The Associated Press
At the climate change meetings in Warsaw, Poland, this month, the world’s nations debated over ways to cut carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to curtail temperature changes worldwide.
Since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997, attention has shifted from a focus on the global warming phenomenon to a focus on temperature extremes. Countries are seeing both record cold and record heat, and agreement that man-made emissions are responsible for much of the changes in the atmosphere are now said to be indisputable.
Another cause of temperature extremes is the deforestation in many countries, particularly developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America. The loss of trees and old growth forests has had a measurable impact on carbon dioxide emissions, but incentives for poor countries to curb deforestation have been ineffective. These countries have also argued that development in heavily industrialized nations has adversely impacted their climates. Until developed nations pledged stricter guidelines, the undeveloped nations would not agree to stricter measures.
The agreement reached in Warsaw addresses both ends of the spectrum, with the formation of the Green Climate Fund to channel financing for projects that will prevent deforestation in exchange for stricter oversight by governments.
In America, we are fortunate to have recognized the value of our forests long ago. Their protection and management has been a top environmental concern for more than a century. Here in Georgia, with a state that is heavily dependent on forestry as an economic engine, the value of forests for commercial use and conservation use is well understood, regulated and incentivized. Other countries have used our best practices to develop their own forest preservation methods, recognizing the delicate relationship between development and the environment.
Man may never completely understand or be able to control the symbiotic relationship between its activities and the environment, but there is now science-based evidence that demonstrates the effect one country’s environmental policies can have on others. As in the butterfly effect, said to be when a butterfly flapping its wings on one continent creates a hurricane or tsunami halfway around the world, we now know that one subtle change can cause devastating events on a large scale. Countries working together now for the protection of the world’s resources will ensure that there will still be resources in the future.