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Forest Loss
Gross forest loss accelerates in 2022
2023-11-14 02:50 PM
Gross forest loss accelerates in 2022
According to the Forest Declaration Assesssment, gross deforestation reached 6,6 million hectares worldwide.

Source: Reuters, October 2023

The world is moving too slowly to meet pledges to end deforestation by 2030, with the destruction worsening in 2022, according to a report by a coalition of environmental organizations released on Monday.

More than 140 countries - representing the vast majority of the world's woodlands - pledged at the 2021 United Nations climate summit in Glasgow to halt and reverse forest loss and degradation by the end of the decade.

Yet deforestation increased by 4% worldwide in 2022 compared with 2021, as some 66,000 square kilometers (25,000 square miles) were destroyed, the annual Forest Declaration Assessment report said. That means the world is 21% off track to end deforestation by 2030.

"The world's forests are in crisis. The opportunity to make progress is passing us by," said Erin Matson, a senior consultant at environmental group Climate Focus.

The report was conducted by a coalition of civil society and research organizations who assess progress towards pledges to eliminate deforestation by 2030.

That includes the Glasgow pledge and the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests, which saw a shorter list of countries as well as dozens of the world's biggest companies make a similar commitment.

Efforts to preserve old-growth tropical forests — prized for their dense carbon content and rich biodiveristy — are 33% off track, with 4.1 million hectares lost in 2022, according to the study.

In a news briefing, the researchers involved in the report stressed that the annual $2.2 billion in public funds channeled to projects to protect forests every year is a fraction of the investment needed.

The study also looked beyond deforestation to analyze forest degradation, with one researcher estimating the area of degraded forests to be much larger than the area of global deforestation.

Drivers of forest degradation include logging activities, livestock grazing, and road construction, according to Climate Focus.

But some parts of the world are making progress, said Franziska Haupt, a lead author and managing partner at consultancy Climate Focus.

Haupt said that some 50 countries are on track to end forest loss, with Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia showing drastic reductions in deforestation.

"Hope isn't lost," Haupt said. "These countries set clear examples that others must follow."

Brazil, which is responsible for around 30 percent of the world's deforestation, has seen a significant turnaround with a new government which is much more committed to fighting deforestation than the last, said a WWF Brazil representative during the news conference.

"This showcases what could happen when countries with good laws and the books actually invest in enforcing them,” said Darragh Conway, lead on rights & governance for the Forest Declaration Assessment.
Amazon drought
Amazon drought leads to lowest Rio Negro levels in 120 years
2023-11-14 02:30 PM
Amazon drought leads to lowest Rio Negro levels in 120 years

Amazon drought sparks fears of climate tipping points


Source: Financial Times, November 2023

One of the world’s largest rivers and a major tributary of the Amazon, the yawning Rio Negro is a pillar of the rainforest ecosystem that is crucial to the stability of the global climate. But vast sections of the waterway are currently dry.

For weeks, an unprecedented drought has pummelled the region, reducing water levels in key Amazonian arteries to record lows and wreaking havoc on local communities and the unique wildlife of the biome.


The immediate victims of the drought are more than half a million people in Brazil’s Amazonas state, who are suffering an unfolding humanitarian emergency as the region’s river-borne transportation is choked by the lack of water.

But the drought also has far-reaching implications for the Earth’s climate. As the extreme heat and water shortage kills trees and sparks fires, the forest begins to release its enormous stocks of carbon dioxide, fuelling the process of global warming that scientists say was an important factor behind the drought in the first place.

“It is starting a vicious circle that will destroy forest,” said Philip Fearnside, a scientist at the National Institute for Amazonian Research in Manaus.

“Because of this huge stock of carbon in the forest, the Amazon is at the centre of this question of global warming escaping from human control. If just a fraction comes out, it would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. And there is an increasing risk of that happening.”

In Manaus, a port city in the heart of the rainforest, the watermark of the river has fallen as low as 12.7m — more than 6m below the historic average for October — leaving the docks barren as the region’s rivers lose much of their transport function.

More than 60 municipalities in Amazonas, the state that includes Manaus, are officially in a state of emergency, with the government rushing in basic supplies including food, water and medicines.

