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January 20 2014

22:45

Forest Management, Cultivation Key for Sustainability and a Healthy Planet

By Stephen Roshy

Well maintained forests play a vital role in controlling and mitigating the effects of global warming. Forests not only help slow down climate change, but also provide a sustainable means of living for many living beings. Forests have a multitude of benefits that are often overlooked by many; it is more than just a wood commodity or natural beauty (though natural beauty is important to human health).

A well managed forest is essential for a healthy planet and sustainable futureForests Promote Sustainable Living

In many countries, forests are home to some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Well-managed and preserved forests play an important societal and economic role for these people, and are key to alleviating poverty. A healthy forest ecosystem provide indigenous people with goods for household consumption as well as items for trade.

The Urgent Need for Forest Cultivation

Even under the best of circumstances, climate change is expected to increase in the coming decades. This requires increasing cultivation of forests and green habitats. According to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), billion of people are at risk from water and food shortages and poor health from deforestation and climate change. Preserving and restoring forest habitat is urgent and essential for these communities.

Forests Conserve Nature

It is generally well-understood that forests act as a carbon sink, absorbing CO2 in the process of photosynthesis. A major concern is how warming temperatures causes more rapid decomposition of organic material in soils, leading to an increase in CO2 released into the atmosphere.

A recent study done by Harvard University produced the surprising finding that these same warming temperatures may stimulate the ability of healthy trees to absorb carbon, thus offsetting some of the increased CO2 released from decomposition.

Forest Restoration

The benefits of reforestation - or avoiding the destruction of forests in the first place – are numerous; from helping to mitigate climate change, protecting habitats and species, and as an economic lifeline for communities dependent upon them. Forest restoration is urgent and vital to preserve vital ecosystems and reduce global warming.

Decrease Carbon Footprint by Forests and Trees

While the rate of deforestation may be decreasing, millions of hectares of forests have been – and continue to be – lost to mismanagement, disease and wanton destruction. These forests can be restored with dedication and rehabilitated to restore and preserve biodiversity and help stabilize CO2 in the atmosphere .

Forests are the lungs of the planet, greatly influencing the global climate. Increased reforestation can prevent temperatures from rising, increase sustainability and ensure a healthy livelihood for forest-dependent people across the globe.

——————-

Stephen Roshy is a professional writer and he writes quality and informative content on Feeney’s Garden Center . You can find him on Facebook , Twitter and Google+

Image credit: ? is for äp?L, courtesy flickr

 

The post Forest Management, Cultivation Key for Sustainability and a Healthy Planet appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 25 2013

22:46

My Vision for the New Earth: Life in a Low Carbon Economy

A vision for a new Earth and how to live sustainably

By Roberta Ward Smiley

Editor’s note: Roberta Ward Smiley is a colleague and the founder of La Reserva Forest Foundation in Costa Rica. You can read about the work of the Foundation on Roberta’s Forest Blog

Climate Change Course Second Peer Assessment Essay

Low Carbon Economy

My gratitude to Coursera for this climate change course because it has enabled me to develop this low to zero carbon economy that I’ve envisioned for over 9 years now…but first let’s start with the way this “new Earth” will operate.

As humans our destiny is to live on our Earth in harmony with all of nature, to recognize the interconnectivity of all eco-systems and the fact that we are part of it all and that our true purpose for being here is to care for Earth and ALL life upon her.

