Forest Conservation, Reforestation Urged To Fight Climate Change

North American Forests Part Of The Solution To Global Warming

Today, the Forest Climate Working Group (FCWG), a coalition of landowners, conservation organizations, forestry advocates, forest products companies and scientists delivered a letter to President Obama calling for increased recognition of the critical role American forests must play in meeting our greenhouse gas reduction targets, following the Paris COP21 agreement. Accompanied with the letter, the FCWG released a toolkit to help states reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the capacity of forests and forest products to sequester and store carbon.

deforestation and global warming

“We heard significant discussions about international forests during the climate negotiations in Paris, but very little was focused on American forests,” said Jad Daley, Director of Climate Conservation at the Trust for Public Land and co-chair of the FCWG. “Domestic forests currently offset 13 percent of our annual emissions, setting the foundation of our international greenhouse gas emissions agreement and will be essential to our ability to meet this agreement moving forward.”

To put our forest sink into context, “the 766 million acres of America’s forests capture 38 percent of the total carbon emitted into our atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels for electricity produced in this country each year,” said Cynthia West, Director of the Office of Sustainability and Climate Change for the U.S. Forest Service.  “New U.S. Forest Service research shows our forests are at risk due largely to increasing development pressures, combined with loss to wildfire in the west.”

Tanzania wildlife conservation

To support and grow this crucial forest sink, the FCWG recommends a suite of policy options both at the federal and state levels that can help private forests and forest products continue to sequester and store carbon.

With 56 percent of the nation’s forests, owned and cared for by private owners and families, a strategy for working with these individuals is an essential component of any forest carbon strategy.

“The USDA and Forest Service, through their Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Building Blocks, have already taken significant steps to ensure American forests, especially our private forests, continue to play a role in mitigating climate change,” said Rita Hite, Executive Vice President of the American Forest Foundation and co-chair of the FCWG. “More can be done at the federal level but there is a significant opportunity at the state level as well.”

To help states respond to the opportunity to pursue forest carbon strategies, the FCWG state toolkit builds on the USDA Building Blocks, providing states with policy recommendations to keep forests as forests, plant more trees, better manage existing forests, protect urban forests, and encourage the use of more forests products. These policy recommendations include:

  • Creating incentives for increased forest carbon through a state’s Clean Power Plan allowance revenue
  • Maintaining or increasing state tax incentives for forest conservation
  • Expanding the use of wood products in construction.

The FCWG and its participants are committed to working with the administration to improve forest policy, and with states across the country as they try to maintain and increase their forests’ ability to sequester and store carbon.

Forest Conservation News via

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Rainforest Destruction Driven By Commodities

Fewer Than 10 Percent Of Major Corporations Have Policies Against Deforestation

The world’s rainforests have been decimated over the past 20 years. The destruction is accelerating again as corporations are waving false flags of sustainability.

The Global Canopy Programme’s Forest 500, the world’s first rainforest ratings agency that analyses the most influential companies, investors and governments in the race towards a deforestation-free global economy, today launched its annual results. It revealed that while the corporate sector improved marginally overall, many laggards are yet to make public sustainability commitments.

palm oil plantation deforestation

Commercial agriculture drives at least two thirds of tropical deforestation yet only 8 Percent of all the 250 powerbroker companies assessed have zero or zero net commitments in place that apply across forest risk commodities (palm oil, soya, beef, leather, paper, and timber).

The investment community has made even more limited progress, with the exception of BNP Paribas (France) who has become the first Forest 500 investor to make a commitment to zero net deforestation in their agricultural lendings.

The 2015 Forest 500, assessed and ranked 250 companies, with total annual revenues in excess of US $4.5 trillion; 150 investors and lenders; 50 countries and regions; and 50 other influential actors in this space. These 500 power brokers play a major role in supply chains for commodities fueling deforestation, which accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, a key contributor to climate change.

Andrew Mitchell, Founder and Executive Director of the Global Canopy Programme said, “GCP’s Forest 500 holds the most influential global players to account for their role in the deforestation economy. Together, these 500 power brokers control the complex supply chains of key ‘forest risk commodities’ that are found in over 50% of packaged products in supermarkets.

deforestation and climate change

“Through these commodities, we are all part of a hidden deforestation economy – from our toothpaste, to our pensions. At this crucial time leading up to the international climate change negotiations, GCP is calling on these companies and investors to take the first critical step in addressing tropical deforestation by adopting, strengthening and implementing deforestation policies in their value chains.”

The 2015 Forest 500 Results

  • Despite 2020 being a key deadline set by the New York Declaration on Forests, one year on since its publication, few powerbrokers have made new or strengthened procurement and production commitments.
  • Whilst the corporate sector has improved marginally overall, many laggards are yet to make public sustainability commitments. Only 8% of all the 250 powerbroker companies now have zero or zero net commitments in place that apply across all forest risk commodities.
  • The corporate leader board remains unchanged, with; Groupe Danone (France), Kao Corp. (Japan), Nestlé S.A. (Switzerland), Procter & Gamble (US), Reckitt Benckiser Group (UK), and Unilever (UK) the only companies to score 5 points.
  • New York Declaration signatories lead the way towards achieving zero deforestation in agricultural supply chains scoring on average three times higher than non-signatories.
  • The investment community has made even more limited progress with less than 1% of investors adopting zero or zero net commitments that apply to all of their investments or lendings in agricultural supply chains.
  • BNP Paribas (France) has become the first Forest 500 investor to make a commitment to zero net deforestation in their agricultural lendings and joins HSBC (UK) in the top score band.
  • Of the jurisdictions assessed, none has significantly strengthened their national or state-level deforestation policies to improve their Forest 500 score.

Séverin Fischer, BNP Paribas, Head of Environment and Extra Financial Accountability, said, ‘BNP Paribas has taken the strategic decision to make a zero net deforestation commitment that will be implemented by 2020. This applies to all our lendings in agricultural commodities as it makes both commercial and environmental sense, we are managing risk over the long term. The Forest 500 is an important benchmarking tool that helps us recognise risk in our portfolios and we are delighted that our leadership position has been recognised, we hope others will follow.’

koalas deforestation

Tom Bregman, Project Manager of the Forest 500 said, ‘The Forest 500 platform now includes significant enhancements which enable users to compare progress across sectors and target their engagement with powerbrokers to incentivise change. In the coming months, the Forest 500 is going to be working with others, together we hope to create a race to the top.’

While there has been some improvement overall in the corporate sector, performance continues to be poor. Of the 31 companies that did not have any policy in year one, only four made a new public policy related to sustainable production/procurement of agricultural commodities this year. Furthermore, three companies dropped from one point to zero points due to a reduction in the amount of information that is publicly available (on their respective websites).

  • Interestingly, North American headquartered companies make up 20% of the total membership of the Forest 500 and 33% of improvers are based here highlighting the progress that companies headquartered in North America are making.
  • Driving behaviour change is central to the Forest 500 and so credit goes to the 31 companies who moved up by at least one point, with five (Astra Agro Lestari, Groupe Eram, Grupo Bimbo, Mewah International, and News Corp.) moving up by two points and also to McDonalds and Bunge for introducing zero net deforestation policies across all of their commodities this year.
  • Members of the Consumer Goods Forum, on average, score twice as many points as non-members.

sustainable palm oil deforestation

Performance of the investment community was even worse than the corporate sector.

  • Nearly a third of investors assessed had no policies in place relating to their investments and lending.
  • However, the number of investors scoring two points out of five has increased from 35 to 44, with reductions in those scoring zero or one points.
  • 18 investors improved their score by one or more points with three improving by two points (ATP, Columbia Threadneedle Investments, and Ontario Teachers Pension Plan).
  • Overall there was an increase in the number of investors making commodity-specific sourcing policies. Specifically, the number of investors making lending commitments in relation to soy and cattle companies, increased from eight to 11 and six to eight respectively.

Of the remaining powerbrokers that make up the 500, little has changed. Incremental progress has been made across forest, trading and subnational jurisdictions, with no countries releasing more comprehensive national policies focused on tackling deforestation.

