Thursday, 27 November 2008

Forests and climate change

photo: Intercooperation SahelWorld forests and the billions of humans who depend on them are under threat, reports the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in a scientific review called Facing an Uncertain Future. It calls for urgent mitigation and adaptation. Impacts on forests will continue for over a century even if UNFCCC succeeds in halting and lowering emissions. Tropical regions will probably heat up faster than the global average, with wildfires, drought and desertification in some areas (e.g. the Sahel since 1970), while storms, summer monsoons and floods will increase in others. Still disputed is the Hadley Centre's prediction that the Amazon forest would die, plunging the world into uncontrollable crisis.

CIFOR lead author Bruno Locatelli warns we are close to a vicious cycle, in which deforestation increases CO2 levels, which then cause further destruction. He defends corporate foresters' views: that we must improve fire management, control invasive species, and select heat-hardy species in plantations.

But Dave Reay, of the University of Edinburgh, argues that mitigation trumps adaptation. We must fight deforestation and degradation: "That's what's going to destroy these huge carbon sinks before climate change has a chance to get at them."

See also: New Scientist photos of impacts on forests, "Trees to fight warming" Reuters 25 Nov 08, UNEP's REDD, Mongabay deforestation news, IUCN and WWF on deforestation and REDD, WWF newsletter analyzing REDD 18 Oct 07.

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