Leaves 19(8) - August 2017

 

LEAVES

 

Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 19, Number 8  -  15 August 2017


                                       

 

Website: iefworld.org
Article submission: newsletter@iefworld.org Deadline next issue 13 September 2017
Secretariat Email: ief@iefworld.org General Secretary: Emily Firth
Postal address: 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland

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From the Editor, Request for information for upcoming newsletters

This newsletter is an opportunity for IEF members to share their experiences, activities, and initiatives that are taking place at the community level on environment, climate change and sustainability. All members are welcome to contribute information about related activities, upcoming conferences, news from like-minded organizations, recommended websites, book reviews, etc. Please send information to newsletter@iefworld.org.

Please share the Leaves newsletter and IEF membership information with family, friends and associates, and encourage interested persons to consider becoming a member of the IEF.

 

Recent news from the IEF Governing Board

At its first meeting since the IEF General Assembly in April, the IEF Governing Board re-elected Arthur Dahl as President and Emily Firth as General Secretary for the coming year. The board is also exploring possible locations and partnerships for future annual conferences. Any suggestions from the members would be welcomed.

The IEF is also looking for members who would be willing to help IEF with specific tasks. One would be to help in following and contributing to the Action for Sustainable Development Platform. Another would be to prepare materials on the Sustainable Development Goals and public discourse that could be useful to Baha'i communities among others. If you have thought pieces, notes on work in progress, or new publications that would be of interest to the IEF membership, these could be published in the newsletter. Members interested in preparing materials specifically targeted at youth are also needed. Since the circular economy is becoming an important international topic, if there are IEF members interested in pursuing this further, please let us know; it may become a topic for a future IEF conference.

 

IEF members publish paper on accountability

IEF board member Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen led a group of IEF members and other friends in preparing a paper on the needs and ways to hold governments accountable for the agreements they sign up to, particularly in the context of the Paris Agreement on climate change. It was published on line in the journal Climate Policy at the end of July, and is available in open access. The reference is: Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Sylvia I, Maja Groff, Peter A. Tamás, Arthur L. Dahl, Marie Harder & Graham Hassall. 2017. "Entry into force and then? The Paris agreement and state accountability." Climate Policy http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2017.1331904. View online or download the PDF.

 

UN High Level Political Forum

The High-level Political Forum (HLPF), the United Nations' central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), met in New York on 10-18 July 2017. It provides for the full and effective participation of all States Members of the United Nations and States members of specialized agencies, and was attended by 77 Ministers, Cabinet Secretaries and Deputy Ministers, along with 2,458 registered stakeholder representatives.

The theme for 2017 was "Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world". The set of goals reviewed in depth was the following:

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, is considered each year.

The theme in 2018 will be "Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies", covering SDGs 6, 7, 11, 12 and 15.

In accordance with the 2030 Agenda, Member States decided that the HLPF should carry out regular voluntary reviews of the 2030 Agenda including developed and developing countries as well as relevant UN entities and other stakeholders. The reviews should be state-led, involving ministerial and other relevant high-level participants, and provide a platform for partnerships, including through the participation of major groups and other relevant stakeholders. In 2017, 43 countries presented their national voluntary reviews to the HLPF.

The outcome document of the HLPF is available at http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=E/2017/L.29&Lang=E.

The President's summary of the HLPF provides a good review of where the world stands after two years of implementation:

“The 2030 Agenda was adopted at a time when the world had experienced positive effects of globalization, technological progress, increased global trade and wealth, and reduction in numbers of the absolute poor, with improved living conditions in many parts of the world. At the same time, it was evident that many people were being left behind; the challenges of youth unemployment and societal fragility were becoming more and more serious; transition to low‐carbon economy was meeting with resistance; forced displacement, migration, and risk of famine had increased in a number of fragile regions; and that inequality was becoming a global obstacle to achieving prosperity for all peoples.

“Today, global wealth is unprecedentedly high, with the world economy now at USD 127 trillion. This is enough to end poverty, invest in low‐carbon energy, combat diseases and build infrastructure for the 21st century. However, it is concentrated within a limited number of people and inequalities have widened within and among countries.

