You might have heard that Canada’s forests are an immense carbon sink, sucking up all sorts of CO2 – more than we produce – so we don’t have to worry about our greenhouse gas emissions.
This claim has been circulated on social media and repeated by pundits and politicians.
This would be convenient for our country, if it were real. Hitting our emissions-reduction targets would be a breeze. But, like most things that sound too good to be true, this one is false.
That’s because trees don’t just absorb carbon when they grow, they emit it when they die and decompose, or burn.
When you add up both the absorption and emission, Canada’s forests haven’t been a net carbon sink since 2001. Due largely to forest fires and insect infestations, the trees have actually added to our country’s greenhouse gas emissions for each of the past 15 years on record.