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People & Ecosystems

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  • Blog post

    Can Nutrient Trading Shrink the Gulf of Mexico's Dead Zone?

    The Gulf of Mexico has the largest dead zone in the United States and the second-largest in the world. Dead zones form when excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous wash into waterways and spur algal blooms, depleting the water of oxygen and killing fish, shrimp, and other marine life. The Gulf of Mexico dead zone can range between an astounding 3,000 and 8,000 square miles. At its largest, it’s about the size of Massachusetts.

    Reducing this growing dead zone problem is a huge scientific, technical, economic, and political challenge. It’s a conundrum that agricultural and environmental experts from across the United States will deliberate this week at the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.

    One new approach they’ll discuss is voluntary nutrient trading. According to a new study conducted by WRI staff for the EPA, this strategy could be used in the Mississippi River Basin to cost-effectively reduce nitrogen and phosphorous pollution and shrink the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.

    • LEARN MORE: Download the full study on the economic feasibility of nutrient trading in the Mississippi River Basin.

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  • Blog post

    Saving the World's Forests: A Technology Revolution to Curb Illegal Logging

    This piece was co-authored with Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and executive director of UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

    This piece explores how advances in technology can curb illegal logging, written in honor of the first International Day of Forests. It originally appeared on The Guardian's Sustainable Business Blog.

    Our future is inextricably linked to forests. The social and economic benefits they provide are essential to realizing a sustainable century. A key litmus test of our commitment to this future is our response to a growing, global threat: illegal logging and the criminal timber trade.

    Forests are a vital source of biodiversity and livelihoods. More than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, including 60 million indigenous people who are wholly dependent on forests. They are also natural carbon storage systems and key allies in combating climate change. They are vast, nature-based water utilities assisting in the storage and release of freshwater to lakes and river networks.

    While deforestation is slowing in some places – most notably Brazil – it still remains far too high. The loss of forests is responsible for up to 17 percent of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions, 50 percent more than that from ships, aviation and land transport combined.

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  • Blog post

    5 Lessons for Sustaining Global Forests

    As the old adage suggests, it is important to see the forests for more than just the trees. While an estimated 500 million people depend directly on forests for their livelihoods, the entire world depends on them for food, water, clean air, and vital medicines. Forests also absorb carbon dioxide, making them critical to curbing climate change.

    Despite some encouraging anti-deforestation efforts in places like Brazil, Indonesia, and Africa, globally, forests are under threat, particularly in the tropics. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 13 million hectares of forests were lost every year. About 30 percent of the global forest cover has been completely cleared, and 20 percent has been degraded.

    This dilemma begs the question: What is the outlook for forests in 2030? Are we missing the opportunity to preserve forests and ensure they continue to deliver the goods and services we need for a growing global population? How can we use forests to build a thriving global green economy?

    Asking these questions is important. Finding answers to the challenges they raise is imperative.

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  • Blog post

    Asia Pulp & Paper's Anti-Deforestation Pledge: Sign of a Changing Industry?

    Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), one of the world’s largest paper companies, announced earlier this month that it will no longer cut down natural forests in Indonesia and will demand similar commitments from its suppliers. The announcement was received with guarded optimism by Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, World Wildlife Fund, and other NGOs who have waged a persistent campaign to change APP’s forest policies.

    Indeed, APP’s new policy—which includes sourcing all material from plantation-grown trees, ceasing clearing of carbon-rich peatland, and engaging more with local communities—is significant, both for the business world and forest conservation. APP and its suppliers manage more than 2.5 million hectares of land in Indonesia and produce more than 15 million tons of pulp, paper, and packaging globally every year. Strong action by APP could indicate that the industry is heading for a more sustainable future.

    The question is whether APP will follow this positive announcement with action. The company does not have a strong track record, having defaulted on past commitments to end deforestation.

    But APP has something else going for it this time around. A rapidly evolving world of improving corporate practices and powerful technology could provide the right enabling environment for APP’s commitment—and others like it—to succeed.

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  • Blog post

    4 Grand Challenges to Energy, Food, and Water

    The world is on track to become a very different place in the next two decades. Per capita income levels are rising, the global middle class is expanding, and the population is set to hit 8.3 billion people by 2030. At the same time, urbanization is happening at an accelerated pace—the volume of urban construction over the next 40 years could equal that which has occurred throughout history to date.