“The challenges before the world community are of a global nature, requiring reinforced international collaboration, solidarity and solutions; yet ultimately the responsibility for ensuring implementation of the 2030 Agenda is a national responsibility.

“In this regard, some progress is evident at the two‐year mark of implementation of the 2030 Agenda. National governments are strongly committed to the transformative nature of the 2030 Agenda and leaving no one behind. They have begun internalizing SDGs into their strategies and planning processes, coordinating internally and among ministries. Policy‐making is increasingly becoming science‐ and evidence‐based and aligned with national budgets. Decentralization is occurring as local governments and communities adapt the SDGs to their particular circumstances. Meanwhile multi‐stakeholder engagement is increasing and changing as actors engage in structured implementation processes. Partnerships are gaining momentum, with financial and business sectors leading the way. The unequivocal understanding of the need for addressing interlinkages among the SDGs in line with the integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda, in particular through the means of implementation, was noteworthy throughout the HLPF session, as was awareness of the importance of ensuring coherence between the 2030 Agenda and other internationally agreed instruments, such as those related to climate change, disaster risk reduction, trade and human rights.

“At the same time, there was broad recognition that challenges and risks ahead are daunting, giving added weight to the need for strengthened solidarity, collaboration and coordinated action to ensure that no one is left behind. While progress was noted in addressing poverty, hunger and malnutrition, they remain the overarching challenges of the 2030 Agenda, with trends in some regions moving in the wrong direction. More than 767 million people continue living on less than $1.90 a day, with many of the extreme poor concentrated in fragile settings, where conflict and other systemic issues hamper effective interventions. In this context, the need to transcend income per capita assessment through indicators that would include access to education and health services, life expectancy, etc. was also discussed.

“Environmental stressors were seen as impacting health in myriad ways, with impacts expected to grow in strength and severity unless action is taken. Climate change exacerbates natural disasters and intensifies vector‐borne disease prevalence, while steps to mitigate climate change effects can have collateral benefits for health. Many highlighted the strong links between ocean health and human wellbeing, in particular in the context of SIDS.

“Lack of social inclusion and widening inequality remains a significant challenge, both within and among countries. In particular, the young, indigenous people, older people, rural workers, people with disabilities and people affected by conflict are seen as vulnerable. The perils of people on the move, including migrants, are increasing. Women and girls remain deprived of basic rights and opportunities in many parts of the world. They are disproportionally impacted by climate change, disasters and conflict, especially when living in poverty and are often being forced into child marriages and suffering from genital mutilation and violence without access to health and reproductive services and rights. At the same time, they must be recognized as significant agents of change able to drive development and prosperity, when empowered.

“The resources needed to implement the 2030 Agenda are significant but obtainable. Many countries remain short of their ODA commitments, and new resources must be generated domestically as well as through addressing illicit financial flows and loopholes. The financial and private sectors must be engaged and investments directed in service of the SDGs. Access to universal health coverage, free primary and secondary education, enhanced water supply systems, stable and reliable energy, and resilient and safe infrastructure that supports national development were noted as key enablers for poverty eradication, entailing significant investment demands.

“Lack of official statistics, data and effective monitoring systems remain a significant challenge to measuring progress, in particular at the SDG target level in relation to new elements of the SDGs that measure the transformative propositions of the 2030 Agenda. Lastly, science and technology must be brought to bear on the SDGs, with knowledge and know‐how made accessible to all.”

Source: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/16673HLPF_2017_…

 

Wilmette Institute course on Sustainable Development

The Wilmette Institute, the on-line learning centre of the American Bahá’í community, will be again offering its course on Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind starting on 10 September. The course was originally designed by IEF and all the faculty are IEF members.

