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    Forests, not technology, are the best carbon absorbers

    Climate change must begin in the forests rather than from investing billions in storing CO2 in the underground, says several scientists attending the Beyond Kyoto climate conference

    While many scientists focus on radical technological solutions to climate change, such as storing CO2 in the ocean floor, one expert wants attention put back on a natural alternative that is familiar to everyone.

    “The Amazon is the solution, it is there, and it is free. Instead we focus on little machines to take out CO2 – nobody is talking about the elephant in the living room,” Andrew Mitchell, director of the Global Canopy Programme, an NGO focused on forest preservaton,  said.

    The massive trees in tropical rainforests fight global warming. (Photo: World Heritage Photos)

    The massive trees in tropical rain forests fight global warming. (Photo: World Heritage Photos)

    According to him we must think outside the box of high-tech innovation to solve the global warming quandary and look to the trees for answers.

    “We have a problem here and business as usual is not going to change anything,” he said during his presentation at the conference. “The biggest carbon capturing organ is the Amazon. And we are tearing it to pieces.”

    Economic realities

    For Mitchell, the main reason rainforests are disappearing is simple: money. “Forests are worth more dead than alive,” he says.

    He says that for the people living in and near the rain forests, a major source of income is through the cutting or burning of the rainforest. As he sees it, it will take money to convince them to change their ways.

    Dr. Valeri Kapos, a senior adviser in Forestry, Ecology and Conservation at the United Nations Environment Programme – World Conservation Monitoring Centre also thinks that part of the solution will be money.

    Poor countries must be rewarded for conserving their forests.

    “If countries have more earnings than losses economically they are more likely to stop deforestation. The more money they earn by protecting their forests, the more CO2 will be stored there”, she said during her presentation at the conference.

    But according to her, legislation can also have a large impact on the deforestation rate across the world.

    Trees are the answer

    According to research trees in tropical rainforests absorb a fifth of the yearly global CO2 emissions, the majority which comes from the burning of fossil fuels.

    A study at the University of Leeds shows that approximately five billion tonnes of CO2 emissions are absorbed each year by trees in tropical areas.

    “This knowledge can be used in the fight against global warming” said Gert-Jan Nabuurs, the team leader at the Centre for Ecosystem Studies at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, during his presentation at the conference.

    “We can use forestry to ease this problem,” says Nabuurs. “There are three ways of doing this. We can increase forest areas, increase the density of forests and more efficiently use the forest products.”

    By Hakan Jakob Kosar

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