Monday May 20, 2019

World’s Forests ‘in Emergency Room’, Researchers Warns Planet’s Health at Stake

It was the fourth highest annual decline since records began in 2001, according to new data from Global Forest Watch, which uses satellite imagery and remote sensing to monitor tree cover losses from Brazil to Ghana

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FILE - Downed trees are seen from the air on Tyndall Air Force Base in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael near Mexico Beach, Fla., Oct. 12, 2018. VOA

The world lost 12 million hectares (30 million acres) of tropical tree cover last year, the equivalent of 30 soccer pitches a minute, researchers said Thursday, warning the planet’s health was at stake.

It was the fourth highest annual decline since records began in 2001, according to new data from Global Forest Watch, which uses satellite imagery and remote sensing to monitor tree cover losses from Brazil to Ghana.

“The world’s forests are now in the emergency room,” said Frances Seymour, senior fellow at the U.S.-based World Resources Institute (WRI), which led the research. “It’s death by a thousand cuts — the health of the planet is at stake and Band-Aid responses are not enough.”

Seymour said the data represented “heartbreaking losses in real places,” with indigenous communities most vulnerable to losing their homes and livelihoods through deforestation.

world forests, emergency
“The world’s forests are now in the emergency room,” said Frances Seymour, senior fellow at the U.S.-based World Resources Institute (WRI), which led the research. Pixabay

Climate implications

The loss of huge swathes of forest around the world also has major implications for climate change as they absorb a third of the planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced globally.

“Forests are our greatest defense against climate change and biodiversity loss, but deforestation is getting worse,” said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK. “Bold action is needed to tackle this global crisis including restoring lost forests. But unless we stop them being destroyed in the first place, we’re just chasing our tail.”

The study found much of the loss occurred in primary rainforest — mature trees that absorb more carbon and are harder to replace. The rate of destruction in 2018 was lower than in the two previous years. It peaked in 2016 when about 17 million hectares of tropical forest were lost partly because of rampant forest fires, according to the WRI.

The study highlighted new deforestation hotspots, particularly in Africa, where illegal mining, small-scale forest clearing and the expansion of cocoa farms led to an increase in tree loss in countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

world forests, emergency
The loss of huge swathes of forest around the world also has major implications for climate change as they absorb a third of the planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced globally. Pixabay

Bright spot: Indonesia

Indonesia was a rare bright spot, with primary forest loss slowing for two years running, after the government imposed a moratorium on forest-clearing.

Indonesia has the world’s third largest total area of tropical forest and is also the biggest producer of palm oil. Environmentalists blame much of the forest destruction on land clearance for oil-palm plantations. We hope that this is a sign that our policies so far are having an effect,” said Belinda Margono, a director at the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

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Last year, leading philanthropists pledged a $459 million commitment to rescue shrinking tropical forests that suck heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a Global Climate Action Summit in California. But experts said more needed to be done.

“Deforestation causes more climate pollution than all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and planes combined,” said Glenn Hurowitz, chief executive of Mighty Earth, a global environmental campaign organization. “It’s vital that we protect the forests that we still have.” (VOA)

Next Story

EU Countries Consume Earth’s Resources Faster than they can be Renewed: Report

Some 100 Greenpeace activists and students from several European countries marched through Sibiu carrying a huge banner saying "Broken Climate Broken Future"

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France's President Emmanuel Macron, right, and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker speak during the informal meeting of European Union leaders in Sibiu, Romania, May 9, 2019. VOA

The European Union’s 28 countries consume the Earth’s resources faster than they can be renewed and none of them has sustainable consumption policies, a report released Thursday said, as EU leaders met to discuss priorities for the next five years.

“All EU countries are living beyond the means of our planet. The EU and its citizens are currently using twice more than the EU ecosystems can renew,” the report by the World Wide Fund (WWF) and Global Footprint Network said. It was issued as leaders met in the Romanian city of Sibiu to set the course for the bloc after Britain’s planned departure from the EU.

Climate change key priority

French President Emmanuel Macron said before the summit that climate change was among his key priorities and it was included in the bloc’s 10 “commitments” for the future until 2024, agreed by all the 27 leaders meeting in Sibiu.

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The European Union’s 28 countries consume the Earth’s resources faster than they can be renewed and none of them has sustainable consumption policies. Pixabay

But the bloc is divided on how to achieve any ambitious climate goals and it remains far from clear how the Sibiu declaration would be implemented. Some 100 Greenpeace activists and students from several European countries marched through Sibiu carrying a huge banner saying “Broken Climate Broken Future.”

“We cannot talk about a prosperous future without a healthy climate,” Greenpeace climate activist Alin Tanase told Reuters. Views on concrete action to be taken to combat climate change differ between EU countries, influenced greatly by their dominant industries, such as carmakers in Germany or the coal industry in Poland.

Tusk sensitive to climate change

The chairman of the summit, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, said there was no future for politicians who were not sensitive to climate change and environment protection issues.

“The young generation is much more united on this than the member states. The truth is that nothing has changed when it comes to this divide and different opinions about this. What is new is this very fresh and energetic pressure,” he told a news conference after the summit.

climate change, earth's resources
Some 100 Greenpeace activists and students from several European countries marched through Sibiu carrying a huge banner saying “Broken Climate Broken Future.” VOA

Climate protection and sustainable development is also an important topic in the election campaign for the May 23-26 European Parliament elections, which will influence the leadership of European institutions and their programs.

The European Commission has been pushing for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050 through reducing carbon emissions that will otherwise boost the Earth’s average temperatures with devastating consequences.

“The EU uses up almost 20 percent of the Earth’s bio-capacity although it comprises only 7 percent of the world population,” the WWF report said. “In other words, 2.8 planets would be needed if everyone consumed at the rate of the average EU resident,” it said.

climate change, earth's resources
FILE – Climate change demonstrators hold banners in front of the Winston Churchill Statue during a protest near Parliament in London, April 12, 2019. VOA

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Luxembourg smallest but fastest

It said the EU’s smallest and richest country, Luxembourg, was also the one which used up renewable resources the fastest last year. Just 46 days into the year, it had consumed its full share of the Earth’s resources, it said.

The EU’s poorest nation, Romania, took the longest to arrive at that point, on July 12th. But that was still earlier than the world’s average of Aug. 1, called Earth overshoot day. (VOA)