FACULTY: Arthur Lyon Dahl, Christine Muller, Peter Adriance

Watch Video

In Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind we will address the urgent need to make a fundamental transition away from a consumer society and materialist economy that threaten our planetary security. We will start with a general introduction to sustainability from a Baha’i perspective and its profound implications in achieving the prosperity of humankind. Our objectives include learning to explain the basic issues of sustainable development, why it is important, and how it affects people today and in the future; relating sustainability to the issues of economic development, wealth and poverty, social development, and the environment in an integrated systems perspective; helping ourselves to make enlightened decisions about ways we can live more sustainably that are consistent with our own spiritual and ethical values and to explain our choices to others; and learning ways to educate others about the material and spiritual dimensions of sustainable development and developing plans to do so. After studying the origins and definition of sustainable development endorsed by world leaders, we will review the economic, social, and environmental issues that humanity faces in achieving sustainability and discuss the spiritual principles that can help us find solutions. We will then examine perspectives for the future, both those that show the unsustainability of the present system and the need for fundamental change—as contrasted with the Bahá’í vision of a new world order leading to the prosperity of humankind. We will explore the implications of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for our community action, reflection, and consultation. Finally, we will look at the importance of education for sustainable development, reinforced with spiritual values, as the basis for helping each of us detach ourselves from Western materialistic civilization, reexamine our present lifestyles, and begin to live more sustainably in accordance with the Bahá’í teachings.

Register by August 27 for a 10% early bird discount. Register here: www.cvent.com/d/bfqtyk. Course starts 10 September.

 

How Should Bahá’ís Talk about Climate Change? Applying Recent Institutional Guidance

http://wilmetteinstitute.org/how-should-bahais-talk-about-climate-chang…

by Christine Muller

The Universal House of Justice and the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States have provided Bahá’ís with clear guidelines about engaging in public discourse and social action and avoiding partisan politics. In practice, how can we apply that guidance? Specifically, how can we apply the guidance to the issue of climate change, which has been in the news a great deal lately because of the United States’ withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement?

Background on the Politicizing of Climate Change. Let’s be frank—in the United States, climate change has become a partisan political issue. You can inform yourself about how this happened with Merchants of Doubt, the 2010 book and 2015 documentary film by Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University (she coauthored the book with Eric M. Conway, another historian of science). The book and the documentary cover the origins of why people have shed doubt on the science of climate change. A detailed article in the New York Times reports about more recent development in the United States where climate change has gone from an issue supported by both parties to a partisan political issue.

How Should Bahá’ís Respond? What can we do as Bahá’ís in this highly charged political situation? Should we just ignore climate change and turn our vision inward? The clear answer is no. The April 27, 2017, letter from the Universal House of Justice’s Department of the Secretariat states that “There can be no question . . . that Bahá’ís are committed to efforts toward social transformation” and calls on them to avoid the false dichotomy “that one must choose either non-involvement or social action” (par. 6, 12). The Universal House of Justice, in the same letter, also makes it quite clear that climate change belongs to the category of issues in which Bahá’ís should be engaged:

Individual Bahá’ís are free to participate in those efforts and activities, such as peaceful rallies, that uphold constructive aims in consonance with the Bahá’í teachings, for example, the advancement of women, the promotion of social justice, the protection of the environment, the elimination of all forms of discrimination, and the safeguarding of human rights. (par. 6, emphasis added)

While it is obvious to most people that climate change is the environmental problem with the most severe and long-lasting consequences, not everyone would make the connection that climate change is a human-rights issue.

Why Is Climate Change an Issue of Human Rights? The right to life is a fundamental human right, but climate change is already a contributing factor in causing many people to lose their lives—for example, in more severe storms. Climate change also seriously threatens the right to life of future generations because it destroys the natural systems that support human life. In addition, climate change threatens the right to an adequate standard of living, another fundamental human right, by limiting access to food, housing, and sufficient clean water and by exacerbating water scarcity.

In most places, climate change impacts are harmful to agriculture, and they displace people from their homes because of storms, floods, and sea level rise. Many refugees have already had to abandon their countries at least partly because of climate change. In the not very distant future, climate change will likely displace hundreds of millions of people.

