World Wildlife Fund WWF Climate Blog

WWF-US climate blog maintained by the staff of the WWF climate change program.

  • Date: 22 July 2016
  • Author: Anita van Breda, World Wildlife Fund Senior Director of Environment and Disaster Management

The Nepal Earthquake, 2015; Nepal Floods, 2014; Pakistan Floods, 2011; Chile Earthquake, 2010; —these devastating disasters reshaped landscapes and communities. The most destructive impacts occurred instantly: lives were lost, homes destroyed and families displaced, but the secondary effects from rebuilding efforts can have far reaching impacts on communities for years to come.

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  • Date: 30 June 2016
  • Author: Lou Leonard

The world is breathless about Brexit. I get it. If the United Kingdom leaves the European Union it will be very bad news for the British, European and world economies. It will also create big question marks for the environment because of the long-standing role of EU environmental laws in Britain. And, of course, the root causes of the shocking result are lessons we need to quickly learn in the United States and around the world about economic justice, xenophobia and demagoguery.

But let’s not forget about the other important events that also occurred this week which, unlike Brexit, sent strong signals to the rest of the world about the power and momentum of international cooperation. Yesterday, at the North American Leaders Summit, the United States, Mexico and Canada — a regional economy larger than Europe — doubled down on working together, setting joint goals and collaborating to achieve them. And, they did it on the mother-of-all global challenges: averting climate collapse. As President Obama said yesterday in addressing the Canadian parliament, “there is one threat that we cannot solve militarily and we cannot solve alone - climate change.”

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  • Date: 22 April 2016
  • Author: Vanessa Cardenas, Director of WWF's Climatico program

As we celebrate the 46th anniversary of Earth Day, we are reminded of the urgent need for action to address the environmental challenges facing our nation and our world. Latinos have an important role to play given the impact environmental degradation has on our community. We can and should ensure that environmental issues are part of the national Latino policy agenda.

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  • Date: 15 April 2016
  • Author: Josefina Braña-Varela

Next week’s signing of the Paris Agreement is an important moment for reflection. The agreement itself is a remarkable demonstration of global collaboration and compromise, and the aspirations it contains provide a good foundation for the transformative work that lies ahead. What has been accomplished to date is a critical step, providing hope and a necessary anchor of commitment to confront climate change.

Of course, this moment of reflection cannot be a moment of repose. Even collectively, the national commitments outlined in Paris barely take us half way to limiting the global temperature increase to well under 2°C. In that scenario, if all conditional targets are met, a global temperature rise of at least 3°C is predicted, unless we act now to increase ambition.

Forests must play a key role in our effort to close the emissions gap. Indeed, it will be impossible to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C without addressing emissions from forests and working to reposition them as global carbon sinks. The importance of forests – prioritizing conservation, restoration, and creating incentives for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation – is explicitly recognized by the Paris Agreement, which we see as vital for the long term stability of the climate. The unique importance of the forest sector is also highlighted by the fact that it is the only sector singled out within the Agreement. The formal inclusion of forests within the Agreement provides clarity moving forward, underscoring the need for all parties to take action in the forest sector.

It is encouraging that many countries with important forest cover have already indicated their intent to reduce emissions in the forest sector within their national commitments, through a wide range of activities like reforestation, sustainable forest management, and the distribution of improved cook stoves.

Yet, reaching the full potential of the forest sector will require countries to set even more ambitious targets. It will also require countries to think more holistically about how they are going to fulfill those ambitions, by identifying goals that encompass the entire land sector and cross-sectoral interventions.

Perhaps most critically, the successful implementation of existing forest sector targets will depend to an important extent on a substantial increase in investments from donors. Within their national commitments, some forest countries have already specified the level of international finance they will require to implement their targets. Others have indicated a willingness to increase their level of ambition in the forest sector significantly if international support is provided. Donor countries should support forest countries by working collaboratively with them to improve the specificity of targets that are contingent on international finance and providing the assistance they need to ratchet up their national commitments.

