FEATURED ARTICLES [Latest news updates]
Rainforest conservation: a year in review
(12/27/2009) 2009 may prove to be an important turning point for tropical forests. Lead by Brazil, which had the lowest extent of deforestation since at least the 1980s, global forest loss likely declined to its lowest level in more than a decade. Critical to the fall in deforestation was the global financial crisis, which dried up credit for forest-destroying activities and contributed to a crash in commodity prices, an underlying driver of deforestation.
Biggest private funder of Amazon conservation teams with Google and scientists to develop earth monitoring platform
(12/18/2009) The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the largest private funder of Amazon rainforest conservation, is playing an unheralded but integral role in the development of the Earth Engine platform, a system that combines the computing power of Google with advanced monitoring and analysis technologies developed by leading environmental scientists. The platform, which was officially unveiled at climate talks in in Copenhagen, promises to enable near real-time monitoring of the world's forests and carbon at high resolution at selected sites before COP-16 in Mexico.
Major international banks, shipping companies, and consumers play key role in Madagascar's logging crisis
(12/16/2009) In the midst of cyclone season, a 'dead' period for tourism to Madagascar's east coast, Vohémar, a sleepy town dominated by the vanilla trade, is abuzz. Vanilla prices have scarcely been lower, but the hotels are full and the port is busy. "This afternoon, it was like a 4 wheel drive show in front of the Direction Regionale des Eaux & Forets," one source wrote in an email on November 29th: "Many new 4x4, latest model, new plane at the airport, Chinese everywhere."
Brazilian tribe owns carbon rights to Amazon rainforest land
(12/09/2009) A rainforest tribe fighting to save their territory from loggers owns the carbon-trading rights to their land, according to a legal opinion released today by Baker & McKenzie, one of the world’s largest law firms. The opinion, which was commissioned by Forest Trends, a Washington, D.C.-based forest conservation group, could boost the efforts of indigenous groups seeking compensation for preserving forest on their lands, effectively paving the way for large-scale indigenous-led conservation of the Amazon rainforest. Indigenous people control more than a quarter of the Brazilian Amazon.
Changing drivers of deforestation provides new opportunities for conservation
(12/09/2009) Tropical deforestation claimed roughly 13 million hectares of forest per year during the first half of this decade, about the same rate of loss as the 1990s. But while the overall numbers have remained relatively constant, they mask a transition of great significance: a shift from poverty-driven to industry-driven deforestation and geographic consolidation of where deforestation occurs. These changes have important implications for efforts to protect the world's remaining tropical forests in that environmental lobby groups now have identifiable targets that may be more responsive to pressure on environmental concerns than tens of millions of impoverished rural farmers. In other words, activists have more leverage than ever to impact corporate behavior as it relates to deforestation.
Primer: Destruction of old-growth forests looms over climate talks
(12/08/2009) Destruction of old-growth or primary forests looms large in discussions in Copenhagen over a scheme to compensate tropical countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Some environmental groups are pressing for conservation of old-growth forests — the most carbon-dense, and biologically-rich state of forests — to be the centerpiece of REDD, while industry and other actors are pushing for "sustainable forest management" or logging using reduced-impact techniques to be the primary focus of REDD [i.e. conservation versus "no net forest loss"].
In absence of measures to address consumption, REDD may fail to protect forests
(12/02/2009) Rising demand for timber and agricultural products could work against a proposed initiative to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), warns a new report from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). The briefing, Putting the Brakes on Drivers of Forest Destruction: A Shared Responsibility, says that investment in REDD will not be enough to protect forests if the underlying drivers of deforestation — namely consumption — are not addressed. It urges negotiators to re-insert critical text that has been dropped from the working text on REDD ahead of next week's climate change conferences in Copenhagen.
Meeting Tam in Borneo: our last chance to save Asia's two horned rhino
(12/01/2009) Nothing can really prepare a person for coming face-to-face with what may be the last of a species. I had known for a week that I would be fortunate enough to meet Tam. I'd heard stories of his gentle demeanor, discussed his current situation with experts, and read everything I could find about this surprising individual. But still, walking up to the pen where Tam stood contentedly pulling leaves from the hands of a local ranger, hearing him snort and whistle, watching as he rattled the bars with his blunted horn, I felt like I was walking into a place I wasn't meant to be. As though I was treading on his, Tam's space: entering into a cool deep forest where mud wallows and shadows still linger. This was Tam's world; or at least it should be.
Shipment of questionable Madagascar rosewood canceled after international outcry
(12/28/2009) A planned shipment of rosewood that had been illegally logged from Madagascar'a rainforest parks has been canceled following international outcry, report sources in Madagascar. The shipment, which would have been transported by Delmas, a French shipping company, had been scheduled for December 21st or 22nd out of the port of Vohemar.
Year in photos: nature & conservation pictures
(12/28/2009) The following 50 photos were taken during the course of my reporting in 2009. I have only included nature and wildlife subjects from Laos, Thailand, Costa Rica, Brazil, Indonesia, California, and Madagascar, although I also took pictures of other subjects and spent time in other countries.
