Trees Don’t Grow Fast Enough To Slow Climate Change

But Timber Bamboo Does

The week before the UN COP 27 climate summit in Egypt, the University of Melbourne released The Land Gap Report by 20 leading climate and forest scientists. The report casts a grim outlook on global commitments to plant trees to mitigate climate change. The problem is timing and land use. Trees don’t grow fast enough to slow climate change in this critical decade. And we need an unrealistic amount of land to make a big difference.

“The role of wood products for mitigation has been misrepresented, creating the false impression that carbon stored in products has a greater benefit than in the forest.”

Racing the clock – 

“The carbon removal achieved through plantations, afforestation, and reforestation, will take a long time and hence not be sufficient in the next critical decade to contribute to limit peak global warming.” Trees have a slow growth rate of 25 to 50 years for structural wood timber, “Harvesting mature trees with the expectation of re-growth creates a decades-long carbon debt by permanently reducing carbon stored in the landscape and increasing the stock in the atmosphere. So, offsetting carbon emissions by harvesting mature trees and storing the processed carbon in long-lived products like buildings will not be a benefit in this critical decade. But, maintaining the forest will. 

We need to lower the embodied carbon of buildings immediately, and if wood timber isn’t the answer, what is?

BamCore’s mission is to overcome slow-growth limitations by using regenerative agriculture and nature’s fastest-growing structural fibers to engineer carbon-negative building systems. In our 2019 publication, Carbon Farming with Timber Bamboo, we prove that using timber bamboo to frame buildings captures and stores atmospheric carbon 5-6X faster than wood. Timber bamboo is so efficient at capturing atmospheric carbon because once a clump is mature (5 to 7 years), you can sustainably harvest 20% of the culms yearly. And because timber bamboo is regenerative, there is no disruption of carbon from replanting. In addition, it only takes a single year for the harvested culm to regrow, and every year, it regrows faster and stronger.

Thus, it is possible to farm carbon for storage in buildings to help mitigate climate change in this critical decade. 

Timber Bamboo Captures More CO2

More structural fiber on less land –

The second limitation the Melbourne report explains is that nations have committed to increasing their collective tree coverage by 1.2 billion hectares to capture the carbon and provide for harvested wood products to store the carbon. That area of newly planted (slow-growing) trees would be 22% more land than the entire United States (including Alaska). 

In contrast, an analysis of timber bamboo’s biogenic carbon benefits by Quantis International showed that growing timber bamboo for structural applications was 4.6x more land-use efficient than growing wood. Thus, in the extreme, if the nations substituted timber bamboo, only 260 million hectares would be needed— we cite this as an illustration because bamboo only grows in some climates.

But, there are more than enough hectares of degraded land (Mapping The Worlds Degraded Lands) where timber bamboo can be planted today—making it a quickly scalable and viable climate mitigation solution. While also providing the materials for much-needed housing and providing livelihoods in poverty-stricken areas of the global south.

Travis and Timber Bamboo