Canada Leading ‘Deforestation Nation’ In Race to Destroy Planet’s Last Wilderness Areas

Canada's tar sands projects visible from space
Canada’s tar sands projects visible from space

Forest Loss Results in Massive Emissions of CO2

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 5 2014 (IPS) 

The world’s last remaining forest wilderness is rapidly being lost – and much of this is taking place in Canada, not in Brazil or Indonesia where deforestation has so far made the headlines.

A new satellite study reveals that since 2000 more than 104 million hectares of forests – an area three times the size of Germany – have been destroyed or degraded.

Since 2000 more than 104 million hectares of forests – an area three times the size of Germany – have been destroyed or degraded.


“Every four seconds, an area of the size of a football (soccer) field is lost,” said Christoph Thies of Greenpeace International.

The extent of this forest loss, which is clearly visible in satellite images taken in 2000 and 2013, is “absolutely appalling” and has a global impact, Thies told IPS, because forests play a crucial in regulating the climate.


The current level of deforestation is putting more CO2 into the atmosphere than all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and planes together, he said, adding that “governments must take urgent action” to protect intact forests by creating more protected areas, strengthening the rights of forest communities and other measures, including convincing lumber, furniture manufacturers and others to refuse to use products from virgin forests.

Greenpeace is one of several partners in the Intact Forest Landscapes initiative, along with the University of Maryland, World Resources Institute and WWF-Russia among others, that uses satellite imagery technology to determine the location and extent of the world’s last large undisturbed forests.

The new study found that half of forest loss from deforestation and degradation occurred in just three countries: Canada, Russia and Brazil. These countries are also home to about 65 percent of world’s remaining forest wilderness.

However, despite all the media attention on deforestation in the Amazon forest and the forests of Indonesia, it is Canada that has been leading the world in forest loss since 2000, accounting for 21 percent of global forest loss. By contrast, the much-better known deforestation in Indonesia has accounted for only four percent.

Brazil's Amazon forest - 2013. Credit_Courtesy of Global Forest Watch

Massive increases in oil sands and shale gas developments, as well as logging and road building, are the major cause of Canada’s forest loss, said Peter Lee of Global Forest Watch Canada, an independent Canadian NGO.

A big increase in forest fires is another cause of forest loss. Climate change has rapidly warmed northern Canada, drying out the boreal forests and bogs and making them more vulnerable to fires.

In Canada’s northern Alberta’s oil sands region, more than 12.5 million hectares of forest have been crisscrossed by roads, pipelines, power transmission lines and other infrastructure, Lee told IPS.

Canada’s oil sands and shale gas developments are expected to double and possibly triple in the next decade and “there’s little interest at the federal or provincial political level in conserving intact forest landscapes,” Lee added.

The world’s last remaining large undisturbed forests are where most of the planet’s remaining wild animals, birds, plants and other species live, Nigel Sizer, Global Director of the Forest Programme at the World Resources Institute, told a press conference.

Animals like Siberian tigers, orangutans and woodland caribou require large areas of forest wilderness, Sizer noted, and “losing these top species leads to a decline of entire forest ecosystems in subtle ways that are hard to measure.”

While forests can re-grow, this takes many decades, and in northern forests more than 100 years. However, if species go extinct or there are too few individuals left, it will take longer for a full forest ecosystem to recover – if ever.

In just 13 years, South America’s Paraguay converted an incredible 78 percent of its remaining forest wilderness mainly into large-scale soybean farms and rough pasture, the study found. Satellite images and maps on the new Global Forest Watch website offer see-it-with-your-own eyes images of Paraguay’s forests vanishing over time.

The images and data collected for the study are accessible via various tools on the website. They reveal that 25 percent of Europe’s largest remaining forest, located 900 km north of Moscow, has been chopped down to feed industrial logging operations. In the Congo, home of the world’s second largest tropical forest, 17 percent has been lost to logging, mining and road building. The Global Forest Watch website also shows details of huge areas of Congo forest licensed for future logging.

Deforestation starts with road building, often linked to logging and extractive industries, said Thies. In some countries, like Brazil and Paraguay, the prime reason is conversion to large-scale agriculture, usually for crops that will be exported.

The new data could help companies with sustainability commitments in determining which areas to avoid when sourcing commodities like timber, palm oil, beef and soy. Market-led efforts need to gain further support given the lax governance and enforcement in many of these forest regions, Thies said.

He called on the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – a voluntary certification programme that sets standards for forest management – to “also play a stronger role” and to improve those standards in order to better protect wilderness forests.

Without urgent action to curb deforestation, it is doubtful that any large-scale wild forest will remain by the end of this century, concluded Sizer.

First published on IPS

Exposure to air pollution from traffic damages Swedish children’s lungs

Source:  American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 13 Oct 2012

Exposure to air pollution from traffic during infancy is associated with lung function deficits in children up to eight years of age, particularly among children sensitized to common allergens, according to a new study.

“Earlier studies have shown that children are highly susceptible to the adverse effects of air pollution and suggest that exposure early in life may be particularly harmful,” said researcher Göran Pershagen, MD, PhD, professor at the Karolinska Institutet Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden.

“In our prospective birth cohort study in a large population of Swedish children, exposure to traffic-related air pollution during infancy was associated with decreases in lung function at age eight, with stronger effects indicated in boys, children with asthma and particularly in children sensitized to allergens.”

The findings were published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study included more than 1,900 children who were followed from birth through age eight. ….

[edit]

“Our study shows that early exposure to traffic-related air pollution has long-term adverse effects on respiratory health in children, particularly among atopic children,” concluded Dr. Pershagen.

“These results add to a large body of evidence demonstrating the detrimental effects of air pollution on human health.”

via Exposure to traffic air pollution in infancy impairs lung function in children.

RELATED ARTICLES

Reducing Soot and Smog from Air Pollution Would Help Stabilise Climate

Urban Air Pollution from Burning Fossil Fuels Reduces Children’s Intelligence

Low Levels of Air Pollution Dangerous For Your Heart

Reducing Soot and Smog from Air Pollution Would Help Stabilise Climate

There is a quick way to buy more time to make the switch from fossil fuels to alternatives. Serious reductions in air pollutants like soot and smog bring cleaner air, less asthma/lung disease/heart attacks and could cut warming by 30 per cent.  No new technology needed as my article shows, just something like a Green Marshall Plan to bring simple things like $20 clean-burning cooking stove to hundreds of millions of people. (more at Global Alliance for Cookstoves) — Stephen

By Stephen Leahy

BONN, Jun 14, 2011 (IPS) – Clean the air, cool the planet and prevent millions of deaths with fast action on soot and smog, a new report urges.

Air pollutants like black carbon (soot) and ground-level ozone (smog) arise from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass like wood and charcoal.

Nations or regional blocks of nations could decide to put measures into place that quickly improve their air quality, reduce crop losses and shorten lives. And, almost as a side benefit, those efforts would do much to slow the rate of global warming, says the scientific assessment report released at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiating session here in Bonn.

“One-third of current global warming is due to emissions of black carbon, methane and ground-level ozone,” said Joseph Alcamo, chief scientist at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

This comprehensive scientific assessment shows that reducing emissions of these pollutants is a powerful adjunct to efforts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, Alcamo said in a press conference.

If the global community fully implements clean-up measures, it could reduce future climate change by 0.5 degrees C by 2030 to 2040, the report concludes. This is a key ingredient in the extraordinary challenge of keeping global temperatures from rising beyond two degrees C, says report co-author Johan Kuylenstierna, York Centre Director of the Stockholm Environment Institute.

 

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.

The scientists behind the assessment, coordinated by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), also point to numerous public health and food security opportunities. Ground-level ozone and fine particles, including black carbon, are linked with premature deaths, primarily heart disease and lung cancer, alongside other illnesses such as bronchitis and low birth weight.

Both ground-level ozone and black carbon can also substantially reduce the growth of crops, trees and other plants. Implementing the measures in the report could avoid annual yield losses of up to 50 million tonnes annually, they estimate.

“The (clean-up) measures to do this all exist and are in use in many places. They need to be implemented very widely in order to get the full climate benefit,” Kuylenstierna told IPS. Continue reading

Reducing Soot and Smog Would Help Stabilise Climate and Save Millions of Lives

Picture of smog in Cairo.
Image via Wikipedia

By Stephen Leahy

BONN, Jun 14, 2011 (IPS)

Clean the air, cool the planet and prevent millions of deaths with fast action on soot and smog, a new report urges.

Air pollutants like black carbon (soot) and ground-level ozone (smog) arise from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass like wood and charcoal.

Nations or regional blocks of nations could decide to put measures into place that quickly improve their air quality, reduce crop losses and shorten lives. And, almost as a side benefit, those efforts would do much to slow the rate of global warming, says the scientific assessment report released at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiating session here in Bonn.