30 big conservation stories for 2009
(12/27/2009) Between the fallout from Greenpeace's report linking cattle ranching in the Amazon to some of the world's most prominent brands, the continuation of the global financial crisis, the failure of the climate conference in Copenhagen to reach agreement on binding emissions targets, concrete progress on REDD, partnerships between Google and innovative NGOs producing important tools for environmental monitoring and reporting, and falling deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon, 2009 was a big year in conservation and the environment. Focusing primarily on tropical forests, but sometimes straying into other areas, Mongabay.com published nearly 1,400 news articles during the year, of which more than 800 were were authored by Rhett A. Butler and around 450 were written by Jeremy Hance. Other contributors included Nathan Brouwer, Morgan Erickson-Davis, Julie Fischer, Rowan Moore Gerety, Alex Gehrig, Ryan King, Nikolas Kozloff, Hambone Littletail, Sarah Monaghan, Kara Moses, John O. Niles, Tim O'Brien, Rose Picardal, Derek Schuurman, Bhalin Singh, Mark Szotek, Gabriel Thoumi, Alanna Tritt, and Jeff Wise, among others. More than 100 articles were also added in more than a dozen non-English languages by dozens of translators.
Record-breaking snow across the US and climate change
(12/26/2009) Over the past few weeks the United States has been pounded by a number of big snow storms. A week ago Washington DC received 18 inches of snow, setting a number of records. Over Christmas, the middle of the country, from Texas to Minnesota was also hit by record amounts of snow. While snow fall over the East Coast and middle of the country in the United States in December is hardly unusual, a number of record amounts of precipitation may point to a larger shift in the climate. Scientists say that higher temperatures causes more water evaporation, which increases the chances of heavy precipitation events, such as floods and snowstorms.
Ecuador to be paid to leave oil in the ground
(12/23/2009) Ecuador will establish a trust fund for receiving payments to leave oil reserves unexploited in Yasuni National Park, one of the world's most biodiverse rainforest reserves, reports the UN Development Programme, the agency that will administer the fund.
Brazil establishes 20,000 sq mi of new indigenous reserves in the Amazon
(12/23/2009) On Monday, Brazil decreed nine new indigenous reserves covering 51,000 square kilometers (19,700 square miles) of the Amazon rainforest, an areas larger than Denmark or Switzerland, reports the AFP. Five of the reserves are located in the state of Amazonas, two are in Pará, one is in Roraima, and another is in Mato Grosso do Sul. The protected areas house about seven thousand Indians from 29 ethnic groups, according to FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio), Brazil's indigenous affairs agency.
The real Avatar story: indigenous people fight to save their forest homes from corporate exploitation
(12/22/2009) In James Cameron's newest film Avatar an alien tribe on a distant planet fights to save their forest home from human invaders bent on mining the planet. The mining company has brought in ex-marines for 'security' and will stop at nothing, not even genocide, to secure profits for its shareholders. While Cameron's film takes place on a planet sporting six-legged rhinos and massive flying lizards, the struggle between corporations and indigenous people is hardly science fiction.
Unique call gives away new bird species in Laos and Vietnam
(12/21/2009) A beautiful little warbler inhabiting limestone karsts in Vietnam and Laos has been named a new species. When the limestone leaf warbler ( Phylloscopus calciatilis) was first sighted in 1994 it was thought to be a member of the similar-looking species, the sulphur-breasted warbler, but ornithologists began to question that assumption when the bird produced a call significantly different from the sulphur-breasted's.
Guyana to increase oversight of gold mining under deal to save forests with Norway
(12/21/2009) As apart of a deal with Norway to preserve its rainforests, Guyana will step up oversight of its gold mining industry, which has been accused of causing significant environmental damage including deforestation and mercury and cyanide pollution.
Brazil: king of conservation, deforestation for the 2000s
(12/21/2009) Brazil set aside more land in protected areas than any other country during the 2000s, accounting for nearly 60 percent of total terrestrial conservation during the decade, according to mongabay.com's analysis of data from the U.N Environment Program and the World Conservation Monitoring Center. Paradoxically, Brazil also lost the most forest of any country during the decade.
Canada at Copenhagen: "delay, obstruction, and total inaction"
(12/21/2009) Canada was the biggest obstructer at the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, according to the Climate Action Network (CAN) an organization made-up of 450 NGOs. On Friday CAN awarded Canada the 'Colossal Fossil Award' for doing the most to obstruct an ambitious climate change agreement and for doing the least to mitigate climate change.
Coal plant could damage rainforest reserves, coral reefs, palm oil plantations in Malaysian Borneo
(12/20/2009) A proposed coal-fired power plant in Malaysian Borneo could damage the region's world-renowned coral reefs, pollute air and water supplies, open Sabah's biodiverse rainforests to mining, and undermine the state's effort to promote itself as a destination for "green" investment and ecotourism, warn environmentalists leading an effort to block the project. The scheme, which is backed by the federal Tenaga Nasional Berhad and state energy company, Sabah Electricity Sdn. Bhd, has faced strong opposition and already been forced to re-locate twice since it was conceived more than two years ago. The 300-MW plant is now planned for a coastal area that is situated in the middle of the Coral Triangle/Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion, an area renowned for astounding levels of biodiversity.
Dead REDD? Not quite, but plan to protect forests suffers set back in Copenhagen
(12/20/2009) A plan to reduce tropical deforestation by paying developing countries to protect forests was postponed Saturday after world leaders failed to produce a binding climate agreement, reports the Associated Press.
Agreement reached in Copenhagen, although 'not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change'
(12/18/2009) On late Friday, US President Barack Obama reached an agreement described as "meaningful" during a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South African President Jacob Zuma at the last day of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
New tropical wood substitute could save rainforests worldwide
(12/18/2009) One of the main drivers of tropical deforestation is western consumption of hardwoods, more durable and weather-resistant than softwoods. For example, hardwood harvested in Southeast Asia—both legally and illegally obtained—often makes its way to China where it is crafted into cheap outdoor-ready hardwood products, which is then sold to the world's wealthy nations, such as the United States and countries in the EU. The trade releases significant greenhouse gases, threatens indigenous groups, and imperils the region's biodiversity. Yet a new product, apart of an art installation at the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, may have the capacity to stem the loss of tropical forests for hardwoods.
Bolivia's President blames capitalism for global warming
(12/18/2009) The President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, clearly frustrated with the progression of talks at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, today blamed capitalism for global warming.
Kenya REDD project becomes first in Africa to win gold-level validation
(12/18/2009) A Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) project in Kenya has become the first in Africa to win GOLD level validation under the Climate Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Alliance's REDD Standard, a certification program to ensure that communities and biodiversity benefit from such projects.
French company CMA-CGM facilitating destruction of Madagascar's rainforests, undermining France's position in Copenhagen
(12/17/2009) Delmas, a Belgian subsidiary of French shipping giant CMA-CGM, is facilitating the destruction of Madagascar's endangered rainforests by providing transport for timber illegally logged from the country's national parks, report multiple sources that have been investigating the illegal rosewood trade in the Indian Ocean island nation. The accusations put Delmas directly in conflict with the French government's push at climate talks in Copenhagen to establish stronger safeguards against illegal logging.
Uninhabited tropical island paradise seeks REDD funding to save it from loggers
(12/17/2009) Tetepare may be one of the last tropical island paradises left on earth. Headhunting and a mysterious illness drove its original inhabitants from the island two hundred years ago, making Tetepare today the largest uninhabited island in the tropical Pacific. The 120 square kilometer island (46 square miles), long untouched by industry or agriculture, is currently threatened by logging interests. However, the island is not without champions: in 2002 descendents of the original inhabitants of Tetepare formed the Tetepare Descendents Association (TDA) to preserve the island. Recently they have teamed up with the Solomon Islands Government and the Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership to develop financing through REDD.
Malaysia to allow logging in indigenous 'peace park' to proceed
(12/17/2009) Malaysia, the country with the fastest rate of greenhouse gas emissions growth since 1990 among middle and upper income countries, will allow logging to proceed in a contested rainforest area in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo.
Greenpeace cordons off US Chamber of Commerce headquarters as 'global warming crime scene'
(12/17/2009) Activists with Greenpeace surrounded the US Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Washington DC with fake squad cars painted green-and-white and a fake ambulance labeled 'Climate Emergency Response'. Yellow banners made to look like crime scene tape were thrown over the building's façade.
Last breeding northern white rhinos will return to Africa
(12/17/2009) Only eight individual northern white rhinos survive in the world, making it the world's most endangered large mammal. Unfortunately, half of the rhinos are unable to breed. The remaining four—the last hope for the subspecies—will be moved this weekend from Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic to conservancy in Kenya.
US moves talks forward in Copenhagen with pledge of 100 billion fund, now it's China's turn
(12/17/2009) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought some much need good news to Copenhagen with her. In an announcement this morning, Clinton announced that the United States was ready to join other industrialized nations in mobilizing 100 billion dollars a year in climate aid for developing and vulnerable nations by 2020 at the Climate Change conference.
Copenhagen Climate Summit: Hugo Chávez is an Inappropriate Environmental Messenger
(12/17/2009) Like him or not, one thing is for sure: the flamboyant Hugo Chávez has never shied away from the limelight. I was therefore somewhat surprised to read some initial press accounts suggesting that the Venezuelan leader might stay away from the United Nations climate summit being held in Copenhagen, Denmark. "If it's to go and waste time, it’s better I don't go," he said. "If everything is already cooked up by the big [nations], then forget it." Chávez however hinted that he might change his mind if ALBA nations could reach some type of common position towards the Copenhagen summit. ALBA, an initiative designed to facilitate trade and reciprocity amongst like minded progressive regimes in Latin America, has taken up the issue of climate justice as of late. Two months ago Bolivian President and ALBA ally Evo Morales called for the creation of an actual climate justice tribunal. The Global North, Morales said, should indemnify poor nations for the ravages of climate change.
More than half world's science academies support call to save rainforests
(12/17/2009) More than half world's science academies have signed a statement supporting a plan to save tropical forests as a means to fight climate change, reports the Global Canopy Program, an initiative that has worked closely with Prince Charles to promote rainforest conservation. The statement argues that tropical forest protection is a critical strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next 15-20 years. It calls upon world leaders to reach a consensus on a path forward for a funding package that would support the infrastructure needed to develop an effective reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism.
U.S. pledges $1B towards rainforest conservation
(12/17/2009) The U.S. will contribute $1 billion towards an effort to reduce emissions from deforestation, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Catastrophic sea level rise could occur with only two degrees Celsius warming
(12/17/2009) Allowing the climate to rise by just two degrees Celsius—the target most industrialized nations are currently discussing in Copenhagen—may still lead to a catastrophic sea level rise of six to nine meters, according to a new study in Nature. While this rise in sea levels would take hundreds of years to fully occur, inaction this century could lock the world into this fate.
Google's Earth Engine to help tropical countries monitor forests
(12/16/2009) A powerful forest monitoring application unveiled last week by Google will be made freely available to developing countries as a means to build the capacity to quality for compensation under REDD, a proposed climate change mitigation mechanism that would pay tropical countries for protecting forests, according to a senior Google engineer presenting at a side event at COP15 in Copenhagen.
Jane Goodall Institute hosts the 'Academy Awards' of conservation
(12/16/2009) From the menu that featured organic, local and sustainable vegetarian fare to a celebrity reception on the green carpet, the 2009 Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) Global Leadership Awards Celebration offered a progressive spin on the traditional big Hollywood awards gala. Hosted by Jill St. John and Robert Wagner, with a special musical performance by Ben Harper, celebrity attendees included Rachelle Carson and Ed Begley, Jr., Jim Belushi, Craig Ferguson, Jordana Brewster, Frances Fisher, Betty White, and The Honorable Antonio R. Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles (also the winner of the 2009 Jane Goodall Global Leadership Award for Excellence in Public Policy). This article is an interview with Mary Norman, senior vice president for development at the Jane Goodall Institute in Arlington, Va. Ms. Norman and her team are the force behind the Jane Goodall Institute Global Leadership Awards Celebration.
World's rarest gorilla caught on film
(12/16/2009) The first ever professional footage of the world's rarest gorilla, the Cross River gorilla ( Gorilla gorilla diehli), has been shot deep in the forested mountains of Cameroon. The only other existing footage of this Critically Endangered subspecies was taken from far away by a field researcher in 2005.
Climate change protestors vowing 'people's assembly' beaten back with batons, tear gas in Copenhagen
(12/16/2009) Some 1,500 protestors attempting to enter the Bella Center in Copenhagen, where officials are trying to put together an international deal to combat climate change, were beaten back by police with batons and tear gas.
Pope Benedict: ecological crisis requires "review of our model of development"
(12/15/2009) Pope Benedict XVI has released a message linking world peace with preserving the environment for the World Day of Peace, which will be held on January 1st 2010. In it Benedict calls for a "long-term review" of the world's current economic model, including "[moving] beyond a purely consumerist mentality" and encouraging a more "sober lifestyle".
"Nature does not negotiate," warns UN head on arrival in Copenhagen
(12/15/2009) With talks at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen ailing significantly—but by no means hopeless—the UN Secretary-General, Ban-Kai Moon, arrived today announcing: "We do not have another year to negotiate. Nature does not negotiate."
Octopus joins elite club of tool-users with coconut sanctuary
(12/15/2009) Highly-intelligent, octopuses have been observed opening containers, navigating mazes, and escaping from cages. Now, researchers have discovered a new intellectual feat for the octopus: tool use. Once the province of humans only, over the last 50 years researchers have discovered that many species—including primates, apes, and birds—employ tools, but the octopus is the first invertebrate.
Rich logging countries open logging loophole in plan to reduce deforestation
(12/15/2009) While one tropical forest policy group saw hopeful signs emerging in the most recent revision of the negotiating text on the reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism at climate talks in Copenhagen, activist groups are warning that there remains a substantial logging loophole for developed countries.
Well-known climate change denialist labels activists in Copenhagen 'Hitler Youth'
(12/15/2009) Prominent climate change denialist and past advisor to Margaret Thatcher, Viscount Christopher Monckton, has persisted in labeling protestors in Copenhagen 'Hitler Youth' despite little historical connection.
Progress made on two key REDD issues in Copenhagen
(12/15/2009) Negotiators in Copenhagen have made progress on two key issues for the reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism, reports a forest policy group.
Global warming causing irreversible acidification in world's oceans
(12/15/2009) A new study from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity has synthesized over 300 reports on ocean acidification caused by climate change. The report finds that increasing ocean acidification in the oceans will lead to irreversible damage in the world's oceans, creating a less biodiverse marine environment. Released today the report determines that the threat to marine life by ocean acidification must be considered by policymakers at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
Photos: ten beloved species threatened by global warming
(12/14/2009) The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released a list of ten species that are likely to be among the hardest hit by climate change, including beloved species such as the leatherback sea turtle, the koala, the emperor penguin, the clownfish, and the beluga whale. The timing of the list coincides with the negotiations by world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference to come up with an international agreement to combat climate change.
Sea levels set to rise more than expected due in part to 'deeply surprising' Greenland melt
(12/14/2009) A new study by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program estimates that the sea will rise by 0.5 to 1.5 meters by 2100, threatening coastal cities and flooding island nations. This is double the predicted rise estimated by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPCC) in 2007, which did not incorporate sea level rise due to the melting of Greenland and Antarctica's ice sheets.
African nations return to the negotiating table after walkout in Copenhagen
(12/14/2009) African nations that staged a walkout during negotiations at the Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen have returned to the table, according to the BBC. African nations accused industrial nations of attempting to throw out the Kyoto Protocol.
Brazil grants deforestation amnesty for farmers and ranchers
(12/14/2009) A decree issued by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva suspends up to $5.7 billion in fines and gives ranchers and farmers in the Amazon two more years to come into compliance with environmental laws aimed to curtain deforestation, reports the Associated Press.
Forest destruction by Sinar Mas undermines efforts to develop and promote greener palm oil
(12/14/2009) An investigation commission by Unilever, the world's largest buyer of palm oil, confirms that Indonesian group Sinar Mas, the world's second largest producer of palm oil, has been destroying forests and peatlands despite committing to "greener" palm oil production as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Unilever has now suspended its $32.6 million contract with Sinar Mas.
Ecuador’s Rafael Correa: Copenhagen Climate Hero or Environmental Foe?
(12/14/2009) As climate change negotiations continue full force in the Danish city of Copenhagen, Latin American countries are hoping the Global North will commit to its “climate debt” by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing resources to poor nations. It’s certainly an understandable aspiration: Latin America only produces five per cent of global emissions of carbon dioxide, a chief greenhouse gas, yet the region has borne the brunt of extreme weather ranging from droughts to flooding.
New REDD text is weak, say activists
(12/12/2009) Activist group have condemned the latest draft text of an agreement that aims to protect rainforests as a means to mitigate climate change.