Divine law or universal/natural law is recognizing our responsibility to the Earth and ALL life dependent upon it. It makes us to “see” what we’ve done these past few hundred years, how we’ve exploited our Earth’s finite resources, e.g. carbon = ancient sunlight, spewed it back out to her atmosphere (aura) without a thought of giving back or restoring and in the process are destroying the natural environment. Oh, the suffering we’ve caused the other life forms that share this planet with us and who aren’t responsible. As we recognize our place we see how we can restore the balance via connectivity, we have separated ourselves from the nature. One of the best ways is via biological corridors, restoring forests between isolated forests so animals and plants can migrate to increase their habitat. I call it “designing the landscape” because one can see the areas that have been deforested over the past few centuries and the isolated forest plots that were left, usually around water sources. By partnering with private landowners (providing incentives) these corridors can be created within cow pastures and gives the flora and fauna a way out who’d otherwise be trapped in these forests patches because they are so vulnerable in the open. Some birds, butterflies and plants are unable to cross open areas. (“Tropical Forest Restoration”, 2012)

Biological Corridors within farmland

Biological Corridors within farmland

An immediate, substantial, global carbon tax will drive decision options quickly to low or zero emission technologies and consumption habits. We can’t give people a choice to change anymore, it’s not happening, it must be imposed upon them. Every person, business or manufacturer who emits more that 5 metric tonnes of CO2 annually will be required to pay the tax to offset all GHG emissions above the 5 tonne limit.

A global governing body, “benevolent monarchy”, will govern by the principles of divine law. Rather than countries there will be territories, regions and local communities. All revenue received by the global governing entity from the carbon tax will be distributed to smaller governing bodies for research and development, dissemination of information, restoration of the natural environment, and used at local levels to implement adaptation strategies and mitigation.

Here is how the hierarchy will work:

Global GHG Tax (Benevolent Monarchy) Governing Earth)

Revenue arrow R & D and Inform the people arrow Territories / R&D / Info arrow Regions / Local and Regional R&D / Info arrow Local Communities arrow Actions and percentages of revenue for restoration, mitigation and adaptation

 

The current economic system = growth. The future economic system must be sustainable = non-growth or zero growth, recognizing symbiosis, ethics and giving back to Earth. How can an economic system based on “growth” be sustainable? Nothing can grow forever without blowing up and dying.

Organic, permaculture agriculture

Organic, permaculture agriculture

I propose a new world without fossil fuels, local economies with organic (permaculture) food production (within 100 mile radius) and only the consumption of whole foods in season. Whole foods contain the full range of natural nutrients and by eliminating milling and processing there’ll be a decrease of emissions caused by these practices. Local communities with harsh winters, no fresh foods available, will preserve their foods for community sale and winter consumption.

We are responsible for the future generations, another aspect of divine (natural) law. We must consider the future climate change situation. What then is a just social discount…3.5% or 0.85%? (Roberts, 2012) I propose 0 percent because at present the world operates on what I call the, “big pig mentality”, first come, first serve (mostly developed countries). They must have that latest item with no thought about what it takes to produce the item or what it’s doing to the Earth.

Taxing now is an upfront investment for future generations and the revenue can be used for restoring natural resources, namely forests. It’s not giving monetary wealth to add to the future generations projected high incomes (Stern, 2006) but a healthy, naturally balanced environment and an appreciation for it because of our example.

Developing countries, like Costa Rica where I live, are already suffering the effects of climate change daily due to torrential rains, lightening on steroids and drought caused by a warmer planet, a consequence of human activity. At the same time developed countries unjustly emit freely. Since 1850 North America and Europe have produced about 70% of all CO2 emissions due to energy production, while developing countries have accounted for less than a quarter. (Stern, 2006) But, it’s also expected that as emissions decrease in developed countries they will increase in the developing countries because of their “catch up” mode, wanting to emulate their developed brothers and sisters. In Costa Rica emissions have increased threefold in the last 20 years. (“CO2 Emissions in Costa Rica, 2008) A carbon tax on a limited tonnage of CO2 would prevent this.

Let’s get down to brass tax, carbon tax that is. For our purposes here let’s use a price of $50 per metric tonne to illustrate how it can work. Restoration and preservation of the world’s tropical forests are my life and passion, let’s use them as our carbon capture strategy and a percentage of the global revenue allotted to them.