Forest Conservation News via

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Norway Paying Brazil For Slowing Deforestation

Deforestation In Amazon Rising Again

The Norwegian government has fulfilled its billion dollar commitment to Brazil for the South American country’s success in reducing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Norway announced it would complete payment to Brazil’s Amazon Fund by the end of the year. Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment Tine Sundtoft commended Brazil’s progress and said it has become a model for efforts to combat climate change.

forest tribes and forest conservation

“Brazil’s achievements in reducing deforestation in the Amazon are truly impressive. The benefits for the global climate, for biodiversity and vital ecosystem services, as well as for the people living in and off the Amazon, are immeasurable,” Sundtoft said in a statement. “Through the Amazon Fund, Brazil has established what has become a model for other national climate change funds. We are proud to be partnering with Brazil in this effort.”

Her sentiments were echoed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“The partnership between Brazil and Norway through the Amazon Fund shows intensified support for one of most impressive climate change mitigation actions of the past decades,” the Secretary General said. “This is an outstanding example of the kind of international collaboration we need to ensure the future sustainability of our planet.”

Norway’s pledge, signed in 2008, was the largest of several similar commitments made by the Nordic country. It was later matched by a billion dollar agreement with Indonesia, which has struggled to keep pace with Brazil in terms of reducing deforestation.

jaguar conservation and deforestation in Amazon

Annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon plunged more than 75 percent over the past decade. Better monitoring and law enforcement, coupled with private sector initiatives under pressure from civil society groups, have been credited for much of the decline.

But while the decrease in the Amazon has been welcomed, there are concerns that some of the progress has come at the expense of other native ecosystems like the woody grassland known as the cerrado and drier forests called the caatinga. Furthermore short-term satellite data from the past 12 months suggest that deforestation may be creeping back up in the Amazon.

deforestation and climate change

Nonetheless, Brazil’s reduction in deforestation represents the single biggest emissions cut in the past decade, amounting to 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equal to the savings that would have been achieved by taking all cars off American roads for three years.

Rainforest Conservation News via:

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

New York Promotes Forests To Capture Carbon

Trees Important In Race Against Climate Change

Debates continue about the best way to slow the increase of carbon dioxide that is trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Carbon needs to be pulled out of the atmosphere and stored–a process called carbon capture and sequestration. High-tech ways to accomplish it are being explored worldwide.

We don’t have to wait for high tech carbon sequestration. Trees sequestered carbon for about 350 million years.

Trees, like other green plants, use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into sugar, cellulose and other carbon-containing carbohydrates that they use for food and growth. Trees are unique in their ability to lock up large amounts of carbon in their wood, and continue to add carbon as they grow. Although forests release some CO2 from natural processes, a healthy forest typically stores carbon at a greater rate than it releases carbon.

The actual rate of carbon sequestration will vary with species, climate and site, but in general, younger and faster growing forests have higher annual sequestration rates. Considering that one half of the weight of dried wood is carbon, trees in a forest hold a lot of carbon. When the enormous amount of carbon stored in forest soils is added to the trees’ carbon, it becomes obvious that forests are major carbon storage reservoirs.

deforestation and global warming

The main strategies for using forests for carbon sequestration are listed below in order of their potential for carbon sequestration in New York:

  • Active forest management – enhancing forest growth through sustainable forestry
  • Avoided deforestation – reducing the loss of forested land by promoting smart growth and less sprawl.
  • Forest preservation – leaving forests undisturbed as is done in the 3 million acres of the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve.
  • Afforestation – adding forest to previously unforested land, as was done on State Forest land during the Great Depression .

Active Forest Management

Working forests are a critical component of a sustainable future for New York State. They reduce atmospheric CO2 by carbon sequestration, and they produce wood products and alternative energy. Although it may seem counterintuitive to manage a forest for both carbon sequestration and energy production, it can be done with New York’s abundant post-agricultural forests. Many people do not realize how fast trees can grow in New York’s climate. An abandoned farm field can be covered with a forest of good-sized trees within 50 years. Proper management of these second and third growth forests for wood products and energy production actually enhances their ability to sequester carbon by enabling the remaining trees to grow more vigorously. By mimicking the effects of natural forest events such as fire and windstorms that create beneficial openings, timber harvesting can be used to open crowded canopies and encourage the growth of specific species such as oaks.

Active forest management enhances a forest’s carbon sequestration capacity by keeping the trees healthy and promoting vigorous growth. Strong healthy trees are more resistant to pests and diseases, and may also be better able to adapt to the stresses of a changing climate and are growing more vigorously and sequestering more carbon.

DEC has more than 760,000 acres of State Forests which are managed for timber production, as well as for wildlife habitat, recreation and biodiversity.

More than 62 percent of New York State is forest land, which amounts to18.6 million acres, or 29,000 square miles, of land covered by trees. More than 80 percent, 14.8 million acres, is privately owned. About 1 million acres of this is industrial forest land owned by large timber or investment companies and actively managed for timber production.

To encourage sustainability of non-industrial private forest land, New York’s Forest Stewardship Initiative helps private landowners develop forest management plans. The Forest Tax law provides incentives for managed forest lands. Many landowners have worked with Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Lands & Forest’s Private Forest Management staff to develop management plans for their land. Almost 2 million acres of private forest land is managed under the Forest Stewardship Program and about 650,000 acres are covered by the Forest Tax Law program. But there are more than 10 million acres of private forest land outside these programs. Much of this land is left un-managed, but could contribute significant carbon sequestration under active forest management.

deforestation and climate change

Avoided Deforestation

Significant land disturbance is a major source of CO2 emissions. Human disturbance has much more impact on forests than natural disturbances such as fires or hurricanes. When forested land is converted to agriculture or development, soils are typically ploughed, graded, compacted or excavated, and then often left exposed to erosion. Natural disturbances, other than landslides, rarely cause deep damage to soil structure. Some of the CO2 given off from forest disturbance comes from decay, but the biggest source is from the disturbed soil. Although they accumulate carbon much more slowly than trees, forest soils ultimately become storehouses for enormous amounts of carbon, over twice as much as is stored in the wood of the trees.

When forest soils are disturbed, they can lose carbon rapidly from the fast decay of organic material. In parts of the Pacific Northwest, a clear-cut replanted with conifer seedlings can continue to emit CO2 for as long as 20 years. Even though the young trees are sequestering carbon, the accelerated rate of soil decay caused by disturbance gives off carbon at a higher rate than the young trees can take up.

While some land must be cleared in order to build, too often everything is stripped off leaving only bare soil. Although it is possible to save many mature trees during development, it is cheaper to get the trees out of the way by stripping the site. A land use study of upstate New York showed a 30 % increase in land development between 1982 and 1997, but only a 2.6 % growth in population during the same period. The study was appropriately titled Sprawl Without Growth.

There is ultimately a high price for poor development practices, a price that ends up being paid for by the community and taxpayers rather than the developer. Once the trees are gone, the many benefits, or ecosystem services, which they provided, are also gone. These benefits include reduced storm run-off, clean water, clean air and natural cooling, as well as carbon sequestration. The adverse impacts of the cleared land include increased run-off, which can overload stormwater systems, soil erosion, water pollution, and, of course, adding more CO2 to the atmosphere.

Saving trees and planting additional trees are vital for water resource management alone, but along with the use of Smart Growth and green infrastructure for developments, could ultimately lead to better communities where trees can make a much greater contribution to improving the environment.

Forest Preservation

One forest-based carbon sequestration strategy is to preserve forests in their natural state, as has been done in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve. These forests will never be actively managed or cut. These mature late succession forests hold vast amounts of carbon in their wood, and even more in their undisturbed organic soils. They may sequester carbon at lower rates than do managed forests with younger trees, because older trees usually grow more slowly. In un-managed forests, only natural disturbances such as storms and fire, will provide clearings where young trees can get enough sun for rapid growth. Although mature trees which generally dominate undisturbed forests don’t grow as fast as young trees, they too can take advantage of the added light from natural clearings. Depending on the species, even mature trees can put on surprising growth spurts under favorable conditions.

