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Top Ten Counties Losing Forests to Development In The U.S. South

Today, WRI releases a new map that identifies the hotspots where urban and suburban development are putting forests at risk in the southern United States. Areas experiencing the most forest loss to development between 2001 and 2006 (the most recent years for which data are available) were counties near Houston, Atlanta, Raleigh, and Charlotte. Counties around San Antonio, Jacksonville, and Birmingham round out the “top ten” (Table 1).

U.S. on Thin Ice in Arctic

This post originally appeared in the National Journal Energy & Environment Expert Blog. The question was, "The summer of 2011 marked the second-lowest ice coverage on record for the Arctic Ocean...Is the U.S. prepared to face this century of change in the Arctic?"

With the climate problem growing more urgent every year, the United States is not well prepared for a changing Arctic, and its continued dependence on fossil fuels only makes the situation more serious. The recent climate science, as explored in WRI’s Climate Science 2009-2010: Major New Discoveries, shows that the Arctic is indeed changing rapidly, with implications for a very different world.

Open Climate Network Partners Track Climate Policy Progress Around the World

The Open Climate Network recently concluded a three-day workshop in which participants from 18 organizations in 13 countries gathered to refine methodologies for the network’s first national assessment report, expected next year. The report will analyze country progress on climate change commitments, with a view towards “ground-truthing” countries’ performance on implementing effective policies that contribute to the low-carbon transition.

Learning Lessons from Wildfires, from Texas to Brazil

This post was written with James Anderson, Communications Coordinator at the World Resources Institute.

“This is unprecedented fire behavior. We’ve never seen conditions like this before. Not a single one of our firefighters has ever faced such extreme conditions.”

This statement from the director of the Texas Forest Service makes it clear that the recent wildfires that scorched Texas belong in a new category of disaster. Already, the state’s wildfires this season have consumed 3.6 million acres (an area the size of Connecticut), swallowed over 1,500 homes, and killed at least four people. According to NOAA, the current wildfire is costing more than $1 million per day and exceeds $5 billion in overall damages across the Southwest. These are costs that will be borne by government, business and residents, alike.

An Extreme Summer Shows Why We Need to Get Real About Climate Change

A version of this piece originally appeared in a special energy section of The Hill.

2011 was the summer of extreme weather— from the massive drought in the Southwest to record-breaking heat waves to Hurricane Irene’s torrential rains. Each of these events serves as a stark reminder of the growing impacts of climate change. Even so, the main recent discussion around climate change comes from Republican presidential candidates who have been debating the issue. Notably, Jon Huntsman recently Tweeted that he trusts scientists on global warming, adding “Call me crazy”– an invitation surely welcomed by some of his competitors.

Conservation Easements: a Good Investment for the U.S. South

With forests being converted at a rapid pace in the South, conservation easements are one of the most promising approaches to conserve and sustainably manage them. A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement in which a landowner agrees to sell or donate the development rights to his or her land. In contrast to some traditional approaches to forest conservation, conservation easements can prevent forest loss while still allowing landowners to own their land. This has made conservation easements an increasingly popular land conservation tool in the United States. While the use of conservation easements continues to grow nationally, adoption lags behind in the South (Figure 1).

WRI’s new issue brief, “Gaining Ground: Increasing Conservation Easements in the U.S. South,” released today jointly with the American Forest Foundation, aims to increase the use of conservation easements in the South by helping landowners, conservation professionals, and conservation funders understand the unique benefits that conservation easements provide, key barriers to their implementation, and how to best address those barriers.

What Do We Know About “Green Jobs”?

While the potential role of ‘green jobs’ is hotly debated, many participants in this debate are talking past one another – starting from different assumptions and definitions, working from different datasets, or hailing from opposite ideological viewpoints on the “true” costs of unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions.

A review of the literature provides evidence that clean energy policies and investments can help create job opportunities and competitive gains for the economy. These findings should heighten the demand for policies and investments that hasten a shift to a low-carbon economy and the creation of more clean-energy jobs.

What Woodland Owners Should Know About Forest Carbon Offsets in the U.S. South

This piece was written with Paula Swedeen of the Pacific Forest Trust

A new issue brief, released today by the World Resources Institute and the Pacific Forest Trust, looks at the economic opportunities for southern landowners created by emerging forest carbon offset markets. This new revenue stream can offer real rewards to landowners who steward their forests for climate benefits.

Original economic analysis done by the authors suggests that under current market conditions (offset prices in the $8-$12/metric ton CO2e range), income from carbon offsets may be sufficient in some instances to pay property taxes or the “incremental” costs of sustainable forest management certification. From a purely financial perspective, however, revenue from offsets in today’s still-developing market is not likely sufficient to outcompete real estate development in the region.

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