    While these projections would bring benefits like reduced poverty and individual empowerment, they have serious implications for the world’s natural resources. Global growth will likely increase the demand for food, water, and energy by 35, 40, and 50 percent respectively by 2030. Add continued climate change to the equation, and the struggle for resources only becomes more intense.

    These are just a few of the estimates included in the new Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds report from the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC) that was released last month. The assessment, which the NIC puts out every four years, reflects in-depth research on trends and geopolitical changes that may unfold in the next 15-20 years—everything from urbanization to conflict to resource scarcity.

    Assessments like the NIC’s are invaluable in providing decision makers with forward-looking insights and analysis. But while the report offers a glimpse into the future, what’s more important is how we respond today to the questions these “megatrends” raise.

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  • Blog post

    Climate Change Adaptation in Rural India: A Green Infrastructure Approach

    Water is a scarce resource in India, especially in the state of Maharashtra, where most rainfall is limited to the monsoon season from June through September. The Government of India has long promoted a Participatory Watershed Development (PWD) approach to deal with this scarcity.

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  • Presentation
  • Presentation
  • Blog post

    6 Top Environment and Development Stories to Watch in 2013

    This post originally appeared on Bloomberg.com.

    As we enter 2013, there are signs of growth and economic advancement around the world. The global middle class is booming. More people are moving into cities. And the quality of life for millions is improving at an unprecedented pace.

    Yet, there are also stark warnings of mounting pressures on natural resources and the climate. Consider: 2012 was the hottest year on recordfor the continental United States. There have been 36 consecutive years in which global temperatures have been above normal. Carbon dioxide emissions are on the rise – last year the world added about 3 percent more carbon emissions to the atmosphere. All of these pressures are bringing more climate impacts: droughts, wildfires, rising seas, and intense storms.

    All is not lost, but the window for action is rapidly closing. This decade--and this year--will be critical.

    Against that backdrop, experts at WRI have analyzed trends, observations, and data to highlight six key environmental and development stories we’ll be watching in 2013.

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  • Presentation

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Indonesia Haze Risk Will Remain High Unless Ministers Keep Promises

Following record-breaking air pollution across Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, ministers from five Southeast Asian countries will meet in Kuala Lumpur this week for urgent talks on combating the haze.

New analysis of the patterns and causes of the fires in Sumatra that caused the haze highlights serious issues at the kickoff of this 15th meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

The new analysis from the World Resources Institute (WRI), which has been closely monitoring the fires since they began, highlights four key challenges that should help set the agenda for the Ministers of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Thailand.

1. First, pulpwood and oil palm concessions have a more significant role in the fires that we earlier thought.

WRI’s analysis shows that that the number of fire alerts per hectare, in other words their density, is three to four times higher within pulpwood and oil palm concession boundaries than outside those boundaries.

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Risiko Kebakaran Hutan dan Kabut Asap Indonesia Masih Tinggi: Empat Temuan Mencemaskan Terkait Kebakaran Hutan Belakangan

Cecelia Song, Ariana Alisjahbana, Kemen Austin, Andrew Leach, Anne Rosenbarger, James Anderson dan ahli lainnya di WRI juga berkontribusi dalam artikel ini. Translation by Andhyta Utami, Andika Putraditama, and Ariana Alisjahbana

Read this post in English here

Menteri dari lima negara Asia Tenggara akan berkumpul di Malaysia minggu depan untuk sebuah pembahasan penting mengenai usaha mengatasi kabut asap. Hal ini terkait terjadinya kebakaran hutan baru-baru ini yang telah memecahkan rekor polusi udara tertinggi di berbagai wilayah Indonesia, Singapura, dan Malaysia. Beriringan dengan dimulainya pertemuan ke-15 dari Komite Pengarah Tingkat Menteri Sub-Regional untuk Polusi Lintas-Batas (Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution), analisis mendalam mengenai pola dan penyebab dari api terus berlanjut. Semoga saja krisis terakhir ini dapat memastikan bahwa pertemuan tersebut dapat berlangsung lebih produktif dari 14 rapat sebelumnya, sekaligus mendorong kawasan untuk menemukan penyebab dari kebakaran dan kabut asap tersebut.

