In the wake of Hurricane Florence and wildfires that have swept the country, over 200 organizations, scientists and elected officials – including 40 mayors from across the country – have endorsed a new effort to slow climate change by protecting US forests.
The initiative, called the Stand4Forests platform, comes as a new report called “Seeing the Forest: Nature’s Solution to Climate Change” focuses on the high climate impact that burning wood for electricity has – namely, releasing up to 50 percent more carbon dioxide per unit of electricity than coal does.
Signatories to the Stand4Forests platform include organizations such as the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club, as well as campaigners like Bill McKibben and climate scientists like Michael Mann (see the full list of signatories here).
The platform is being spearheaded by the Dogwood Alliance, which features prominently in episode 24 of the Bionic Planet podcast, which is available through iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, and directly on this device here:
411 Parts Per Million
This year the recorded amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 411 parts per million (ppm) – well beyond the 350 ppm that climate scientists deemed safe for climate regulation.
Nevertheless, the U.S. forest industry is rapidly replacing most of our nation’s original forests with younger forests and commercial tree plantations. Logging rates in the Southeast alone are estimated to be four times that of South American rainforests. These degraded forests are not only far less effective at storing carbon than trees that are 100 years-old or older; but they are also more vulnerable to forest fires and not nearly as helpful in preventing flooding, as we saw with the dire impacts of Hurricane Florence.
“We cannot solve the climate crisis without a massive scale-up in the protection of forests,” says Dr. William Moomaw, Professor Emeritus of International Environmental Policy at Tufts University. “That includes right here in our own backyard.”
The Stand4Forests platform states (in part):
Standing forests in the US provide our communities with clean air, fresh water, carbon storage, home to thousands of unique species of plants and animals, and protection from flooding and drought, making forest protection a national and global priority.
The United States is the world’s largest producer and consumer of wood products, which continues to drive massive extraction and degradation of forests at one of the fastest rates in the world.
Communities living at the frontlines of forest destruction are often the same ones who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and face oppressive, polluting, and extractive industries. Communities of color, indigenous communities, low-income, and/or rural populations disproportionately bear the impacts of climate change as well as the health, economic, and social costs associated with industrial practices.
It calls for the following actions:
Expand permanently protected lands and protect public lands from commercial logging and other harmful activities
End subsidies for false solutions such as industrial-scale bioenergy and genetically engineered trees, and halt conversion of natural forests to plantations
Accurately and transparently account for and reduce emissions from the forestry sector
Invest in forest protection as a resiliency and adaptation strategy for communities vulnerable to the effects of pollution and climate change
Develop just economic transition strategies for communities dependent on an extractive forest economy and provide more options for landowners and municipalities to keep forests standing and thriving