In addition to more recent guidance, the Universal House of Justice, already in its Ridván 2010 message, pointed to climate change as a topic of public discourse:

At the level of the cluster, involvement in public discourse can range from an act as simple as introducing Bahá’í ideas into everyday conversation to more formal activities such as the preparation of articles and attendance at gatherings, dedicated to themes of social concern — climate change and the environment, governance and human rights, to mention a few. (par. 30, emphasis added)

Avoiding Partisan Politics While Discussing Climate Change. How can we avoid being drawn into partisan politics while discussing climate change with family and friends? The Universal House of Justice, through its Department of the Secretariat, provides practical guidelines in its April 27, 2017, letter (par. 3–4): Bahá’ís should never use partisan language, should avoid referring “to political figures in their public remarks, whether in criticism or support,” should “be obedient to the government of their land,” and should never engage in civil disobedience. Adhering to these rules will set a Bahá’í on a path of constructive involvement in all civil discourse and social action, including climate change.

Participating in Constructive Discussions. There are many ways in which Bahá’ís can raise public discourse above divisive and futile debates to a level of constructive discussion. One principle that Bahá’ís can use in such discussions is the importance of justice. While poor and indigenous people are suffering first and the most from the impacts of climate change, they are the least responsible for the increase in carbon concentrations in the atmosphere that cause global warming. Rich people are most responsible for enormous carbon emissions and are, at least for the time being, less affected by the impacts of climate change or have the means to, for example, move to another place if their houses are flooded or destroyed by a storm.

Another principle Bahá’ís can bring to constructive conversations is the oneness of humankind and the importance of a just world order in tackling global problems, including climate change. Some with whom Bahá’ís talk may raise the issue of the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. While only future historians will be able to determine the significance of the Paris Agreement, it may likely go down in history as a milestone in humanity’s movement toward a peaceful global order, because it was the first time ever that 195 countries agreed on an issue. But the Paris Climate Agreement is not perfect. It does not even come close to the strong reductions of greenhouse gas emissions that are needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. Of course, Bahá’ís and Bahá’í institutions do not endorse any specific actions governments are taking, but they could see the spirit moving toward global unification at the Paris Climate Change Conference (COP 21). In conversations, Bahá’ís can point out that Bahá’u’lláh said “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established” (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh 181: 286). Peace and global collaboration are vital to address climate change and all other global issues.

Bahá’ís can also tell their friends that the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) has sent delegates to all international climate change conferences with the goal of presenting the Bahá’í perspectives on the topics being discussed and infusing the discourse with spiritual and ethical principles. For the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, BIC wrote Shared Vision, Shared Volition: Choosing Our Global Future Together, a statement elaborating on the oneness of humankind and explaining that our relationship with the Earth and its natural systems correlate with our relationship with each other.

In addition, Bahá’ís can find positive sides in every situation. After the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, several states in the United States proclaimed their adherence to it, and now many cities and towns are following suit. Even many businesses have spoken out in favor of the Agreement. The reality is that everyone must become involved in reducing carbon emissions, whether there is a Paris Agreement or not.

Bahá’ís can applaud the raising awareness and the actions taken by governments, the private sector, and individuals. Bahá’ís can also support reasonable climate actions “with all lawful means” as the Universal House of Justice, through its Department of the Secretariat, explains in its April 27, 2017, letter (par. 5):

The principles of non-involvement in politics and obedience to government, far from being obstacles to social change, are aspects of an approach set forth in the Bahá’í writings to implement effective remedies for and address the root causes of the ills afflicting society. This approach includes active involvement in the life of society as well as the possibility of influencing and contributing to the social policies of government by all lawful means.

Therefore, Bahá’ís may contact local, state, and national representatives, write letters, sign petitions, and participate in peaceful, nonpolitical demonstrations.

Bahá’ís can especially become more involved in interfaith efforts to mitigate climate change. People of all faiths realize that climate change is a threat to human civilization, which is unprecedented in its scope and a deeply moral issue. The representative of the Office of Sustainability at the U.S. Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs has collaborated on the national level with GreenFaith (an interfaith coalition for the environment), Interfaith Power & Light (a religious response to global warming), and the Parliament of the World’s Religion (one of the purposes of which is cherishing, protecting, healing, and restoring the Earth and all life). A number of Bahá’ís have also collaborated with such organizations on the national, state, and local levels. Bahá’í participation in the annual Faith Climate Action Week held by Interfaith Power & Light has been very high, especially considering the small size of the Bahá’í community.

