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.
Transferring Forest Land to Communities Helps Reduce Deforestation – and Can Help Government Budgets Too
June 7th, 2013
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.
February 11th, 2013
In writing about climate change it’s hard to avoid the use of catch phrases and clichéd metaphors, as much we try to stop shooting silver bullets and keep all those pesky canaries out of our coal mines. At times, though, such oft-repeated words are used in paradoxical ways, jarring you into thinking about them a bit more deeply. This happened to me a few days ago when, in response to new Department of Agriculture data on the U.S. livestock industry, a beef producer referred to the impacts of the persistent drought as “a perfect storm.” Read More
December 3rd, 2012
I’m now in Doha, Qatar, at the international climate negotiations (“COP18″), and today was Forest Day. This annual event focuses on the role of forests and deforestation in emissions of global warming pollution, and often is the venue for presenting some of the newest science from around the world. Read More
November 27th, 2012
Over the past several years, one of the few pieces of hopeful news about global warming has been the annual release of data from Brazil on its rate of Amazon deforestation. Since forests are immense storehouses of carbon, deforestation causes high levels of greenhouse gas emission. Brazil, which contains about 60% of the Amazon forest, is key to those emissions, and over the last six years it has made important progress in reducing its deforestation rate.
Today, the new data for 2011-2012 were released, and once again they are a ray of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy day. They show a decrease of deforestation to 4,656 square kilometers – down 27% from last year.
November 15th, 2012
We’ve seen it again with Hurricane Sandy. A storm rages, thousands of trees are blown down, and the power goes out for millions of homes, sometimes for weeks. It’s so common that we take it for granted: whether it’s a blizzard, a cyclone, or an ice storm, storms are followed by power outages as surely as darkness follows the day. But – why? The answer isn’t rocket science. It isn’t even airplane science. In fact, it’s barely bicycle science. It’s because the storm, the trees, and the power lines are all above the ground. Read More
October 15th, 2012
There are two Washingtons – the unrepresented one in the District of Columbia, and the state way out west of the Beltway. Here in DC life is going well: It’s a beautiful fall day, Congress is out of town, and the Nationals had the best record in baseball this year.
In the other Washington, though, things are different. The old quip about Washington’s ball team — “First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League” — used to be about the Senators; now it’s about the Mariners. But more seriously, the landscape is burning up.
September 10th, 2012
Last winter, after two weeks at the climate negotiations in Durban, I took a few days of vacation and visited the unique “Afrotemperate forests” of the Southern Cape of South Africa, in the Knysna-Tsitsikamma region. Natural forests cover less that 0.5 percent of South Africa, which is much more famous for wildlife-rich savannas and for the incredibly biodiverse fynbos vegetation around the Cape of Good Hope. Read More
September 6th, 2012
Over the past five years, I’ve noticed that our work here at UCS on tropical deforestation has gradually changed its emphasis from actions in tropical forest countries, such as REDD+, to what can be done in consuming countries (which are not the same as developed countries) about the demand that drives tropical deforestation. Read More