Forests Could Be Key To Curbing Global Warming
- 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 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Story by Alister Doyle
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE