40 Scientists: Protecting Forests Is an Urgent Climate Issue
"Avoiding forest carbon emissions is just as urgent as halting fossil fuel use." That's the message contained in a statement written by 40 scientists from five different countries urging the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to consider preserving and regrowing forests as an important part of limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, The Guardian reported.
The IPCC is expected to release a report Monday on how the 1.5 goal can be achieved by emphasizing technologies designed to suck carbon out of the atmosphere, BBC News reported. One of those technologies, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (Beccs), involves growing carbon-sucking plants, burning them for energy and burying the resulting carbon underground. But the statement's signatories worry that such a strategy is unproven and would require land that is better preserved as forest.
"It breaks my heart to think we'd lose half our tropical forests for plantations just to save ourselves," statement signatory Deborah Lawrence of the University of Virginia told The Guardian. "It's horrifying that we'd lose our biodiversity to avert climate change. Losing tropical forests is not somehow cheaper than putting up wind farms in the U.S. or Sahara."
Instead, the letter writers emphasized the carbon capture role forests already play. "While high-tech carbon dioxide removal solutions are under development, the 'natural technology' of forests is currently the only proven means of removing and storing atmospheric CO2 at a scale that can meaningfully contribute to achieving carbon balance," they wrote.
The letter went on to highlight five "overlooked" reasons why preserving and regrowing forests is an important part of fighting climate change:
- The world's forests contain more carbon than existing oil, natural gas and coal deposits combined.
- Forests remove one quarter of the carbon dioxide humans release into the atmosphere.
- Reforestation and improved forest management could reduce greenhouse gas emissions 18 percent by 2030.
- Solutions like Beccs are untested, and it is better to preserve land for natural carbon sinks like tropical forests or peatlands.
- Tropical rainforests cool the climate and create rainfall for agriculture.
"In responding to the IPCC report, our message as scientists is simple: Our planet's future climate is inextricably tied to the future of its forests," the letter concluded.
Lawrence told The Guardian that deforestation has been stalled in the Amazon but has continued in other tropical regions.
"We will have a hotter, drier world without these forests," Lawrence said. "There needs to be an international price on carbon to fund the protection of forests. And countries with tropical forests should maintain large chunks of forests to stabilize rainfall for agriculture and keep a predictable regional climate."
One million trees have been pledged to the “Trump Forest” to offset the president’s anti-climate agenda. https://t.co/eRMwWKrRtP— EDF (@EDF)1519691126.0
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In Major Win for Indigenous Rights, Supreme Court Rules Much of Eastern Oklahoma Is Still a Reservation
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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