New Report Claims Wood Has Lowest Carbon Footprint, Sequesters Carbon

cartoon of carnage after war over forest woods
For decades loggers, environmentalists, and First Nations have been at war in the woods.

Migrated Image /

Carbon dioxide (CO2) issues regularly appear in the news and on online posts. Once, I got into a polite exchange with the writer of a ThinkProgress post, "Which Emits the Most CO2 in Home Construction: Steel, Concrete or Timber?" The writer claimed steel was the largest emitter, while I claimed wood was in my response. They commented "You're a "Treehugger" writer? How about the "Weyerhauserhugger" writer? It's pretty obvious who waxes your pen." I had not responded to this because, as my commenter suggested, I should "investigate it in detail on your own", which I am doing, carefully and thoroughly.


But, in the meantime, a new report has been released by the US Forest Service that, logically considering the source, backs wood. The report, Science Supporting the Economic and Environmental Benefits
of Using Wood and Wood Products in Green Building Construction
, by By Michael A. Ritter, Kenneth Skog, and Richard Bergman of the USDA Forest Service, is described by the then Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack:

"This study confirms what many environmental scientists have been saying for years," said Vilsack. "Wood should be a major component of American building and energy design. The use of wood provides substantial environmental benefits, provides incentives for private landowners to maintain forest land, and provides a critical source of jobs in rural America."
"The argument that somehow non-wood construction materials are ultimately better for carbon emissions than wood products is not supported by our research," said David Cleaves, the U.S. Forest Service Climate Change Advisor. "Trees removed in an environmentally responsible way allow forests to continue to sequester carbon through new forest growth. Wood products continue to benefit the environment by storing carbon long after the building has been constructed."

Now, even I would note that the US Forest Service is hardly a disinterested, impartial source. I will save my debating partner the trouble by noting that well over half of the references cited by the US Forest Service researchers at the end of the report are from the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM). My opponent might call these sources the "timber industry, or PR types that are "pure timber industry greenwashing with no scientific basis whatsoever."

I would actually also admit that there is very little new in this paper at all, but more of a call for more research. But it is a useful overview.