Conserving Forests Is Best Way to Stabilize the Climate

FWe can never convey the value of orests to them. We learn more about trees and how they are important partners in our survival. March 21st is International Day of Forests, a day when we reflect upon the glories and gifts of the world’s forests, but also the serious threats they face.

Last month’s IPCC Report gave us the unvarnished truth: we face “unavoidable multiple climate hazards” over the next two decades, and are entering an era that will expose millions of people to food and water insecurity, and will drive extinction of numerous animal and plant species. Any further delay in global action “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”

It’s hard to hear such dire news. Luckily, two of the most important solutions are our areas of expertise—conserving forests and advancing alternatives to wood for making toilet paper, clothing, and packaging. According to the IPCC, “reducing deforestation and forest degradation rates represents One of the strongest and most reliable options to mitigate climate change is this..”

But these climate heroes—our forests—are in constant danger. The most vital, ancient, and oldest forests are being felled for paper, cardboard, packaging and visse fabric.

Our dearly-earned loss of biodiversity and the conversion of carbon-rich, old growth forests to plantations like palm oil, pine and eucalyptus has been costly. We’ve lost historical carbon storage and sequestration capacity, destroyed wildlife habitat, and exposed ourselves to the life-threatening dangers of climate instability: more extreme weather, more flooding, more fires, and even more virulent pandemics.

The weather patterns of large forests can be influenced by their size. An example of this is the Amazon rainforest. It creates weather conditions that encourage regular rain in areas nearby and on farms. We have weakened our natural allies by seeing trees as only wood- and pulp sources. Constant misinformation campaigns that claim industrial logging is carbon neutral and sustainable are making us more vulnerable to existential threats.

Global forests are the best, fastest and most cost-effective way to stabilize our climate. The vitality of biodiversity is also a key factor in sustaining it. We share the planet with a remarkable array and interrelationships species. They work together to purify our air, and control our global carbon, water and nutrient cycles. It is no accident that we co-inhabit a world covered in forests—they make life on Earth livable.

For example, forests are great role models in how to live. Trees flourish when they live in diverse communities. Recent scientific research has shown that forests are more supportive than competing for survival. Trees in forests work well together and have the best health. For a healthy start to life, they protect one another from weather changes, work together in the capture of resources, distribute nutrients and water to others, and provide support for their children. For us to understand how forests can be used as a teaching tool about life and death and resilience is crucial in the fight against climate change.

Since forests are integral to life on this planet, it’s time to implement as many solutions as we can to protect them. A growing chorus of scientists are calling for conservation of at least 30% of the planet’s forests by 2030 and for 50% of the Earth to be dedicated for maintenance of natural ecosystems by 2050.

It is possible to find tangible ways of protecting forests while also creating economic benefits for Indigenous communities and all people. Empowering Indigenous communities and encouraging collaborations between western science and Indigenous scientists can improve the forest’s ability to sustain itself and store carbon and cycle water. This will help protect other species and increase its resilience. Our future will be transformed if we create an economy that value carbon storage and restores forests.

Corporations can use cellulose from non-tree sources like recycled clothes and paper to replace wood pulp used in paper packaging. This replacement could be applied only to packaging, saving more than 3 billion forests each year and doubling the global forest savings by 2030.

Only a few hours remain to alter the trajectory of our planet and save forests from old growth. This is essential for planet stability. If logging is done, it must be respected by Indigenous peoples. It should also save Mother Trees. These trees are big trees that link and support each other through an underground mycelium web, commonly known as the “wood-wide web”. Sustainable forest management includes maintaining these networks. Additionally, regenerating degraded forests with a diversity of species is necessary to rebuild forests’ resilience and self-healing capabilities.

In the last two years—and even past few weeks—we have seen how supply chains and governments can pivot to face emergencies, and reject goods from unconscionable sources. We can do this to save the world’s forests too. A livable planet requires no less.

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