Continue reading

“Europe is going to cook the world’s tropical forests to fight climate change; it’s crazy” — Millions of Trees Burned for ‘Green Energy’

Burning trees for energy produces 1.5 times as much carbon as coal – study shows

By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 24 ’09 (Tierramérica) (Revised Sept 1’10)

Millions of trees, especially from the developing countries of the South, are being shipped to Europe and burned in giant furnaces to meet “green energy” requirements that are supposed to combat climate change.

In the last two months alone, energy companies in Britain have announced the construction of at least six new biomass power generation plants to produce 1,200 megawatts of energy, primarily from burning woodchips.

At least another 1,200 megawatts of wood-fired energy plants, including the world’s largest, in Port Talbot, Wales, are already under construction.

Those energy plants will burn 20 to 30 million tonnes of wood annually, nearly all imported from other regions and equivalent to at least one million hectares of forest.

“Europe is going to cook the world’s tropical forests to fight climate change; it’s crazy,”Simone Lovera, of the non-governmental Global Forest Coalition, which has a southern officed in Asunción, Paraguay, told Tierramérica.

Do you find this article interesting? It exists thanks to contributions from readers. Please click here to learn more about Community Supported Journalism.

Europe has committed to reducing its carbon emissions 20 percent by 2020 in an effort to fight climate change. Biofuels and biomass energy will have key roles in achieving those goals, experts say.

[UPDATE: New story details regarding subsidies, increased air pollution from wood burning and the big lie that says ‘burning wood is carbon-neutral’: see Europe’s Green Energy Portfolio Up in Smoke?]

“Biomass is a very promising sector for energy companies,” says Jarret Adams, a spokesperson for Adage, a joint venture between French nuclear power giant Areva and the U.S.-based Duke Energy.

Adage is building a 50-megawatt, wood-burning power plant in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida, the first of 12 such “green energy” plants to be built over the next six years, Adams told Tierramérica.

“Burning wood for energy is considered carbon neutral by U.S. federal and state authorities,” he said. In other words, the process of generating electricity by burning wood emits an equal or lesser amount of carbon dioxide than the quantity absorbed by the trees through photosynthesis.

When Tierramérica questioned the assumption of carbon neutrality, Adams replied, “It is, but who knows for certain?”

See complete original story here.


Urban Air Pollution from Burning Fossil Fuels Reduces Children’s Intelligence

Yet another study that confirms the urgent need to switch to cleaner energy sources for health reasons. Here we have unborn children affected by the air pollution their mothers breathe. Burning fossil fuels releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which we all breathe in but these chemicals affect the mental development of unborn children. Other new studies show smog causes increases in heart attacks, and reduces blood’s ability to transport oxygen.

So why the high-profile fight over climate change and urgent need to reduce fossil fuel use? Might it happen that fossil energy companies desperate to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, actively encourage (if not directly fund) confusion regarding the inconvenient scientific results on climate and public health? — Stephen

[UPDATE: “Urban air pollutants may damage IQs before baby’s first breath, scientists say” – Environmental Health News
July 26, 2010]

April 2010 — A study by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) carried out in Krakow, Poland has found that prenatal exposure to pollutants can adversely affect children’s cognitive development at age 5, confirming previous findings in a New York City (NYC) study.

Researchers report that children exposed to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Krakow had a significant reduction in scores on a standardized test of reasoning ability and intelligence at age 5. The study findings are published today online in Environmental Health Perspectives. Continue reading

Low Levels of Air Pollution Dangerous For Your Heart

This is the first study to assess the effect of real-world air pollution according to environmentalresearchweb:

“Air pollution is bad for your heart – particularly if you are elderly.”

This new animal study provides biological evidence of the well-known finding that air pollution increases cardiovascular disease and mortality.

Turns out that even relatively low levels of pollution — particulates from the burning of fossil fuels or wood — is “reducing the blood’s ability to carry oxygen and perhaps altering neural reflexes too. Meanwhile, the gaseous pollutants might be causing tissue inflammation, leading to less efficient uptake of oxygen through the lungs”.

The affects were worse with age. “It would seem prudent to work towards reducing exposure to these pollutants…”

Yet another compelling reason to end the addiction to fossil fuel use and to also help bring cleaner-burning stoves to the people who need them for cooking. Stephen

Related: Burning Oil, Gasoline, Coal Causes Heart Attacks – American Heart Association