‘Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging

‘Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 24, 2020 SNIP: Political appointees at the interior department have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal. The messaging plan was crafted in support of Donald Trump’s pro-industry arguments for harvesting more timber in California, which he says would thin forests and prevent fires – a point experts refute. The emails show officials seeking to estimate the carbon emissions from devastating 2018 fires in California so they could compare them to the carbon footprint of the state’s electricity sector and then publish statements encouraging cutting down trees. The records offer a look behind the scenes at how Trump and his appointees have tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires, including in California, even as science shows fires are becoming more intense largely because of climate change. James Reilly, a former petroleum geologist and astronaut who is the director of the US Geological Survey, in a series of emails in 2018 asked scientists to “gin up” emissions figures for him. He also said the numbers would make a “decent sound bite”, and acknowledged that wildfire emissions estimates could vary based on what kind of trees were burning but picked the ones that he said would make “a good story”. Scientists who reviewed the exchanges said that at best Reilly used unfortunate language and the department cherry-picked data to help achieve their pro-industry policy goals; at worst he and others exploited a disaster and...
Regrowth of Logged Amazon Forests is Much Slower than Previously Thought

Regrowth of Logged Amazon Forests is Much Slower than Previously Thought

SOURCE: Yale e360 DATE: December 30, 2019 SNIP: As deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon soars under President Jair Bolsonaro, a new study warns that the regrowth of logged Amazon forests, and the amount of CO2 they store, is far less than previously believed. The study, published in the journal Ecology, said that after 60 years of regrowth, the secondary Amazon forests studied by researchers stored only 40 percent as much carbon as undisturbed woodlands and had only half as much biodiversity. The study — conducted by scientists at the Federal University of Pará, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, and Lancaster University in the United Kingdom — also showed that secondary forests absorbed less carbon dioxide during droughts than undisturbed forests. The scientists said it could take more than a century for the logged Amazon forests to begin sequestering as much CO2 as untouched forests and that the ability of these disturbed forests to store carbon dioxide may have been greatly overestimated. “We must be cautious about the ability of secondary forests to mitigate climate change,” said lead researcher Fernando Elias. The study underscores a growing consensus among forestry experts and climate scientists of the key role that preserving intact forests can play in the fight to slow global...
Planting trees is only a good news story if it’s done right

Planting trees is only a good news story if it’s done right

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 25, 2019 SNIP: On the one hand, huge amounts of energy are going into reforesting the world. The amount of tree cover is actually rising. The 2011 Bonn challenge aims to bring 350m hectares (864.5m acres) of degraded land into restoration by 2030, and countries have already signed up 170m hectares. A impressive number of sometimes surprising countries have increased their forest cover by more than 20% over the last 25 years: China, Belarus, Chile, France, Greece, India, Iran, Morocco, the Philippines, Spain, Thailand and Turkey. It can really, at moments, seem like some kind of success story. But the ancient forests, the original, complex, messy forests, continue to disappear, and some of the most enthusiastic signatories to the Bonn challenge have seen some of the worst losses. Argentina, for example, has committed to planting 1m hectares, but meanwhile the ancient Gran Chaco in the north continues to vanish, replaced by huge fields of soy to feed the farm animals of the world. Cameroon, which holds part of the precious Congo basin rainforest, is offering to create 12m hectares of tree cover by 2030, but since 1990 more than 20% of Cameroon’s forests have been cut down to make way for subsistence farmers and now, increasingly, for banana and palm oil plantations, to create products that end up in our supermarket shopping baskets. Nigeria may feel better about itself after pledging to plant a million hectares, but the fact is that over the last 25 years it has lost more than 10 times that amount, more than half its forests. For a number of...
Top scientists warn of an Amazon ‘tipping point’

Top scientists warn of an Amazon ‘tipping point’

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: December 20, 2019 SNIP: Deforestation and other fast-moving changes in the Amazon threaten to turn parts of the rainforest into savanna, devastate wildlife and release billions of tons carbon into the atmosphere, two renowned experts warned Friday. “The precious Amazon is teetering on the edge of functional destruction and, with it, so are we,” Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University and Carlos Nobre of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, both of whom have studied the world’s largest rainforest for decades, wrote in an editorial in the journal Science Advances. “Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny: The tipping point is here, it is now.” Combined with recent news that the thawing Arctic permafrost may be beginning to fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and that Greenland’s ice sheet is melting at an accelerating pace, it’s the latest hint that important parts of the climate system may be moving toward irreversible changes at a pace that defies earlier predictions. In interviews, Lovejoy and Nobre said they decided to sound a dire alarm about the Amazon after witnessing the acceleration of troubling trends. The combination of rising temperatures, crippling wildfires and ongoing land clearing for cattle ranching and crops has extended dry seasons, killed off water-sensitive vegetation and created conditions for more fire. The Amazon is 17 percent deforested, but for the large portion of it inside Brazil, the figure is closer to 20 percent. The fear is that soon there will be so little forest that the trees, which not only soak up enormous quantities of rainwater but also give off mist...
The Amazon Is Completely Lawless: The Rainforest After Bolsonaro’s First Year

The Amazon Is Completely Lawless: The Rainforest After Bolsonaro’s First Year

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: December 5, 2019 SNIP: When the smoke cleared, the Amazon could breathe easy again. For months, black clouds had hung over the rainforest as work crews burned and chain-sawed through it. Now the rainy season had arrived, offering a respite to the jungle and a clearer view of the damage to the world. The picture that emerged was anything but reassuring: Brazil’s space agency reported that in one year, more than 3,700 square miles of the Amazon had been razed — a swath of jungle nearly the size of Lebanon torn from the world’s largest rainforest. It was the highest loss in Brazilian rainforest in a decade, and stark evidence of just how badly the Amazon, an important buffer against global warming, has fared in Brazil’s first year under President Jair Bolsonaro. He has vowed to open the rainforest to industry and scale back its protections, and his government has followed through, cutting funds and staffing to weaken the enforcement of environmental laws. In the absence of federal agents, waves of loggers, ranchers and miners moved in, emboldened by the president and eager to satisfy global demand. Deforestation soared, up almost 30 percent from the year before. “It confirms the Amazon is completely lawless,” Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist with the University of São Paulo, said of the data. “The environmental criminals feel more and more empowered.” He warned that the Amazon may soon cross a tipping point and begin to self-destruct. “Law enforcement has reached its minimum effectiveness in a decade,” he said. “It is a worrying warning for the future.” Agribusiness, always...