In a recent press release, the renowned Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research - known around the world as PIK - addressed the potential for a material revolution, which would see wood replace steel and cement as the dominant resource in urban construction. According to a study conducted by an international team of researchers, the benefits this could have on climate stabilization are twofold. Firstly, such a revolution would help curb the greenhouse gas emissions generated by cement and steel production. Secondly, it would turn buildings into carbon sinks, as the timber would retain the CO2 that the trees previously absorbed from the air and stored in their trunks. However, the authors of the study emphasize that a material revolution of this kind will require very careful, sustainable forest management.

"Urbanization and population growth will create a huge demand for the construction of new housing and commercial buildings. This means cement and steel production will remain major sources of greenhouse gas emissions unless we take appropriate action," says Galina Churkina, the lead author of the study, who is affiliated with both the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in the United States and PIK in Germany. She goes on to outline what this action could look like from an ecological perspective: "These risks facing the global climate system could, however, be turned into an opportunity to effectively mitigate climate change by substantially increasing the use of engineered wood within the international construction industry. Our analysis shows that we can successfully harness this potential provided two conditions are met. Firstly, the forests providing the wood must be managed sustainably. Secondly, we must recycle the wood from demolished buildings." "Trees are the most powerful technology we have at our disposal," adds Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, co-author of the study and Director Emeritus of PIK. "They take CO2 out of our atmosphere and turn it into oxygen for us to breathe and carbon, which they store in their trunks for us to use. I can't think of a safer way of storing carbon. Humans have been using wood for buildings for many centuries, but it's now time for some serious upscaling if we are to take on the challenge of climate stabilization. By processing wood to make state-of-the-art building materials and managing our harvesting and construction practices wisely, we humans can build ourselves a safe home here on Earth."

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) (14473 Potsdam, Germany)