The Bioeconomy Is Bad for Biodiversity
As U.S. President Obama announced his new "National Bioeconomy Blueprint" today, the Global Forest Coalition—a worldwide coalition of 53 Indigenous Peoples' Organisations and NGOs in 39 different countries, that promotes rights-based, socially just and effective forest conservation policies—unveiled its report, Bio-economy versus Biodiversity. The report’s conclusions differ sharply from the president’s “Blueprint,” alerting policy-makers to the serious negative impacts the so-called bioeconomy will have on forests, forest-dependent peoples, and biodiversity.
The ‘bioeconomy’ promotes speculative markets for ecosystem-based products and services, which are increasingly promoted as a ‘green’ alternative to the fossil fuel economy. Trading in ‘ecosystem services’ such as forest carbon offsets is accompanied by a massive expansion of wood-based bioenergy and other biomass-based products.
The Global Forest Coalition report concludes that these markets are a dead end.
"The divergent elements of the bioeconomy are at cross-purposes,” warns Rachel Smolker of Biofuelwatch, a lead author of the report. “On the one hand, we’ll extract biomass from forests and farmlands to produce energy and materials at a scale comparable to our current fossil fuel extraction. And on the other hand we’ll create new financial instruments based on the protection of ecosystems. We can't have it both ways,” said Smolker.
“We have a wealth of evidence that these approaches are misguided, but that evidence is ignored. Why? Because the bioeconomy is about generating profits for the top 1%, regardless of the consequences."
The new report is based on years of research by civil society groups working directly with communities impacted by biomass extraction, carbon offset projects and other elements of the bioeconomy. The report concludes that the bioeconomy approach could be no better than our current reliance on climate-wrecking fossil fuels. The massive increase in production and use of biomass will trigger a cascade of problems including hunger, land grabs and ecosystem collapse, the report warns.
Simone Lovera, executive director of the Global Forest Coalition, said, "The bioeconomy is a massive effort to privatize nature for corporate profit. The record of forest carbon offset schemes like REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation and enhancing Forest Carbon Stocks) make it clear that market-based approaches to conservation inflict serious harm on Indigenous Peoples, women, peasant farmers and biodiversity itself.”
“Further,” said Lovera, “high-risk technologies like synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and genetically engineered trees will only drive the planetary ecosystem further into crisis.”
Harm to both ecosystems and human health from these technologies, the report points out, are both inevitable and irreversible.
The report’s conclusions challenge the Obama administration and other global leaders to abandon the green sheen of biotechnology and market-based conservation schemes, and to affirm the kinds of biocultural approaches demonstrated by Indigenous Peoples and social movements in the Global South that eschew infinite economic growth for sustainable livelihoods, local living economies and integration with the natural world.
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By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
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Between 2000 and 2013, Earth lost an area of undisturbed ecosystems roughly the size of Mexico.
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'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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