Could Cool or Cook The Planet
Canada, Dec 7 (IPS) - A two-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures
could flip the Amazon forest from being the Earth's vital air conditioner
to a flamethrower that cooks the planet, warns a new report released
at the climate talks in Bali, Indonesia Friday.
already past 0.6 degrees C., climate experts say.
a two-degree C. rise in global temperatures cannot be prevented without
a largely intact Amazon rainforest, says Dan Nepstad, a senior scientist
at the Woods Hole Research Centre in the U.S. state of Massachusetts
and author of the report "The Amazon's Vicious Cycles: Drought
and Fire in the Greenhouse", issued by WWF, the global conservation
importance of the Amazon forest for the globe's climate cannot be underplayed,"
said Nepstad at a press conference from Nusa Dua on the island of Bali,
the site of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) conference running until Dec. 14.
of the Amazon contain at least 100 billion tonnes of carbon -- 15 years
worth of global emissions from all sources, he said. "It's not
only essential for cooling the world's temperature but also such a large
source of freshwater that it may be enough to influence some of the
great ocean currents."
It is in
everyone's interest to keep the Amazon intact, but deforestation continues
apace, driven by expanding cattle ranching, soy farming, conversion
into sugar cane for biofuel and logging.
is drying out the forest, making it more vulnerable to burning. Rising
global temperatures are also increasing evaporation rates, drying the
a perfect storm building for massive forest loss in the Amazon,"
But the vicious
cycle that's drying out the forest can be broken, said Hans Verolme,
director of WWF's Global Climate Change Programme.
One of the
essential steps is for industrialised countries to cut their emissions
of greenhouse gases by 33 percent from 1990 levels over the next 12
years, Verolme said from Nusa Dua.
also be restored and protected from fire and become a source of jobs
and income for local people, said Nepstad.
everyone wants to protect forests, 13 million hectares are lost every
year, resulting in at least 25 percent of global carbon emissions. Chopping
down forests is like throwing bilge pumps overboard when a ship has
sprung a leak.
are the biggest issue here in Bali," said Claude Gascon, a vice
president of Conservation International.
hoping there will be official recognition of the value of standing forests
as part of the solution to climate change," Gascon told IPS from
Bali conference, sometimes called Kyoto II or Kyoto Plus, is the beginning
of a two-year negotiating process that will lead to a new pact to deepen
curbs on greenhouse gases beyond 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol's current
pledges expire. Kyoto did not include existing forests, in part because
of objections by international environmental groups and Brazil.
around, most expect provisions for "avoided deforestation credits"
to be included in any new agreement.
groups continue to bitterly oppose rich countries and companies buying
avoided deforestation credits from tropical countries in exchange for
protecting forests to offset their carbon emissions. The main objection
is the obvious inequity of allowing rich countries, which are by far
the most responsible for climate change, to continue polluting simply
because they have enough money to pay for the privilege.
are here to stop climate change, not promote carbon commercialisation.
They should keep forests out of carbon markets, [and] stop subsidising
agrofuels," said Miguel Lovera, chair of the Global Forest Coalition.
advocates bans on deforestation and strict regulations on emissions
at source, more sustainable wind and solar energy projects and ramping
up investment in efficient and affordable public transport systems.
So far, Brazil
has taken a similar view. A Brazilian delegate told the Bali conference
that her government did not believe in market-based mechanisms to limit
deforestation unless rich nations agreed to make major emissions cuts
"The situation [climate change] is so serious we need to use everything,"
he said. And he sees carbon credits as a good way of providing funding
to protect and hopefully plant more forests.
mechanism is created will have to be implemented correctly, take the
needs of indigenous and local people into account, and preserve and
enhance biodiversity. These important details can be worked out, but
at the moment countries are positioning themselves for their own self-interest,
worried about the heavy presence of officials at the Bali meeting from
the energy, trade and foreign policy departments of various governments.
more like a WTO [World Trade Organisation] meeting," he said, adding
that, "Neither markets, trade nor corporations are going to solve
the problem of climate change -- but they could help."
IPS-Inter Press Service. All rights reserved.
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