Activists highlight climate threat to forests

Activists highlight climate threat to forests

12 May 2009

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Lebanon — More than 130 activists from the two environmental NGOs IndyACT and AFDC gathered in a cedar forest in the Chouf region to voice their concerns about climate change and to highlight its impact on Lebanon’s forests. “IndyACT and AFDC demand that the future government and Parliament put climate change high on the agenda,” a statement by IndyACT said on Monday.

The activists formed a “human chain” in the Chouf Cedars Forest, the country’s biggest Cedars forest, which could disappear in the future as a result of climate change.

According to the IndyACT statement, the projected increase in temperature will likely shift the many forest species to the north or to higher elevations, thus turning Lebanon into an arid desert.

“Rapid climate change and accompanying extreme events, such as droughts and wind storms will lead to increased disease, insects and wildfires that could increase tree mortality and, in some cases, replace forests by grasslands,” it added.

IndyACT explained that forests in protected areas will not be able to adapt to these climatic changes.

“Lebanon is already suffering from increased forest fires year after year, but most Lebanese do not realize that climate change plays a role in these fires,” the statement said.

According to the statement, a number of years ago, a new insect, Cephalcia Tannourinensis, destroyed cedars in an entire area in northern Lebanon.

“The American University of Beirut did a study and concluded that this sudden insect outburst is due to climate change. Also Cedar tree seeds need to be covered by snow to germinate, and because of increased temperatures, Lebanon’s snow is slowly disappearing,” the statement added.

“Forest fires are not only increasing in intensity, but so the forest fire season is also expanding,” said Karine al-Zoghby from AFDC, “last year was the first year on record, where we see forest fires in the month of December.”

To save Lebanon’s forests, the environmental NGOs called on all candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections to memorize the number 350 – for 350ppm (parts per million), which is the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that climate scientists say is needed to reach in order to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts.

Carbon dioxide is the gas causing climate change, which has been constantly pumped into the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution, due to mankind’s heavy reliance on oil and coal. “Our forests will never be able to adapt to climate change impacts.

“The only solution is to stop these impacts from happening altogether,” said Wael Hmaidan, executive director of IndyACT.

“If we don’t then Lebanon will lose both our national symbols, the cedars and the snow, and thus ending with a red square as our flag.”

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