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Wood as construction material helps fight climate change

By Rudy A. Fernandez
Thursday, September 18, 2008 [ philstar.com ]

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna — Don’t look now, but using wood as construction materials can help fight climate change.

This was asserted by Dr. Florentino O. Tesoro, immediate past undersecretary for research and development (R&D) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and Dr. Rico J. Cabangon, head of the Engineered Products Section of the Los Banos-based DOST-Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI).

About three decades ago, they recalled, wood — being directly linked to increasing worldwide forest destruction — began to be seen as a notorious construction material.

Today, with runaway global deforestation being blamed as a leading cause of climate change, the use of wood in industries gains even more notoriety.

“This need not to be the case,” Tesoro and Cabangon asserted at a recent seminar held at the DOST-FPRDI. The lecture was organized to help FPRDI identify ways of helping reduce climate change.

“Wood — as long as it comes from tree plantations and not from natural forests — is the greenest among the construction materials available in the market,” they emphasized.

They cited the following reasons: “First, wood is renewable and recyclable. Second, it stores carbon, and third, producing lumber and other wood products emits carbon dioxide 8 to 13 times less than producing cement or steel.”

Tesoro, also a former FPRDI director, and Cabangon further stressed: “The excessive amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the culprit behind climate change. Trees and wood products fight climate change because they trap carbon in their system. They make up what we call a huge carbon sink.”

They computed that growing trees absorb one kilogram of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for every cubic meter of growth. The resulting carbon is locked away for the tree’s life and the life of the wood and wood products coming from the trees.

The forest scientists asserted that the best way to use plantations as carbon sink is to harvest their timber, convert this into products (which will continue to store the carbon), and replant more trees.

“We cannot overemphasize it: the important thing is to plant trees and to use wood products coming from tree plantations only,” they stated.

Tesoro and Cabangon reported that several European countries are already promoting the use of wood as a way to reduce climate change.

“They understand that promoting the use of properly-sourced wood, helps expand forest plantations worldwide, and enlarges the carbon sink,” they concluded.

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