Saturday, December 27, 2014

Restored Forests Are Making Inroads Against Climate Change

Costa Rica is considered a forest success. Much of the country's old-growth forest was lost from the 1940s to the 1980s, but then new policies stemmed the loss, and forests have regrown to cover more than half the country. Serious threats persist, including a boom in pineapple farming that gives landowners an incentive to cut down recovering forest plots. (Credit: Matthew Hansen and Peter Potapov, University of Maryland; Google; U.S.G.S; NASA; Global Forest Watch, World Resources Institute / The New York Times) Click to Enlarge.
Over time, humans have cut down or damaged at least three-quarters of the world’s forests, and that destruction has accounted for much of the excess carbon that is warming the planet.

But now, driven by a growing environmental movement in countries that are home to tropical forests, and by mounting pressure from Western consumers who care about sustainable practices, corporate and government leaders are making a fresh push to slow the cutting — and eventually to halt it.  In addition, plans are being made by some of those same leaders to encourage forest regrowth on such a giant scale that it might actually pull a sizable fraction of human-released carbon dioxide out of the air and lock it into long-term storage. 

With the recent signs of progress, long-wary environmental groups are permitting themselves a burst of optimism about the world’s forests.

“The public should take heart,” said Rolf Skar, who helps lead forest conservation work for the environmental group Greenpeace.  “We are at a potentially historic moment where the world is starting to wake up to this issue, and to apply real solutions.”

Still, Greenpeace and other groups expect years of hard work as they try to hold business leaders and politicians accountable for the torrent of promises they have made lately.  The momentum to slow or halt deforestation is fragile, for many reasons.  And even though rich Western governments have hinted for years that they might be willing to spend tens of billions of dollars to help poor countries save their forests, they have allocated only a few billion dollars.

Around the world, trees are often cut down to make room for farming, and so the single biggest threat to forests remains the need to feed growing populations, particularly an expanding global middle class with the means to eat better.  Saving forests, if it can be done, will require producing food much more intensively, on less land.

Read more at Restored Forests Are Making Inroads Against Climate Change

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