The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

22 July 2007

Rainforests and global warming

Tropical rainforests are of key importance to addressing climate change. This is often forgotten with all the talk of going carbon neutral and offsetting aircraft emissions.

Just the next five years of carbon dioxide released from the burning of the rainforests (which contributes 20% of global Greenhouse Gas emissions) will be greater than all the emissions from air travel since the Wright brothers until at least 2025.

Conserving the planet’s forests needs to be given much higher priority in the effort to reduce global carbon emissions for the following reasons:
• The importance of this source to total emissions.
• Because carbon capture an d nuclear technology will make no major impact on reducing emissions before 2030.

We can tackle deforestation now, without the need for inventing new and expensive technologies or creating a new energy infrastructure. Apart for storing carbon, these forests are also giant utilities generating rainfall and air-conditioning the atmosphere on a global scale. They maintain the planet for all the world’s people. This is something the world community must start to pay for and in doing so it will not only help the effort to conserve the forests but it will also help alleviate poverty among 1.2 billion of the world's poor who depend on these forests for their livelihoods. Developing countries cannot do this on their own. The global warming problem is not of their making. Yet this course of action offers the cheapest and most efficient immediate action for addressing climate change.

Who contributes what to Greenhouse Gas emissions
Power 24%
Deforestation 18%
Transport 14%
Industry 14%
Agriculture 14%
Buildings 8%
Other 5%
Waste 3%

The importance of forests to carbon capture
• Forest trees and soils contain twice as much carbon as in the whole of the earth’s atmosphere. Tropical forests store between 120 and 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare.
• Forest burning is contributing 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year in Brazil and 350 million tones per year in Indonesia.
• Peatlands cover just 3% of the earth’s land surface, but are the largest terrestrial store of biomass carbon. In South East Asia, with 7.6% of the world’s peatlands, 42 billion tones of carbon is stored.
• When peatland is drained, cleared or burned for agriculture, greenhouse gas emissions come from peat oxidization as well as from fire.

The Global Canopy Trust
The GCT is an international network of 29 scientific institutions from 19 countries involved in forest canopy research. Find out more from GCT organises forest canopy experience days in the UK in partnership with Go Ape It also organises more sophisticated forest experiences for the intrepid explorer who wants to learn more about the importance of forests in South East Asia and South America.

Facts about forest canopies
• Forest canopies are the richest known yet least explored terrestrial habitat on earth.
• The canopy is the functional interface between 90% of the globe's biomass and the atmosphere.
• 40% of all species on earth may exist in the canopy; 30% of them are likely to be canopy specialists.
• The value of this biodiversity to medicine, agriculture and humankind is unknown.
• New research shows rising CO2 is altering canopy function and could have a significant influence on disease patterns, hydrology (forest canopies intercept up to 25% of precipitation) and wood quality of over 45 million ha of land.
• We do not accurately know the canopy's role in maintaining the earth's carbon balance or climate.15-37% of global species most at risk could become extinct due to predicted climate change impacts in 50-100 years. Most of these will be in forest canopies.
• The forest canopy is the prime location for future risk prediction under global change and in which to interrogate ecosystem models.
• Multidisciplinary research in the canopy has challenged concepts of global species richness, plant physiology and the provision of ecosystem services.
• Closed forest canopies are fragmenting and disappearing faster than any other habitat.

Three things to do if you care about forests:
1. Find out about the UN billion trees campaign: the target was to plant 1,000,000,000 trees. So far pledges have been made to plant 1,063,845,640 trees and 37,131,175 have actually been planted. You can join the campaign and pledge to plant some trees (even just one tree) in your garden, as a school project, to brighten up the streets in your neighbourhood or to create a community orchard or forest. Make a pledge today.
2. Help TreeAid plant trees in rural Africa. This creates employment, alleviates poverty, helps counter desertification as well as capturing carbon.
3. Click on the Rainforest Site every day and save one square metre of rainforest a day. Get your friends to do this. Start a clickers group. It is a cost-free way of doing a little bit to save the rainforest. Make the Rainforest Site your homepage. It works!

Petition the Prime Minister

Petitions have long been sent to the Prime Minister by post or delivered to the Number 10 door in person. Some with millions of signatures. You can now both create and sign petitions on 10 Downing Street website, providing you with the opportunity to get your petition directly to the Prime Minister’s office.

The e-petitions system was launched on the Prime Minister’s website in November 2006.

Britain has a new Prime Minister since June 2007, Gordon Brown. Use the PM’s petition site to bring matters to his attention… and even to try to influence government policy. But remember that you will need to publicise the petition as widely as you can and ask everyone not just to sign it but to circulate it to their own address books, and in this way get as many people as possible to sign up. Aim to get tens of thousands of people to back your petition. If you only get a few people, then your efforts will backfire… as your cause will seem to have little public support.

A popular petition that is currently live with over 40,000 signatures: We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to repeal the Hunting Act 2004.
The Hunting Act 2004: has done nothing for animal welfare; threatens livelihoods in the longer term; ignores the findings of Lord Burn's Enquiry; gives succour to animal rights extremists; is based on political expedience following the Prime Minister's unconsidered response on the television programme Question Time in 1999; is framed to persecute a large minority who support a traditional activity; does not command popular support in the country except amongst the uninformed and mal-advised.

Another popular petition with around 25,000 signatures: We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to immediately and retrospectively give all Gurkha servicemen and their immediate families past and present British citizenship.
Gurkhas have served the British forces with loyality and dedication for many years, yet we as a country treat them poorly and with inequality. Members of the regiment who served in the Falklands are not entitled to a pension, after service they are treated like illegal aliens. This it totally wrong and unacceptable. I ask that they willingly risk their life for our well being and should be given citizenship as a matter of principle as no country could ask more from an individual and these people are proven good members of our society and we will deeply benefit us as a nation if we give these men and women automatic British citizenship.

And also with around 25,000 signatures: We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Stop the Chancellor from using lottery money to fund the Olympics in 2012.
Stop the chancellor using lottery money to plug the funding gap in the 2012 Olympics. If this goes ahead at least £900m will go from Big Lottery, Sport England, Arts Council and Heritage Lottery much of this money would fund projects within the local voluntary and community sector. Services to disadvantaged people will be directly affected by the loss of this funding, people who will have no opportunity to benefit from the Olympics directly but rely on local services provided by the voluntary sector.

And these were the five most recent petitions as of 23rd July 2007:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to…
1. Act to stop "fair share fee schemes" being used as a back door to creating closed shops in Britain’s workplaces.
2. Allow children the right's to use the toilets during lessons, which are in a clean safe environment. As well as the right to being allowed to drink plenty of fluids to maintain a healthy bladder and bowel.
3. Raise the school leaving age to 18.
4. Set up a democratic organisation to represent the UK’s 40 million road users, and democratise camera partnerships.
5. Ensure Medical professionals gain more understanding and show more respect to sufferers of the rare condition Transverse Myelitis.

Act now. Draw up your own petition to the UK Prime Minister at Sign some of the live petitions on the website. Or if you want to petition the world, go to the Care2 PetitionSite at or Petition on-line at

Browse the 10 Downing Street website and engage in webchats with UK Government Ministers:

"Ask the White House" is an online interactive forum, which allows you to interact with Bush administration officials and friends of the White House. Launched in April 2003, citizens have participated in over 200 online discussions with Cabinet Secretaries, Senior White House Officials, behind-the-scenes professionals at the White House, and others. Transcripts of every live chat session are on the website.