The forests of New York’s Forest Preserve lands, State Unique Areas, State Parks and other protected lands, represent substantial carbon reservoirs, particularly in their soils. They are also vital for water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, preservation of very old forests, and as genetic reservoirs for the future.


Since the mid-nineteenth century, New York, along with most of the Northeastern states, has undergone major afforestation as millions of acres of abandoned farmland, which were covered with forest in pre-colonial times, have reverted back to forest. Consequently there are relatively limited opportunities for new, large scale additions of forest cover.

The largest potential for adding forest cover is probably in urban areas. Although urban forests may not be as effective at sequestering carbon as managed forests, they do have some sequestration capacity. However, their bigger role in greenhouse gas reduction is reducing energy used for air conditioning. Trees provide both shade and evaporative cooling which helps reduce the temperature both inside and outside a building. Increasing the amount of urban forest goes beyond just planting additional trees. The use of vines for green walls provides many of the same benefits in places where there may not be room for shade trees. Studies have shown that many plants, such as fast-growing vines, respond dramatically to higher levels of CO2 by growing faster and taking up CO2 at an increased rate.

Greater use of plants in cities not only helps save energy, but also benefits human health by improving air quality. Trees are effective at capturing particulate pollution from the air and also help lower concentrations of other air pollutants such as ozone and nitrous oxide. Trees and other plants help reduce excess runoff and water pollution by capturing and filtering stormwater. Adding green to a city can also produce direct economic benefits, such as increased tourism, and also job creation in plant-based industries, such as green roof installation.

Forests Can Reduce Atmospheric CO2

Increasing the carbon sequestration capacity of New York’s forests can be started now. DEC is working on policies and programs to encourage wider use of these strategies to increase forest carbon sequestration:

  • Promote stewardship of private forest lands.
  • Reduce unnecessary deforestation.
  • Add forest, especially in urban areas.
  • Increase the use of sustainable forest management.

The costs are comparatively low, and there are minimal environmental impacts. But the biggest advantage of increasing forests for carbon sequestration capacity is that there are so many environmental benefits from forests that it would be worth increasing them anyway – even if they weren’t so effective at sequestering carbon.

Although forests alone can’t sequester all of the excess carbon added by burning fossil fuels, they can make a difference, especially if we help and encourage them. Wisely managed forests can sequester carbon and also provide a sustainable source of fuel and lumber, help clean our air and water, preserve wildlife habitat, provide recreation opportunities and preserve the beauty of trees in their natural home for generations to come.

State Adds New Forest To Mark Earth Day

State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens today officially opened New York State’s newest state forest, the 518-acre Hand Hollow state forest in the town of New Lebanon, Columbia County, as part of New York State’s celebration of Earth Day. The announcement is in honor of Earth Week, April 19-25, which Governor Cuomo proclaimed as a weeklong celebration of New York’s commitment and accomplishments to protecting our environment, conserving open space, increasing access to the state’s vast and magnificent natural resources, implementing clean energy initiatives and preparing for the effects of climate change.

“This new state forest will provide outstanding recreational opportunities as well provide sustainable timber management that supports local jobs,” Martens said. “Our thanks go out to Columbia Land Conservancy and Little Pine LLC for their considerable efforts to make this new state forest a reality.”

“The Hand Hollow State Forest, with more than 500 acres of beautiful wooded land and a secluded lake, is a magnificent addition to the growing inventory of publicly accessible open lands in Columbia County,” said Columbia Land Conservancy Executive Director Peter R. Paden. “We are proud to have played a part in its creation and very grateful to the hard-working folks at DEC and to Little Pine LLC, without which this wonderful project could not have come to fruition.”

The Hand Hollow state forest is managed for multiple uses, including recreation, timber production, watershed protection and wildlife habitat. Hand Hollow meets the requirements for state forest designation of more than 500 acres of forested area that allows for a wide variety of recreational uses. Recreational opportunities include hiking, biking, picnicking, horseback riding, camping, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife observation and photography.

Carbon Capture and Storage News via

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Reforestation Restoring Hope In Battle Against Climate Change

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to see the groundswell for forest conservation and reforestation gaining more traction every day. We have nine projects ready to go in five nations across East Africa. Please visit our East Africa Plan to learn how you can help.

Deforestation Killing More Than Trees 

By Justin Gillis, New York Times

Over just a few decades, Costa Rica chopped down a majority of its ancient forests. But after a huge conservation push and a wave of reforestation, trees now blanket more than half of this nation. Far to the south, the Amazon rainforest was once being vaporized for farming, but Brazil has slowed the loss in recent years.

stop deforestation global warming

Meanwhile, Indonesia has made bold new promises in the past few months to halt deforestation. Business interests with clout are jumping on board. Measurable action remains to be seen.

In the battle to limit the risks of climate change, it has been clear for decades that focusing on the world’s immense tropical forests — saving the ones that are left, and perhaps letting new ones grow — is the single most promising near-term strategy.

Forests play a very large role in the carbon cycle of the planet. Trees pull the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, out of the air and lock the carbon away in their wood and in the soil beneath them. Destroying them, typically by burning, pumps much of the carbon back into the air, contributing to climate change.

Over time, humans have cut down or damaged at least three-quarters of the world’s forests, and that destruction has accounted for much of the excess carbon that is warming the planet.

But now, driven by a growing environmental movement in countries that are home to tropical forests, and by mounting pressure from Western consumers who care about sustainable practices, corporate and government leaders are making a fresh push to slow the cutting — and eventually to halt it. In addition, plans are being made by some of those same leaders to encourage forest regrowth on such a giant scale that it might actually pull a sizable fraction of human-released carbon dioxide out of the air and lock it into long-term storage.

reforest Tanzania

With the recent signs of progress, long-wary environmental groups are permitting themselves a burst of optimism about the world’s forests.

“The public should take heart,” said Rolf Skar, who helps lead forest conservation work for the environmental group Greenpeace. “We are at a potentially historic moment where the world is starting to wake up to this issue, and to apply real solutions.”

Still, Greenpeace and other groups expect years of hard work as they try to hold business leaders and politicians accountable for the torrent of promises they have made lately. The momentum to slow or halt deforestation is fragile, for many reasons. And even though rich Western governments have hinted for years that they might be willing to spend tens of billions of dollars to help poor countries save their forests, they have allocated only a few billion dollars.

Around the world, trees are often cut down to make room for farming, and so the single biggest threat to forests remains the need to feed growing populations, particularly an expanding global middle class with the means to eat better. Saving forests, if it can be done, will require producing food much more intensively, on less land.

“For thousands of years, the march of civilization has been associated with converting natural ecosystems to crops that serve only man,” said Glenn Hurowitz, a managing director at Climate Advisers, a consultancy in Washington. “What’s happening now is that we are trying to break that paradigm. If that succeeds, it’s going to be a major development in human history.”

Deep inside a Costa Rican rainforest, white-faced capuchin monkeys leapt through the tree tops. Nunbirds and toucans flew overhead, and a huge butterfly, flashing wings of an iridescent blue, fluttered through the air.

Ignoring the profusion of life around him, Bernal Paniagua Guerrero focused his gaze on a single 20-foot tree, placing a tape measure around the spindly trunk and calling a number out to his sister, Jeanette Paniagua Guerrero, who recorded it on a clipboard.

With that record, the black manú tree entered the database of the world’s scientific knowledge. Its growth will be tracked year by year until it dies a natural death — or somebody decides to chop it down for the valuable, rot-resistant wood.

The Paniaguas and their co-worker, Enrique Salicette Nelson, work for an American scientist, Robin Chazdon, helping her chronicle a remarkable comeback. Costa Rica is considered a forest success. Much of the country’s old-growth forest was lost from the 1940s to the 1980s, but then new policies stemmed the loss, and forests have regrown to cover more than half the country. Serious threats persist, including a boom in pineapple farming that gives landowners an incentive to cut down recovering forest plots.

jaguar conservation and deforestation in Amazon

A large, intact forest area still exists in Costa Rica, extending to the south and east into Panama. The dense, natural forest remains unfragmented by roads and has not been used for timber production.