Pada pertengahan Juni, yakni puncak dari fenomena kabut asap tersebut, WRI mempublikasikan sebuah rangkaian tulisan yang terdiri atas tiga analisis mengenai kebakaran hutan di Indonesia, menggunakan peringatan titik api dari data satelit NASA dan peta resmi konsesi perkebunan HPH, kelapa sawit, serta HTI pemerintah Indonesia. Kami menemukan bahwa sekitar setengah dari peringatan titik api di Sumatera bertempat di dalam perkebunan kelapa sawit dan akasia, sekaligus mengidentifikasi perusahaan mana yang bertanggung jawab dalam pengelolaan area tersebut. Sejak penerbitannya, analisis dan temuan-temuan tersebut telah direplikasi, dikonfirmasi, serta dikembangkan oleh beberapa organisasi lainnya, termasuk CIFOR, Eyes on the Forest, Greenpeace, dan Union of Concerned Scientists.

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How Singapore Can Help Clear the Air on the Haze

This post originally appeared as an Op-Ed in the Straits Times.

Singapore can help Indonesia untangle complex ownership structure of companies to figure out who’s legally responsible if crimes have been committed.

As Malaysia declares a state of emergency with over 200 schools closing, and residents of Indonesia and Singapore continue to suffer from the choking haze, it's time to move beyond the blame game of claims and counter claims. Instead, we need to look at the facts, learn quickly from the data, and ensure political leaders, companies and communities take appropriate action to prevent this crisis from recurring.

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3 Signs of Progress in Curbing the Illegal Wood Trade

The global market for wood and other forest products is changing quickly. The industry has long struggled to address the problem of illegal logging, which damages diverse and valuable forests and creates economic losses of up to $10 billion a year. In some wood-producing countries, illegal logging accounts for 50-90 percent of total production.

But recent developments indicate that we may be turning a corner: Illegal logging rates worldwide have declined by about 20 percent since 2008.

This was the topic on everyone’s minds at the recent Forest Legality Alliance meeting in Washington, D.C. This meeting brought together nearly 100 members and experts representing a wide array of companies, trade associations, NGOs, and governments involved in the harvest, manufacturing, and trade of legally produced forest products.

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Learning from African Farmers: How “Re-greening” Boosts Food Security; Curbs Climate Change

President Obama is in Africa this week to discuss development, investment, health, and, notably, food security. The trip comes on the heels of the president’s groundbreaking announcement of a U.S. Climate Action Plan. So it’s a fitting time for Obama and other global leaders to take notice of a strategy that addresses both climate change and food security in Africa—re-greening.

Re-greening—a process where African farmers manage and protect trees that grow on their farms, rather than cutting them down—is already beginning to transform the continent’s drylands. Supporting and scaling up the low-tech process can not only increase crop yields in drought-prone regions, it can mitigate climate change and reduce rural poverty.

The History of Re-greening in Africa’s Drylands

Re-greening in Africa first garnered international attention back in 2007, when the New York Times published a front page article entitled “In Niger, Trees and Crops Help Turn Back the Desert.” Lydia Polgreen, who was the NYT’s West Africa bureau chief in those days, had visited Niger and reported “at least 7.4 million newly tree-covered acres.” The NYT article revealed that this large-scale re-greening was not due to expensive tree-planting projects, but was the result of farmers protecting and managing young trees that regenerated on their cultivated land.

This re-greening did not happen everywhere. It was observed in particular in dryland regions with high population densities. Life in dryland areas presents many challenges, and farmers and decision makers are continuously searching for ways to restore their resilience and agricultural productivity.

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Data Terbaru Menunjukkan Kebakaran Hutan di Indonesia Adalah Krisis Yang Telah Berlangsung Sejak Lama

Selama beberapa hari terakhir ini, WRI telah melacak lokasi peringatan titik api yang terjadi di Sumatera. Dalam perkembangan terbaru ini, WRI menganalisis tren historis kebakaran hutan yang terjadi di Sumatera. Baca analisa sebelumnya.

Read this post in English here

Kebakaran terus terjadi di Indonesia, menyebarkan kabut asap yang menyiksa ke penjuru negeri dan juga Singapura serta Malaysia. Hasil riset terbaru dari World Resources Institute menunjukkan tren yang mengkhawatirkan terkait fenomena kebakaran hutan ini:

  • Kebakaran yang terjadi saat ini tidak melampaui batas normal tren historis kebakaran hutan yang terjadi di wilayah Indonesia, namun hal ini mungkin berubah jika kobaran api terus membesar.

  • Kebakaran saat ini adalah bagian dari krisis endemik kebakaran hutan, lahan dan pembersihan lahan yang telah berlangsung sejak lama di Indonesia. Aksi nyata dan tegas jelas dibutuhkan untuk mencegah memburuknya krisis ini.

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