“Rivers are our roads, so it has become impossible to go anywhere,” said Fredson Farias, who sells boat tickets at Manaus port. He estimated that footfall had dropped by 70 per cent.

“There are parts of the river that are 95 per cent dry. In 100 years we’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

The immediate cause of the drought is a combination of the ongoing El Niño weather event, which warms the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean’s surface, and an unusual patch of warm water in the Atlantic Ocean above the equator.

The two phenomena have inhibited the formation of clouds and caused rainfall to drop sharply. In Belém, a city in the eastern Amazon, rainfall in September was a quarter of typical levels.


In addition to the Rio Negro, which is one of the world’s largest rivers by discharge levels, the huge Amazon, Solimões and Madeira rivers have all hit record lows and are, in parts, dry.

Experts say the intensity of the events in the Pacific and Atlantic — not in themselves caused by human activity — has been worsened by climate change.


“Global warming is clearly making a contribution to this exceptional drought,” said Tim Lenton, chair in climate change and Earth system science at the University of Exeter.

“It has added to the warmth in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific where El Niño is creating its usual warm water pool. It has also contributed to unprecedented warm sea surface temperatures in the north Atlantic. Both patterns of ocean heating are contributing to the current drought.”

Further complicating the situation are exceptionally high temperatures. On October 10, the national meteorology institute reported a reading of 40C in Manaus, the highest since records began almost a century ago. 

The heat and lack of rain have created prime conditions for fires, which — like the drought itself — can kill trees, damage the ecosystem and cause the release of more carbon into the atmosphere.

Antarctic ice shelves are shattering. How fast will seas rise?
2022-03-31 02:37 PM
Antarctic ice shelves are shattering. How fast will seas rise?
Antarctic ice shelves are shattering. How fast will seas rise? An unexpected ice shelf collapse in East Antarctica, after temperatures spiked 70°F above normal, highlights bigger problems in the West, where one glacier could singlehandedly raise global sea levels several feet.

All scientist Erin Pettit could see when she looked at the satellite photos of the ice shelf in front of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica was the giant crack that stretched across most of the image.

Two years before, when she and her colleagues were deciding where to put their research camp, the entire floating ice shelf—a tongue of ice poking out from the enormous glacier behind it—was solid. It was plenty safe to plan a camp there, they thought.

But last December, when they were preparing to go to the camp, the images revealed enormous cracks in the ice pointing straight at it.

It was unlikely the cracks would grow fast enough to endanger them. But to Pettit, it signified something even scarier: the start of ice shelf's disintegration, which is a step toward a larger disintegration of the glacier itself.

In March, East Antarctica—the other, colder side of the continent—saw its first-ever ice-shelf collapse. As a late Austral summer heat wave brought extraordinary temperatures and high winds to the region, the Conger ice shelf disintegrated within days. The unexpected collapse highlighted the importance of—and uncertainty about—the continent’s ice shelves, which act like bottle stoppers controlling the flow of ice from land to sea. Their incipient demise, scientists fear, could be the beginning of more ice loss—and much more sea level rise that would affect countries all over the world.

Despite Conger’s collapse, the most pressing concern is still the ice shelves fringing West Antarctica, where Pettit works. Their December 2021 discovery suggested the Thwaites ice shelf could disintegrate within the decade, leaving the enormous and unusually precarious glacier unprotected.

The size of Florida, the Thwaites Glacier holds enough ice to raise global sea levels two feet. It’s also a bottleneck protecting the larger West Antarctic ice sheet, which would raise sea level 10 feet if it were to melt completely. And because of some crucial, frightening quirks of geology and geography, Thwaites could one day become one of the most significant drivers of global sea level rise.

“It is the most important glacier in the world,” says Julia Wellner, a marine geologist at the University of Houston.

Source: National Geographic
Climate Policy
Brand new: IPCC Climate Change report
2022-03-31 02:36 PM
Brand new: IPCC Climate Change report
UN scientists are likely to weigh up technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, as they gather to finalise a key report.

This idea will be one of many solutions considered over the next two weeks by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Also in attendance will be government officials from all over the world, who will need to approve every line in the summary report.

This new study will be the third of three important reports from the IPCC issued over the past eight months. The previous two have looked at the causes and impacts of climate change, but this one will focus on mitigation - or what we can do to stop it.

