The New Beast in the Forest Brings Hope and Threats to Indigenous Peoples

Deforestation for oil palm plantation West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo Karmele Llano SanchezInternational Animal Rescue

by Stephen Leahy

First published at National Geographic’s NewsWatch

“REDD is the new beast in the forest,” said Patrick Anderson of the Forest Peoples Programme in Indonesia here at Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous peoples workshop in Cairns, Australia.

Deforestation gobbles up an area the size of Greece (13 million hectares) every year. As if that loss wasn’t bad enough, it also produces huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions — a whopping 15 to 20 percent of all global emissions. That’s second only to the burning of fossil fuels.

Sadly, in our economic system, trees are worth far more dead as paper, lumber, furniture, etc., than alive.

In an attempt to reverse this, countries in the United Nations have agreed to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests in a program called REDD: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

This is how it works. Trees take heat-trapping carbon out of the atmosphere as they grow and store it for as long as the trees live. Instead of cutting down trees and selling the wood, the carbon trapped in the living trees can be sold as “carbon credits” on an open market.

A steel, cement, or coal-fired power company in the U.S. or a European country can then buy those credits instead of reducing its carbon emissions. The current price is around $10 per tonne but this fluctuates.

For example, the newly established Carbon Tax in Australia sets the price at $23 per ton in the first year of operations. (One hectare of tropical forest stores between 250-500 tonnes of carbon but varies considerably. An average car emits 1.5 tonne of carbon per year.)

 

Climate Scientists to Attend Native Knowledge ‘Boot Camp’ in Australia

By Stephen Leahy

First published at National Geographic NewsWatch

In what may be a ‘clash of worldviews,’ representatives from indigenous and local communities are holding a climate workshop with physicists, computer modellers, and other climate scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Cairns, Australia 26-28 March.

This is a unique opportunity for Native peoples to discuss their traditional knowledge and experiences as it relates to climate change.

Indigenous peoples are amongst the most affected by current and future climate change but their experiences and knowledge have largely been ignored by science experts at the IPCC. The workshop, Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples: Practices, Lessons Learned and Prospects, is a significant effort to change this.

There are an estimated 350 million indigenous peoples according to the United Nations. They legally own more than 11% of the world’s forests and those coincide with areas that hold up to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. Traditional knowledge is a different but no less valid way of understanding the world. However, very few scientists of the thousands who have worked with the IPCC have any experience with traditional knowledge.

The IPCC is working on its next big report (to be released in 2014) and has acknowledged that its Fifth Assessment Report needs to look at how climate change will impact indigenous peoples, their role in reducing carbon emissions (mitigation) and what barriers they face in adapting to current and future climate impacts.

The Cairns workshop will focus on how indigenous peoples can help reduce global carbon emissions. It is being held in collaboration with the IPCC, indigenous organizations, the United Nations University (UNU), the Australian government and others.

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Brazil’s Forest Code and Land Speculators To Amp Up Amazon Deforestation Rates

90% of Forest in Apuí Converted into Pasture But the Real Profit is in Land Sales

By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jul 28, 2011 (Tierramérica)

Many migrants from southern Brazil who clear forests in Brazil’s state of Amazonas are making their living as small-scale land speculators and not as farmers or as cattle ranchers, new research has found.

This on-the-ground reality and the proposed changes to Brazil’s Forest Code are likely to ramp up deforestation rates again, despite the country’s commitment to reduce deforestation 80 percent by 2020, experts say.

The Forest Code (Law 4771) was adopted in 1965 and has undergone numerous reforms, the most recent in 2001. This past May 24, an overwhelming majority in the Chamber of Deputies voted in favor of a bill to relax its requirements with regard to forest conservation. The bill is currently under study in the Senate. [Update Dec 28 2011]

A detailed study conducted in the municipality of Apuí along the Transamazon Highway in Amazonas found that many families in the region earned little income from cattle.

Instead, they were clearing the land in order to claim land titles to sell the land to large corporate ranchers, according to the study “Forest Clearing Dynamics and the Expansion of Landholdings in Apuí, a Deforestation Hotspot on Brazil’s Transamazon Highway”, published in the journal Ecology and Society in June.

