By Chris Lang
This week’s REDD notes. Follow @reddmonitor on Twitter for more links to news about forests, the climate crisis, natural climate solutions, the oil industry, greenwash, carbon offsetting, etc.
A recent report by Chatham House looks at the impact of mining on forests. The report looks specifically at mining for minerals and materials for green technologies and sustainable infrastructure:
Given the anticipated demand for minerals such as iron ore, copper, gold, nickel, cobalt and bauxite – which are often found in critical forest landscapes – it is important that the mining sector’s forest impacts are better understood and addressed.
Several mining companies, including Alcoa, BHP, Glencore, Rio Tinto, RUSAL, and Vale are involved in forest offset projects.
Last year, the World Bank put out a report titled “Making Mining Forest-Smart”. Needless to say, the World Bank’s report focusses not on the destruction caused by mining, but on “opportunities and challenges for implementing biodiversity offsets to compensate for residual impacts of mining on forests”.
As Samuel Nguiffo, founder of the Center for Environment and Development in Cameroon, tells Mongabay, “This new concept sounds like an excuse to go for mining no matter where.” Nguiffo adds that, “Given the size of mining permits allocated on forest areas, the potential for mining to become a major driver for deforestation in the future is very high. If the price of some of the minerals increases on the world markets it can explode very easily.”
The rich forests in the remote province of Papua had until recently escaped relatively untouched, but the government is now rapidly opening the area to investors, vowing to bring prosperity to one of the poorest regions in the country. Korindo controls more land in Papua than any other conglomerate.
Korindo denies that it sets fires to clear the land before planting oil palm. The ever industry-friendly Forest Stewardship Council backs up Korindo. In a response to the BBC report on its website FSC states that,
The original allegations against Korindo included an allegation that Korindo was systematically using fire for land clearing. The panel found that on the balance of probabilities this was not the case. Although satellite images show the presence of smoke from fires on Korindo concession areas, it could not be determined that fires were set with the intention to clear land. The issue of fire has therefore not been included in the follow-up discussions with Korindo.
But a research agency called Forensic Architecture, based at Goldsmiths, University of London, used satellite imagery to study the pattern of land clearing inside a Korindo concession. Samaneh Moafi of Forensic Architecture tells the BBC that,
“We found that the pattern, the direction and the speed with which fires had moved matched perfectly with the pattern, the speed, direction with which land clearing happened. This suggests that the fires were set intentionally. If the fires were set from outside the concession or due to weather conditions, they would have moved with a different directionality. But in the cases that we were looking at there was a very clear directionality.”
The World Economic Forum claims that “Nature-based solutions, including natural climate solutions, can address both climate and nature goals.”
Together with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, WEF has set up a Natural Climate Solutions Alliance, which is supposedly “working to unlock the potential of working with nature to fight climate change”.
Of course it’s doing no such thing. Its primary purpose is to distract from the urgent need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. A recent article on the WEF website comes close to admitting this:
In the run-up to COP26 and the UN Biodiversity COP next year, the NCS Alliance is convening industry and civil society leaders to strengthen the narrative and the role of carbon offsets as integral components of a credible route to net-zero emissions.
Obviously, the WEF article makes no mention of fossil fuels, or the need to leave them in the ground. But it does mention that, “Major energy companies such as Shell, BP and ENI have also made significant commitments to invest in natural climate solutions as a part of their broader commitments to reduce emissions.”
When WEF’s authors write “reduce emissions” they actually mean “increase emissions”.
In an interview with the Guardian, Greta Thunberg says that leaders are happy to set targets for decades in the future, but fail to take immediate action. She is unimpressed with pledges to reach net zero by 2050 or 2060:
“They mean something symbolically, but if you look at what they actually include, or more importantly exclude, there are so many loopholes. We shouldn’t be focusing on dates 10, 20 or even 30 years in the future. If we don’t reduce our emissions now, then those distant targets won’t mean anything because our carbon budgets will be long gone.”
Thunberg points out that to keep global temperature close to 1.5°C the scale and speed of emissions reductions needed cannot be achieved by the normal operation of society. “So the first thing we need to do is understand we are in an emergency [and] admit the fact that we have failed – humanity collectively has failed – because you can’t solve a crisis that you don’t understand,” Thunberg says.
Treehugger reports on a new report in Science titled, “Global food system emissions could preclude achieving the 1.5° and 2°C climate change targets”.
Even if fossil fuel use stopped immediately, emissions from food alone would be enough to miss the Paris Agreement’s 2°C target. Emissions come from deforestation, fertilizers, methane from sheep, goats, and cows, manure, methane from rice growing, and the fossil fuels used in food production and supply chains.
The authors propose adopting a plant-rich diet containing “moderate amounts of dairy, eggs and meat”, reducing the amount we eat, improving crop yields, reducing food waste, and reducing use of nitrogen fertilizers.
Dr Michael Clark, the lead author of the paper tells Treehugger that they did not recommend a vegan or vegetarian diet. “From a psychological perspective, communicating ‘eat less meat’ seems to be a more effective way to get people to shift their dietary habits than is ‘eat no meat,’” Clark says.
A report in Scientific Reports last week suggest that even if all human greenhouse gas emissions were to stop in 2020, the ESCIMO climate model suggests that we would still face melting of the permafrost for hundreds of years.
The lead author of the paper, Jørgen Randers, PhD, professor emeritus of climate strategy at BI Norwegian Business School, says that “According to our models, humanity is beyond the point-of-no-return when it comes to halt the melting of the permafrost using greenhouse gas cuts as the single tool.” Randers adds that “If we want to stop this melting process we must do something in addition – for example, suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it underground, and make Earth’s surface brighter.”
Several climate scientists responded to the report. Professor Richard Betts at the University of Exeter comments that,
“The model simulations in this paper do not convincingly support the suggestion that ending greenhouse gas emissions may fail to stop global warming. Importantly, the paper itself does not actually make that specific claim in relation to the real world – instead, it reports the results simply as the behaviour of a model. The model used here is not one used in the main IPCC projections, and is not shown to be a credible representation of the real climate system. In fact, it is directly contradicted by more established and extensively-evaluated climate models in many of its physical processes.
Michael Mann of Penn State University tells US Today that,
“The climate model they have used is a very low complexity model. It doesn’t realistically represent large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns, such as ocean circulation, etc.
“While such models can be useful for conceptual inferences, their predictions have to be taken with great skepticism. Far more realistic climate models that do resolve the large-scale dynamics of the ocean, atmosphere and carbon cycle, do NOT produce the dramatic changes these authors argue for based on their very simplified model.
“It must be taken not just with a grain of salt, but a whole salt-shaker worth of salt.”