WRI Report on the Benefits of Forests for Stabilizing the Climate
A recent report from the World Resources Institute, Not Just Carbon: Capturing All the Benefits of Forests for Stabilizing the Climate from Local to Global Scales, summarizes the science on the biophysical effects of deforestation on climate stability, and explores the policy implications of the resulting impacts at three scales. Global climate policy, regional cooperation on precipitation management, and national policies related to agriculture and public health are examined, with promising entry points found to address current gaps through innovations in policies and institutions.
The report has three main aims:
- to make the scientific literature about the full range of effects of forests on the climate accessible to policymakers and other stakeholders.
- To highlight for policymakers and other stakeholders the policy implications of forest-climate interactions beyond greenhouse gasses.
- To suggest promising directions for future research, policy development, and institutional innovation to close identified gaps
The report highlights the growing body of evidence that indicates that forests interact with the atmosphere in many ways other than through the global carbon cycle, with resulting impacts on rainfall and temperature from on local and global scales. These impacts have implications for mitigation and adaptation to climate change, food and water security, and human health and wellbeing.
The risks and impacts of deforestation and the resulting increased local temperatures and disrupted rainfall patterns compound the local effects of global climate change; threatening severe consequences for human health and agricultural productivity, with effects particularly severe in the tropics. Tropical forests contribute to reducing increasing global average temperatures, not only via carbon removal, but also via high rates of evapotranspiration and their ability to stimulate cloud cover, thereby increase albedo (the reflectance by the Earth of the sun’s incoming solar energy). Accounting for these non-carbon effects, tropical deforestation includes an additional 50% estimated contribution to increasing global temperatures compared to carbon effects alone.
By failing to take these biophysical effects into account, current policies systematically undervalue forests’ climate services, fail to anticipate the full range of climate risks associated with deforestation, and result in inequitable allocation of responsibilities and resources within and between nations.
The authors assert that policymakers should urgently recognize and address the full range of forests’ climate regulation services through institutions operating at relevant scales, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), institutions for regional cooperation, and domestic agencies charged with promoting agricultural productivity and protecting public health.
Learn more in the full WRI report, Not Just Carbon: Capturing All the Benefits of Forests for Stabilizing the Climate from Local to Global Scales