A Ray of Sunshine for Forests in the Latest IPCC Report

The latest report from the IPCC hit our inboxes this week and it’s mostly all doom and gloom. What did you expect, sunshine and unicorns?

Now I said mostly, meaning that there were rays of sunshine. I’ll get to those in a second. First the necessary background and required dark and depressing bits.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the second volume of its 6th assessment focused on climate disruption, vulnerable areas around the planet, and how we can better defend ourselves in the future.This week’s report is part 2 of a 4 part series. Part 1 released in October and focused on the data, which was dire indeed. This installment focuses on the impacts of a climate breakdown. It identifies vulnerable places and how we can adapt and protect against some of those impacts.

The UN Secretary General literally called this report “an atlas of human suffering.” We’re facing more droughts, floods, and heatwaves globally. Our coastal and island communities are even more threatened. All in all, things aren’t looking great.

Instead of focusing on the negative and upping our climate anxiety, let’s focus on the ray of sunshine I saw in the report.

The report calls for expanded protection for forests and land.

“… maintaining the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem services at a global scale depends on effective and equitable conservation of approximately 30% to 50% of Earth’s land…”

This is the clarion call we need to protect and restore our forests, wetlands, and mangroves across the Southern US and around the world.

Now is the time to dig deep and invest while we still have a fighting chance. We can do this.

Data highlights why protecting forests from industrial logging in the South should be a top climate priority:

  • The South is the world’s largest wood-producing region where logging rates are among the highest on Earth.
  • Industrial logging is the largest cause of forest carbon loss in the US.
  • Southern forests are the most diverse in North America but the least protected.
  • Natural forests in our region are declining both in acreage and health.
  • Logging is by far the largest driver of forest disturbance and forest cover loss in the South.
  • The wood pellet industry is expanding. Enviva, the world’s largest wood pellet manufacturer, plans to double production over the next 5 years.
  • Hurricanes and flooding cause major damage in the South, and vulnerable communities are being hit the hardest.

It’s time to make amends with nature. We need to invest in forest protection and restoration not subsidizing biomass, wood markets, and logging.

Let’s give nature a break and let forests recover so they can do what they do best – harbor life and provide us shelter from the storm.

Coot Bay Pond in Everglades National Park. Beautiful coastal mangrove forests are vital to protecting land and communities from storm surge and flooding.And one last note to the IPCC scientists currently working on part 3 of the report due in April:

You warn about the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions. Burning trees for energy and investing billions in carbon capture and storage technology are not the answer. You made that error over a decade ago, and our forests and communities have suffered because of it. There’s ample scientific evidence that industrial logging is as big of a climate problem as outright forest loss. You need to name it.

It’s time to own up to past mistakes.

First, close the biomass carbon accounting loophole. Next, end the burning of forests for electricity and stop the expansion of wood markets as any kind of solution to climate change.

We must invest in community-led solutions. Embrace the need for bold action that protects 50% of the world’s forests from industrialization. And remember that local communities are far better at protecting forests than corporations. If we do, we can protect forests at the scale necessary to avoid even more damage.

Urge President Biden to establish strong, ecologically-sound, and environmentally-just protections for our forests.

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