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Scientists call for protecting half the planet to provide an equitable future for all species and a safe climate

View at Nature Research Sustainability Community. A response to Schleicher et al. “One Billion People to be Directly Affected by Protecting Half.” Nature Sustainability (2019): 1-3.

We are in a planetary recession marked by biodiversity collapse, climatic upheavals, freshwater shortages, global toxification, and unprecedented human and nonhuman displacements (Ripple et al, 2017). The only positive outlook lies in deep solutions and new narratives. Protecting at least half the Earth, terrestrial and marine, offers such an outlook. Safeguarding nature on a vast scale is necessary both to halt the mass extinction underway and to prevent the huge unleashing of carbon that will result from further ecological degradation (Steffen et al., 2018). In addition to affording robust natural solutions to the ecological exigencies that are imperiling all complex life, the Half Earth (or Nature Needs Half) initiative charts a course toward a sustainable and equitable human coexistence alongside the millions of life forms with whom we share the planet (Noss et al., 2012; Wilson, 2016; Dinerstein et al., 2017; Kopnina 2016; Kopnina et al., 2018).

In implementing Half Earth, conservationists, scientists, and policy-makers should work in concert with indigenous people and local populations (Goodall, 2015). Such efforts are aimed at ensuring that, en route to preempting further ecological catastrophes and healing the relationship between humanity and Earth, wide-scale nature protection will not adversely affect people in proximity to these natural areas (Goodall, 2015; Naidoo et al., 2019). The level of protection proposed will also bar corporate ventures, such as mining, logging, and industrial agriculture, from profiteering at the ongoing expense of the natural world and local and indigenous people (Vettese, 2018).

An Australia in flames tries to cope with an ‘animal apocalypse.’ Could California be next?

By Joseph Serna and Susanne Rust
Originally published January 14, 2020 at the Los Angeles Times

KANGAROO ISLAND, Australia — Sam Mitchell balanced himself on a eucalyptus branch 30 feet above the ground as his meaty left fist clutched a koala, which wailed like a pig with breathing problems. The dark gray marsupial batted its 3-inch black claws in the air helplessly, and minutes later Mitchell crawled down. He and the animal were safely on the ground.

Across much of Australia, volunteers and professionals are fighting to contain widespread blazes, with many also taking risks to save wildlife being killed by the millions. Kangaroo Island, a popular tourist destination and wildlife park off Australia’s southeast coast, has seen some of the worst damage to the nation’s biodiversity. Fires have overrun nearly half of the 1,700-square-mile island, and rescuers have been going tree to tree, trying to save what they can.

“There’s not much that isn’t threatening koalas at the moment,” said Mitchell, who has owned and run the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park with his wife, Dana, the last seven years. The couple started a GoFundMe campaign so people can help with the rescues. Without quick intervention, koalas that survived the fires “are going to die of starvation,” he said.

In terms of human fatalities, Australia’s blazes this year have been less severe than some previous bush fires — with 27 people killed so far this season, compared to 75 during the nation’s 1983 “Ash Wednesday” inferno. But the impact on wildlife this year has been far more devastating, a preview of what California could experience in future fire seasons.

Jane Fonda: Save Alaska’s Tongass National Forest from loggers in climate change fight

The Trump administration has proposed removing logging protections from the Alaskan rainforest. But now is the time to plant trees, not cut them down.

By Jane FondaOpinion contributor, USA Today, published December 31, 2019

I’ve been in Washington, D.C., for the last three months doing weekly actions called Fire Drill Fridays — because what 97% of active climate scientists are saying scares me, and I feel the need to do more.

According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report issued in October 2018, if we don’t make great strides toward lowering greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10 years, the magnitude of the changes we’re already seeing will accelerate and may become irreversible.

We have the technology to transition away from fossil fuels, and this can’t happen soon enough. At the same time, we need to take proactive measures to reduce the concentration of carbon emissions already in the atmosphere.

That doesn’t necessarily require expensive technology. Trees are carbon sponges, and some scientists estimate that planting billions of new trees across the globe would be the cheapest and most effective way to absorb and store the emissions contributing to climate change. Planting new trees is important — and so is protecting existing forestland.

