101: If California were engulfed in flames—w/ Allison Wolff of Vibrant Planet

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Trees are carbon storage machines. And they are disappearing at an alarming rate. In fact, experts predict that California could lose two-thirds of its 33M acres of forest in the next 15 to 20 years due to megafire and climate-driven disease and mortality. What’s more, the 2018 fires there emitted 68B tons of carbon, the equivalent of powering the state of California for an entire year. So, what can we do to restore our forests and manage them long-term in a way that mitigates the risk of megafire?

Allison Wolff is the Founder and CEO of Vibrant Planet, a firm that leverages the power of narrative to mobilize positive social change. She has 25 years of experience in the space, and her impressive client roster includes Google, eBay, Facebook and Netflix. On this episode of Reversing Climate Change, Allison joins Ross and Christophe to discuss what sparked her interest in the megafire issue and explain why the California forests are burning—and what we can do about it.

Allison also weighs in on the thousands of jobs associated with restoring and maintaining our forests long-term and how we might employ a new carbon accounting system to fund the necessary work. Listen in for Allison’s take on why a ‘let them burn’ policy is misguided and learn how you can get involved in promoting a carbon market that would pay to bring resilience back AND mitigate fire risk in our forests.

Key Takeaways

[1:45] Allison’s path to Reversing Climate Change

  • 25 years in brand experience at tech companies
  • Establish sustainability, social impact initiatives
  • Developed interest in movement building (Facebook Live at Paris climate talks)
  • Work with Paul Hawken on Project Drawdown
  • Study severity of megafire problem in California

[10:45] Why Allison is interested in working with Nori

  • Need financing from carbon markets to restore forests
  • Leverage Nori model for drawdown to motivate IFM

[12:57] Why California forests are burning

  • Low-intensity fires recycled nutrients in heterogeneous forests for 20K years
  • Europeans removed fire, clear cut most of West and planted mono-forests
  • Teenage trees too close together + ground fuel carries fire to tree canopy
  • Add high winds form desert to fuel megafire moving at speeds never seen
  • 2018 fires in CA emitted 68B tons of carbon, impacts water system as well

[22:19] What we can do to reintroduce low-intensity fire

  • Employ burn bosses to burn safe areas now
  • Rally ‘sleeping allies’ to invest in process
  • Clear out biomass with prescribed burns/by hand
  • Cut little trees for biochar, cross-laminated timber

[28:12] Allison’s insight around the potential to restore forests

  • Hopeful because we have model for resilience
  • Concerns re: capital, scaling workforce quickly

[31:35] How we might pay for forest restoration

  • Forest Resilience Bonds
  • Surcharge for water provided by forests
  • Carbon markets like Nori
  • Public health funds for mental health

[36:18] The jobs associated with restoring forests

  • Large unemployed population in rural West
  • Thousands of jobs available but need funding

[38:09] Allison’s take on the Sierra Club no touch policy

  • Understand idea behind let it burn policy (prevent big logging)
  • Owe it to fellow species to bring back resilience in forests

[41:33] The potential to create a new accounting system for carbon

  • Board feet = $10/ton, Biomass + slash waste = 10¢/ton
  • Create market for carbon storage in trees and soil
  • Monetize embodied carbon in products, avoided cost of fire

[47:28] Allison’s work with the California Forest Observatory

  • Dynamic, real-time system monitors forest health, wildfire risk
  • AI engine combines available LiDAR + meteorological data
  • Allows for fire mitigation and forest restoration planning

[52:58] How RCC listeners can get involved in Allison’s work

  • Share story of forest restoration and idea of carbon market
  • Need innovation and ideas as well as philanthropic capital

Connect with Ross & Christophe

Nori

Nori on Facebook

Nori on Twitter

Nori on Medium

Nori on YouTube

Nori on GitHub

Nori Newsletter

Email hello@nori.com

Nori White Paper

Subscribe on iTunes

Carbon Removal Newsroom

Resources

Vibrant Planet

Salo Sciences

VERGE 19

GreenBiz

eBay Giving Works

Meg Whitman

Google Green

Facebook Sustainability

Social Good at Facebook

Facebook Data for Good

Bill Weihl

The Paris Agreement

Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

Earth on Facebook

Paul Hawken

Project Drawdown

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming edited by Paul Hawken

Malcolm North

Scott Stephens

The Sagehen Experimental Forest

The Nature Conservancy

Forest Resilience Bond

Blue Forest Conservation

Blue Forest Pilot with Yuba County Water Agency

Stanford Natural Capital Project

Mental Health as an Ecosystem Service

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

Sierra Club

The Yurok Tribe

Karuk Tribe

CAL FIRE

Planet Data

European Sentinel System

California Forest Observatory

National Center for Atmospheric Research

108 episodes