Saving Forests a Critical Step in Curbing Climate Change
It’s possible to reduce deforestation to near zero by 2020, but delaying action to save forests by even a decade means double the area of forests lost by 2030, says World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
According to the latest chapter of WWF’s Living Forests Report, "Forests and Climate," the world stands to lose 55.5 million hectares of forest between now and 2020, even if we take urgent action to reduce deforestation. If the world delays the necessary steps, we stand to lose 124.7 million hectares by 2030, according to the report.
These forests are not only vital to the well-being of people and wildlife, but also to the global climate, because deforestation releases greenhouse gases, says WWF. The report finds that reducing deforestation to near zero would also bring global emissions from forest destruction close to zero, but delaying this reduction until 2030 would mean sacrificing an additional 69 million hectares of forest worldwide and at least an additional 24GtCO2 into the atmosphere, not including losses from forest degradation or the carbon stored below ground. Currently, up to 20 percent of global carbon emissions come from deforestation and forest degradation—more than the total emissions from the global transportation sector.
The report further finds that new plantations are not the solution, as they will not begin to sequester enough carbon to offset emissions from deforestation until 2040 at the earliest.
“Our forests are disappearing while we sort out how to save them,” said Bruce Cabarle, leader of WWF’s Forest and Climate Initiative. “This continued loss of forests will have dire consequences for our global climate, for nature and for the livelihoods of billions of people. And we know we can’t plant our way out of the problem. The message is clear—we must act now to protect the world’s forests for good or we’ll lose them forever.”
According to WWF, United Nations climate talks, set to get underway this week in South Africa, provide a key opportunity for the world’s governments to unite on efforts to halt global forest loss. At these talks, details on a scheme in which developed countries pay developing countries not to cut down their forests will be agreed.
This effort, referred to as REDD+, is a unique opportunity to address both climate change and forest loss, and while considerable progress has been made on working out the details, governments must now commit to a global target for tackling deforestation at the scale and pace needed, said WWF. The Living Forests Report finds that achieving zero net forest loss by 2020 is highly unlikely without Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).
“WWF understands that these climate negotiations are complex. But we must not let the opportunity that REDD+ presents slip through our fingers. If we get this right, we can safeguard our climate and help people overcome poverty. There is too much at stake to let these talks get mired down by technicalities,” said Gerald Steindlegger, policy director of WWF’s Forest and Climate Initiative.
WWF is asking global leaders to back an ambitious target of near zero forest loss by 2020. The Living Forests Report shows that this target is achievable through improved governance—sustainable land-use plans, law enforcement, improved land tenure systems, transparent and inclusive management, and markets that demand sustainable forestry and agriculture products.
Yet the report shows that in reaching this target, countries must adopt strong safeguards to protect the planet’s biodiversity and benefit local communities and indigenous peoples.
Given the urgency of halting forest loss, WWF is calling on governments to provide the needed finance to support REDD+ actions. Industrialized countries have a critical role to play in providing new and additional, adequate and predictable financing for REDD+. According to recent analysis by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), new and additional, predictable and adequate finance to achieve zero net deforestation and forest degradation (ZNDD) by 2020 lies in the range of US$30-53 billion per year. While public financing is essential, other sources of innovative financing, such as credit support for forest bonds, could be a way to leverage private-sector finance so that governments are not alone in efforts to scale up forest finance, according to WWF.
The Living Forests Report uses the Living Forests Model, developed for WWF by IIASA, to consider a range of different forest scenarios for the next half century, modified by changes in diet, biofuels, conservation policy and fuelwood and timber demand. The report concludes that achieving and sustaining ZNDD is possible if we act now. The report further finds that unless we act now to use REDD+ to successfully halt deforestation, the opportunity to keep global temperature rise well below 2oC will be lost. According to WWF, reaching an agreement on key elements of REDD+ is critical to saving forests and the climate, conserving biodiversity, and benefiting the well-being and livelihoods of people around the world.
To download the Living Forests Report, click here.
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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