The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Top News

December 10, 2012

Do you deserve a lump of carbon under your Christmas tree?

— It's that time of year when even environmentalists committed to saving trees proudly display a massive tree carcass in the living room, bejeweled and topped with a star. American cities are rarely greener than during Christmastime, when every other street corner can seem to be occupied by a tree peddler.

Christmas trees play into a wider debate among environmentalists: Are tree farms better or worse at carbon sequestration than untouched forests?

The pro-tree-farm argument goes like this: When you plant a tree, it goes from seedling to full-grown plant by rapidly extracting carbon from the atmosphere, including carbon that humans have emitted by burning fossil fuels and raising cattle. (When a climatologist looks at a tree, he sees a leafy pillar of solidified greenhouse gases.) Once the tree reaches maturity, though, it slows its consumption of carbon. By way of comparison, think of the appetites of a growing teenager and a senior citizen. When you're done growing, you stop consuming as many calories. The best move, according to some tree-farm advocates, is to replace the mature tree with a new sapling and start the growth process over again.

Tree farmers have been making this claim for more than two decades, but many climate experts think it's bunk. The most obvious objection to the theory is: What becomes of the trees once they're cut? According to research out of Oregon in the 1990s, 58 percent of felled trees are used for paper, mulch, firewood or other short-term purposes. In those cases, the tree's sequestered carbon quickly reenters the atmosphere after decomposing or burning. The remaining 42 percent is used in ways that keep the wood intact more than five years, such as homebuilding and furniture production. Even in those cases, though, the carbon doesn't stay sequestered forever.

Text Only
Top News
  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Wildcats aren't champs but we're all still watching Calipari

    Kentucky coach John Calipari is a college basketball phenom for his ability to knit together championship-caliber teams of freshmen. How long will Calipari's success last as other coaches catch on?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • US anti-Semitic attacks down before Kansas deaths

    A group monitoring anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. cautiously noted a sharp decline in such incidents less than two weeks before the fatal shootings over the weekend outside two Jewish sites in suburban Kansas City.

    April 15, 2014

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • 5 Things to Know about Tax Day

    The deadline for filing taxes is midnight Tuesday. Here are five things to consider as the deadline nears.

    April 15, 2014

  • 13-year-old accused of bringing gun to school

    An 8th grader at a suburban Chicago middle school was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon after a loaded handgun was found inside his locker.

    The gun was discovered Monday afternoon in the 13-year-old's locker at Washington Middle School in Aurora.

    April 15, 2014

  • Iowa regulators to hold forums on investment scams

    Iowa's insurance commissioner has scheduled forums in Cedar Rapids and Davenport to educate the public on how to avoid investment and insurance scams.

    Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said a May 1 forum and panel discussion at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center would be limited to the first 210 respondents. A similar event is scheduled June 5 in Davenport.

    April 15, 2014

  • 10 Things to Know for Today

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

    April 15, 2014

  • 4-15-14 13-Photo, Masters Bubba more than local hero? AUGUSTA, Ga. -- He plays a sexy game of golf, owns two green jackets and -- in what constitutes a show of major respect in these parts --Bubba Watson made rabid Georgia Bulldog fans take a break from spring football to watch some golf this weekend. A

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

AP Video