Cuatro Rios, the forest they were standing in one recent day, looked, to a casual eye, as if it must have been there forever. Trees stretched as high as 100 feet, and a closed canopy of leaves cast the understory into deep shade — one hallmark of a healthy tropical rain forest.

In fact, the land was a cattle pasture only 45 years ago. When the market for beef fell, the owners let the forest reclaim it. Now the Cuatro Rios forest, near the tiny village of La Virgen, is a study plot for Dr. Chazdon, an ecologist from the University of Connecticut, who has become a leading voice in arguing that large-scale forest regrowth can help to solve some of the world’s problems.

Indeed, forests are already playing an outsize role in limiting the damage humans are doing to the planet. For the entire geologic history of the earth, carbon in various forms has flowed between the ground, the air and the ocean. A large body of scientific evidence shows that the amount of carbon in the air at any given time, in the form of carbon dioxide, largely determines the planet’s temperature.

The burning of coal, oil and natural gas effectively moves carbon out of the ground and into the active carbon cycle operating at the earth’s surface, causing a warming of the globe that scientists believe is more rapid now than in any similar period of geologic history.

Though the higher temperatures are causing extensive problems, including heat waves and rising seas, the increasing carbon dioxide also acts as a sort of plant fertilizer. The gas is the primary source of the carbon that plants, using the energy of sunlight, turn into sugars and woody tissue.

Scientific reports suggest that 20 percent to 25 percent of the carbon dioxide that people are pumping into the air is being absorbed by trees and other plants, which keep taking up more and more even as human emissions keep rising.

But when people damage or destroy forests, that puts carbon dioxide into the air, worsening the warming problem. Historically, forests have been chopped down all over the planet. Now they are actually regrowing across large stretches of the Northern Hemisphere, and the most worrisome destruction is occurring in relatively poor countries in the tropics.

Scientists concluded decades ago that deforestation must be stopped, both to limit climate change and to conserve the world’s biological diversity. These days, they are also coming to understand the huge potential of new or recovering forests to help pull dangerous emissions out of the air.

“Every time I hear about a government program that is going to spend billions of dollars on some carbon capture and storage program, I just laugh and think, what is wrong with a tree?” said Nigel Sizer, director of forest programs at the World Resources Institute, a think tank in Washington. “All you have to do is look out the window, and the answer is there.”

Scientists are still trying to figure out how much of a difference an ambitious forest regrowth strategy could make. But a leading figure in the discussion — Richard A. Houghton, acting president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts — has argued for turning some 1.2 billion acres of degraded or marginally productive agricultural land into forests.

That is an exceedingly ambitious figure, equal to about half the land in the United States. But researchers say it would be possible, in principle, if farming in poor countries became far more efficient. Some countries have already pledged to restore tens of millions of acres.

Dr. Houghton believes that if his target were pursued aggressively, and coupled with stronger efforts to protect existing forests, the rapid growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could be slowed sharply or possibly even halted.

That, he believes, would give the world a few decades for an orderly transition away from fossil fuels. “This is not a solution, but it would help us buy some time,” Dr. Houghton said.

The Amazon, spreading across nine countries of South America, is the world’s largest tropical forest. The majority of the Amazon is in Brazil, which for decades treated it as a limitless resource.

Sometimes aided by United States government funding for development, Brazil encouraged road construction that effectively opened the forest to settlement, including illegal land grabs. Crews harvested select trees for timber and then cut or burned the rest to make room for cattle ranching and soybean farming.

Deforestation was so rampant that by the middle of the last decade, 17 percent of the Amazon had been cut, and millions more acres had been damaged. Environmental groups worldwide sounded the alarm, as did indigenous and traditional peoples whose ancestors had lived in the forest for thousands of years.

deforestation and climate change

Global Deforestation

Since the dawn of civilization, humans have destroyed or badly damaged perhaps three-quarters of the world’s forests. This map shows loss and gain of forest cover over the last decade, including mechanical removal, fire and disease. Since the 19th century, forests have been re-established across large areas of the Northern Hemisphere, but in the tropics, they are still under broad assault.

As deforestation hit a peak in 2004, the Brazilian government came under international condemnation, and it began trying to halt the destruction. In 2006, environmental groups found a way to bring marketplace pressure to bear.

Crops grown on deforested land, notably soybeans, were being used to produce meat for Western companies like McDonald’s, creating a potential liability in the eyes of their customers. Greenpeace invaded McDonald’s restaurants and plastered posters of Ronald McDonald wielding a chain saw. That company and others responded by pressuring their suppliers, who imposed a moratorium on products linked to deforestation.

The Brazilian government used satellites to step up its monitoring, cut off loans to some farmers in counties with high deforestation rates, and used aggressive police tactics against illegal logging and clearing. Brazilian state governments and large business groups, including some beef producers, joined the efforts.

The intense pressure resulted in a sharp drop in deforestation, by 83 percent, over the past decade. Moreover, the Brazilian ministry of agriculture began to focus on helping farmers raise yields without needing additional land.

Not only were millions of acres of forest saved, but the carbon dioxide kept out of the air by Brazil’s success far exceeded anything any other country had ever done to slow global warming. Norway put up substantial funds to aid the effort, but otherwise, Brazil did it without much international help.

With so little money from abroad, the gains in Brazil are considered fragile, especially if a future government were to lose interest in forest protection. Daniel C. Nepstad, an American forest scientist who has worked in Brazil for decades and now heads a group called the Earth Innovation Institute, said, “We could still see a huge slide backward.”

Deforestation was rampant in Brazil until a decade ago, but campaigns by environmental groups and the Brazilian government slashed the rate of forest loss by 83 percent. That means Brazil has done more than any other country in the world to slow the emissions leading to global warming. It has received relatively little financial help from richer countries.

Indonesia deforestation

Indonesia’s Deforestation

With deforestation hopefully easing in Brazil, Indonesia is becoming a big test of the environmental groups’ strategy. Deforestation is rampant there, with people chopping down even national forests with impunity. The biggest reason is to clear land for the lucrative production of vegetable oil from the fruit of a type of palm tree (for palm oil).

Just a handful of companies sell the oil — used in a wide array of consumer goods like soap, ice cream, confections and lipstick — into global markets, and the environmental groups have been targeting these big middlemen. Companies controlling the bulk of the global palm-oil trade have recently signed no-deforestation pledges, and Indonesia’s influential chamber of commerce recently threw its weight behind a demand for new forest legislation in the country.

But even if Indonesia takes strong action, there are fears that the gains could prove fleeting. The economic incentive to chop down forests remains powerful, and crackdowns on deforestation can just spur profiteers to go elsewhere.

“Asian companies are rushing into Africa and grabbing as much land as possible,” said Mr. Hurowitz, of Climate Advisers. “That’s kind of scary.”

Still, with hopes running high that the world may finally be rounding a corner on the deforestation problem, attention is turning to the possibility of large-scale forest regrowth.

Dr. Chazdon believes strongly in halting deforestation, but she says that many of the plots of old-growth forest that have already been saved are too small to ensure the long-term survival of the plants and animals in them. Forest expansion onto nearby land could help to conserve that biological diversity, in addition to pulling carbon dioxide out of the air.

Indonesia is now the world’s hot spot for deforestation, losing more forest each year than Brazil despite being a much smaller country. The purpose of much of the clearing is to grow palm oil for use in Western consumer products like ice cream and soap. Companies and environmental groups have recently promised a bold new crackdown.

But the strategy presents many challenges. It will require abandoning marginal agricultural land, meaning the remaining farms will have to become more efficient to keep up with demand for food, as well as a growing demand for biofuels. And some scientists have warned that if the strategy is poorly executed, agriculture could merely be pushed away from forests into grasslands or savannas, which themselves contain huge amounts of carbon that could escape into the atmosphere.

