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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
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.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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