Is burning wood carbon-neutral?

Burning wood is considered carbon-neutral because it does not increase the amount of carbon dioxide (a regularly occurring molecule but also a greenhouse gas) cycling through the atmosphere. Carbon is continually cycling through all living plants and animals. Tree growth and wood decomposition represent a short-term carbon cycle, where growing trees convert carbon dioxide to woody biomass and decomposing trees release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Whether trees naturally decompose or burn, carbon dioxide is emitted back into the atmosphere, replacing what was just taken out. As long as global tree biomass production is at least as fast as wood is burned and it decomposes, the carbon cycle remains in balance; there is no net increase of carbon in the atmosphere. When fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere; most of it cannot be absorbed into the carbon cycle. Because fossil fuels are currently used for harvesting, transporting, and processing woody biomass, there is a small net increase in atmospheric carbon. This amount could be reduced if biofuels were used. This FAQ was adapted from Wood to Energy and used with permission.