Over the years that we’ve worked on reducing the global warming pollution, we’ve delved quite a bit into the scientific studies on what drives tropical deforestation. We’ve looked at major causes, such as palm oil and beef, and tried to keep up with the new literature on deforestation so that our actions and the policies we suggest are based on the latest science. Most recently, this is reflected in our review of cases in which tropical countries have significantly reduced deforestation or even reforested. Now, there’s a new report out that is an important step forward in summarizing what the science – all the science – tells us about the causes of deforestation and what can be done about it.
June 9th, 2014
I’m now in Bonn at the United Nations climate negotiations, where the big news is that in the last week the world’s two biggest emitters – China and the United States – have announced important actions to cut their carbon pollution, especially from the coal that they burn. These steps are welcome, but they are plans, not accomplishments, and they come late compared to other countries that have already acted to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.
Ironically, most of these successes are in tropical developing countries, where countries’ reductions in rates of deforestation and in some cases their reforestation of cleared land have cut their net emissions of global warming pollution. Their actions have already accomplished more for the climate than the actions of many developed nations have.
April 30th, 2014
For quite a while, agriculture was dismissed as a possible way to mitigate climate change, because it’s where our food comes from, and we can’t live without food. From this obvious fact came the misinterpretation that we couldn’t cut agricultural greenhouse gas emissions without threatening food security. Read More
April 15th, 2014
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
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