologists, botanists, remote sensing collectors, carbon offset companies, national governments, timber companies, major industries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs)-United Nations in particular, non-profit companies, special interest groups, policy makers, and farmers.
Scientific Community - First Level Players
The first level knowledge is produced by many climatologist and environmental scientists around the world that view carbon offsets as a viable solution to the climate problem, as well as scientists who have taken other factors into account that could prove to discredit claims such as one made by the EPA in 2007, “forests in the United States currently remove substantially more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit” (The Wilderness Society, 2007). The first level players include a variety of organizations, programs, and government funded projects that conduct experiments and research forest sequestration. Some of the players we are looking at include the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We are also following research preformed by Sandra Brown and Dan Yakir, whom have opposing viewpoints, as well as work done on albedo levels in northern Boreal Forest and general carbon sequestration numbers gathered by various studies from various types of forests.
Policy Makers and Businesses - Second Level Players
Scientists of the first level receive funding from secondary actors to conduct research. Examples of secondary level actors are politicians, interest groups, businessmen, and congressmen. The secondary actors take the end results of the study from the scientists and slant it to support their current position on a subject. Top forest sequestration companies such as CarbonNeutral, Climate Friendly, Climate Trust, and Co2balance, are utilizing the information made by the first level actors to find sites for possible sequestration projects. Other companies, with less honorable ideals, are also taking the results of the research to further their business needs.
According to the American Forest and Paper Association, the timber industry has been in a downward spiral ever since the spotted owl wrecked havoc back in the 90s. They have now attempted to position their privately-owned forests to be re-packaged as carbon sinks, acting as mitigators of carbon. The catch here, however, is that they are attempting to find legal ways to remove old growth forests in order to reforest with new growth. These new stewards of silviculture are relying on the science which supports the fact that younger forests have a potential to absorb and sequester far more carbon than old growth forests; according to John Helms, former president of the Society of American Foresters , industry leaders have promoted that idea, positioning themselves as “tree planting experts”. Considering that the timber industry has been losing approximately $1-$1 billion USD annually, as established by the IPCC, they needed someone powerful to influence legislation. Enter Weyerhaeuser.
The issue of carbon sequestration can make for some strange bedfellows indeed, as evidenced by the roster of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (“USCAP”). Among its members, USCAP prides itself as a coalition of well-placed industry leaders in the energy sector that help form legislation and define caps for emissions. Such prominent pro-industry names such as Dow Chemical Co., Duke Energy and DuPont have aligned themselves with pro-environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy and World Resources Institute. One such member, The National Resource Defense Council (“NRDC”) has recently applauded the actions of a forest and paper products giant, Weyerhaeuser, who joined USCAP in March of 2010. It has joined the distinguished ranks of its members and is promoting itself as a major partner in USCAP. Weyerhaeuser wants to participate in finding ways to promote legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions, while strategically positioning itself as a leader within a revitalized timber industry, all while creating an image of an industry leader toeing the line between stewardship and economics. The timber industry needs a shot in the arm – and Weyerhauser is the one to do it.
There is widespread dissent about the verification and tracking of carbon offsets in forests, particularly if one was to take into account the very real and possible causes of forest destruction due to insect infestation and forest fires, however with timber industry partners forming legislation, these gray areas can be circumvented in favor of more favorable legislation. Also, there is the issue of additionally. This is defined as the difference between a project which would have gone forward regardless of any additional investment capital being injected, or better yet, as CO2Research.org puts it, “… business as usual or business beyond the usual?”
Would there be a real difference in the activities of organizations such as the American Forest & Paper Association whether or not investment capital was being pumped their way or not? Also, this could lead questionable business practices, as American companies could simply then transfer their demand to overseas locations – and chances are, these would result in additional destruction of tropical forests, a far better CCS mitigator that its boreal counterpart.
According to Linda M. Young, Department of Agricultural Economics at MSU-Bozeman, she purports that “In the U.S., fairly well-established values for carbon sequestration rates are available for most tree species.” Soil carbon sequestration rates vary by tree species, soil type, regional climate, topography and management practice, and research in this field is growing exponentially, however, there is no one specific, black box method that can apply as a wholly accepted standard at this time.