Tongass transition: Future of the forest depends on preserving old growth

Young growth timber harvest can sustain timber industry, environmentalist says — others aren’t so sure

By Peter Segall, Originally published December 22, 2019 at the Juneau Empire

A recently released mapping project seeks to show the importance of the Tongass National Forest not necessarily in terms of fishing, tourism or dollars but in carbon.

The Oregon-based Geos Institute published an analysis of the Tongass on Dec. 16, and it highlights the importance of the National Forest as a “carbon sink,” which the report says has global climate implications.

“The Tongass is part of a global network of temperate rainforests that make up ~2.5% of the world’s total forest coverage,” the report says. “But these rainforests have exceptional carbon stores for their relatively small spatial extent and are critically important in climate regulation collectively and individually.”

‘Hail Mary Pass’ in Alaska’s Tongass Forest Sets Up Carbon Clash

By Bobby Magill, originally published December 9, 2019 at Bloomberg Environment

Deep within the Tongass National Forest, the rain was just heavy enough to need an umbrella—and to wash away a light dusting of snow coating the mountains above Juneau, Alaska.

The low that mid-November morning was 38 degrees, 10 degrees above normal. That’s been the new normal in Alaska’s warmest year on record, slowing the salmon runs in what should be icy streams and killing an estimated 600,000 acres of towering yellow cedar trees.

“See all this rain? We should be having snow,” said Kenneth Weitzel, a natural resources specialist with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, who’d just returned from a float-plane trip into the Tongass to collect water samples from streams. “Less snow, more rain—that’s the regime we’re changing into now.”

Would Trump’s reelection lead to climate catastrophe?

By Maxine Joselow and Adam Aton, E&E News reporters
Published: Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ask environmental experts what would happen to the global climate fight if President Trump were reelected, and the answer is often the same.

“God help us all,” said David Hayes, executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law.

“A second term would be a disaster in general,” said Dominick DellaSala, president and chief scientist of the Geos Institute.

“It will not be good,” said Andrew Light, who served as a senior adviser on climate change under former President Obama.

More than 11,000 scientists from around the world declare a ‘climate emergency’

Study outlines six major steps that ‘must’ be taken to address the situation.

By Andrew Freedman
Published November 5, 2019 at the Washington Post

A new report by 11,258 scientists in 153 countries from a broad range of disciplines warns that the planet “clearly and unequivocally faces a climate emergency,” and provides six broad policy goals that must be met to address it.

The analysis is a stark departure from recent scientific assessments of global warming, such as those of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in that it does not couch its conclusions in the language of uncertainties, and it does prescribe policies.

The study, called the “World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency,” marks the first time a large group of scientists has formally come out in favor of labeling climate change an “emergency,” which the study notes is caused by many human trends that are together increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

For Many, Issue Of Logging In America’s Largest National Forest Cuts Deep

By Emily Kwong for NPR’s Short Wave, October 23, 2019

The Trump administration is seeking to lift federal protections on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, paving the way for possible timber harvests and road construction in the largest national forest in the U.S.

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service, part of the Department of Agriculture, called for the Tongass to be fully exempted from the Roadless Rule, a 2001 policy passed in the waning days of the Clinton administration.

The rule has long prohibited development on 9.2 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in the Tongass. The Forest Service’s proposal, if approved by the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, would eliminate that rule for the Tongass and convert 165,000 acres of old-growth and 20,000 acres of young-growth to suitable timber lands.

Trump Wants to Erase Protections in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, a Storehouse of Carbon

The old-growth rainforest is a major North American carbon sink. The Trump administration is moving to lift a Clinton-era ban on logging there. 

By Sabrina Shankman

Originally published Oct 16, 2019 at InsideClimate News

The Trump Administration wants to allow logging in previously off-limit areas of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday, a move that could turn one of the nation’s largest carbon sinks into a source of new climate-changing emissions.

The old-growth temperate rainforest contains trees that are centuries old and play a crucial role in storing carbon. In a state that is synonymous with oil production, the Tongass National Forest represents the potential for natural solutions to help combat the climate crisis. 

A 9.4-million acre swath of the Tongass has been protected under a Clinton-era requirement called the Roadless Rule, which safeguarded 58 million acres of undeveloped national forest lands from roadbuilding, logging and mineral leasing. But the Tongass has long been an area of hot dispute.

The Forest Service is now moving to exempt the rainforest — and make tens of thousands of old-growth acres available to logging.

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