Amazon cattle ranching accounts for half of Brazil's CO2 emissions
(12/12/2009) Cattle ranching accounts for half of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions according to a new study led by scientists from Brazil's National Space Institute for Space Research (INPE).
Unilever suspends palm oil contract after supplier found to be destroying rainforests
(12/12/2009) The world's largest user of palm oil, Unilever, has suspended its $32.6 million contract with the Indonesian group Sinar Mas after an independent audit proved that Sinar Mas is involved in the destruction of rainforest, reports Reuters. The audit was conducted early this year after a report by Greenpeace alleged that Sinar Mas was engaged in deforestation and the draining of peatlands, both of which release significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Deforestation across Indonesia and Malaysia, in part for oil palm plantations, has also added pressure on many many endangered species, including orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos.
Canada's reign of shame in Copenhagen
(12/11/2009) In the first five days of Copenhagen, Canada has won a lot of awards. Only these are not positive awards for good and constructive behavior, but so-called 'fossil awards' given to the countries that most impede progress at Copenhagen by the environmental organization, Climate Action Network (CAN).
United States to speed up green technology patents
(12/11/2009) Green technology patents will see a year shaved off the average forty month wait time to approve new patents in the US. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is implementing a one-year pilot program to push green technology patent applications through the process more quickly, so that the technologies can reach the market faster.
REDD may miss up to 80 percent of land use change emissions
(12/11/2009) The political definition of 'forest' used in REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) threatens to undermine the program's objective to conserve ecosystems for their ability to sequester carbon, according to a new analysis by the Alternatives to Slash and Burn (ASB) Partnership for Tropical Forest Margins. In an analysis of three Indonesian provinces using REDD proposals for carbon accounting, ASB found that REDD may miss up to 80 percent of the actual emissions due to land use change. The carbon accounting problems could be fixed, according to ASB, by expanding REDD's purpose from reducing emissions linked to deforestation (considering the problematic definition of forests) to reducing emission from all land use changes that either release or capture greenhouse gases, including but not limited to forests.
Google Earth to monitor deforestation
(12/10/2009) It what could be a critical development in helping tropical countries monitor deforestation, Google has unveiled a partnership with scientists using advanced remote sensing technology to rapidly analyze and map forest cover in extremely high resolution. The effort could help countries detect deforestation shortly after it occurs making it easier to prevent further forest clearing.
Global forest map moves forward
(12/11/2009) A plan to create a pan-tropical map of forest cover and carbon stocks is moving ahead with data now available on Google Earth, reports the Woods Hole Research Center.
Cheat sheet on climate finance
(12/11/2009) The Global Canopy Project has released a cheat sheet on proposals for financing climate change mitigation.
US provides 3 billion in subsidies for Exxon-mobil natural gas project in Papua New Guinea
(12/10/2009) While officials from around their world are working night-and-day to come up with an international agreement to combat climate change in Copenhagen, the US Export-Import Bank confirmed it will subsidize a natural gas project in Papua New Guinea to the tune of 3 billion dollars—a record for the bank.
Obama on global warming and forest protection
(12/10/2009) President of the United States, Barack Obama, was in Oslo, Norway this morning accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, which he won in part for promising to bring the United States to the negotiating table on climate change—something he has recently done.
Rainforest tribe sues the Malaysian government for trespass, deforestation
(12/10/2009) Five Penan rainforest communities are suing the Sarawak state government and the Malaysian timber giant Samling for violation of their native customary rights, reports the Bruno Manser Fund, a group that works on behalf of indigenous groups in Malaysia.
1700 UK researchers sign statement standing behind global warming science
(12/10/2009) 1,700 British scientists have signed a statement put out by the Met Office declaring that they have the "utmost confidence" in the science behind climate change. The statement and signatures comes after emails by prominent climate change researchers were stolen from the University of East Anglia. Critics say that the emails show that the researchers have hidden and manipulated evidence. However, many scientists, including those who sent the emails, contend that statements in the emails have been taken out of context by climate change deniers and the media.
Brazil allocates first funds under plan to save the Amazon
(12/10/2009) Brazil's development bank BNDES has announced the first five recipients of grants under the South American country's ambitious Amazon Fund, which aims to reduce deforestation by 70 percent over the next decade.
US think-tank: islands affected by global warming should wait for trickle-down money
(12/09/2009) Poor island nations threatened by rising seas should wait for money through trickle-down economics, according to the founder of the US Competitive Enterprise Institute. The Washington-based free-market think tank believes that curbing greenhouse gas emissionss to combat climate change will be too costly to the US and global economies.
Cattle company bulldozing UNESCO site, threatening uncontacted natives
(12/09/2009) A Brazilian ranching company is bulldozing land within UNESCO Chaco Biosphere Reserve in Paraguay, home to the only uncontacted natives outside of the Amazon in South America. While the UNESCO status provides no legal protections to the area, it is meant as an international marker to protect the tribe of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode and the forest they inhabit.
Islands and African nations present toughest treaty yet to combat global warming
(12/09/2009) Led by the small island state of Tuvalu, developing nations particularly vulnerable to climate change have put forward the most ambitious plan yet to mitigate climate change. Their move has split them from usual partners, such as China, India, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa, who are concerned about the economic consequences of the proposal.
Gore, Moon, and Rasmussen attempt to regain trust after 'Danish Text' leak in Copenhagen
(12/09/2009) The head of the UN, Ban-Ki Moon; the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen; and American climate change leader, Al Gore, all attempted to downplay the leak of the 'Danish Text' which has riled developing countries due to portions of its content, such as allowing a climate fund to be controlled by the World Bank, seemingly overturning the Kyoto principle whereby developed countries are held responsible for climate change, and setting higher emission per capita standards for industrialized countries over developing countries even in forty years time.