Similarly, the private sector must support these efforts with investments in sustainable supply chains, sustainable forest management, and reforestation and restoration efforts. As illustrated by commitments announced under the New York Declaration on Forests, and more recently during COP21, the private sector is becoming an increasingly willing partner in those efforts. Companies must scale up efforts to ensure they follow through and meet the goals they have set. More companies must also join the ranks of those that are setting the highest bar. Together, state and non-state actor should support themselves, and each other, to transition to a deforestation free world.

Any measure of success coming out of Paris will be dependent upon increasing action in the forest sector immediately. Bolstering pre-2020 climate action is imperative for preventing the worst impacts of climate change and is the only way to achieve a least-cost scenario. We encourage countries to sign and ratify the Paris Agreement as soon as possible. Once 55 countries representing 55% of emissions have signed and ratified the Agreement, it can enter into force – even before 2020. Speedy realization of the Paris Agreement would be a powerful symbol of the need to expedite ambitious climate action. But we cannot wait to act.

Whenever it enters into force, the Paris Agreement should not preclude additional swift and increasingly ambitious climate action, but instead serves as a reminder of the work that is yet to be done and that must begin now.

Josefina Braña-Varela is Policy Director, Forest & Climate Programme for WWF-International. She is based in Washington DC. [email protected]

  • Date: 10 December 2015
  • Author: Jill Schwartz

One of the most effective ways to address climate change is to increase the amount of forest land designated as “protected” and ensure there is long-term funding to properly manage the land.

The Government of Colombia—as well as several partners, including WWF—showed their support for that approach this week when they signed an agreement to achieve sustainable financing and improved management of Colombia’s National Parks System.

Brazil and Peru have made similar commitments. When the Colombia goal is reached, nearly 200 million acres of biodiverse-rich land across the three countries—much which is in the Amazon—will be properly protected. This is an area twice the size of California.

The agreement was signed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, symbolizing the tremendous role healthy forests play in absorbing carbon, as well as the large amounts of harmful greenhouse gas emissions that are released when forests are destroyed. The land sector, which includes forests, is responsible for nearly a quarter of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Almost half of that derives from deforestation and forest degradation—the largest sources of CO2 emissions after the combined emissions from all cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships in the world. Healthy forests also sustain nature’s diversity and support human well-being by providing livelihoods, clean air and water.

The agreement is linked to the peace process in Colombia, which is nearing conclusion. Much of the conflict the country has experienced for decades has been rooted in limited access to natural resources and lack of land tenure security. One way to address this issue is to ensure that protected areas are properly managed. There are protected areas in nearly two-thirds of the municipalities that have been most affected by conflict. A significant portion of the lands planted with illicit crops lies within existing or proposed protected areas.

At the heart of the agreement is expanding Colombia’s network of protected areas by nearly 6.2 million acres, to 42 million acres, and developing a financial plan to support the long-term management of the protected areas. This will be done to address climate change, as well as to ensure that protected areas can help create peace and continue to provide benefits to people and wildlife.

An innovative approach, called Project Finance for Permanence, will be used to develop the financial plan for sustainability. The same approach has or is in the midst of being used in neighboring countries. In Brazil, a $215 million fund was created last year to protect and properly manage 150 million acres of the Brazilian Amazon. In Peru, a fund of approximately $100 million is being created to manage 47 million acres of the Amazon, mountains and coast.

One potential source of support for the Colombia initiative is Government of Colombia funding that, starting in March 2016, will be used to support the country’s post-conflict strategy. Another source is a fund, created in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank and called Colombia Sostenible, that will support improved management of forest protected areas and sustainable land management. The fund is supported by the governments of Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom, among others.

Other signatories of the Colombia agreement include the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Fund for Biodiversity and Protected Areas-Natural Heritage, Wildlife Conservation Society and Conservation International. All of them, including WWF, have worked with the government of Colombia over the past decade to create new protected areas, incorporate climate change parameters into the management of protected areas, and more.

  • Date: 10 December 2015

It is day 11 of COP21 and Ministers now have less than two days to put us on a path toward 1.5C of warming, or allow us to drift closer to a 3C future. Wednesday’s new draft includes options to have all nations come back to the table by 2020 to improve their current pledges. That said, they still need to close existing loopholes to make sure any pre-2020 review and ratcheting up mechanism is comprehensive – covering adaptation, finance, and emissions reductions – and does not let some countries off the hook.

Looking toward the future, WWF held a press conference today on the role the French Presidency has played in the COP21 process until now and what they need to do to take us to Morocco, the incoming COP22 presidency.

Earlier this week, the Colombian government, along with WWF and other partners, showed their support for creating protected forest areas by signing an agreement to achieve sustainable financing and improved management of Colombia’s National Parks System. Learn more about this new approach here.

  • Date: 09 December 2015

6 Questions from Conservationists to Climate Scientists

As the world awaits a conclusion at the climate talks in Paris, we know one thing for certain – a strong global agreement must remain true to the science if we’re going to prevent the worst impacts of climate change while managing those we cannot avoid.

Understanding the vital importance of pairing cutting edge science with conservation planning, policies and practice, WWF is partnering with the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University’s Earth Institute to create a new approach to incorporating climate information into on-the-ground conservation work.

The ADVANCE (Adaptation for Development Conservation) partnership will bring about a better understanding of how the effects of climate change impact both people and nature, and will help WWF evolve our current conservation strategies and adopt new solutions to ensure a safer and healthier planet for future generations.

We’re excited about where ADVANCE will take us, and how it will help guide our collective conservation, development, and disaster risk reduction projects. Work is already underway in Myanmar and the partnership has identified future projects in Colombia, Bhutan and Tanzania.

WWF’s Carter Roberts, left, and The Earth Institute’s Jeffrey Sachs signed an agreement in at COP21 in Paris to set up a partnership between the two organizations to incorporate climate research into conservation efforts.

From the climate talks in Paris, to our global ADVANCE project sites and beyond, science matters when it comes to managing climate change. To kick off our work together, we’ve asked renowned climate scientists from our partners at the Center for Climate Systems Research to share their thoughts on some of our most timely and pressing climate questions:

Will biodiversity be safe if we limit global warming to 2°C?
The answer to this question depends largely on which species or ecosystems we are considering. Some species and ecosystems are more sensitive to change than others. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a 1-2°C increase will pose a risk to unique and threatened systems. And scientists have also demonstrated through modeling that impacts on biodiversity can continue for decades after climate stabilization.

So far the planet has warmed by about 1°C since pre-industrial times. Even with this level of warming, scientists have already recorded many impacts on species and ecosystems. These observed changes include shifts in blooming dates of flowering plant and timing of animal reproduction, migration and hibernation. These types of changes will become more prevalent as the planet continues to warm.

Finally, it is important note that the goal of the climate negotiations in Paris is to limit the average global annual temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial conditions. Even if we achieve this goal, some areas of the planet will experience greater amounts of warming than others, particularly at the poles. This means that some species will be exposed to average annual temperature increases far greater than 2°C in addition to changes in weather extremes, shifting seasons, rising sea levels and more acidic oceans. While some species may benefit, these changes will result in shifting ranges for many species and possibly even extinction. Furthermore, as changes in climate will affect the availability of food sources, some species will experience a decline in numbers even if they are able to withstand changes in temperatures and precipitation.

Considering the bleak climate projections, have we already passed the ‘tipping point’?
A tipping point signifies a point of no return, whereby the global climate or a local ecosystem is pushed beyond the boundaries of its current state. Some researchers say that we have surpassed the tipping point for global ice sheets and that they will melt at rates that would result in catastrophic sea level changes. Other scientists are not so sure, and believe that if nations of the globe can agree on limiting their emissions as soon as possible, the global climate system can still be preserved with more limited impacts. Regardless, the message is clear that actions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions today will benefit future populations by stemming the worst effects of climate change.

On regional scales, specific locations will face greater levels of warming, more frequent droughts, or heavier downpours that could push local ecosystems beyond their current state. Some regions with degraded habitats, sensitive ecosystems, and low carrying capacity are likely to be very close to or have already surpassed their tipping points. However, understanding how the ecological systems have changed so far and identifying regional climate changes and impacts will help guide conservationists on how to increase resilience of these systems.

Because it is not possible to know exactly where a tipping point may be, a risk averse approach argues for reducing emissions quickly to dramatically to lessen the risk of climate and ecological surprises.

If we stop burning fossil fuels altogether today how long would it take for the climate to stabilize?
Even if humans were to completely stop burning fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas, the Earth’s atmosphere would continue to warm for at least decades and possibly centuries. This is because carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years after it is released when we burn fossil fuels.

Given this time lag, we also need to remember that even after temperatures stabilize, other systems such as oceans, ice sheets and biomes will continue to change far into the future. Even under low emissions scenarios, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that climate would not ‘stabilize’ until hundreds or even thousands of years from now.

A changing climate system affects biodiversity. We can and must slow the rate of global warming, but even the most aggressive efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions will not stop change for a very long time to come, well beyond our own lifetimes.

Why are some countries more vulnerable to climate change than others and which countries will be impacted the most?
The amount of warming, rainfall patterns, sea level rise, storms and other changes in the climate vary across the earth. Local climate conditions, geography (e.g., low-lying coastal areas), exposure of people and infrastructure, sensitive ecosystems, and capacity to withstand risks and recover all vary from country to country. While all countries are vulnerable to climate change both directly (through climate changes within their borders) and indirectly (through climate changes in other countries that lead, for example, to increases in the price of food), some regions are more vulnerable than others. Small island nations and nations with large populations living in megadeltas (e.g., Bangladesh and much of Southeast Asia) are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal flooding. Those least developed countries in the subtropics and tropics that rely on highly variable precipitation for staple crops—many of which are in Africa—are also highly vulnerable.

How can smallholder farmers in the developing world start to adapt to changing climate conditions without the resources that large-scale farmers have in the developed world?
In many respects, smallholder farmers are at a disadvantage in the face of climate change. They may lack access to capital markets and agrotechnology. However, these farmers are often knowledgeable about traditional varieties of crops and crop management strategies that are more suitable for the projected conditions (e.g., rice varieties that are more tolerant to droughts). Some smallholder farmers may also have strong social support networks. Making sure these farmers have access to climate risk information at seasonal and longer time scales is a step towards leveling the playing field. This type of climate information can also assist government and aid agencies as they target suitable resources and build capacity to help farmers adapt.

How is science improving climate projections? Do we know enough to act now?
Climate models are our best available tool for simulating the climate of the future. Climate models will continue to improve, but for many climate problems, we already have enough information to act. Many of the largest obstacles to mitigation and adaptation are not related to a lack of climate information but rather are related to existing systems and policies.

After decades of advances in scientific understanding and computational power, today’s climate models are able to simulate many of the large-scale climate features that impact local climate, including high-pressure systems, mid-latitude storm tracks, and the jet stream. Projections of many important climate changes, such as the amount of warming and sea level rise are robust. As climate models continue to advance, they will tackle finer-resolution processes like what will happen to sea breezes and local storms. But we cannot wait for models to improve before taking action. We must make decisions today with the information we already have.

Answers provided by:
• Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University
• Radley Horton, Associate Research Scientist, Center for Climate Systems Research, The Earth Institute, Columbia University,
• Manishka De Mel, Staff Associate, Center for Climate Systems Research, The Earth Institute, Columbia University,
• Danielle Peters, Staff Associate, Center for Climate Systems Research, The Earth Institute, Columbia University

  • Date: 09 December 2015

It’s day 10 in Paris, and today the 2nd draft of the climate deal was released. In advance of the 29-page draft release, United States’ Secretary of State, John Kerry, delivered a speech urging stronger climate action from all countries:

"We need agreement that emphasizes adaptation and resilience... For many countries, this is a matter of life and death.”

We issued the following statement from Lou Leonard in response to Secretary Kerry’s address:

“Secretary of State John Kerry just gave a much-needed political and financial boost to the negotiations, further bridging the trust gap hanging over these talks. This is a pivotal moment for the Paris talks where political leadership is crucially needed. Secretary Kerry’s speech hit the right notes on greater ambition, accepting US responsibility and promoting global solidarity.” He added, “Importantly, the Secretary said that to protect the vulnerable we need to increase our ambition every five years. If we are to have any chance to meet a 1.5 or even 2C target, this cycle must begin immediately. Over the next two days, all countries, including the United States, should focus on ensuring that nations come back to the table before 2020 to improve on the national emission cuts announced in Paris.”