Tropical belt around EarthBecause of combustion of fossil fuels the ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere is increasing 1.5% annually but at the same time our oxygen supply is decreasing 3.5% each year. Forests “capture” carbon and at the same time produce oxygen plus they increase habitat, biodiversity and ecological capital. Tropical forests in the belt around the Earth (23.5° north of the Equator to 23.5° south) are responsible for capturing the majority of CO2 due to short or non-existent dormant periods and the extensive leaf surface area compared to temperate zone forests. (“The Forest Biome”, Univ. of Calif. At Berkeley)

About 15 percent of the global population or 1 billion people live in so-called developed nations. (“What percent of the world’s population live in the developed world”, 2010) We will use a global carbon tax on all emissions over 5 metric tonnes/year/person at $50/tonne. Let’s say 2 billion people pay the tax because a certain percentage in developing countries will emit over the 5 m.t. limit. If we use an average per capita emission of 10 m.t. annually for these global citizens, they would pay $250/year each. A total global revenue of 500 billion dollars or ½ trillion dollars would be realized and could be used for worldwide R & D, dissemination of information, local mitigation and adaptation strategies and forest restoration.

We’ve destroyed about half of the Earth’s mature tropical forests since the mid 20th century, between 7 and 8 million square kilometers or 750 billion hectares. (Deforestation, Wikipedia) If one tenth of the total tax revenue (50 billion dollars) is allotted annually for tropical forests we could restore 10 million hectares (at $3000/hectare) for $30 billion plus pay environmental service payments ($100/hectare/year) to existing forest owners to conserve a total of 200 million hectares of forests worldwide annually for 20 billion. (Offset Carbon, Be Carbon Neutral For Life, 2012) It can be done every year! After 20 years we’d have recuperated 200 million hectares of our original forests and preserved another 200 million.

my-vision-forestA conservative estimate of tropical forest CO2 sequestration is 20 tonnes/year/hectare. By 2030, the new forests (after only five years from planting date), will be sequestering and storing approximately 4 billion metric tonnes of CO2 annually. By 2050, with 400 million hectares of new forests and the 200 million hectares of existing forests we’ve been preserving, we’d be capturing 12 billion metric tonnes of GHG emissions annually and with the tax we can expect a sharp decrease in emissions as well.

Imagine – this could be accomplished with only 50 billion dollars a year leaving the other 450 billion to be used for other climate change issues each year!How do we solve the problem of extra cost not being passed on to consumers by business? Price increases cannot include the cost of carbon taxes because said taxes are for the global public good. This is an almost philanthropic gesture by business, to “give back”, but at the same time create a forest that offsets all their future emissions plus only pay the cost of preservation after the first five years ($100/ha/yr). The carbon tax must be separate from all other expenses.Households and businesses will be required to report their yearly emissions “footprint” using a carbon calculator. There will also be rewards for decreased consumption and emissions.I’ve always felt blessed to be alive during this time and now I know why. Look at the great challenge we face! All challenges/crises are our opportunity to transcend/overcome and here we have the opportunity to create a zero carbon world in harmony with our natural environment. So come on everybody…

Let’s Get Planting!      

roberta-ward-smiley

Bibliography:

 

The post My Vision for the New Earth: Life in a Low Carbon Economy appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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October 25 2013

19:32

Video Friday: The Nature Conservancy – Investing in Forests and Fish in Michigan’s Northern Forests

A collaborative effort between the timber industry, scientists and forest ecologists to help restore and maintain Michigan’s northern forest, a vital ecosystem for the region and the world. This Nature Conservancy video highlights the costs and benefits of forest conservation.

Featured image credit: jimflix, courtesy flickr

The post Video Friday: The Nature Conservancy – Investing in Forests and Fish in Michigan’s Northern Forests appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 19 2013

18:26

The Vital Role of Forests: Carbon, Rain and Food

Forests provide ecosystem services vital to all lifeWe are coming to a better understanding of the vital role that forests play in the general health of planetary ecosystems.  However, alongside our burgeoning awareness, we are also destroying forests in our quest for more land and lumber.