Bahá’ís can also choose from many other areas in which to serve. The Universal House of Justice, through its Department of the Secretariat, writes in its April 27, 2017, letter, par. 13, that “The friends are called to three simultaneous, overlapping, and coherent areas of action: community-building efforts in clusters; projects and activities for social action; and involvement in the discourses of society. . . .”

For Bahá’ís who do not believe in climate science, there are other services one can render, as the Universal House of Justice advised an individual in this situation:

If you feel your personal views on environmental issues do not accord with the plans and activities being pursued by Bahá’í institutions related to these matters, it would be entirely acceptable for you not to participate in those activities and to, instead, turn your attention to the many other avenues of service open for promoting the interests of the Faith and the well-being of society. (The Universal House of Justice, Department of the Secretariat, letter to individual, December 25, 2014, par. 3)

Being Supportive and Unified. Whatever area of service a Bahá’í chooses, it is important that they support each other’s efforts and to strive for unity. Bahá’ís are all working to build strong and vibrant communities and to fulfill the goals of the current Five Year Plan. As individuals, each Bahá’í will have to decide how best to serve the Cause, considering his or her special circumstances and capacities, the needs of the local Bahá’í community and circle of interest, the opportunities for public discourse, and the needs in the area for social action. The level of engagement in public discourse and social action may vary for each Bahá’í. Of course, Bahá’ís should distinguish themselves with environmentally responsible everyday actions and by expressing Bahá’í values both in their relationships with other people as well as in how they treat the Earth. Their public discourse as well as their teaching efforts will stand and fall by the way they apply the spiritual teachings of our Faith in their lives and in the activities in their communities.

Bahá’ís’ commitments to reducing climate change ties in perfectly with the admonishment of the Universal House of Justice in its March 1, 2017, letter (par. 7–8) that they turn away from materialism and consumerism:

At all times, contentment and moderation, benevolence and fellow feeling, sacrifice and reliance on the Almighty are qualities that befit the God-fearing soul.

The forces of materialism promote a quite contrary line of thinking: that happiness comes from constant acquisition, that the more one has the better, that worry for the environment is for another day.

Leading a simpler and more environmentally responsible life is good for everyone’s soul as well as for the planet. Bahá’ís have the great challenge and blessing to be a testimony to this truth in word and deed.

 

Indigenous People: Protecting our Planet

http://www.unep.org/stories/story/indigenous-people-protecting-our-plan…

8 August 2017. For Maori people of New Zealand, like many of the world’s indigenous communities, their relationship with the natural world is earning them recognition as vital stewards of the environment and its fast-depleting resources.

In a world first this year, one of the local Maori tribes in the country’s North Island won a 140-year-old battle for recognition of their river as an ancestor. The new status for the Whanganui River - the country’s third-largest - now means if it is harmed in any way, for example, degradation of its waters, the new law will consider the harm inflicted on the river the same as it would a real person.

“We can trace our genealogy to the origins of the universe,” said Gerrard Albert, a Whanganui tribal leader. “And therefore rather than us being masters of the natural world, we are part of it. We want to live like that as our starting point. “And that is not an anti-development, or anti-economic use of the river, but to begin with the view that it is a living being, and then consider its future from that central belief.”

In Maoridom, the set of beliefs that guide Maori culture, humans are considered equal to and at one with the land, sea and rivers. The idea is reflected in the Maori word ‘kaitiakitanga’, which means guarding and protecting the environment in order to respect ancestors and ensure its protection for future generations.

The intimate relationship Maori have with their natural world is shared by many other indigenous peoples around the world. And the role indigenous peoples play as custodians of the land and the traditional knowledge that underpins it, is gaining recognition along with their rights to ancestral lands and the resources they contain.

“Indigenous peoples' knowledge of how to protect the delicate balance of natural resources for generations to come is finally being recognized,” said head of UN Environment Erik Solheim. “This vital knowledge stands equal to science in the role it must play if we are to take meaningful action world-wide towards the essential protection of our environment.”

