Unparalleled and critical forest climate protection
Forests are key to tackling climate change: Will Biden rise to the challenge?
Covering a third of the planet’s land surface, forests are huge carbon sinks, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, keeping it out of the atmosphere where it would contribute to global warming. Only the world’s oceans store more carbon. Keeping forests intact has long been considered essential to maintaining a healthy planetary environment, but scientists are now beginning to understand how essential they are in the fight against climate change.
A recent study was conducted by a team of international researchers from several institutions, including:
- World Resources Institute
- California Institute of Technology
- Wageningen University (Netherlands)
- the International Forestry Research Center (Indonesia)
They integrated ground data and satellite imagery to map annual greenhouse gas emissions from the world’s forests. They found that between 2001 and 2019, the world’s forests stored about twice as much carbon dioxide as they emitted. “[F]Forests provide a ‘carbon sink’ that absorbs 7.6 billion net metric tonnes of CO2 per year, or 1.5 times more carbon than the United States emits each year, ”write two of the authors of the report, Nancy Harris and David Gibbs of the World Resources Institute.
“Overall, the data shows that maintaining existing forests remains our best hope of maintaining the large amount of carbon forests stored and continuing carbon sequestration which, if interrupted, will exacerbate the effects of climate change. “
“[T]Tropical forests alone absorb up to 1.8 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere each year, ”according to WWF, an international non-governmental organization based in Switzerland that works to preserve the Earth’s wilderness. “However, agriculture, forestry and other land uses are responsible for almost a quarter of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions… End forest conversion, preserve the sink forest carbon and restore forests [have] the potential to avoid more than a third of global emissions.
In March, dozens of environmental groups, including the John Muir Project, Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, and Alaska Wilderness League, sent a letter to John Kerry, the President’s special envoy for climate, and to Gina McCarthy, the White House’s national climate advisor, urging the Biden administration to protect the country’s carbon-dense forests in the United States Determined National Contribution (NDC), are plans action plans created by states that have signed the Paris climate agreement.
The NDC is currently being drafted by President Biden’s climate team and will be presented to the United Nations later this year. The coalition specifically highlighted the need to protect the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska.
Spanning nearly 17 million acres, the Tongass is the largest national forest and the largest carbon sink in the United States. It is also the largest temperate rainforest on the planet.
“Article 5 of the Paris Agreement encourages Parties to conserve and improve sinks and reservoirs, including forests. The US NDC cannot approach the level of engagement needed without a strong, science-based natural climate solution that includes protecting all of our remaining old and mature forests, like those in Tongass. The inclusion of Tongass and other ancient forests in our NDC will send the signal to the world that the United States is ready to lead the way in protecting critical natural climate solutions.
Letter from conservationist to the Biden administration
In addition to sequestering carbon and protecting the Earth’s climate, forests provide a wide range of ecosystem services, from providing food, fuel, wood and fiber, to air purification, to filtering of water supplies, maintaining wildlife habitats, controlling floods and preventing soil erosion.
What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the public understand something scientists have been warning for decades: Deforestation is linked to the spread of zoonotic diseases. But these services are threatened when forests are cleared for wood products and land use changes, such as making room for climate-destroying industries like the meat industry.
For decades, US federal forest policy has served the interests of the forest products industry by authorizing and even subsidizing unsustainable logging. And that, in turn, leads to massive carbon emissions. Dogwood Alliance, a nonprofit organization based in Asheville, North Carolina, works to protect the country’s southern forests in 14 states. They launched a public petition urging the Biden administration to “hold the forest industry accountable for its impacts on the climate, biodiversity and community” and “establish strong, ecologically sound and just protections for the environment” for them. forests.
The economic benefits of healthy forests are enormous. According to Dogwood Alliance, the ecosystem services provided by rainforests are worth more than $ 500 billion, which could reach nearly $ 550 billion if an additional 13 million acres of rainforest were protected and sustainably used. “The value of ecosystem services from intensive management[d] the rainforest costs only $ 1,200 an acre, ”the group explains.
Dogwood Alliance strives to educate the public about the dangers of the wood pellet industry. “But the rainforests left alone are worth over $ 18,600 an acre. By shifting the focus from managing timber production to healthy native ecosystems, wetland forests are increasing in value more than fifteen times.
“Forests have quickly become a major source of biofuel in the EU,” writes Earth | Food | Lifetime Contributor Danna Smith, Founder and Executive Director of Dogwood Alliance, on Truthout:
“Imperfect carbon accounting assumes that burning trees is carbon neutral if a tree is planted to replace one that was felled, but biomass imported from the US to the EU is never properly accounted for. This flawed logic has led to massive renewable energy subsidies for biomass under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive program. He further encouraged countries like the UK, the Netherlands and Denmark to subsidize the destruction of forests as fuel at a time when we need to let forests grow to absorb carbon from the atmosphere, protect biodiversity. and strengthen natural protections against floods and extreme droughts. “
“Trees have long thoughts, long, restful breathing, just as they have a longer life than ours,” wrote the German-Swiss poet and novelist Hermann Hesse in his 1920 collection, Wandering: notes and sketches. “They are wiser than we are, as long as we don’t listen to them.” As nearly 200 countries around the world try to meet the Paris climate agreement goals of keeping global temperature rise 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, it is time to ‘listen to the wisdom of trees.
Independent Media Institute
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.