Scientists predict that in 50 years we’ll have lost almost 70% of our natural reefs. “Which is quite a heavy statistic,” says environmentally inspired artist, Jason deCaires Taylor. He is the focus of a documentary named, Angel Azul, exploring the weaving of art with an important environmental solution; the creation of artificial coral reefs.
You may be asking yourself why coral reefs are important to humans. The fact is that they’re important for several reasons. The first is that they provide us with resources and services worth many billions of dollars each year; namely through food, protection and jobs. Coral reef ecosystems support commercial and recreational fisheries and are tourism-related destinations that inject billions of dollars to local economies. Furthermore, healthy coral reefs are a natural shoreline buffer helping to protect us from waves, storms and floods. Lastly, coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, heart disease, viruses and other diseases.
“As humans continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the climate is … on the threshold of a new regime, with dire consequences for reef ecosystems unless we get control of climate change,” said Richard Aronson, a biology professor at Florida Institute of Technology. He continues to add, “Local issues like pollution and overfishing are major destructive forces and they need to be stopped, but they are trumped by climate change, which right now is the greatest threat to coral reefs.”
Taylor founded the Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA) in Cancun, Mexico, installing 400 life-like cement statues made from plaster molds of a diverse selection of human models. The documentary is named for a sculpture of an angel with outstretched arms and Gorgonian coral wings that gently flutter with the tide. The hope is that the Angel Azul will symbolize a guardian of the reef, protecting and nourishing the aquatic life around her. This kinetic sculpture is the first to be installed underwater.
Angel Azul the movie also features Paul Sánchez-Navarro, Director of The Ecological Center in Akumal, Mexico explaining the fragile state of the Yucatán’s coral reefs and proposing solutions for their survival. The documentary’s narration is provided by actor, writer and social activist, Peter Coyote.
“Obviously this type of work is quite different from normal art projects. Because the main objective of it is about conservation; making an artificial reef, increasing the biomass underwater, creating habitat areas, aggregating fish” says Taylor.
Coral reefs are resilient. They can recover and re-grow, but only if climate change can be mitigated or reversed. We need to examine our lifestyles and find ways to reduce energy use. It will help our wallets and the environment.
The United Nations’ (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their climate change report on Friday that they produce about every five to six years. The IPCC’s last report was published in 2007. The UN created the IPCC to assess the science, risks and impacts of global warming, and the IPCC is considered the world’s leading authority on climate change.
A press release from the IPCC says, “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The evidence for this has grown, thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models.”
“Warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850, reports the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group I assessment report, Climate Change 2013: the Physical Science Basis, approved on Friday by member governments of the IPCC in Stockholm, Sweden.”
Extremely likely is an upgrade from a previous report that said it was very likely that human intervention was spurring climate change. The IPCC defines extremely likely as 95–100% probability of an outcome or a result, and very likely as 90–100% probability.
The report’s authors do not conduct original research for the assessments, so the IPCC reports are primarily summaries of the state of the field. The findings are based on the aggregated results of the most recent published and peer-reviewed climate change research with more than 600 researchers from 32 countries reviewing more than 9,000 peer-reviewed studies for this report. They produced 2,000 pages of scientific analysis and worked through 56,000 comments.
Friday’s report represents the first of four sections that ultimately make up the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, or AR5. Other parts of the report examine socioeconomic impacts and potential ways to mitigate the effects of climate change.
US Secretary of State John Kerry responded to the UN report with this statement:
“Those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire. Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or common sense should be willing to even contemplate.”
The bottom line is alarm bells should be going off as you read about this disturbing report. Each of us influences climate change and it should frighten you that some of its impacts are happening faster than originally expected. We need to do more to correct the problem. This massive and critical report points to long term implications if we do not embrace a sustainable, cleaner energy future posthaste.
Protection of tropical rainforests is challenging work involving numerous stakeholders working together to achieve a common goal of vast environmental protection paralleled with major community benefits for the indigenous families living amongst these remote rainforest regions around the globe.
Another challenge is obtaining the funding needed to protect these rainforests as many well intended NGOS and private companies working in this realm require significant investment capital to get their projects off the ground. One area of funding is the global carbon markets where buyers of the project’s carbon offsets are contributing to the project finance and its general sustainability. Yet, though voluntary offset purchases from generous and environmentally conscious companies, NGOs, and individuals have been extremely helpful in generating funding, the hope is that carbon compliance markets will offer the type of liquidity necessary to provide confidence to major financial investors into these rainforest preservation programs. Currently, a lack of clear signals for compliance markets has left much of the potential investment capital on the sidelines.
