The solution to climate change that has nothing to do with cars or coal (4 pages)

Categories: Green

This is a great read for those of us trying to take care of our planet. This is an insight to what it is being done and what projects are being explored to help the environment.

At the base of a towering, 150-foot-high angelim tree, the scattered sloth claws and clumps of fur are a dead giveaway.

The tree contains the nest of a harpy eagle, a bird so powerful it kills monkeys and sloths by tearing them from the trees with its enormous claws. Its presence is a good sign to the scientists who are studying the surrounding forest.

It means this section of trees and its vast network of life are still healthy enough to support such a high-order predator. And that, in turn, is at least a small bit of good news for the Earth’s climate.

Of all the components of the recent Paris accord on climate change, the one that probably got the least attention but could have the most immediate potential involves the world’s forests. In a section some hailed as historic, the document endorsed a United Nations mechanism for wealthier nations to pay developing countries like Brazil for reducing deforestation.

Conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy is in Brazil on a research project that studies the effects of Amazon deforestation. His results have shown less tree growth and animal life in the fragmented forests left behind, which may impact the Amazon rainforest and global climate. (Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

Trees are good at keeping carbon out of the air, and simply preserving the planet’s vast forests is a straightforward way to get a huge head start on the business of slowing climate change. But that effort grows tougher every day. After years of progress, deforestation rates have increased recently in Brazil, and deforestation continues apace across much of the global tropics. The economic forces of agriculture and trade remain too strong to resist.

Calls for saving rainforests have a long history, but including forests as a core part of the global climate solution is “very very recent,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO of the Global Environment Facility, an international body that invests in restoring tropical forests. “Without taking care of the forests, it’s going to be just impossible to achieve the Paris agreement.”

In fact, recent estimates suggest as much as a third of climate emissions could be offset by stopping deforestation and restoring forest land — and that this solution could be achieved much faster than cuts to fossil fuels.

Forests are a crucial “carbon sink,” living engines for absorbing and storing carbon. Tropical forests store the most carbon of all, and no tropical forest on Earth is bigger than the Amazon. It accounts for about half of all the carbon these forests store. But the Brazilian Amazon has lost nearly a fifth of its forest cover already — and the forest left behind also suffers because it is more fragmented and less continuous.

Thomas Lovejoy, a George Mason University ecologist, has been studying this section of Amazon for decades. While he was encouraged to see the harpy eagle at its nest on a recent afternoon, he was conscious of the forest’s overall fragility.

The Amazon system as a whole, Lovejoy said, is at a “precarious point. And you know, the obvious thing is, you don’t want to find out where the tipping point is by tipping it.”

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