Costa Rica, a “green republic” famous worldwide for its efforts to protect forests, shows how difficult a forest restoration strategy can be in practice.

Legal protection is minimal for much of the forest that has grown there in recent decades. The workers who help Dr. Chazdon track her plots often see telltale signs of illegal hunting and logging, and they say the authorities are lax about stopping it. “So many ugly things happen that we just lose a little faith,” said Mr. Paniagua, one of the workers.

Moreover, a wave of pineapple production to supply a growing world market is sweeping the country, tempting many owners to clear their land again. Growing Chinese demand, in particular, has raised the fear that “the whole of Costa Rica will be paved in pineapples,” said Carlos de la Rosa, director of La Selva Biological Station, a famed research outpost where Dr. Chazdon does much of her work.

But for now, the second-growth forests of Costa Rica, covering roughly 14 percent of the land area of the country, at least show what may be possible if the world gets more ambitious about tackling global warming. Brazil, too, is beginning to see regrowth on a large scale in the Amazon, and is spending millions to restore forests along its Atlantic coast.

Decades of watching the Costa Rican forests recover have taught Dr. Chazdon that, at least in areas that still have healthy forests nearby to supply seeds, the main thing human beings need to do is just get out of the way. After all, forests were recovering from fires and other natural calamities long before people ever came along to chop them down.

“The forests know how to do this,” Dr. Chazdon said. “They’ve been doing it forever, growing back.”


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Tropical Deforestation Impacts Climate, Agriculture, Ecosystems

Impact As Costly As Carbon From Fossil Fuels

In the face of climate change, scientists often focus on the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions, but new research shows that tropical deforestation triggers global changes that are just as costly as carbon pollution.

Clearing trees not only releases carbon into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse gas effect, but also alters rain patterns and increases temperatures worldwide. This distorts Earth’s normal wind and water systems and puts future agricultural productivity at risk.

endangered species conservation and forest conservation

Tropical deforestation delivers a double whammy to the climate – and to farmers,” lead study author Deborah Lawrence said in a statement. “Most people know that climate change is a dangerous global problem, and that it’s caused by pumping carbon into the atmosphere. But it turns out that removing forests alters moisture and air flow, leading to changes – from fluctuating rainfall patterns to rises in temperatures – that are just as hazardous, and happen right away.”

Most people might think that this only impacts tropical places like South America, which is home to the expansive Amazon rainforest. However, researchers say that these findings even apply to the United Kingdom and Hawaii, which could see an increase in rainfall, while less rain would fall in the US Midwest and Southern France.

palm oil plantation deforestation

Overall, there would be 10-15 percent reduced rainfall in the region surrounding where the tree clearing took place. Thailand has already seen less rainfall at the start of its dry season, and the Amazon’s annual rainfall schedule has started to shift as well.

In addition, deforestation in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa may alter growing conditions in agricultural areas in the tropics and as far away as the US Midwest, Europe and China, which is bad news for farmers.

Complete tropical deforestation could lead to a rise in global temperature of 0.7 degrees Celsius (33.3 Fahrenheit), which is on top of the projected impact from greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. According to the report, described in the journal Nature Climate Change, temperature increases are guaranteed with deforestation.

“This does not change, no matter what you do – no matter what kind of model you use, temperature increases occur – whether it’s half a degree, a full degree or two degrees,” Lawrence explained.

“That’s a very big deal,” she added. “In the last few centuries, the average global temperature has never varied by more than about one degree. Once we go above one degree – to 1.5 degrees or more – we’re talking about conditions that are very different from anything humanity has ever experienced.”

deforestation and climate change

Tropical forests move more water than any other ecosystem on land and are central to the Earth’s ability to generate moisture, helping to keep the planet cool. But removing large swaths of forests disturbs this natural cycle. What’s more, as more deforestation occurs, the greater its impact worldwide will be.

“While complete deforestation is unlikely to occur, over the course of history, deforestation has continued as countries develop,” Lawrence said. “Further, this study fills gaps in our understanding of deforestation tipping points – and what could happen if we continue down this path.”

According to the research, if 30-50 percent of the Amazon rainforest is cut down, it would put deforestation at the tipping point, meaning any more forest clearing than that would lead to rainfall reductions that could significantly change ecosystems, as well as raise the risk of forest fires.

Lawrence and her colleagues hope that this study can help policy makers and rainforest managers come up with better strategies for combating deforestation.


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

More Murder In The Rainforest

Defender Of Ecuador’s Indigenous Rights Killed

By Alexander Zaitchik

At the latest climate change talks, indigenous tribes showed again that they’re frontline allies in the fight against deforestation and global warming. So why aren’t we protecting them?

A dark piece of news emerged at the U.N. climate talks in Lima. The body of José Isidro Tendetza Antún, a leading Ecuadorian indigenous-rights and anti-mining campaigner, had been found in a riverside grave near his village, his remains bound in rope, showing signs of beating and torture. Antún had planned to be in the Peruvian capital last week, where hundreds of indigenous leaders from around the world gathered to demand recognition and rights, as both defenders of the world’s rainforests and under-appreciated players in the effort to slow climate change.

forest tribes and forest conservation

The outlines of Antún’s murder were grimly familiar to indigenous activists. The spread of logging, agriculture and extractive industry into once remote forests has sparked social conflict under the tropical canopies of Amazonia, Africa and Asia. Rising native resistance is met with repression and violence, the screams from which don’t often reach the outside world. The situation is especially bad in the northwest Amazon.

News of José Antún’s death in Ecuador follows the September killing of four Peruvian indigenous anti-logging activists near the Brazil border. The group’s slain leader, Edwin Chota, had also planned to travel to Lima and use his famed energy and eloquence to help sound the indigenous alarm. Two of the widows faced down threats from local loggers to attend in his name.  

This jungle violence isn’t just a human tragedy or a local environmental story — it is global climate politics. The first days of the Lima summit — known as COP 20, for the twentieth session of the Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change — saw the publication of data that quantifies, for the first time, the exact size of the climate impact made by indigenous populations as front-line guardians of imperiled rainforests. The size of this impact, a kind of negative carbon footprint, is staggering. Nowhere is this more true than in the Amazon that begins just over the mountains from the just-concluded negotiations.

jaguar conservation and deforestation in Amazon

Land rights were a recurring topic both at the Global Landscapes Forum and throughout the 12-day climate change summit, as indigenous leaders called for countries to grant titles to communities that are awaiting legal recognition.

In the Amazon basin, about 100 million hectares of indigenous communities’ land still have not been titled, according to Edwin Vásquez, who heads the Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA).

Where land rights are not clear, defending forests against outsiders is dangerous for indigenous people. Two leaders of the Asháninka village of Saweto, in Peru near the border with Brazil, were killed in September, along with two other men from the community.

“The territories of Amazonian indigenous peoples store almost a third of the region’s aboveground carbon,” said Woods Hole Research Center scientist Wayne Walker. “That is more forest carbon than is contained in some of the most carbon-rich tropical countries, including Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Walker is an author on a new peer-reviewed study, “Forest Carbon in Amazonia,” slated for publication in the journal Carbon Management. The report, released at the start of COP 20, details how preserving carbon-rich forests and protecting indigenous rights are two sides of the same climate coin. Designated indigenous territories in the Amazon contain 28,000 megatons of stored forest carbon, according to the study, which statistically unpacks the close correlation between titled indigenous land and the integrity of carbon-storing tropical rainforests. When granted legal protection of their land, indigenous populations continue to husband their ancestral environment as they have for centuries. “International recognition and investment in indigenous and protected areas are essential to ensuring their continued contribution to global climate stability,” said Richard Chase Smith, of Peru’s Instituto Bien Comun, a co-author of the study.

deforestation and climate change

That’s the good news — that the rainforest has natural protectors already living there. The bad news is the world’s governments, including some of the biggest rainforest nations, have failed to grant title to indigenous territories or protect them from loggers and state-backed oil and mining projects. “We have never been under so much pressure,” said Edwin Vásquez, a study co-author and president of COICA, the Indigenous Coordinating Body of the Amazon Basin. The Woods Hole study estimates that 40 percent of the forests holding carbon on indigenous are now under direct threat by the spread of industry. Failure to protect this land, the authors argue, raises the odds of “dieback,” a dreaded feedback loop scenario in which climate change causes wilting forests to begin releasing their own carbon. “Releasing the carbon currently at risk in Amazon [indigenous territories] alone — equivalent to clearing all of Peru’s forests — would increase the probability of Amazon dieback, with deleterious and potentially irreversible effects on the atmosphere and the planet,” notes the Woods Hole report.

Prior to the study, the correlation between indigenous land-rights and healthy tropical forests was intuitive. Now that it’s backed by official literature, indigenous groups hope the world will begin treating them as important allies whose struggle has global significance. 

“We have always known that indigenous peoples manage forest resources sustainably, and therefore are major actors in the protection of the Amazon landscape, but now we have scientific evidence that their territories act as barriers to deforestation,” said Ana Saenz, a researcher with Peru’s Instituto Bien Comun (Common Good Institute). Saenz is co-author of another new study showing that indigenous populations protect their forests even when they live in proximity to roads and other access routes to markets. But these cultures can only take so many cuts before they begin to bleed out and absorb the values of the encroaching culture, with its tractors and chainsaws.

Prior lack of hard data never stopped indigenous groups from attending international climate fora and pressing their complaints. Indigenous representatives addressed some of the first COP gatherings, and were soon sitting in as official observers. They’ve organized official events like this year’s Indigenous Pavilion and lobbied successfully for inclusion in treaty language. There are indigenous veterans of the climate circuit with more experience than the youngest negotiators representing major economies.

One of these veterans is Mina Susana Setra, deputy of the Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago, an umbrella group representing 15 million indigenous Indonesians. Setra says the crises facing the world’s indigenous communities are accelerating and converging, along with their response. “In every country, indigenous people face the same problems and share the same basic vision,” she said. “The vision is self-governance in our own territory, without violence or intervention, so that we can maintain our relationship with nature. Without the land, without the water, there’s nothing. That’s why we fight and die to protect it.”

This is not just rhetoric. A growing body count is evidence that indigenous activists must accept death as a possible price for their activism, set as it is in remote regions where state and private security forces often have free rein.

For throwing a floodlight on these two colliding trends — threats to the rainforests and violence against those trying to defend them — there is no better stage than the Peruvian government complex that housed the UN talks. Among the nine Amazonian countries, Peru contains the second-most rainforest, after Brazil. It also leads the world in parceling out its forests and land to the highest bidder: 40 percent of Peru’s total area, including most of its rainforest, is controlled by private industry, largely oil and mining. As any Peruvian activist will tell you, the country’s rulers have no patience for organized opposition to this Great Amazonian Sell-Off. The country ranks fourth in the repression of environmental activists (at least 57 have been murdered in the last 12 years) and shows an active contempt for the human rights and land claims of its 14 million indigenous citizens.

Along with land titles and the freedom to be left alone, many indigenous activists want something more from the consumer society that feeds on its trees and minerals. They want to transform it according to indigenous values, to help it understand why it’s better to live in a world without corporations that dump cyanide-laced mining waste into rivers where people drink and swim.

During an impassioned speech delivered to the Indigenous Caucus in Lima, a Congolese indigenous leader challenged his brothers and sisters to be more assertive in their interactions with UN diplomats.

“We must be more than just witnesses here, we must demand to be used for what we know,” he said. “The people in those conference rooms don’t know as much as they think they do. If they did, they wouldn’t be in this situation.”


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Green Climate Fund Growing Fast

Climate Battle Moving At Glacial Speed

Countries are meeting in Berlin today to announce how much they will give to the UN’s climate change adaptation fund. The pledges are seen as a vital step towards countries agreeing a new global climate deal in Paris next year. Twenty-one countries have pledged money to the fund, generating a little over $9 billion so far.

The Global Climate Fund (GCF) was established at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 with the aim of channeling money to help developing countries implement climate policies. When the fund is fully operational, world leaders have committed to contributing $100 billion a year to fight climate change and extreme weather. That should happen by 2020.

deforestation and climate change

Today’s pledging conference gave countries a platform to announce their contributions to the GCF’s initial resource mobilization period, that runs for three years between 2015 and 2018. The GCF had originally aimed to get countries to pledge $15 billion in seed funding by the end of this year, but it lowered the target to $10 billion in September.

Today’s pledges fell just short of that goal, reaching $9.3 billion, according to the Green Climate Fund. Many of the pledges were made in countries’ national currencies, meaning the overall value alters depending on the exchange rate.

Of the money channeled through the GCF, half will go to funding adaptation measures in developing countries, such as better flood defenses, drought monitoring schemes, and water management systems. And at least half of those funds will go to countries that are most at risk from the impacts of climate change. The other half of the GCF’s money will go towards helping developing countries curb their emissions, by taking as much carbon out of their energy and transport infrastructures as possible.

The GCF is politically important. It is the most high profile mechanism that allows developed countries to transfer climate-linked money to more vulnerable states. Many of the nations who will be beneficiaries of the fund have said they can’t commit to cutting emissions unless developed economies honor their promises to contribute to the fund.

Climate change funding
The countries listed above have made the largest commitments so far to the Green Climate Fund. Hopefully, they will honor their pledges and increase the payments with time.

The UK has pledged to fund 12 per cent of the GCF up to £720 million, or about $1.1 billion, over three years. It has pledged the most of any European nation. Earlier this week, prime minister David Cameron told journalists the pledge was not “new money,” and would come out of the UK’s existing climate aid budget. That means the pledge contributes towards the UK’s commitment to use 0.7 percent of its gross national income for overseas development assistance.

However, the government has been reluctant to discuss the details of the contribution. This reluctance has been linked to the politicization of climate aid in the UK. Earlier this week the Daily Mail ran an article claiming some Tory MPs were “furious” the prime minister was giving funds to “Third World flood defenses.”

The pledge comes the same day as the Rochester by-election, in which the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) is expected to win at the Conservatives’ expense. UKIP is staunchly climate skeptic.

The US has pledged $3 billion over four years. The New York Times says it is “unclear” whether the funds would be drawn from existing or new sources. If the president wants additional funds, he will have to ask Congress. But the Senate’s new Republican leadership has made it a priority to roll back Obama’s climate action plan, and would almost certainly block any requests for extra financial aid to fund climate efforts.

deforestation Tanzania and Kenya

If a Republican wins next year’s presidential election, they would also have the power to override the pledge. So whether the US will deliver the money is far from certain.

Germany has pledged €750 million to the GCF. Germany was one of the first countries to announce its pledge. Germany hoped that by announcing early, it could set a high benchmark for other countries’ contributions.

“In Germany we are accepting our responsibility for pollution, global warming climate change,” Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel said when she announced the contribution last July.

France matched Germany’s pledge of $1 billion. The contribution will be spread over four years, starting in 2015, Reuters reports. Like Germany, France announced its contribution in advance of the Berlin pledging conference. France’s president, Francois Hollande, made the pledge at UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit in New York in October. Speaking at the summit, Holland said, “We need to define a new economy for the world. You can’t fight climate change without development.”

South Korea has pledged the most to the GCF out of the world’s smaller economies: $100 million. Only half of that is new money. The country had already pledged around $50 million to get the fund up and running. It has an extra incentive to do so: The GCF is based in Songdo in South Korea.

reforestation and climate change

Canada last week made the unexpected announcement that it would be contributing to the GCF. It didn’t pledge today, however, saying it would announce in the near future.

That will come as something of a blow to Australia, which was perhaps the most notable absence from the pledging conference. The country’s climate skeptic prime minister Tony Abbott said the country was already contributing to global efforts to tackle climate change through the country’s green bank and foreign aid. It’s close neighbor New Zealand today pledged $3 million to the GCF.

Japan has offered to contribute the second largest amount to the GCF: $1.5 billion. Japan made the pledge one day after the US at last week’s G20 meeting in Australia.

Rounding off the European countries’ contributions: Denmark pledged $70 million, The Netherlands $125 million, the Czech Republic $5.5 million, Switzerland $100 million, Luxembourg $6.3 million, Spain $16.3 million, Italy $313 million, and Monaco $0.31 million.

In addition to Sweden’s contribution, scandinavian countries Norway andFinland pledged $130 million and $100 million, respectively. Norway’s pledge was more than it previously announced. Poland said it would announce its pledge by the end of the year.

Mexico has pledged $10 million and Indonesia has pledged $0.25 million. Neither country was expected to pledge to the fund, but chose to do so voluntarily. Panama today pledged $1 million, while Mongolia has pledged $0.05 million.

What counts as a ‘fair’ contribution is ultimately subjective. But Oxfam has calculated possible ways to divvy-up contributions to the GCF among nations, taking account of each country’s historical contribution to climate change and their current capacity to finance climate action. Oxfam’s analysis looked at fair shares for the GCF’s earlier $15 million target. We’ve adjusted the figures for the GCF’s current $10 billion goal.

Oxfam’s analysis suggests the US, Germany, and France are all paying a fair amount, given their contributions to other international funds. The UK is paying about $500 million more than its fair share, according to Oxfam’s criteria.

Sweden is the biggest outlier, pledging $500 million or four and half times what it’s fair share might be. Sweden’s international development minister argues that pledges to the fund shouldn’t be seen as an expense, but an investment to secure a safer, more prosperous future for everyone.

Each country will have taken a range of factors into account when working out how much to pledge, Oxfam previously told Carbon Brief: from how much of its existing budget can be channelled towards climate change efforts, to how much political will it has for a new global climate deal in 2015.

No-one is sure how much money will be needed to help countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.

That’s partly because it depends on how much countries emit in the coming years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that if countries take more action to curb emissions, the impacts of climate change and associated costs are likely to be lower in the future. That means there’s a wide range of estimates of how much may need to be spent in the future to fight climate change.


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Can Carbon-Capture Technology Fight Climate Change

Global Thermostat Turning Heads On Small Applications

By Eli Kintisch

Physicist Peter Eisenberger expected colleagues to react to his carbon capture technology with skepticism. He claimed to have invented a machine that could clean the atmosphere of excess carbon dioxide, while making the gas into fuel or storing it underground. And the Columbia University scientist knew that naming his startup Global Thermostat was not a humble beginning.

Global Thermostat’s carbon capture machine

But the reception in the spring of 2009 had been even more dismissive than he had expected. First, he spoke to a special committee convened by the American Physical Society to review possible ways of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through so-called air capture, which means, essentially, scrubbing it from the sky. They listened politely to his presentation but barely asked any questions.

A few weeks later he spoke at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory in West Virginia to a similarly skeptical audience. Eisenberger explained that his lab’s research involves chemicals called amines that are already used to capture concentrated carbon dioxide emitted from fossil-fuel power plants. This same amine-based technology, he said, also showed potential for the far more difficult and ambitious task of capturing the gas from the open air, where carbon dioxide is found at concentrations of 400 parts per million. That’s up to 300 times more diffuse than in power plant smokestacks. But Eisenberger argued that he had a simple design for achieving the feat in a cost-effective way, in part because of the way he would recycle the amines. “That didn’t even register,” he recalls. “I felt a lot of people were pissing on me.”

climate change and carbon levels in the atmosphere

The next day, however, a manager from the lab called him excitedly. The DOE scientists had realized that amine samples sitting around the lab had been bonding with carbon dioxide at room temperature—a fact they hadn’t much appreciated until then. It meant that Eisenberger’s approach to air capture was at least “feasible,” says one of the DOE lab’s chemists, Mac Gray.

Five years later, Eisenberger’s company has raised $24 million in investments, built a working demonstration plant, and struck deals to supply at least one customer with carbon dioxide harvested from the sky. But the next challenge is proving that the technology could have a transformative impact on the world, befitting his company’s name.

The need for a carbon-sucking machine is easy to see. Most technologies for mitigating carbon dioxide work only where the gas is emitted in large concentrations, as in power plants. But air-capture machines, installed anywhere on earth, could deal with the 52 percent of carbon-dioxide emissions that are caused by distributed, smaller sources like cars, farms, and homes. Secondly, air capture, if it ever becomes practical, could gradually reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As emissions have accelerated—they’re now rising at 2 percent per year, twice as rapidly as they did in the last three decades of the 20th century—scientists have begun to recognize the urgency of achieving so-called “negative emissions.”

reforestation and carbon capture

The obvious need for the technology has enticed several other efforts to come up with various approaches that might be practical. For example, Climate Engineering, based in Calgary, captures carbon using a liquid solution of sodium hydroxide, a well-established industrial technique. A firm cofounded by an early pioneer of the idea, Eisenberg’s Columbia colleague Klaus Lackner, worked on the problem for several years before giving up in 2012.

“Negative emissions are definitely needed to restore the atmosphere given that we’re going to far exceed any safe limit for CO2, if there is one. The question in my mind is, can it be done in an economical way?,” he said.

A report released in April by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that avoiding the internationally agreed upon goal of 2° Centigrade of global warming will likely require the global deployment of “carbon dioxide removal” strategies like air capture. “Negative emissions are definitely needed to restore the atmosphere given that we’re going to far exceed any safe limit for CO2, if there is one,” says Daniel Schrag, director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment. “The question in my mind is, can it be done in an economical way?”

Most experts are skeptical. A 2011 report by the American Physical Society identified key physical and economic challenges. The fact that carbon dioxide will bind with amines, forming a molecule called a carbamate, is well known chemistry. But carbon dioxide still represents only one in 2,500 molecules in the air. That means an effective air-capture machine would need to push vast amounts of air past amines to get enough carbon dioxide to stick to them and then regenerate the amines to capture more. That would require a lot of energy and thus be very expensive, the 2011 report said. That’s why it concluded that air capture “is not currently an economically viable approach to mitigating climate change.”

The people at Global Thermostat understand these daunting economics but remain defiantly optimistic. The way to make air capture profitable, says Global Thermostat cofounder Graciela Chichilnisky, a Columbia University economist and mathematician, is to take advantage of the demand for the gas by various industries. There already exists a well-established, billion-dollar market for carbon dioxide, which is used to rejuvenate oil wells, make carbonated beverages, and stimulate plant growth in commercial greenhouses. Historically, the gas sells for around $100 per ton. But Eisenberger says his company’s prototype machine could extract a concentrated ton of the gas for far less than that. The idea is to first sell carbon dioxide to niche markets, such as oil-well recovery, to eventually create bigger ones, like using catalysts to make fuels in processes that are driven by solar energy. “Once capturing carbon from the air is profitable, people acting in their own self-interest will make it happen,” says Chichilnisky.

Eisenberger and Chichilnisky were colleagues at Columbia in 2008 when they realized that they had complementary interests: his in energy, and hers in environmental economics, including work to help shape the 1991 Kyoto Protocol, the first global treaty on cutting emissions. Nations had pledged big cuts, says Chichilnisky, but economic and political realities had provided “no way to implement it.” The pair decided to create a business to tackle the carbon challenge.

Germany pioneered carbon capture technology
Germany pioneered carbon capture technology to eliminate CO2 from its submarines in World War II.

They focused on air capture, which was first developed by Nazi scientists who used liquid sorbents to remove accumulations of CO2 in submarines. In the winter of 2008 Eisenberger sequestered himself in a quiet house with big glass windows overlooking the ocean in Mendocino County, California. There he studied existing literature on capturing carbon and made a key decision. Scientists developing techniques to capture CO2 have thus far sought to work at high concentrations of the gas. But Eisenberger and Chichilnisky focused on another term in those equations: temperature.

