At last there is a bit of a chorus developing to call attention to the biofueled destruction of tropical rainforests at a time when rainforest restoration might actually curb global warming better and faster than drastically curtailing use of fossil fuel.
The Global Canopy Programme (GCP), to quote their own website, is “a global alliance linking studies of forest canopies worldwide into a collaborative programme of research, education and conservation addressing biodiversity, climate change and poverty alleviation.”
Whatever the IPCC may say about CO2 as a first order anthropogenic climate forcing mechanism, the GCP may say that tropical deforestation is bigger first order forcing than CO2. And if they do, we most emphatically agree. We need to reforest the tropics right now. Industry should burn clean, worry about their CO2 later.
How we discovered the Global Canopy Programme was through a reference to their recently released study in a report posted May 14, 2007 in The Independent by Daniel Howden, entitled “Deforestation: The hidden cause of global warming.” In the GCP study, the authors claim “The accelerating destruction of the rainforests that form a precious cooling band around the Earth’s equator, is now being recognised as one of the main causes of climate change. Carbon emissions from deforestation far outstrip damage caused by planes and automobiles and factories.”
Here’s another nugget: “Scientists say one days’ deforestation is equivalent to the carbon footprint of eight million people flying to New York. Reducing those catastrophic emissions can be achieved most quickly and most cheaply by halting the destruction in Brazil, Indonesia, the Congo and elsewhere.”
This is the backdrop against which hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested, worldwide, to build ethanol distilleries, and diesel refineries, to process the crops that will grow where tropical rainforests once stood. It’s that simple. And it could be that if we don’t stop it, right now, it will be the collapse of the tropical forests that provided our climate its catastrophic tipping point, not your incandescent light, or my compost heap.
The Rainforest Action Network is waking up, as this story in The Independent was referenced by one of their bloggers, Branden, on May 16th, in a post entitled “Deforestation the leading cause of global warming.” We couldn’t agree more. Tropical rainforests have already shrunk from over 8.0 million square miles to less than 3.0 million.
In this post, Branden writes: “The landmark Stern Report last year, and the influential McKinsey Report in January agreed that forests offer the ‘single largest opportunity for cost-effective and immediate reductions of carbon emissions’,” and, “the leading rainforest scientists are now calling for the immediate inclusion of standing forests in internationally regulated carbon markets that could provide cash incentives to halt this disastrous process.”
There are two things that further stand out, not mentioned in the Independent article nor by the RAN blogger – that today’s unprecedented rainforest destruction is almost entirely for the purposes of biofuel plantations, and that to reforest the planet we need produce more energy, more water, more massive civil engineering projects, not fewer. Energy creates water and wealth – the wealth we need to finance tropical rainforest restoration.
Our war on industrial CO2 emissions may prevent us from being able to afford the incentives tropical nations require to stop cutting their forests. CO2 credits should enable fossil fuel providers to increase clean production. CO2 from clean burning fossil fuel is far less disruptive to our climate right now compared with tropical deforestation and the permanent removal of perennial forest.