History is happening all the time, but usually without us realizing it. Only rarely do we experience a change so dramatic that we know that what’s happening today will be remembered fifty or a hundred years in the future. The kind of thing that you’ll tell your grandchildren about. This is especially the case for so-called “tipping points,” celebrated in both scientific and popular writing. Usually, you only realize that something was a tipping point after you’re well past it. But sometimes…
March 7th, 2014
December 20th, 2013
Today an article by five co-authors and me was published in the journal Nature Climate Change. It’s on “Ruminants, climate change and climate policy,” and makes the point that political and business leaders concerned about global warming have missed an important part of the problem. This missing piece of the puzzle is the emissions – mostly of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times as powerful as CO2 – that come from ruminant livestock, which include sheep, goats, water buffalo, and most importantly cattle. Read More
December 12th, 2013
Earlier this week we put on our website a page that explains the best estimate of what percentage of global warming pollution comes from deforestation. The percentage — 10 percent — updates the consensus estimate of 15 percent that scientists and organizations, including UCS, released at the Barcelona climate conference in November 2009. It also explains why the decrease only represents progress in reducing deforestation to a limited extent. Read More
November 14th, 2013
This morning, Brazil released its annual data on the rate of deforestation in the Amazon over the past year. But unlike previous years, this year’s figure doesn’t show continued progress. Read More
November 13th, 2013
Today UCS is releasing a new report at the international climate negotiations in Warsaw, entitled “Climate-Friendly Land Use: Paths and Policies toward a Less Wasteful Planet.” The theme of the report is waste and inefficiency — how our current global pattern squanders resources, endangers human health, and damages our climate. Read More
October 10th, 2013
A new paper published earlier this week in the scientific journal PLoSOne calls into question whether we know enough about biochar to use it as an important strategy to mitigate climate change. The article, two of whose co-authors formerly worked here at UCS, did a systematic review of the scientific literature on biochar through 2011, and found 311 relevant papers.
But even with all this research, a key question remains unanswered: How long does biochar persist in the soil? Read More
June 26th, 2013
Over the last two weeks, large numbers of fires have broken out on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and once again this has led to massive air pollution, carried to neighboring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia. This time, however, people could see not only the choking, dangerous “haze,” but also the locations of the fires, including which ones were on lands used by companies to produce palm, oil, pulpwood, timber, and other commodities. GIS technology and publicly available data, rapidly analyzed by scientists, brought a transparency to the issue that is so sorely lacking in the air over Singapore.
Transferring Forest Land to Communities Helps Reduce Deforestation – and Can Help Government Budgets Too
June 7th, 2013
Who owns the tropical forests? Till recently, the answer has traditionally been “governments,” at least in formal legal terms. But a quiet revolution in forest land tenure has been going on in several countries over the last few decades, resulting in the traditional land claims of forest communities being recognized, not just in law but also in fact. This change, due to struggles by Indigenous Peoples and their allies, has resulted in large-scale changes in tropical forest land tenure, and ironically, could also bring substantial income to tropical governments too.
May 2nd, 2013
The week before last I had the opportunity to go to London to participate in a workshop at Chatham House, on an idea that may turn out to be very important in ending tropical deforestation. Over the past several years there has been important progress in reducing forest degradation, based on a simple principle: if it’s against the law to cut down trees in one country, then it should also be illegal to import the cut timber from those trees into other countries. In other words, we should respect and help enforce the laws that protect forests in the countries that we import from.
March 12th, 2013
Has there been any progress at all in reducing global warming pollution? Is anybody doing anything to deal with climate change seriously? Is it all bad news, or are there at least a few rays of hope? As a scientist, I try to deal with these kinds of questions by looking at data rather than just listening to the radio or watching the TV news, which can be very discouraging. And in the last few months, three new datasets have been released that show us what has been happening to Amazon deforestation since the 1990s. Although they have lots of differences among them, they do agree that in the Amazon — the world’s largest expanse of tropical forest — there has indeed been some progress.