Recognizing tropical rainforests as a vital part of our lives, beyond the great importance of sequestering carbon, they are also home to thousands of communities each with their own culture, countless plant and animal species–many endangered. They also possess the ingredients necessary to make many of the emerging medicines of our world.
In respect to carbon emissions, deforestation accounts for 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second to the energy sector. Think about all the cars and trucks in traffic in every town and major metropolitan area each day of the year and consider that global deforestation accounts for significantly more carbon emissions each year— it’s both astonishing and disastrous. Furthermore, as the alternative of reforestation and tree planting can take an exponential amount of years to sequester the forest carbon stocks emitted from the destruction of one acre of rainforest, the time to act was decades ago.
Yet, as the international environmental community has worked diligently to find a clear solution to the problem, many market experts believe it could be found amongst “REDD +” (“REDD” stands for; the “+” stands for enhancement of forest carbon stocks) a mechanism that compensates tropical forest countries for progress in reducing deforestation.
“ REDD +” is currently considered a voluntary program in the carbon markets, but it is the hope of many forest experts that the State of California will emerge as a the first emission trading system in the world to actively accept “REDD +” carbon credits into Phase 2 of their program as early as 2015. It is this type of market signal that would create the desire for broader private finance to enter the realm of REDD + and create the economies of scale needed in this realm.
Back in November of 2012, the State of California launched its first auction for Phase 1 of their Emissions Trading System, known as AB-32, or the Global Warming Solutions Act, regulating more than 300 facilities emitting over 25,000 metric tonnes of CO2 each year with a plan to reduce GHG emissions to 427 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (MMTCO2e) by 2020 from the baseline of 507 MMTCO2E. The State of California allows emitters to cover a portion of their compliance obligations with offset credits. In Phase 1 of the program, these credits could come from projects in the United States that reduce emissions in the following sectors of national forestry, urban forestry, ozone depleting substance, and agricultural methane. However, commencing in 2015 there is hope that the scheme will allow offsets from international forestry projects as both the State of Acre, Brazil and Chiapas, Mexico have a signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) with the State of California attempting to develop a jurisdictional linkage between their respective programs.
Earlier this month, after two years of analysis a major consortium of REDD experts aka REDD Offset Working (ROW) Group outlined their recommendations over 70 pages for how the State of California could work with the State of Acre, Brazil and Chiapas, Mexico to include their State’s REDD project credits into the California compliance market.
The draft by ROW addresses the issues of whether a jurisdictional compliance program could work in California and whether California could adopt its regulations to accept the international carbon credits. Furthermore, it questions whether there is a legal framework and linkage options for connecting jurisdictional REDD with a cap and trade program such as that in California.
The ROW Group identified 4 key elements that would be essential building blocks for successful jurisdictional REDD + including 1) Demonstration of emission reductions across the jurisdiction through a reliable system for measuring, monitoring, reporting, and validating projects along with a reference level and emission reduction target 2) Demonstrate social and economic benefits for local communities and forest stakeholders 3) Demonstrate environmental benefits of slowing deforestation and forest degradation 4) Establishment of a legal framework for supporting the transition to low emission rural development which includes tracking emission reductions and offsets.
The 70 page comprehensive report is a major step toward trying to establish a REDD program in Phase 2 of the California marketplace by a hopeful year of 2015. EnvironmentNext will keep our readers updated as the program progresses toward a clear mechanism to global rainforest preservation and forest community enhancement programs.
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- Documentary Angel Azul Highlights Coral Reefs’ Plight from Global Warming - http://t.co/4wmNL6JR59
- UN Climate Report Concludes Global Warming Extremely Likely Caused by Humans - http://t.co/7iVPAUefR7
- Hope for our Global Rainforests by 2015 - http://t.co/vluaN6rdYU
- Purus, Russas and Valparaiso Projects in Brazil Submitted for CCBS Public Comment Period - http://t.co/5b0ZLyIzIT
- Obama’s Climate Plan – Will Breadth Yield Results? - http://t.co/JqTBjlh2b9