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)
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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More