RECOFTC (A Grassroots Capacity Building document for REDD+ in the Asia-Pacific Region): This publication serves as a resource for community level facilitators to provide explanations about the basics of climate change and the role of forests. It aims to raise the awareness of grassroots stakeholders for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) through answering nine frequently asked questions. The questions because they are frequently asked by grassroots communities, and local level facilitators should be able to answer them in the simplest way in order to deliver a consistent message throughout the project areas and countries.
1. What is climate change?
To understand climate change, we must first understand what ‘climate’ is and how it is different from ‘weather’. On the other hand it is important to know that the gaseous layers surrounding the earth are all together called atmosphere. The difference between weather and climate is time. Weather is a condition of the atmosphere on a day-to-day basis, and climate is the atmosphere’s characteristics over relatively long periods of time, such as several decades or centuries. When we talk about climate change, we talk about changes in long-term averages of daily weather. You might have heard your parents or elders say that summer is a lot hotter or rainier these days. The change in recent summer temperatures could indicate that climate has changed since your parents and elders were young. So we can simply define climate change as a change in long term weather patterns.
2. What causes climate change?
Our atmosphere is composed of several layers and many gases. One important gas is carbon dioxide, generally known as CO2. Human activities like manufacturing, driving and cutting down forests cause carbon dioxide to be released into our atmosphere. The increased concentration of carbon dioxide and other gases, collectively known as greenhouse gases, makes our atmosphere store more heat from the sun, thereby increasing the temperature on earth resulting in global warming. This is also known as the greenhouse gas effect. Carbon dioxide has a bigger impact on global warming than other gases, because of its higher proportion, as compared to other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Also the physical structure of gases has an impact on how strongly they contribute to the greenhouse gas effect. Atmospheric temperature largely determines weather and climate patterns. So a change in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere can trigger unexpected changes in our weather systems and ultimately, earth’s climatic patterns. The higher the temperature, the more severe the weather conditions become.
3. What is the role of forests in climate change?
The world’s forests and the soil underneath currently store more than one trillion tons of carbon, twice the amount found floating free in the atmosphere. This is roughly equivalent to about 2000 times the total weight of all 7 billion people in the world, when taking an average weight of 70kg per person! When forests are increasing in density and/or area, they act as ‘carbon sinks’, as they take up carbon and store it. On the contrary, you can imagine that if all the forests are gone, tons of carbon dioxide will be released back into the atmosphere. In such a scenario the forests would become a source of carbon dioxide emissions, and thus contribute to an overall warming effect. This in turn leads to severe fluctuations in weather and climatic systems. Keeping the forests intact therefore helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere and slows down the effects of climate change.
Deforestation in different parts of the world contributes to 12-17% of global carbon dioxide emissions each year. Therefore, if we lose our forests, we not only lose that absorption function of the forests but also carbon which has been stored in soil and plant material is released into the atmosphere again, further adding to climate change.
Forests do much more for tackling climate change than just absorbing greenhouse gases. They maintain cloud cover, reflect sunlight back out of the atmosphere, encourage the transformation from water to vapor and increase the level of vapor in the atmosphere, which cools the air. Additionally, by providing different environmental functions and fulfilling livelihood needs, forests help people to adjust their livelihood strategy to climate change. More than 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forest resources for their livelihoods, which become particularly important as a source of nutrition and income in times of climate stress and crop failure.
4. What is the impact of climate change on local communities and vice versa?
5. What is REDD+?
6. What is forest carbon trading?
7. What are the issues in REDD+?
8. What could REDD+ mean for local communities?
9. What is the role of RECOFTC in REDD+?
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on the mountain and climate related issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last two years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>