The decade's most triggering comedy
As Europeans burn more wood amid an energy shortage ahead of the winter months, Greta Thunberg and other climate activists urged officials to discourage such activity in favor of solar and wind power.
Energy prices in Europe have increased more than tenfold throughout 2022 amid fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Over the weekend, Russia severed natural gas shipments through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline until sanctions imposed by Western countries are amended. While several nations introduce consumption restrictions and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveils a “mandatory target” for reducing usage, demand for wood has soared — leading to the rapid harvesting of old-growth forests.
Companies in Poland, Estonia, Romania, and Hungary are reducing timber into wood pellets and exporting them to Italy, Germany, Austria, and other Western European nations, according to an investigation by The New York Times. Although the European Union subsidized wood burning over a decade ago as an incentive for households and businesses to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, wood pellets produce more emissions than coal.
“Even if forests are allowed to regrow, using wood deliberately harvested for burning will increase carbon in the atmosphere and warming for decades to centuries — as many studies have shown — even when wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas,” a 2018 letter written by scientists to the European Parliament explained. “The reasons are fundamental and occur regardless of whether forest management is ‘sustainable.’ Burning wood is inefficient and therefore emits far more carbon than burning fossil fuels for each kilowatt hour of electricity produced.”
Noting the European Union’s “growing appetite for burning forests,” Thunberg nevertheless argued in an opinion piece for The Guardian that the bloc’s renewable energy goals “should apply solely to actual renewable energy.”
“We need to drastically reduce all types of greenhouse gas emissions, not only those from fossil fuels. In addition, and not instead of, we must remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Instead of trusting non-existent, unreliable and expensive carbon capture technologies, the best way to do that is to protect and restore more forests,” Thunberg and her associates said. “All subsidies given to burn forest biomass must be reallocated to true renewables such as offshore-wind, solar and geothermal.”
The European Union has adopted the official policy of becoming “a climate-neutral society” by 2050 in accordance with the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement. Thunberg noted that conforming to the latter treaty would be impossible with continual deforestation.
“Forest biomass takes minutes to burn, whereas it takes anywhere from decades to centuries for the climate and environmentally harmful tree plantations to resequester the carbon emitted,” the 19-year-old activist continued. “This equals decades of carbon debts that we do not have time for.”
Several nations have already implemented energy usage restrictions or warned that such policies could be necessary for the coming months. While the legislature of Spain mandated that public air conditioning be set no lower than 27 degrees Celsius — roughly 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit — through the summer, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a 10% voluntary reduction in the nation’s power usage to avoid “last resort” consumption limits.