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Tuesday, September 1, 2015 | Last updated: 12:37pm

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MSU sustainability program given 'outstanding' approval

Planting trees across the world, MSU’s Carbon2Markets, or C2M, program has gained praise from the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research for attempting to raise the standard of living in developing countries, while slowing down global warming.

C2M was unanimously deemed “outstanding” by the organization’s board in recognition of the program’s five years of efforts in sustainability and third-world economics.

Led by Dave Skole, a professor in the Department of Forestry at MSU and C2M program director, C2M is based on low-income farmers getting value out of their short supplies, said Jeffrey Armstrong, dean of MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“(Skole’s) work is an excellent example of where environment and economics are coming together,” Armstrong said. “His work of linking carbon sequestration and enhancing the economy of local farmers is tremendous.”

The program provides income for people in 10 developing Asian and African countries by planting trees on their property and helping them sell the carbon credits it produces to major companies, said Skole.

Environmental Definitions

Biodiesel: a vegetable- or animal fat-based oil that can be chemically transformed into fuel by reacting with the organic compound alcohol used in standard diesel engines

Biogeochemical Cycle: or nutrient cycle is a pathway through the biosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere chemical elements or molecules journey through, and are recycled in at the completion of the route

Biomass: a renewable energy source made up of the organic material from plants and animals

Carbon Credits: a common term assigned to the value to an offset of greenhouse gases

Carbon Offset: an amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases measured in metric tons used as financial tools in reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Deforestation: the removal of natural vegetation by logging and burning

Sources: U.S. Energy Information Administration, the University of Michigan, Carbonfund.org, the National Biodiesel Board

“We were looking at the basic science of deforestation and the increase of carbon dioxide and how it affects the climate change problem,” Skole said. “We started thinking, ‘Well, what could we do from the point of view of applications and policies and trying to find solutions?’ And that’s where we thought of how we could replant trees.”

The results of the C2M project have attracted the attention of admirers such as the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research and the Chicago Climate Exchange, said Michael Walsh, executive vice president of the Chicago Climate Exchange.

“MSU’s Carbon2Markets program is a practical example of implementing win-win activities around the world,” Walsh said. “While mitigating carbon emissions, Carbon2Markets’ projects are helping build the institutions and experience needed to promote sustainable agriculture and forestry on a large scale.”

The C2M program works by growing trees that trap carbon dioxide in the ground and vegetation, instead of releasing it back into the air, said research scientist Jay Samek, who is contributing to the project. The farmers can then earn money by selling their carbon offsets created by the planted trees.

Carbon credits are a measurement of how much carbon is absorbed from the environment through plant life, which can be purchased to help offset the carbon production of companies, such as Ford Motor Co.

“Carbon dioxide is part of a biogeochemical cycle,” Samek said. “What we are actively trying to do is reduce the amount of emissions from clearing forest, which is a source of greenhouse gas and increase the amount carbon dioxide fixed in new plantings of trees in the biomass.”

By planting high-yield crops, such as jatropha, a small shrub-like tree that produces nuts that can be refined into biodiesel and sold or used to power farm equipment, the farmers in countries including Thailand and Kenya also gain income by selling the products of the crops along with the credits.

“Working in western Kenya, where most of the farmers are very poor, they are a drag on the economy,” Skole said. “(The program) raises their income and they can reinvest in their agriculture and improve. It becomes an upward movement. They can get enough money to provide education to their children, improving the next generation.”

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