Deforestation is eliminating the Earth’s forests on a massive scale. Each day at least 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest disappear and another 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest are degraded. Overall, FAO estimates that 10.4 million hectares of tropical forest were permanently destroyed each year in the period from 2000 to 2005. About an acre of tropical rainforests are lost every second. If the current trend continues, the world’s rainforests could completely vanish in a hundred years

Forests are being destroyed largely for agricultural purposes and logging. Forests are also cut down as a result of growing urban sprawl. Deforestation results in habitat loss for millions of species that depend on them for their survival. Deforestation undermines the water cycle which can lead to desertification.

Deforestation also drives climate change as trees play a critical role in absorbing or sequestering the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. The clearing and burning of rainforests are responsible for approximately 15 percent of global carbon emissions. In the U.S., forests absorb 13 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions each year. Based on the most recent satellite data, emissions from deforestation account for 10 percent of global carbon emissions. However, a January 2013 study just out of Dartmouth College shows that deforestation impacts on soil and may release even more carbon than previously thought.

Forest management policy

Wealthy countries have promised to help poorer nations to protect their forests through programs like The Natural Capital Project, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) and The Partnership for Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem services (WAVES). While the developed world has pledged more than 5 billion dollars for this purpose, the money promised has not lived up to these promises.

One recent example involves the country of Ecuador, which has started cutting down its forests for oil drilling operations after the international community failed to provide necessary funding. Conversely, Costa Rica is one of the best examples of successful forest management. The country has managed to double the size of its tropical forests in the last 20 years through national conservation policies. As reported in the journal Environmental Research Letters, Costa Rica’s ban on clearing of mature forests appears to be a key success factor in encouraging agricultural expansion on non-forest lands.

Success in managing forests requires a sound economic plan in support of conservation. There are a number of steps governments can take to help with reduce deforestation including tax breaks, direct payments, and subsidies.

Water and hydro-electric companies can also charge customers through fees embedded in utility bills in order to generate income to pay forest managers. Governments can also legislate financial mechanisms that value natural resources like trees. Under such a scheme, companies are forced to pay for the pollution they generate.

Setting a mandatory carbon price may be the best way to protect forests as market driven programs seem to offer the best approach. Another approach involves projects like the Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD) which is working with companies on their impact on forests. Initiated in 2008, this is a not-for-profit project of the Global Canopy Foundation that is backed by investors.

A more workable solution is to carefully manage forest resources by eliminating clear-cutting to make sure that forest environments remain intact. The cutting that does occur should be balanced by the planting of enough young trees to replace the older ones felled in any given forest. The number of new tree plantations is growing each year, but their total still equals a tiny fraction of the Earth’s forested land.

REDD

International efforts to curb deforestation are centered on a United Nations-backed scheme called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). REDD+, emerged from the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, was developed to provide financial incentives to countries and landowners to protect and better manage forests.

Forests are not a renewable source of electricity

One of the most troubling trends involves the use of forests as fodder for energy production. To meet this growing demand, U.S. companies have become the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets in 2012. What makes this even worse is that this is being sold as a renewable form of energy production.

As explored by the NRDC, burning our forests is bad for our climate, bad for local ecosystems, and bad for our communities.  In response to this troubling trend, the NRDC and Dogwood Alliance launched a program to protect Southern trees called Our Forests Aren’t Fuel. This campaign is designed to raise awareness about the alarming and rapidly-growing practice of logging forests and burning the trees as fuel to generate electricity.

Carbon forestry

Supporting reforestration to offset carbon emissions is increasingly popular. This is done through the purchase of carbon credits that are linked with the forestry sector with the idea that these new trees will sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

As reviewed in Ecologist, a report by the monitoring and analysis agency Ecosystem Marketplace indicates that over 30 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) was contracted across forest markets in 2010.

Carbon forests can offer a variety of benefits for the environment, however, there is considerable doubt as to whether these planted forests enhance biodiversity. There is also growing support for research that suggests that planted forests may not be as effective as natural forests in inducing rainfall.

