One small but important breakthrough in the new IPCC report on climate mitigation, released Sunday in Berlin, is that the chapter on agriculture, forest, and other land use (AFOLU) looks at the demand side, not just supply. In other words, it not only asks how we can create less global warming pollution in producing food and wood products, but also what kinds of food and wood products we ought to be producing and consuming if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change. Read More
April 15th, 2014
March 21st, 2014
I’m in Berlin at the Global Land Project conference, a biennial gathering of about 1000 scientists who study how we Earthlings use our world. I gave a talk on beef compared to other meats in the informal “Pecha Kucha” format, which requires you to use only 20 slides, each displayed for only 20 seconds. It was fun, but the big excitement has been hearing new ideas presented by researchers from all over the world.
March 7th, 2014
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…
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.