Developed countries plan to hide emissions from logging
(12/09/2009) While developing countries in the tropics have received a lot of attention for their deforestation emissions (one thinks of Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia), emissions from logging—considered forest cover change—in wealthy northern countries has been largely overlooked by the media. It seems industrialized countries prefer it this way: a new study reveals just how these countries are planning to hide forestry-related emissions, allowing nations such as Canada, Russia, and the EU to contribute to climate change without penalty.
New tree species discovered in Guyana is rich source of oil
(12/09/2009) Botanists working have described a new species of tree with commercial significance in Guyana. The discovery is published in Brittonia, a journal put out by the New York Botanical Garden.
REDD+ could turn deforesters into forest protectors
(12/09/2009) Payments for conservation and sustainable management of forests could turn agents of forest destruction into forest protectors, according to a comprehensive analysis of national policy options to reduce deforestation released in Copenhagen by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Nuclear option in Copenhagen?
(12/09/2009) On the first day of talks at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea's Special Envoy and Ambassador for Environment and Climate Change, surprised many by calling for a 'nuclear option'. The option would allow a document to be ratified by 75 percent of the conference's nations, rather than the usual consensus required. It is thought the nuclear option would give more power to developing countries, since they far outnumber wealthy nations at the conference.
Bangladesh tops list of most vulnerable countries to climate change
(12/09/2009) According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Bangladesh is the most vulnerable nation to extreme weather events, which many scientists say are being exacerbated by climate change. From 1990 to 2008, Bangladesh has lost 8,241 lives on average every year due to natural disasters. In addition, rising sea levels also threaten millions of Bangladeshis.
Current decade is the warmest on record
(12/08/2009) As 192 countries meet in Copenhagen to wrangle out a complex and at times sticky agreement to combat climate change, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released new evidence that the world is undergoing warming. According to the WMO the current decade is likely the warmest on record.
Leaked document in Copenhagen seen as sidelining poor countries
(12/08/2009) A document leaked late in the day at Copenhagen has threatened to further divide developing nations from wealthy countries during the conference in Denmark. The document, labeled as the 'Danish-text', is seen by many as sidelining poor countries by handing over climate financing to the World Bank, requiring developing countries to cut total emissions, and in forty years time still allowing wealthy countries to emit more than developing per capita.
Is a polar bear worth more than a lion?
(12/08/2009) For most environmentalists and animal rights activists it is an almost blasphemous idea to compare the value of one species with that of another, especially when that value is measured in terms of marketing potential for climate change awareness. In recent years, broad media coverage has turned the polar bear into a global symbol for the effects of climate change not only in the Arctic, but in the rest of the world too. In Germany particularly, the birth and highly publicized early life of the polar bear "Knut" at the Berlin City Zoo has intensified this symbolic effect. The fact that the Arctic ice is melting due to global warming is an established fact, and environmentalists the world over are lucky to have the polar bear and its disappearing habitat as a symbol for the global effects of pollution. All this publicity has, however, spread the exaggerated idea that polar bears are already on the verge of extinction.
REDD in Madagascar
(12/08/2009) Despite damage from ongoing illegal logging, Madagascar's remaining forests are poised to benefit from the proposed REDD mechanism, a U.N.-backed scheme that would compensate tropical developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, reports a new paper that analyzes efforts to use carbon finance to protect the Indian Ocean island's remaining forests. The research is published in the open-access Madagascar Conservation & Development.
Canada, not Copenhagen, hit by protests over climate policy
(12/08/2009) While tens of thousands of protestors have gone to Copenhagen to call on world governments to do more to fight against climate change, the most surprising protest on the first day of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen occurred thousands of miles away: in Canada.
EBay bid to name new shrimp species raises $2,900 for conservation from NBA star
(12/07/2009) Former NBA basketball player for the Chicago Bulls, Luc Longley, has won the EBay auction to name a wild looking red-polka dotted shrimp species. Longley won with a bid of 3,600 Australian dollars (2,900 US dollars): all of the funds go to the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS). He named the shrimp Lebbeus clarehanna as a gift for his daughter, Clare Hanna Longley's fifteenth birthday.
Oil sands pollution in Canada worse than industry and government claim
(12/07/2009) Canada's tar sands have been internationally criticized as one of the world's largest industrial sources of greenhouse gases, but the energy-intensive extraction of oil also has a less-noted impact on the local environment. A new study shows that the Alberta's oil sands are likely releasing more PACs (polycyclic aromatic compounds) into nearby Athabasca River and its tributaries than the industry-funded and government-supported Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) has reported.
Europe says US and China emission targets don't go far enough
(12/07/2009) At a press conference during the first day of the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, the European Union has stated it will not raise its emissions cuts from 20 percent to 30 percent by 2020 (over 1990 levels) unless the US and China go further in their cuts.
Profile of the carbon footprint of the global poor: the challenge of alleviating poverty and fighting global warming
(12/07/2009) Two of the world's most serious issues—poverty and climate change—are interconnected. With a rise in one's income there usually comes a rise in one's carbon footprint, thereby threatening the environment. Wealthy nations have the highest per capita carbon footprints, while developing nations like India and China—which are experiencing unprecedented economic growth—are becoming massive contributors of greenhouse gases. However, it is those who have the smallest carbon footprint—the world's poor—who currently suffer most from climate change. Food crises, water shortages, extreme weather, and rising sea levels have all hit the poor the hardest.