Forests are essential to rain

While the relationship between forests and carbon has received a lot of attention, research suggests that forests may also be the driving force behind precipitation which is so vital to overall ecosystem health. As explored in an article in Mongabay, forests may be the key to rainfall and as a consequence, global ecological restoration.

On September 12, 2013, the U.S. Forest Service published a final rule that is expected to improve the agency’s ability to restore land. “This rule will help us improve the resiliency, health and diversity of our forests and grasslands,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We will now be able to move forward with our partners to focus more energy on action, and less on paperwork, to restore more acres in less time.”

The final rule includes reference to a paper titled “Where do winds come from?” This paper outlines a new meteorological hypothesis in which condensation, not temperature, drives winds. This paper highlights the importance of the world’s forests as the salient driver of precipitation from the coast into a continent’s interior. The theory, known as the biotic pump, was first developed in 2006 by two Russian scientists

This research explains why deforestation also brings a drop in precipitation. The condensation produced by forests creates zones of low pressure that suck in the air from the surrounding regions. Forests create persistent low pressure zones on land and this causes moist winds to blow from the ocean to land.

The theory put forth in this paper explains why there is so little rain in deserts and further posits that if we were to plant enough trees in these zones we could induce rainfall.

The paper’s authors, Victor orshkov and Anastassia Makarieva, explain that, “Preserving and recovering forest cover may prove to be the cheapest and most reliable means of ensuring regional environmental sustainability.” They also indicate that their research on biotic pumps suggests that industrial plantations do not move rain as effectively as natural forests.

One of the chief findings in this research involves the relationship between forests and agriculture. Put simply, the more forests we lose, the less rain will reach continental interiors.

Forests and agriculture

The relationship between forests and agriculture was also addressed in May at the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition. At this conference, scientists and leaders from around the world largely agreed that forests are essenatial to sustainable food supplies. They concluded that forests contribute to food security including the provision of ecosystem services like the regulation of water flow, and the protection of soils against erosion.

The relationship between forests and agriculture is a tragically ironic vicious cycle. We destroy forests to make more room for agriculture, while deforestation appears to undermine agricultural productivity.  We then need more land to produce crops to make up for the reduced productivity.

The issues associated with food supplies will become even more important as we strive to meet the challenge of feeding an ever expanding population. A growing body of research indicates that forests are essential to agricultural productivity.

Forests are far more than an important source of carbon sequestration, they are essential to the water and food on which all life depends.
——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: CIFOR, courtesy flickr

The post The Vital Role of Forests: Carbon, Rain and Food appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

May 06 2013

18:56

Enviro News Wrap: Climate Change and National Security; Keeling Curve On the Brink of 400; Getting Beyond Politics Leads to Climate Action, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

The post Enviro News Wrap: Climate Change and National Security; Keeling Curve On the Brink of 400; Getting Beyond Politics Leads to Climate Action, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

March 26 2013

21:51

Forest Carbon Release from Pine Beetle Infestation Not as Severe as Expected

Forests devastated by pine beetle infestation may not release the huge flux of carbon as once fearedAs large swaths of western forests in North America succumb to pine beetle infestation, due in part to warming winters, preliminary studies show that the dead, decaying trees are not releasing the huge flux of CO2 previously feared by scientists. According to a study just released in the journal Ecology Lettersdespite the billions of trees killed in the pine beetle infestation ranging from Mexico to Alaska, the expected spike in forest carbon release into the atmosphere has not occurred – at least in the Colorado forest where the initial study took place.

“A couple of the early ideas were that, one, it was just going to have this big release of carbon because all of the dead stuff would just decay really quickly, and the other idea was that it would all burn. Neither of these seems to have happened yet,” said ecologist David Moore of the University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and lead author on the study. “The general expectation we had was that when trees die on a large scale, it would lead to a big pulse of carbon into the atmosphere through microorganisms metabolizing all that dead wood.

