In our evaluation of climate change, we consider the positive impact that forests have in capturing carbon, intercepting water, and stabilizing soils, thereby mitigating negative effects on the environment. At the core – through photosynthesis – trees absorb carbon and other pollutants, then emit pure oxygen into the atmosphere: a climate change solution. We do, however, also recognize the risks to society and Rayonier from the effects of climate change and deliberately take steps to mitigate those risks.
Rayonier has opportunities to respond to the effects of climate change through our forest management practices. Fertilizing nutrient-deficient soils increases forest growth. Lifecycle analysis has demonstrated that this increased growth also increases long-term carbon sequestration. In addition, as temperatures rise, trees in some areas will grow faster and sequester more carbon, which will help to further mitigate climate change. Contrary to popular belief, even after they have been harvested, trees continue to store carbon in products like lumber, providing a long-term positive impact.
In New Zealand, we measure the impact of our forest management by assessing the carbon footprint of the full process – from growth to delivery to customers – which shows that we are climate positive (we remove more carbon than we emit). New Zealand has an Emissions Trading Scheme, under which all forests established after 1990 can earn carbon units.
We are working on initiatives to measure the carbon footprint within each of our geographies and aim to disclose in the near future.
Risks and Opportunities
In the long-term, the potential risk to Rayonier posed by climate change is the gradual shift that could alter the diversity of plants and trees growing across certain regions, as well as the potential for new diseases and soil conditions that could impact future forests. This long-term risk is mitigated through our proactive tree improvement program. Developed by our internal research and development team, it aims to develop seedlings that will be well-adapted to these changes. We also support and participate in external research initiatives that are searching for other long-term solutions. Changes in the forest environment as a result of climate change present an opportunity for targeted genetic tree improvement to decrease the overall risk to Rayonier.
There are also short-term events that impact our lands such as wind storms, hurricanes and forest fires. Rayonier takes deliberate steps to mitigate these potential risks with actions such as: prescribed controlled burns, creating fire breaks and fire lines, and geographically diversifying our portfolio. See how our U.S. forest rangers prevent wildfires on Rayonier’s land.
Refer to our Form 10-K for a list of additional weather-related risk factors.