Malaysian land minister attacks credibility of young indigenous rape victims
(12/07/2009) Speaking to the BBC, James Masing, Sarawak Minister for Land Development, dismissed claims by Penan girls and women who said they had been sexually abused and raped by logging workers in a remote jungle area.
Copenhagen and Brazilian Megalomania
(12/07/2009) When people think about preserving the Amazon rainforest, captivating animals may come to mind such as the jaguar, toucan or manatee. But while wildlife must be safeguarded there are now other urgent reasons to protect the jungle. The seriousness of the problem was recently brought home to me when I visited the Amazonian city of Manaus.
December issue of Tropical Conservation Science now online
(12/07/2009) The December issue of Tropical Conservation Science, mongabay.com's open access journal, is now online. The issue includes papers on forest recovery following shifting cultivation, persistence of primates in small forest fragments: a global analysis, a new ecological assessment protocol that could be used to create an eco-label for non-wood forest products, tree responses to edge effects and canopy openness, rapid ecological assessment of bats in Colombia, and improved commercial fish smoking systems in West Africa. Tropical Conservation Science is an academic journal that aims to provide opportunities for scientists in developing countries to publish their research in their native languages.
Email scandal may be turning against climate change deniers
(12/07/2009) It may be that climate change scientists and policymakers have simply had enough, and it may be that the emails which were hacked did not reveal the massive conspiracy that they were supposed to, either way climatologists and politicians have gone on the offensive against claims that the hacked emails from the East Anglia's Climate Research Unit are evidence that climate change is a conspiracy or hoax.
Obama administration about to declare carbon dioxide a danger to the public, allowing regulation
(12/06/2009) The day before talks start in Copenhagen on a new international treaty to combat climate change, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States is set to declare carbon dioxide a 'public danger' as soon as Monday.
African children on 'gorilla warfare' mission in run-up to COP15
(12/06/2009) "It’s the gorillas I’ve got to thank for bringing me here,” said Sephora Binet-Mboti, (13), as she gazed up, wide-eyed, at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. She was a long way from her in home in Central Africa where she lives in Gabon at subsistence level in a clapboard house with her parents and nine brothers and sisters. Sephora had never traveled as far as the capital of Gabon, let alone to the developed world, but on Thursday (3rd December) she boarded a plane for an all-expenses-paid dream week in Paris, the city of lights.
Video: rare footage of the sun bear, the world's smallest, making a nest in the canopy
(12/06/2009) Sun bear expert, Siew Te Wong, has captured rare footage of the world's smallest bear making a nest high in the canopy. The sun bear in the video is a radio-collared individual that Wong is keeping tabs on in Borneo.
Hyenas cooperate more easily than chimpanzees
(12/06/2009) Spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) could show chimpanzees a thing or two about working together, according to a new study. Hyenas, prodigious hunters, pull down prey together. Christine M. Drea, an associate professor in the department of Evolutionary Biology at Duke University, started to ask questions about the cooperative hunting habits of hyenas while she was reading The Spotted Hyena: A Study of Predation and Social Behavior by Hanz Kruuk.
Eco-label for rainforest products could boost sustainability
(12/06/2009) Tropical forests around the world continue to fall, largely the result of logging and conversion to agriculture. But new hope for forests has emerged under a scheme that would reward countries for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation. Some variations of the concept, which is known as REDD, would allow for "sustainable forest management" (SFM), that is, reduced impact logging of forests, as well as harvesting of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) like seeds, fruit, and game. But the extent to which this harvesting affects forest ecology, and therefore carbon sequestration, is still poorly understood.
How tree communities respond to distance to edges and canopy openness
(12/06/2009) Tropical forests frequently experience the opening and closing of canopy gaps as part of their natural dynamics. When an edge is created, and the area outside the boundary is a disturbed or unnatural system, forests can be seriously affected even at some distance from the fragmented edge, since sunlight and wind penetrate to a much greater extent. This increases tree mortality and, consequently, canopy openness close to the edge. Thus, canopy openness can be both part of a natural gap-dynamics cycle and the direct manifestation of human edge effects.
Forests recover faster from slash-and-burn when near intact forest reserves
(12/06/2009) Areas cleared for slash-and-burn agriculture recover faster when adjacent to a large block of untouched forest, but may take decades to regain a majority of their biodiversity after tree-felling, according to a new review of ecological studies, published in the December issue of Tropical Conservation Science, an open access journal.
What types of primates are most prone to extinction in small forest fragments?
(12/06/2009) According to the most recent IUCN assessment, 48 percent of primates are threatened with extinction. Major threats to primates include habitat loss and fragmentation, hunting, and the wildlife trade. A new paper published in Tropical Conservation Science looked at ones of these threats — fragmentation — in an effort to determine what traits put primates at highest risk of extinction in forest fragments. Traits investigated all related to various aspects of primate biology, including: the amount of habitat needed, reproductive rate, and types of specialization. Surprisingly the authors, Matthew A. Gibbons and Alexander H. Harcourt of the University of California at Davis, found no significant relationship between extinction risk and any of the biological parameters.
Commercial fish smoking is the "most pervasive" threat to mangrove forests in West Africa
(12/06/2009) An improved system for commercial fish smoking could reduce destruction of mangrove forests and generate human health benefits, report researchers writing in Tropical Conservation Science, an open-access journal published by mongabay.com.
Highest rate of CO2 emissions growth since 1990
(12/04/2009) Between 1990 and 2005 Vietnam had the highest rate of emissions growth among countries that emitted more than 1 million tons of CO2 in any year during the past three decades, according to mongabay.com's analysis of emissions data from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC).
