Loss of Carbon Sequestration from Land Use Change in Connecticut

September 23, 2014

Presented by Linda Powers Tomasso, Project Associate, Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard University School of Public Health, and Emily Wilson, UConn CLEAR

Greenhouse inventories (GHG) estimate levels of emissions which are scientifically understood as the human-induced basis for climate change. GHG inventories ideally resemble balance sheets indicating both emissions sources and carbon “sinks” that remove atmospheric CO2 via long-term carbon storage in vegetation cover, soils, and forests. Like all New England states, Connecticut over the past decades has seen a loss of its beneficial carbon sinks due to land converted from forested and vegetated landscape to areas of sprawling regional development, to the detriment of state efforts to combat climate change. To date, carbon sinks have been omitted from GHG inventories due to insufficient accounting methods, leading policy-makers to undervalue Connecticut’s forests and open spaces as agents of regional climate stabilization.

Linda Powers Tomasso explored the problem of carbon sink accounting in her graduate thesis research using CLEAR’s twenty-five years of satellite monitored land use data. In this webinar, Linda will walk us through her research findings, explaining state land cover change and its relation to the loss of carbon storage and sequestration which help keep emissions rises in check. Her accounting methods propose a new use for CLEAR land cover data, with surprisingly robust results, leaving us with the question: should forest conservation garner greater attention and public funding as a cost effective mitigator against climate change?

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