Tasneem Essop, WWF’s head of delegation to the UN at the talks, also responded to the new draft in this statement:

“We still have the ingredients for an ambitious outcome in Paris. But they still haven’t taken the hard decisions yet. Ministers now have just two days to decide to either put us on a path that will limit us to 1.5C of warming, or towards a 3C world.”

Today we also announced that WWF is partnering with the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University’s Earth Institute to create a new approach to incorporating climate information into on-the-ground conservation work. Read more about the partnership and questions from conservationists to climate scientists here.

Join celebrities on Twitter urging your leaders to call for a COP21 deal that increases climate action before 2020!

  • Date: 08 December 2015

It is the ninth day of COP21 and we’re only a day away from the deadline set by the French COP President for the delivery of the final agreement text. Ministers now have to work to ensure that we have a strong outcome in Paris. We are at a crossroads - we either go down a path to a 3 degree world, or we put in place all the necessary building blocks to put us on a path to a 1.5 degree future.

We are in danger of losing reference to a pre-2020 review of national pledges with the hope of increasing ambition, this means we could be locked into the current insufficient pledges for the next 15 years. Currently, those pledges only get us halfway to where the science says we need to be to avoid the worst effects of climate change. A post-2020 review of pledges means that we would lock in the current national actions and we’d see no increase in efforts until 10 to 15 years from now. WWF held a media briefing today on the need for a pre-2020 review and increased ambition.

In other news from today, WWF-US CEO Carter Roberts signed a memorandum with Latin American leaders to help to expand the protected areas of the Amazon. Steps to preserve the Amazon are critical as there is a clear link between the health of the Amazon and the health of the planet. The rain forests, which contain 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon, help stabilize local and global climate.

  • Date: 07 December 2015

As the United Nations' climate talks (COP21) begins its second week, the pressure is on for negotiators to produce a global agreement that puts us on track toward a sustainable future. New voices from across the spectrum add to the chorus calling on our leaders to take the bold steps needed to protect our planet from the devastating effects of climate change. One of those critical voices is the US Latino community.

Today, Latino organizations and leaders representing labor, education, and the civil and immigrants’ rights sector have joined conservation leaders calling on Members of Congress to support President Obama’s efforts to reduce US emissions and support developing nations’ efforts to prepare and respond to climate change. Acting at home and cooperating with other nations is needed if we truly want to reduce global warming and slow climate change. These leaders feel so strongly, they supporter a full-page ad in today’s POLITICO:

Latinos from North to South America experience firsthand the widespread devastation of climate change: 28 million Latinos live in the states hardest hit by climate change impacts, like California, Florida and Texas; 50 percent of US Latinos live in the most ozone-polluted cities in the country; and, Hispanic children are 40 percent more likely to die from asthma, as compared to non-Hispanic whites. Meanwhile, in Latin America 13.2 million people have been affected by disasters such as droughts, excessive rains and floods in 2015 alone.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Countries across the globe are showing that it is possible to implement policies to reduce emissions and slow global warming which contributes to extreme weather while transitioning to a cleaner economy. Costa Rica for example, achieved a gigantic feat this year by generating 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources for over 6 months. And Brazil has had significant success in reducing deforestation in the Amazon which has reduced carbon emissions while growing its economy. In the US, the Obama Administration has also taken significant steps to reduce power plants emissions by 32 percent by 2030.

These efforts must accelerate because climate change is real and already here. Further environmental degradation, runaway weather, and even more migration will continue if we fail to act. As President Obama so eloquently said during his speech at the global summit last week “no nation, large or small is immune from the impacts of climate change.” We agree. Strong action both domestically and in the region is needed to reduce our collective vulnerability, strengthen regional ties and to ensure future generations have the chance to live in a healthy, safe, and decarbonized world.


Vanessa Cardenas is Climatico Program Director at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Follow her on Twitter at .