Indonesia: Kalimantan's Lowland Peat Forests Explained
(12/04/2009) Earth's tropical rainforests are a critical component of the world's carbon cycle yet cover only about 12% of its terrestrial land. Accounting for 40% of the world's terrestrial carbon and 50% of the world's gross primary productivity,. the production of organic compounds primarily through photosynthesis, tropical rainforests also are one of the engines driving Earth's atmospheric circulation patterns.
Extinctions on the rise in the Galapagos: fishing and global warming devastating islands' species
(12/03/2009) We may never see again the Galapagos black-spotted damselfish, the beautiful 24-rayed sunstar, or the Galapagos stringweed. These species from Galapagos waters may all very well be extinct. Other species are on the brink, such as the Galapagos penguin and the Floreana cup coral. A new report in Global Change Biology reveals that in just a matter of decades, overfishing and climate change has devastated the Galapagos' unique and famous ecosystems.
U.S. cap-and-trade payments could help end Amazon deforestation, reduce CO2 emissions 2-5%
(12/03/2009) Funds generated under a U.S. cap-and-trade or a broader U.N.-supported scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation ("REDD") could play a critical role in bringing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon to a halt, reports a team writing in the journal Science. But the window of opportunity is short — Brazil has a two to three year window to take actions that would end Amazon deforestation within a decade.
James Hansen says Copenhagen approach "fundamentally wrong" would be better to "reassess"
(12/03/2009) James Hansen, one of the world's foremost climatologists, told the Guardian today that he believes the Copenhagen talks are flawed to the point where failure of the talks may be the best way forward. "The approach that is being talked about is so fundamentally wrong that it would be better to reassess," Hansen said.
Cheap REDD isn't the best conservation strategy for biodiversity
(12/03/2009) The lowest-cost approach to compensating reductions in emissions from deforestation and degradation under a proposed UN program (REDD) isn't necessarily the best approach for biodiversity conservation, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Forgotten Species: the haunting whistle of the Anjouan scops-owl
(12/03/2009) I know a two-year-old who is already an owl expert. My friends' daughter, Harper, can identify all of North America's owls by photos or drawings; even more impressive she can identify them by call. There is one owl call, however, that she may never hear. The Anjouan-scops owl, native to Anjouan island apart of the Comoros island chain, is on the verge of extinction. It is so rare that for over a century it was believed to have already vanished.
Deforestation data updated
(12/03/2009) Quick summaries of deforestation data (including emissions from deforestation when available) have been added.
Paper provider for fashion gurus drops APP due to deforestation across Indonesia
(12/02/2009) One by one, the fashion industry's biggest companies are leaving Asian Pulp and Paper (APP)—and deforestation in Indonesia—behind. The newest defector is PAK 2000, a packaging company for fashion products. After a sustained campaign by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and fashion companies buying from PAK 2000, the New Hampshire-based company, has announced that it is severing all ties with APP by the end of the year. The announcement means that big famous companies—from Versace to J. Crew—will have an easier time avoiding paper products that cause rainforest destruction.
Has Canada become the new climate villain (yes, that's right, Canada)?
(12/02/2009) In 2007 American delegates to a climate summit in Bali were booed outright for obstructing a global agreement on climate change. Then in a David versus Goliath moment they were famously scolded by a negotiator from Papua New Guinea, Kevin Conrad. "If for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way," Conrad told the American delegates. However, much has changed in two years: the United States, under a new administration, is no longer the climate change pariah. The US has recently announced emissions cuts, negotiated successfully with China on the issue, and will be attending—Obama included—the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen next week. Obama and his team probably don't need to worry about being booed or remonstrated this time around, but that role may instead go to Canada.
WildlifeDirect thanks mongabay for the "Innovation in Conservation Award"
(12/02/2009) WildlifeDirect, a group that promotes conservation through blogging by wildlife rangers, has posted a very generous response to its winning of mongabay.com's "Innovation in Conservation Award" for 2009. You can help support WildlifeDirect via their web site.
Indonesia could double oil palm plantation area
(12/02/2009) Indonesia has 18 million hectares of land suitable for oil palm cultivation, nearly twice the 9.7 million hectares that have already been allocated for plantations, said Agriculture Minister Suswono said at the opening of the 5th Indonesian Palm Oil Conference in Bali.
Brazil to push for 10% limit on REDD carbon offsets
(12/02/2009) Brazil will propose limiting the amount of carbon an industrialized country can offset via a proposed forest conservation initiative to ten percent of their emissions, reports Bloomberg.
Not just the polar bear: ten American species that are feeling the heat from global warming
(12/01/2009) A new report, America’s Hottest Species, highlights a variety of American wildlife that is currently threatened by climate change from a small bird to a coral reef to the world’s largest marine turtle.
World leaders falling over themselves to show up at Copenhagen
(12/01/2009) If you're a world leader and you won't be in Copenhagen next week you might feel out of the loop. Currently 98 heads of state have agreed to attend the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen—nearly half of the 192 member nations of the UN.
Most popular mongabay.com news articles - November 2009
(12/01/2009) Most popular mongabay.com news articles for November 2009.
Blogging wildlife rangers drive microconservation
(12/01/2009) Wildlife Direct, a group that promotes conservation through blogging by rangers and scientists, has won mongabay.com's "Innovation in Conservation Award" for 2009. The prize, which includes a cash donation and and prominent placement on the mongabay.com web site and newsletter for the month of December, is granted each year to an organization using an unconventional and highly effective approach to conserving forests and biodiversity.
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