Scientists Highlight Forests’ Critical Role in Climate Mitigation
Photo by Luis Del Río Camacho
story highlights

In response to the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, 40 scientists released a statement that describes five reasons why limiting global warming requires protecting and sustainably managing existing forests and restoring lost forests.

They stress the connection between the future of forests and the planet’s future climate.

7 November 2018: The Climate and Land Use Alliance released a statement from 40 scientists that argues that the preservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests is critical for limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. In response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC (SR15), the scientists highlight five reasons why limiting global warming requires protecting and sustainably managing existing forests and restoring lost forests.

First, the scientists emphasize that the world’s forests “contain more carbon than exploitable oil, gas and coal deposits” and that “avoiding forest carbon emissions is just as urgent as halting fossil fuel use.” According to the statement, forests store enough carbon to release over 3 trillion tons of carbon dioxide. Further, the scientists point out that climate change makes forests more vulnerable, especially to wildfires, calling for further caution.

We must protect and maintain healthy forests to avoid dangerous climate change.

Second, the scientists highlight the role of forests in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, which keeps “climate change from getting even worse.” Forests remove 28 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere each year, and oceans remove another 25 percent, leaving the remainder in the atmosphere. The scientists explain that maintaining and improving management of existing forests is a critical component of climate change mitigation with additional co-benefits, including conserving biodiversity, reducing air pollution and buffering against flooding.

Third, the scientists explain that achieving the world’s 1.5°C goal will require “massive” forest restoration to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Together, improved forest management and reforestation have the potential to provide 18 percent of cost-effective mitigation options through 2030.

Fourth, the scientists argue that “bioenergy is not the primary solution.” They explain that using wood for energy and capturing the resulting carbon “requires technology that is untested at large scale.” They further underscore that conservation is the best option for high carbon tropical forests and peatlands.

Finally, the scientists describe the climate regulation services provided by tropical forests, such as regulating local, regional and global precipitation patterns and “acting as a natural air conditioner.” The scientists also highlight forests’ role in creating rainfall that is essential to protect food and water security.

In summary, the scientists urge protecting and maintaining healthy forests to “avoid dangerous climate change” and ensure that the world’s forests continue to provide services critical for the well-being of the planet. They conclude by stressing the connection between the future of forests and the planet’s future climate. [Scientists’ Statement] [Global Landscapes Forum Press Release] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on SR15]

related posts