The world’s 370 million indigenous people are only 5 per cent of the total population but they officially hold 18 per cent of the land and lay claim to far more. Their home areas across 70 countries from the Arctic to the South Pacific include many of the planet’s biodiversity hotspots.

A report by the World Resources Institute last year identified securing the land rights of indigenous people and other local communities in the Amazon region as a low-cost way to counter global deforestation and climate change.

For example, deforestation rates inside tenured indigenous forests were 2-3 times lower than outside in Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia from 2000-2012. Yet indigenous peoples and communities globally have secured tenure for only a fraction of their lands, the report said.

The rights of indigenous people are now enshrined in documents such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, approaching its 10th anniversary on 13 September this year, and reflected in the policies of governments and the strategies of conservation organizations.

The Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It embodies global consensus on their rights and establishes universal minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being. It elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms, as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.

Over the last decade, the implementation of the Declaration has achieved some major successes at the national, regional and international levels. But despite the achievements, there continues to be a gap between the formal recognition of indigenous peoples and the implementation of policies on the ground.

“We have been here forever and we know the natural cycle of things,” said Maori leader Catherine Davis. “We know when there is a blip, we know when there is a glitch. We know when something is going down in terms of sustainability. So we need to be heard more clearly.”

For more information on the International Day of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples, August 9, 2017.

 

Energy Sprawl Solutions

Predictions show a 65 percent increase in energy demand by 2050. To ensure a path to a stable climate, the world must increase its renewable energy development dramatically. With smart large-scale planning along the way, we can ensure this development solves for the challenge of “energy sprawl”—the land and water area required for energy production. In doing so, we can reduce the land-use footprint of needed energy sources, safeguard ecosystem-services and biodiversity, and even potentially accelerate the transition to renewables. Explore our interactive tool to visualize trade-offs between CO2 emissions and land use based on the world’s projected energy demand. And take a look at a series of short case studies spotlighting actions countries are already taking to repower the planet in a sustainable way.

https://global.nature.org/initiatives/energy-sprawl?src=r.v_energyspraw…

 

Study Finds Drought Recoveries Taking Longer

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/study-finds-drought-recoveries-taking-…

14 August 2017. As global temperatures continue to rise, droughts are expected to become more frequent and severe in many regions during this century. A new study with NASA participation finds that land ecosystems took progressively longer to recover from droughts in the 20th century, and incomplete drought recovery may become the new normal in some areas, possibly leading to tree death and increased emissions of greenhouse gases.

In results published Aug. 10 in the journal Nature, a research team led by Christopher Schwalm of Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, Massachusetts, and including a scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, measured recovery time following droughts in various regions of the world. They used projections from climate models verified by observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite and ground measurements. The researchers found that drought recovery was taking longer in all land areas. In two particularly vulnerable regions -- the tropics and northern high latitudes -- recovery took ever longer than in other regions.

Schwalm noted that in model projections that assumed no new restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions (the so-called business-as-usual scenario), "Time between drought events will likely become shorter than the time needed for land ecosystems to recover from them.”

”Using the vantage point of space, we can see all of Earth’s forests and other ecosystems getting hit repeatedly and increasingly by droughts,” said study co-author Josh Fisher of JPL. “Some of these ecosystems recover, but, with increasing frequency, others do not. Data from our ‘eyes’ in space allow us to verify our simulations of past and current climate, which, in turn, helps us reduce uncertainties in projections of future climate.”

The scientists argue that recovery time is a crucial metric for assessing the resilience of ecosystems, shaping the odds of crossing a tipping point after which trees begin to die. Shorter times between droughts, combined with longer drought recovery times, may lead to widespread tree death, decreasing the ability of land areas to absorb atmospheric carbon.

The research is funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA. Other participating institutions include Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff; the University of Utah, Salt Lake City; Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, California; the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; the U.S. Forest Service, Ogden, Utah; Arable Labs Inc., Princeton, New Jersey; the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Boulder, Colorado; Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee; the University of Maine, Orono; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington; the University of Illinois, Urbana; the University of Nevada, Reno; and Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Updated 15 August 2017