This essentially means that researchers will look at how we can reduce the amount of warming gases that are emitted from human activities.

"The report was scoped out to cover the full spectrum of carbon dioxide removal approaches, which vary absolutely hugely, and the carbon dioxide that is removed can end up in very different stores and in very different places. So it was within the scope of the report to cover the whole lot, basically."

For more on carbon capture and storage listen to this episode of The Climate Question on BBC Sounds. The kind of carbon removal approaches the report will consider will likely include tree planting and agriculture, as well as the more advanced technological approaches that use large machines to remove the carbon from the air.

They will also look at combined approaches, where land is used to grow crops which can be burned for energy while the carbon is captured and buried.

The use of these types of technology is controversial. Campaigners express doubts that they can be made to work economically and there are also concerns that technology could be seen as an excuse not to make the major changes in energy production that are needed.

Scientists though say that the situation is now so serious that carbon dioxide removal will be needed in addition to massive cuts in emissions and not as a substitute for them.

What ultimately emerges in the short summary for policymakers that will be published in two weeks, will depend on delicate negotiations with government representatives from 195 countries.

Researchers and officials will work through the summary line by line to agree the final text.

There are some concerns that the war in Ukraine might have an impact on the meeting, with representatives from both Russia and Ukraine due to take part. "We have been running some informal meetings with governments to brief them ahead of the actual approval session," said Prof Skea.

"I would be optimistic that we would get full participation."

The new report, part of a regular review of the science dating back to 1990, will also have a new focus on the social aspects of cutting carbon.

"This chapter looks at the social science perspective of demand, and what motivates individual consumers, communities, businesses, to make responsible consumption, reduction, design and investment choices," said Dr Joyashree Roy, from Jadavpur University and the lead author of this part of the report.

"Responsible production and consumption are also within the scope of this chapter, and we have also been asked to look into what are the drivers of behaviour change."There will be much focus on short term actions that governments can take in the remaining years of this decade to keep the rise in global temperatures under 1.5C this century.

This was assessed in 2018 as needing emissions to be cut in half by 2030 - but after the pandemic and with the likely ramping up of fossil fuel use in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, the scale of emissions cuts may need revising upwards.

Despite this, the report will likely emphasise that there is hope that the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided, if urgent action is taken.

Source: BBC
Volkswagen donates 2 million euros to European Biosphere Reserves
2022-03-31 02:35 PM
Volkswagen donates 2 million euros to European Biosphere Reserves
The cooperation with UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme includes projects related to nature conservation, sustainability and climate protection projects in European biosphere reserves.

The Volkswagen Group's donation will benefit the Biosphere Reserves of Schaalsee in Germany, Puszcza Kampinoska in Poland and Bardenas Reales, La Rioja and Ordesa Viñamala in Spain. The selected projects will be focusing on sustainable mobility, education for sustainable development, the preservation of biodiversity and the improvement of local water supply will be supported. The agreement has been successfully achieved thanks to the support of the German Commission for UNESCO.

The background to the donations is an agreement between the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Volkswagen AG in the course of dealing with the diesel crisis. The EIB had granted the Volkswagen Group a promotional loan in 2009, which was repaid in full in February 2014. Among other things, it included funds for the development of diesel engines. With the agreement of December 2018, Volkswagen AG voluntarily agreed with the EIB to spend a total of €10 million on environmental projects as part of its commitment to sustainability, €2 million of which will go to biosphere reserves.

In its 50th anniversary, UNESCO’s MAB Programme has been strengthening its cooperation with the private sector. Now, Volkswagen stands with companies such as Abertis and LVMH as the Programme’s partners in a range of sustainable projects across the world.

Reforestation relies on the right trees in the right place
2022-03-31 02:34 PM
Reforestation relies on the right trees in the right place
Planting the right trees in the right place is key for the climate — and healthy ecosystems.

The story: Reforestation efforts are growing, with billions of new trees planted every single year. This seems like good news for our climate — the more trees to capture carbon from the atmosphere the better, right? Well, not quite. Planting non-native trees in places where they don’t belong can actually make ecosystems far less resilient, reports Catrin Einhorn for the New York Times.

