Burning wood produces carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas – so heating your home with wood does contribute to global warming. However, the contribution to global warming is less significant than if you heat your house with oil, gas, or some other fossil fuel, at least if the wood that you burn was grown and harvested sustainably. The main reason for this is that when fossil fuels are burned for heat (or for any other reason) they release carbon into the atmosphere that has been stored underground for millions of years, adding to the atmosphere’s net carbon content. Burning wood, however, releases carbon that was absorbed from the atmosphere during the tree’s lifetime, is put back into the air through burning, and hopefully will be re-absorbed by new trees planted to replace the ones that were cut down. Theoretically, a properly managed system of wood harvesting and re-planting could supply firewood to heat homes with no net contribution to global warming. However, it’s still important not to waste wood heat, because the greater the demand for firewood, the harder it will be to manage forests as sustainably as possible.
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