Carbon sink to carbon source – not so fast

The conventional wisdom is that after a massive die-off of trees the surrounding forest would go from carbon sink to carbon source, and the bigger  and more sudden the die-off, the bigger and faster the release of carbon. But that may not be the case: “In the first few years after beetles have come in and killed trees, the carbon release from the surrounding soils actually goes down,” says Nicole Trahan, a co-author of the study.

Moore and Trahan hypothesize a couple of primary reasons why this is so. Firstly, as trees die from pine beetles there is a decrease in the number of other carbon-releasing microbes that depend on living trees. ”We’re fairly certain that the microbial biomass is going down,” Moore says.

Secondly, the trees aren’t decomposing on as fast a time scale as expected,  thus slowing the release of CO2 from decomposition.

“Overall, we discovered that after a tree die-off, the loss of carbon in the soil results less from increased respiration by microbes but more from the fact that trees are no longer sequestering photosynthesized carbon into the soil,” Moore said. “There seems to be a dampening of the carbon cycle rather than a big pulse of carbon release. So even if the forest now goes from a sink to a source of carbon dioxide, it’s not as dramatic of an effect as we thought it would be.”

Generalizing the results – to soon to tell what happens in northern forests

The study led by Moore and Trahan focused on two forest locations in Colorado, on the eastern side of the Continental Divide near Boulder and on the western side near Silverthorne. Moore cautions that generalizing the results from these locations to other forests vulnerable to pine beetle infestation, particularly in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest with wetter conditions than in Colorado, remains an open question.

Moore and his team will continue their study in Colorado this May, but hope to widen the focus of their research to other western forests.

“Would I want to do it on a larger scale? Absolutely,” says Moore. ”I wouldn’t want to make any assumptions about what they will do up there.”

Image credit: USDAgov, courtesy flickr

 

The post Forest Carbon Release from Pine Beetle Infestation Not as Severe as Expected appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 04 2012

19:58

Illegal Logging Deals Rife in Liberia, Group Reports

A report says that control of one-quarter of Liberia's land has been granted to logging companies in just two years through permits that were illegally or fraudulently awarded.

August 28 2012

10:00

Hunting for Debris and Answers in Alaska

A scientist and her team kayak their way to daily measurements of the forests of the ABC islands of Alaska, pondering wilderness of the past and present.

August 15 2012

20:33

August 14 2012

21:05

In Fragmented Brazilian Forest, Few Species Survive

New survey methods indicate that computer projections of surviving species vastly overstated their presence. And five large mammal species had essentially been wiped out.
14:04

On Our Radar: A Colossal Burmese Python

The invasive reptile, whose population is soaring in South Florida, was carrying 87 eggs.

August 10 2012

11:20

The Secrets of Hissing Trees

Scientists suggest that trees in upland forests infected with a common fungus are a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

August 08 2012

11:48

Was It Hard, Our Year in the Woods? Yes and No.

Season by season, a family ultimately found the challenges surmountable while living off the grid in the Maine woods.

August 07 2012

17:57
13:43

Swath of the Adirondacks Gains Protection

Most of the land lies within the central lake and tourist region of Adirondack Park in New York State.

August 06 2012

11:37

On Our Radar: Oklahoma's Wildfires

Some people who were evacuated are allowed to return home, but the blazes continue in pockets in the northeastern part of the state.

August 03 2012

18:22

On Our Radar: Hunger in North Korea

Floods have swept away crops and damaged wells and pumping stations, leaving many without food or clean drinking water, a United Nations agency said.

August 01 2012

17:00

The Great Disposal Service: Can It Last?

The good news: The earth's ability to soak up carbon has kept up with human activity that emits carbon. The bad news: There are reasons to think this pattern could change.

July 30 2012

18:28

Q. and A.: Greening the London Olympics

From sustainable timber to recycled steel pipes, planners sought sustainable ways of creating the venues for the games.
14:09

On Our Radar: A Blackout in India

The power loss underscores the difficulties India faces in meeting the energy needs of its expanding economy.
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