Engineers have previously deployed amines to scrub CO2 from flue gases, whose temperatures are around 70 °C when they exit power plants. Subsequently removing the CO2 from the amines—“regenerating” the amines—generally requires reactions at 120 °C. By contrast, Eisenberger calculated that his system would operate at roughly 85 °C, requiring less total energy. It would use relatively cheap steam for two purposes. The steam would heat the surface, driving the CO2 off the amines to be collected, while also blowing CO2 away from the surface.

Even if air capture were to someday prove profitable, whether it should be scaled up is another question. The upshot? With less heat-management infrastructure than what is required with amines in the smokestacks of power plants, the design of a scrubber could be simpler and therefore cheaper. Using data from their prototype, Eisenberger’s team figures the approach could cost between $15 and $50 per ton of carbon dioxide captured from air, depending on how long the amine surfaces last.

If Global Thermostat can achieve anywhere near the prices it’s touting, a number of niche markets beckon. The startup has partnered with a Carson City, Nevada-based company called Algae Systems to make biofuels using carbon dioxide and algae. Meanwhile the demand is rising for carbon dioxide to inject into depleted oil wells, a technique known as enhanced oil recovery. One study estimates that the application could require as much as 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2021, a nearly tenfold increase over the 2011 market.

That still represents a drop in the bucket in terms of the amounts needed to reduce or even stabilize the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. But Eisenberger says there are really no alternatives to air capture. Simply capturing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, he says, only extends society’s dependence on carbon-intensive coal.

deforestation and climate change

It’s a warm December afternoon in Silicon Valley as Eisenberger and I make our way across SRI International’s concrete research center. It’s in these low-slung buildings where engineers first demonstrated ARPAnet, Apple’s Siri software, and countless other technological advances. About a quarter mile from the entrance, a 40-foot-high tower of fans, steel, and silver tubes comes into view. This is the Global Thermostat demonstration plant. It’s imposing and clean. Eisenberger gazes at the quiet scene around the tower, which includes a tall tree. “It’s doing exactly what the tree is doing,” says Eisenberger. But then he corrects himself. “Well, actually, it’s doing it a lot better.”

After Eisenberger earned a PhD physics in 1967 at Harvard, stints at Bell Labs, Princeton, and Stanford followed. At Exxon in the 1980s he led work on solar energy, then served as director of Lamont-Doherty, the geosciences lab at Columbia. There he has taught a long-standing seminar called “The Earth/Human system.” It was in that seminar, in 2007, with Lackner as a guest lecturer, that Eisenberger first heard about air capture. After a year or so of preparation, he and Chichilnisky reached out to billionaire Edgar Bronfman Jr. “Sometimes when you hear something that must be too good to be true, it’s because it is,” was Bronfman’s reaction, according to his son, who was present at the meeting. But the scion implored his father: “If they’re right, this is one of the biggest opportunities out there.” The family invested $18 million.

That largesse has allowed the company to build its demonstration despite basically no federal support for air capture research. (Global Thermostat chose SRI as its site due to the facility’s prior experience with carbon-capture technology.) The rectangular tower uses fans to draw air in over alternating 10-foot-wide surfaces known as contactors. Each is comprised of 640 ceramic cubes embedded with the amine sorbent. The tower raises one contactor as another is lowered. That allows the cubes of one to collect CO2 from ambient air while the other is stripped of the gas by the application of the steam, at 85 °C. For now that gas is simply vented, but depending on the customer it could be injected into the ground, shipped by pipe, or transferred to a chemical plant for industrial use.

A key challenge facing the company is the ruggedness of the amine sorbent surfaces. They tend to decay rapidly when oxidized, and frequently replacing the sorbents could make the process much less cost-effective than Eisenberger projects.

None of the world’s thousands of coal plants have been outfitted for full-scale capture of their carbon pollution. And if it isn’t economical for use in power plants, with their concentrated source of carbon dioxide, the prospects of capturing it out of the air seem dim to many experts. “There’s really little chance that you could capture CO2 from ambient air more cheaply than from a coal plant, where the flue gas is 300 times more concentrated,” says Robert Socolow, director of the Princeton Environment Institute and co-director of the university’s carbon mitigation initiative.

Adding to the skepticism over the feasibility of air capture is that there are other, cheaper ways to create the so-called negative emissions. A more practical way to do it, Schrag says, would involve deriving fuels from biomass—which removes CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows. As that feedstock is fermented in a reactor to create ethanol, it produces a stream of pure carbon dioxide that can be captured and stored underground. It’s a proven technique and has been tested at a handful of sites worldwide.

Even if air capture were to someday prove profitable, whether it should be scaled up is another question. Say a solar power plant is built outside an existing coal plant. Should the energy the new solar plant produces be used to suck carbon out of the atmosphere, or to allow the coal plant to be shut down by replacing its energy output? The latter makes much more sense, says Socolow. He and others have another concern about air capture: that claims about its feasibility could breed complacency. “I don’t want us to give people the false hope that air capture can solve the carbon emissions problem without a strong focus on [reducing the use of] fossil fuels,” he says.

Eisenberger and Chichilnisky are adamant about the importance of sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere rather than focusing entirely on capturing it from coal plants. In 2010, the pair developed a version of their technology that mixes air with flue gas from a coal or gas-fired power plant. That approach provides a source of steam while capturing both atmospheric carbon and new emissions. It also could lower costs by providing a higher concentration of CO2 for the machine to capture. “It’s a very impressive system, a triumph,” says Socolow, who thinks scientific advances made in air capture will eventually be used primarily on coal and gas power plants.

Such an application could play a critical role in cleaning up greenhouse gas emissions. But Eisenberger has revealed even loftier goals. A patent granted to him and Chichilnisky in 2008 described air capture technology as, among other things, “a global thermostat for controlling average temperature of a planet’s atmosphere.”


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Illegal Logging Taking Thailand’s Last Forests

Thailand’s Biodiversity Vanishing

Deforestation is threatening a wildlife sanctuary that is not just the most abundant forest zone in Thailand’s eastern region but also home to more than a third of the country’s wild animals. Of course, deforestation also adds to global warming and climate change.

The Khao Ang Ru Nai sanctuary spans border five provinces, including Chachoengsao, Chon Buri, Rayong, Chanthaburi and Sa Kaew. It’s under attack like never before.

deforestation and climate change

“We have just 172 forestry officials to protect the forest zone that covers around 683,750 rai. It is now facing threats from various illegal logging groups,” Khao Ang Ru Nai chief Sermphan Sariman said over the weekend.

He is most worried about the illegal loggers targeting Siamese Rosewood, which fetches a significant price. Sermphan said his office discovered 82 illegal logging cases this year alone. As many as 112 suspects had been arrested with logs as well as processed wood boards seized during the past 10 months. Over the same period, one suspect died during a fight with arresting officials. Sermphan said some suspects were people who lived in the zone before it was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1992.

He added that there were investors hiring henchmen to cut down trees in Khao Ang Ru Nai Wildlife Sanctuary too. This zone is in the headwaters of the Bang Pakong River in Chachoengsao, the Tanod Canal in Chanthaburi and the Prasae River in Rayong.

Amnuay Artchula, a PR official at the sanctuary, said her office had tried to counter illegal logging by educating children about the need to protect natural resources.

“It’s easier to let children speak to their parents. If children see someone hire their parents to illegally cut down trees, they can always speak up,” she said.

In addition to these battles against illegal logging, Sermphan said a plan was also needed for the growing elephant population at Khao Ang Ru Nai Wildlife Sanctuary.

“There are more than 400 wild elephants here now. Each needs an area of six to seven square kilometres to rummage for food,” he pointed out.

Dr Trirach Pukotchasarnseen, who heads the Foundation for Environmental Education for Sustainable Development (Thailand), recommended creating mineral licks for wild animals.

“These manmade mineral licks could help retain the abundance and proper ecosystems in the long run,” he said.

Of course, saving these ecosystems can help us fight global warming and climate change.


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information