News / Africa

Trees Stand Tall Against Climate Change

Degraded forest landscape in the Offinso District, Ghana. The original high forest cover has been modified through over-exploitation of wood, agriculture and  human settlements. (Photo by Ernest Foli, FORNESSA)
Degraded forest landscape in the Offinso District, Ghana. The original high forest cover has been modified through over-exploitation of wood, agriculture and human settlements. (Photo by Ernest Foli, FORNESSA)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
The next U.N. Climate Change Conference gets underway November 26 in Doha, Qatar. Once again, negotiators will try to reach a broad agreement on dealing with rising global temperatures. Deforestation is expected to be on the agenda.


The meeting is known as COP 18, or the 18th meeting of the Conference of Parties of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. There are now 195 parties to the treaty, but a definitive agreement on coping with a warming planet has been hard to come by.

In 1997, parties adopted the Kyoto Protocol, which aimed to legally bind developed countries to specific emission reduction targets. The protocol’s original commitment period was supposed to end this year. But last year, negotiators agreed to extend it, possibly by either five or eight years. That’s yet to be decided.

In advance of COP 18, 60 experts with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations have released a new report on reducing carbon emissions. The report says, “The relationships between biodiversity, carbon, forests and people are complex and interdependent.” It adds that “reducing the rates of global deforestation and forest degradation will yield substantial gains for climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation.”

One of the authors is John Parrotta, chair of the Global Forest Expert Panel on Biodiversity, who said keeping forests healthy is vital to mitigating the effects of climate change.

“They can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. They can either absorb them – if they’re expanding and growing – or forest areas can be a source of carbon dioxide and exacerbate climate change, if, as we are seeing in many parts of the world, forests are being lost, being cleared or being degraded. So forests actually are a very important piece of the overall climate change picture,” he said.

Parrotta, a senior scientist with the U.S. Forest Service, has tracked the rate of deforestation worldwide.

“The rate of forest decline is actually slowing worldwide, but there’s still a net loss of forests globally. Between 1990 and 2000, forest area was lost at a rate of 8.3 million hectares per year. And over the next 10 years, between 2000 and 2010, forest area loss went down to 5.2 million hectares. It’s still a very, very rapid rate of forest loss worldwide,” he said.

There’s also forest degradation. While this does not mean a loss of forest area, it does mean a loss of quality in forest ecosystems, including soil, vegetation and animal life. This has a direct effect on those whose livelihoods depend on forests.

The U.N. estimates the world population will reach 9 billion by 2050, bringing with it a much greater demand for food. Growing appetites could lead to greater deforestation as more trees are felled to make room for agriculture. The report recommended smarter agricultural practices to bring greater productivity on existing agricultural land.

When the super storm Hurricane Sandy battered the northeastern United States, it renewed debate and interest on the effects of rising global temperatures.

Asked whether it would take a natural disaster regarding forests to raise awareness, the scientist said, “History suggests that might be the case. One hopes you don’t have to wait until you’re at the edge of the cliff to do something. In the case of the scientific community, we’re trying to compile and communicate what we know, and hopefully that will help guide decision-making.”

There is a proposed U.N. mechanism to protect forests and ease climate change. It’s called REDD, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in developing countries. The U.N. says REDD relies on the technical expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.N. Development Program and the U.N. Environment Program. One of the goals is to include indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities in policymaking.

The report said critics of the program warn of a “lack of clarity” regarding funding, as well as possible “environmental and social risks and inequity associated with various aspects of REDD.”

Parrotta said while deforestation has been on the climate change conference agenda, it’s time to act.

“The sooner the better. The sooner the better. As long as the current trends continue with respect to current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and with respect to the extent and condition of forests, the worse it’s going to be to try to reverse these trends,” he said.

He added, “Actions that reduce deforestation and degradation are likely to have the most immediate and greatest benefits for both carbon and biodiversity.”

COP 18, the U.N. Climate Change Conference, will be held in Doha from November 26 to December 7.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid