FAQ’s about storing carbon in wood

Posted: April 12, 2016

Source: Make it Wood

Carbon storageHow can using wood help address climatechange?

Wood stores carbon. It also has a low embodied energy compared to most other building materials. The use of responsibly sourced wood can make a real difference in our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by shifting from other, more greenhouse-intensive materials. This is already happening internationally particularly in North America and Europe.

Why is it important to store carbon? How / where is carbon stored?

Increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are the main cause of climate change. Stored carbon is CO2 that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, increasing concentrations of CO2 and accelerating climate change.  Carbon is stored in a tree by the process of photosynthesis. On average, trees absorb 1 tonne of CO2 for every cubic metre’s growth, producing 727 kgs of oxygen.

What are well-managed forests?

A well-managed forest (or responsibly managed forest) is managed with respect for the planet, people and prosperity. This covers the choice and mix of species, thinning to encourage good growth, harvesting at maturity, assuring afforestation and reforestation (natural regrowth and planting) more than balance harvesting, as well as respecting the ecosystems on which local flora and fauna depend, and the way of life of people who depend upon the forest.

What is the difference between a carbon sink and a carbon store?

A carbon sink is active: a mechanism that actively absorbs carbon dioxide (like forests, oceans or the soil).   A carbon store is passive: an object that holds carbon dioxide as carbon as part of its structure / make up etc (like wood).

The carbon stored in the tree continues to be stored in the wood products made from the harvested tree, and beyond, through reuse and recycling.

What is the difference between carbon and carbon dioxide (CO2)?

Carbon is a chemical element with the symbol C and atomic number 6. Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms and a single carbon atom. One tonne of carbon equals 3.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Carbon is stored on the Earth in different ways. When carbon is in the atmosphere it takes the form of carbon dioxide. If too much carbon dioxide (CO2) builds up in the atmosphere it acts as a warming agent contributing to climate change. Trees can help restore a balance through the carbon cycle by absorbing carbon dioxide, storing it as carbon and releasing oxygen. Wood products store carbon for life. Unfortunately, the term ‘carbon’ is often used as shorthand for carbon dioxide (CO2), as in ‘carbon footprint’.