A Modest Proposal: Logging for Environmentalists

(Epistemic status: non-expert who’s spent about 5 minutes looking into the subject)

So, we have more wildfires this year in California, which are once again screwing up the local air quality. As I understand it, there’s lots of dry wood accumulating; the fires are bound to happen eventually, and if we manage to suppress them for some years, they’ll just burn harder when (not if) the blaze finally happens—and we’re currently reaping the effects of prior years of fire suppression.

I had a hunch, and googled, and found an article from September 2020 that says:

This year’s fires in California have already burned through 1.4 million hectares (3.4 million acres) of land, and the fire season isn’t set to end for at least a couple of months.

The fires have already generated more than 91 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is about 25% more than the state’s annual emissions from fossil fuels.

Which led me to an idea. Could you pay logging companies to take a bunch of that wood, possibly chopping down some fraction of the living trees in the process, and do something with it that will prevent it being burned? Good lumber can be used for construction (and you could sell it to the logging companies to help pay for this), bad wood can be buried or something.

Would the economics work out? A 2008 paper estimates the costs of burying wood, as a carbon-capture technique, to be $14 per ton of CO2. This would be without any offsets from selling the good lumber. Meanwhile, there was a recent thread on /​r/​slatestarcodex about the costs of carbon capture, and most of the numbers I see there are much higher. (It seems the cost estimates for many proposed methods involve a lot of guesswork about economies of scale.) And it would have the further benefit of shrinking the wildfires and improving Californian air quality. I thought there might be a low-hanging fruit tree here.

Anyway, neither practical politics nor this type of technology are my domain, nor do I know anyone who does work in the right domain, so I will just leave the idea here.