by Christopher Reyer (PIK)
How can forests and their products and services best contribute to climate change mitigation? This is probably the most controversial question one can currently ask when discussing the role of forests to combat climate change – and even scientists tend to disagree here. Some say we should manage our forest and use wood for construction to create a long-term carbon sink. Or produce even more wood to replace plastics and fossil-based materials, which is called circular bioeconomy. Others suggest just the opposite: we should not manage our forests – or if we do, we should not concentrate on wood production but mainly focus on our forests’ potential for biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration.
All approaches have benefits and trade-offs, considering that our natural resources, including our forests, are limited. That being sad, I would like to focus in this article on the potential of using wood and wood-based products for construction to mitigate climate change, based on a paper on Buildings as a global carbon sink that we – a multidisciplinary group of researchers from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and from Yale University – have published 2020 in Nature Sustainability. When looking at global developments, including discussions at the COP in Glasgow, results from the paper are still very valid – and further scientific and practical exploration is needed, since the world’s population is increasing, and climate change mitigation efforts will be challenged by people’s need for shelter.