From the early 1990s the population of Apuí has tripled, and the municipality has had some of the highest rates of deforestation in all of the state of Amazonas. Approximately 90 per cent of the area has been converted into pasture, the study found.

“These families are always moving into new forest areas to deforest so they can claim land title. And after a few years they sell it for a much higher price,” said study co-author Gabriel Carrero of the Institute for Conservation and Sustainable Development of Amazonas (IDESAM). Continue reading

10 Years in the Amazon: The Forest Vanishes Before Your Eyes

Amazon Forest 2000 - The state of Rondônia in western Brazil

The state of Rondônia in western Brazil — once home to 208,000 square kilometers of forest (about 51.4 million acres), an area slightly smaller than the state of Kansas — has become one of the most deforested parts of the Amazon. In the past three decades, clearing and degradation of the state’s forests have been rapid: 4,200 square kilometers cleared by 1978; 30,000 by 1988; and 53,300 by 1998. By 2003, an estimated 67,764 square kilometers of rainforest—an area larger than the state of West Virginia—had been cleared. Source: Amazon Deforestation – NASA

See also: Amazon Drought Accelerating Climate Change   The REAL Amazon-gate: On the Brink of Collapse Reveals Million $ Study

Amazon Forest 2010 - The state of Rondônia in western Brazil

Amazon Drought Accelerating Climate Change

World’s Forests Losing Their Green. Billions of tonnes of CO2 Released

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 3, 2011 (IPS)

Last year’s severe drought in the Amazon will pump billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, a new report has found.

Researchers calculate that millions of trees died in 2010, which means the Amazon is soaking up much less CO2 from the atmosphere, and those dead trees will now release all the carbon they’ve accumulated over 300 or more years.

The widespread 2010 drought follows a similar drought in 2005 which itself will put an additional five billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, Simon Lewis of University of Leeds in the UK and colleagues calculate in a study published Thursday in Science. The United States emitted 5.4 billion tonnes of CO2 from fossil fuel use in 2009.

The two droughts will end up adding an estimated 13 billion tonnes of additional CO2 – equivalent to combined emissions in 2009 from China and the U.S. – and likely accelerating global warming.

“New growth in the region will not offset those releases,” Lewis told IPS.

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After the 2005 drought, Lewis and Brazilian scientist Paulo Brando from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) led teams of researchers on the ground to assess the impacts. They determined that only a few trees died per hectare, and so while the forest canopy cover looked relatively unchanged, there had been a significant change in the forest’s carbon balance. Continue reading

Tackling Climate Change Only Way to Halt Species Extinction Crisis and Declines

An IPCC for Species Needed

By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 26, 2010 (IPS)

A major change in the direction of economic development is essential to avoid the catastrophic unraveling of Earth’s ecosystems that support all life, a new global analysis published in the journal Science revealed Tuesday.

Climate change, pollution, deforestation and other forms of land use change are pushing species into extinction, reducing their abundance and home ranges.

Human societies and infrastructures have evolved with and rely on particular sets of species and ecosystems and now these are being reshuffled,” said Paul Leadley of the University Paris-Sud in France who led the study.

“Even optimistic scenarios for this century consistently predict extinctions and shrinking populations of many species,” Leadley told IPS by telephone from France.

The goal of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2020 is under intense negotiation this week in Nagoya at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. However, based on five recent global environmental assessments, Leadley says that ending biodiversity loss by 2020 is sadly “unrealistic”.

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North-South Divide Again Clouds Biodiversity Talks


By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 19, 2010 (IPS)

The accelerating destruction of natural habitats will take millions of years to recover from, scientists have warned.

This may be the last chance to apply the brakes, Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, reminded delegates representing the 193 member countries of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“This meeting is being held to address a very simple fact: we are destroying life on this Earth,” Steiner said at the opening plenary meeting Monday. “It is absolutely essential that nations work together here.”

Ryu Matsumoto, Japan’s environment minister, warned that the world was about to reach a threshold where the loss of biodiversity would become irreversible.

“We’re now close to a tipping point on biodiversity,” he said. “We may cross that in the next 10 years.”

With 16,000 participants, the Oct. 18-29 gathering is by far the biggest international meeting on biodiversity. The term biodiversity refers to the variety of plants, animals and other species that provide a wide range of services to humanity.

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