A new report released today by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) says immediate measures are necessary to ensure vulnerable forests and those that rely on them for their livelihood aren’t subject to the devastating effects of climate change.
To date, international responses have been around ways of controlling the carbon contribution of forests to global warming (mitigation); but carbon control is only half the problem.
Forests are vital to the world’s economy and over 2% of world trade is in forest products. They provide millions of people with income, food, medicines and building materials and deliver many vital ecosystem services like flood or drought regulation and water purification, according to CIFOR’s report ‘Facing an uncertain future: how forests and people can adapt to climate change’. They are, therefore, critical to the ability of human societies to adapt to climate change.
The adverse consequences of climate change are already being observed, which is why the report authors say helping the world’s forests and the billion people that depend on them to adapt to climate change should be made a priority. The report identifies several concrete measures to adapt forests to climate change, including buffering ecosystems against climate-related disturbances (for example, by reducing their vulnerability to drought, floods, insect attack and fire, and selecting plantation species better suited to predicted changes in climates) and assisting the people who are managing, living in or conserving forests to adapt to future changes
The costs to society of not taking action to help forests and forest-dependent communities adapt to climate change are numerous. They include uncontrollable diebacks of forests, which will cause greenhouse gas emissions to rise; extensive extinction of animal species; loss of human dwellings in adversely affected areas; and destruction of other ecosystem services from provisioning services (timber, hydrological and medicinal supplies) to cultural services, all of which have a flow-on affect on the world’s economy.
CIFOR’s report ‘Facing an uncertain future’ will be released next week at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Poznan, Poland, which marks the start of global negotiations to replace the Kyoto Protocol after 2012.
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For the official press release from the Centre for International Forestry Research, the full report, photos, as well as a media guide to forests, climate change and REDD, visit the online press room: