California’s Carbon Discount Efforts May Be Thwarted By Local weather Change Itself – Watts Up With That?
UCI Study: Higher heat will play the role of the ecosystem in removing atmospheric CO2. restrict
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA – IRVINE
PICTURE: REDWOOD FORESTS LIKE THIS IN CALIFORNIA’S HUMBOLDT COUNTY ARE KEY IN STATE EFFORTS TO PREVENT CLIMATE CHANGE
Irvine, Calif., July 22, 2021 – To meet the ambitious goal of being carbon neutral by 2045, California policymakers are relying in part on forests and scrubland to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but researchers at the University of California, Irvine, are warning before this future Climate change can limit the ability of the ecosystem to provide this service.
In an article published today in the American Geophysical Union’s AGU Advances, scientists from the UCI Earth System stressed that rising temperatures and unsafe rainfall caused California’s natural carbon storage capacity to decrease by up to 16 percent under an extreme climate forecast and by nearly 9 percent in a more moderate scenario.
“This work underscores the mystery climate change poses to the state of California,” said lead author Shane Coffield, a UCI Ph.D. Candidate in Earth System Science. “We need our forests and other vegetation to provide a ‘natural climate solution’ for removing carbon dioxide from the air, but heat and drought caused by the very problem we are trying to solve could make it more difficult our goal to achieve goals. “
Trees and plants pull CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, and some of the carbon is stored in their biomass or in the soil. California’s climate strategy depends in part on improved carbon storage to offset some of its emissions from traffic, power generation, and other sources. The combination of this system for natural carbon sequestration and measures to promote green energy should help the state to achieve its goal of not introducing any net carbon into the environment by 2045.
However, the UCI scientists suggest that an even more aggressive approach to limiting emissions may be needed.
“The emissions scenario we are pursuing will have a major impact on the carbon storage potential of our forests,” said co-author James Randerson, Chair of the Ralph J. & Carol M. Cicerone Chair in Earth System Science at UCI. “A more moderate emissions scenario, in which we switch to more renewable energy sources, results in about half of the ecosystem carbon [sequestration] Loss compared to a more extreme emissions scenario. “
Coffield said current climate models about future rainfall in California do not agree, but it is likely that the northern part of the state will be wetter and the southern part will be drier. He also said that the coastal areas of central and northern California, as well as the low and medium mountain areas – sites of large offsetting projects – are most likely to lose some of their carbon sequestration ability over the next few decades.
In addition, the researchers were able to estimate the effects of climate change on certain tree species. They predict that coastal redwoods will be confined to the far northern part of their range by the end of the century, and that hotter, drier conditions will favor oaks at the expense of conifers.
While the study used statistical modeling to look into the future of the state’s ecosystems, the research also underscores the importance of today’s drought and forest fires as major mechanistic drivers of carbon sequestration losses. Other studies have estimated that the 2012-2015 drought killed more than 40 percent of the Ponderosa pine trees in the Sierra Nevada. Another problem the researchers describe is tree loss due to worsening California wildfires.
“We hope this work will feed into land management and climate policy so that steps can be taken to protect existing carbon stocks and tree species in the most climate-sensitive locations,” said Randerson. “Effective fire risk management is essential to limiting carbon [sequestration] Losses in large parts of the state. “
Alongside Coffield and Randerson on this project were Kyle Hemes from Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University; Charles Koven of the Department of Climate and Ecosystem Science at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Michael Goulden, UCI Professor of Earth System Science and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation, the UC National Laboratory Fees Research Program, and the California Strategic Growth Council’s Climate Change Research Program.