In some cases, well-intentioned (but ultimately harmful) projects have planted scores of trees on native grasslands or savannas where they would not naturally occur — permanently altering the fragile ecosystems on which wildlife and other native species rely. In others, fast-growing, non-native trees like eucalyptus are prioritized for timber or crops, which creates a monoculture situation, where one species dominates the forest — the opposite of a healthy, diverse ecosystem.

The big picture: Scientists estimate that 5.5 million hectares (13.5 million acres) of tropical forest — an area more than twice the size of Belize — is cut down every single year. So, getting reforestation right is incredibly important. One solution is to let deforested lands regenerate on their own. In 2020, a team of researchers, including Conservation International climate expert Bronson Griscom, set out to discover what would happen if we let forests that had been stripped of trees regrow naturally. Their research resulted in a global map that pinpoints forest areas with the most potential to help humanity combat climate change — as long as we leave them alone.

“This new dataset is a pivotal tool for determining where to target our restoration investments so that we can get the most bang for our buck, while re-greening the planet,” Griscom told Conservation News.

Source: Conservation International
Climate Change
Climate change is hitting faster than anticipated.
2022-03-31 02:32 PM
Climate change is hitting faster than anticipated.
Climate change is hitting the planet faster than scientists originally thought."Vast expanses of peatland in frozen soil across northern Europe are expected to pass a climatic tipping point far sooner than previously thought, threatening to release billions of tonnes of carbon that would accelerate climate change."

Sources: Nature Climate Change, NewScientist, 2022 Vast expanses of peatland in frozen soil across northern Europe are expected to pass a climatic tipping point far sooner than previously thought, threatening to release billions of tonnes of carbon that would accelerate climate change.Global warming has already caused Arctic permafrost to start releasing more carbon than it absorbs. But Richard Fewster at the University of Leeds, UK, and his colleagues have pinpointed in new detail when and where local climates will become unsuitable for peatland locked away in permafrost.

Finland, Norway, Sweden and a small part of north-west Russia will become too warm for permafrost peatland by the 2040s in all possible future carbon emissions scenarios considered by the team, compared with 2070 as thought previously. In the three higher-emission scenarios, most of Western Siberia will pass the same threshold in the 2090s.

This would leave 39.5 billion tonnes of carbon, twice the amount contained in Europe’s forests, at risk of being released into the atmosphere and turbocharging climate change. The vast majority of that carbon is locked up in western Siberia, which has much older and larger peatlands than the other areas included in the study.

Read more:
The Amazon is losing its ability to "rebound" from destruction
2022-03-31 02:23 PM
The Amazon is losing its ability to "rebound" from destruction
According to new science by Exeter University, the Potsdam Institute & Munich Technical University, the Amazon is losing its ability to "rebound" from its desctruction. Parts of it are already approaching a "Catastrophic tipping point".

The Amazon rainforest is teetering on the precipice of a dangerous tipping point, new research warns. It’s gradually losing its ability to bounce back after disturbances like droughts or other extreme weather events.

With enough time and forest losses, scientists say, large swaths of the Amazon could fall into an unstoppable spiral that would transform them from lush rainforest into grassy savanna.

The global implications would be profound. The loss of the rainforest would cause a large-scale drying across the region. The circulation of the atmosphere could change in response, altering weather patterns around the world. And the Amazon has the potential to pour some 90 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the forest dies off, the equivalent of several years of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s worth reminding ourselves that if it gets to that tipping point and we commit to losing the Amazon rainforest, then we get a significant feedback to global climate change,” said Timothy Lenton, a scientist at the University of Exeter and a co-author of the study, published yesterday in Nature Climate Change.

Scientists have warned of an Amazon tipping point for years. Computer models and simulations have frequently shown that with enough future warming, the rainforest could eventually enter an irreversible transition to a new kind of ecosystem.

Now, the new study adds extra urgency to the situation. It demonstrates, with real-life observations, that the Amazon is already losing its resilience. In fact, it has been for years. The research draws on three decades of satellite data, monitoring the way trees and other vegetation recover after damaging weather events, droughts or other disturbances. The findings are stark: The Amazon has been losing its resilience for at least 20 years. The majority of the areas observed recover more slowly today than they did a couple of decades ago.

Source: Scientific American