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Forests Could Be Key To Curbing Global Warming

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  • mtneuman@juno.com
    Forests Could Be Key To Curbing Global Warming ... NORWAY: March 4, 2005 OSLO - Effective control of forest fires may prove crucial in the fight against global
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 4, 2005
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      Forests Could Be Key To Curbing Global Warming
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      NORWAY: March 4, 2005


      OSLO - Effective control of forest fires may prove crucial in the fight
      against global warming since blazes from Alaska to Indonesia spew out
      vast amounts of heat-trapping gases, Canadian foresters said on Thursday.



      "Forests are a wild card in the debate" about rising world temperatures,
      said Brian Stocks, a forest fire expert with the government-run Canadian
      Forest Service.
      Annual fire damage in countries from Russia to Canada varies hugely, and
      many of the most destructive blazes are lit by lightning in remote
      regions. But campers tipping over stoves or arsonists cause a rising
      number of preventable fires.

      Stocks told Reuters that more careful forest plantings, better
      surveillance to spot outbreaks of fires, quicker response by
      fire-fighters and education of the public could limit damage.

      Fires in Indonesia which raged for months in the late 1990s, creating
      clouds that dimmed the sun, released up to an estimated 2.6 billion
      tonnes of greenhouse gases or the equivalent of about 40 percent of world
      industrial emissions in a year.

      Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow and release it when they burn or
      rot. Carbon dioxide is also emitted by burning fossil fuels in cars,
      power plants and factories, and is widely blamed for blanketing the
      planet and nudging up temperatures.

      "Individuals should do everything possible to reduce energy use," Barry
      Waito, president of the Canadian Forestry Association, said in a
      statement.

      But he also urged greater responsibility for managing forests. "Forests
      will play a central role in the extent of (climate) change future
      generations face," he said.

      Many scientists say the buildup of carbon dioxide may spur less
      predictable weather, ranging from typhoons to heat waves, drive thousands
      of species of animals and plants to extinction by 2100 and drown
      low-lying coastal areas by raising sea levels.


      BLAZES DOUBLE

      In Canada, with about 10 percent of world forests, the area burned in the
      1980s-90s roughly doubled from the 1970s, according to the National
      Forest Strategy Coalition which unites 67 groups from conservationists to
      government agencies.

      And 60 percent of Canada's 8,500 annual forest fires are caused by
      humans, according to the coalition which meets in Toronto on Thursday and
      Friday. Rain forests, like in the Amazon, are wetter and so less
      vulnerable to fire.

      Forest fires now release about 150 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a
      year in Canada, compared with a 2002 total of 730 million tonnes from
      industrial sources.

      Under the UN's Kyoto protocol, which entered into force last month
      despite a US pullout, developed countries are meant to cut their
      industrial emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels
      by 2008-12.

      They are allowed to plant trees to help meet the goals, in addition to
      curbing use of fossil fuels and shifting to clean energy like wind or
      solar power.



      Story by Alister Doyle


      REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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