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Tropical forests could be half of the climate change solution by 2050

Properly protecting, repairing, and monitoring tropical forests can provide more than half the carbon emissions needed to reduce climate change by -2 degrees Celsius, states a commentary published this week in the journal Nature.

Noting that the current rate of fossil fuels being burned puts the world on track to miss the greenhouse gas pollution reduction target,

Richard A. Houghton and Alexander Nassikas of the Woods Hole Research Center and Brett Byers of the Rainforest Trust and Million Acre Pledge theorize that forests can significantly contribute to stabilizing or reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the short term.

“It is unlikely that fossil fuel emissions will die out in the next decade, or that they will decrease by more than 80 percent by 2050.

It is more likely that these emissions from 2015 to 2050 will exceed 250 [billion tons of carbon] resulting in emissions of a cumulative carbon footprint of more than 400 [billion tons of carbon] between 2000 and 2050 and a more than 50 percent chance of increasing global warming by 2°C. most?”

wrote the authors. “Not necessarily – carbon uptake by tropical forests could offset much of the carbon emission from fossil fuels between now and 2050, thus stabilizing and, shortly thereafter, reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere within a few decades and providing a bridge to a world without fossil fuels.”

The authors present three situations in which tropical forests can make a significant contribution: reducing deforestation and degradation, recovering degraded forests through exploration and shifting agriculture, and reforesting areas that have been cleared. 

That said, these attempts could avert and sequester gas emissions up to 5 billion tons per year or below the current level of fossil fuel emissions in around 50 years. About 20% would result from reducing emissions by cutting down trees that have been felled or burned, while 80% would result from sequestration.

The authors also highlight other situations in land use management including the same approaches in temperate and boreal forests, and agriculture management training that enhances carbon stores and preserves grasslands and wetlands.

The benefits of this training extend beyond carbon reduction. Protecting and repairing ecosystems will maintain key environmental services such as available fresh water, support local communities that depend on renewable natural resources, and provide habitat for biodiversity.

Despite the potential, there is a real risk that this carbon layer could shrink in the future if current movements continue. 

For example, climate change is already worsening drought that causes massive forest deaths, increasing the vulnerability of forests and other ecosystems to unnatural fires and disease outbreaks. 

Therefore, the authors argue that carbon neutralization provided by forest conservation is not the solution for reducing carbon emissions.

“Monitoring forests to accumulate carbon should not delay or dilute the gradual elimination of the use of fossil fuels”, they quoted. 

“On the contrary, the deliberate accumulation of carbon in soil should be of long-term benefit if climate change continues because of the unrestricted use of fossil fuels, and if forests, as a consequence, return to be sources of carbon in a dry and dry land. warm”.

The commentary then concludes with an urgent call for action.

“The timing and taking of the action are critical. Not only must biosphere restoration occur in tandem with the phasing out of fossil fuels, but the longer we wait and the higher the rate of fossil fuel emissions, the smaller the potential role of tropical forests in offsetting these emissions.”

Still, the transition from other approaches to eliminating ecosystem destruction to soil monitoring will not be easy, the authors acknowledge. 

Sectors that drive deforestation, forest degradation, and enhancement of deforested lands are generally politically and economically effective. 

In places like Indonesia, plantation and logging industries have caused large-scale destruction of carbon-concentrated forests and peatlands, transforming these ecosystems from carbon sinks to carbon sinks, while maintaining considerable political influence.

For this reason, a concerted effort by a broad alliance of investors is needed to put forests at the center of climate change discussions, said co-author Brett Byers, who founded the Million Acre Pledge, a conservation initiative, and serves on the Rainforest board.

Trust, is a conservation group that establishes protected areas in developing countries.

“The preservation of tropical forests could provide more than half of the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions over the next 50 years,” said Bayers. 

“The preservation of rainforests will be key to the fight against global warming, but it will need a greater effort in the corporate, charitable and government sectors. We have protected over 500 million hectares of rainforest so far, but protecting the remaining 1 billion hectares is urgent.”

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