All posts by Tom Bliss

New study helps conservationists assess climate change

An extensive new study co-authored by UBoC’s Jamie Carr will help scientists update conservation strategies, and understand how climate change is affecting species around the world, as we struggle to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

Cat-Eyed Mangrove Snake – Boiga dendrophila. Photo by David Bickford. This Southeast Asian snake hunts in mangrove ecosystems, but rising sea levels as a result of climate change will result in habitat loss, threatening the species.

Successful climate change mitigation will require conservation of the world’s ecosystems and the species they comprise. Unfortunately, many of these are themselves vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate, and knowledge of how, why, when and where climate change could put species at risk is essential to developing plans minimize these potential impacts.

For decades, the scientific community has been grappling with the complex topic of assessing the climate change vulnerability of species, and a range of different methods to achieve this have been developed, each with their own requirements in terms of data and other resources. The diversity of approaches available can often leave assessors confused about which is the most appropriate way to undertake their assessments, and may prevent them from completing assessments altogether. 

In a new publication, a group of world-leading academics, have synthesized the huge body of literature surrounding this topic in order to provide those wishing to assess the vulnerability of species with a key resource to help them navigate the complexities and ensure that their outputs are as robust and useful as possible.

 “This work is important as it brings together the very latest thinking in a complex yet important field of study” says Jamie. “The paper will allow conservationists wishing to assess how climate change will impact upon one or more species to do so in the most rigorous manner possible, and will hopefully lead to greater consistency and comparability between assessments. As the earth’s climate continues to change, robust assessments of the impacts that this causes will be increasingly important if we are to safeguard biodiversity and the services that it provides to humans around the world”.

There is more information here, in the University of Leeds press release and also here, in the Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) press release.

Can Trees achieve 1.5 degrees?

UBoC’s Professor Piers Forster, who is also Director of the Priestly International Centre for Climate, and an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Lead Author, has returned from Incheon, Korea, in good heart concerning the IPCC’s Special Report SR15, upon which he’s been working for the past week.

While much of the news is stark – we have only a very few years in which to act if we are to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and so reduce catastrophic climate change to something we hope will be at least manageable – it’s encouraging to see that the IPCC has identified reforestation as one of four key areas of action.

This map from Carbon Brief shows where afforestation is taking place around the world.

At UBoC we’ve always been champions of the 3 trillion trees on our planet – as forests, woods, copses, or just standing proudly in hedgerows or out on the savannah. The Earth’s ‘Greenery Machinery‘ is currently our best and (until someone invents some workable engineering solutions) only way to suck significant quantities of CO2 out of the atmosphere. (Oceans remain by far the biggest carbon sink – see our map here – but we don’t currently have any way to increase this transaction). Meanwhile trees deliver a host of co-benefits such as water retention, pollution mitigation, healthy soils, shelter for crops and buildings, sustainable fuel, food, biodiversity, local enterprise, human health and wellbeing, and much more.

We’ve lost about 46% of the trees on this planet  since the start of human civilisation, and we’re still losing them at the alarming rate of 15 billion a year! But this can and, yes, let’s say will, be reversed.

It won’t solve the problem on its own – there’s unfortunately not enough land available to suck all of the extra CO2 out of the atmosphere, but it will make a big difference if we start today, and it will buy time for the engineers to come up with other ways to draw down excess carbon. Some of the ideas on offer include turning it into rock, making it into batteries, converting it into fuel, and burying it in spent oil and gas fields – but they all need more work.

Our report shows the globe is already experiencing harm from existing global warming of 1.0C, species are being wiped out, coral reefs are bleaching, increases in heatwaves, floods and forest fires.” said Piers. “Every bit of warming counts. But to stay below 1.5C requires us to halve our emissions within 10 years. Nearly everyone thinks this is virtually impossible to do, we are simply too late to prevent this and should have started 10 years ago. Well there is really only one way to turn the clock back and that is by planting trees. Planting trees and improving soils could soak up more than 250 billion tonnes of CO2, effectively turning the clock back by over 6 years, giving us that little ray of hope.  As Professor Jim Skea, one of the reports co-leaders from Imperial college said. “It’s not an ‘or’ it’s an ‘and’.” We need every solution there is, so planting these trees is not just a nice thing to do, it’s our moral imperative.” 








Thumbs Up for The Croc

The Carnivorous Crocodile, written by UBoC Chair Jonathan ‘Jonnie’ Wild, is getting some great reviews. Here’s a typical example from ‘English 4-11’ published by The English Association and the United Kingdom Literary Association (Number 64 – Autumn 2018).

This brightly illustrated tale of a greedy selfish crocodile who won’t share his water hole with other African animals is not only a great and funny read for younger children, but introduces the ideas of sharing, community and working together. The importance of conservation is explored at the back of the book and its purchase supports the work of Wildlife Conservation in Africa, so it could be used to explore issues beyond the storyline. The language is rich and the author uses alliteration effectively to enhance the text. ‘The ‘Carnivorous Crocodile who crunches creatures’ is outwitted by five flamingos, mischievous monkeys, eager elephants and gangly giraffes, who use their cunning and bravery to gain access to the waterhole. At first the selfish crocodile falls for their trickery but even he can see that two enormous elephants don’t bear much resemblance to flamingos, as they claim, and soon realises that he is going to have to share with his fellow animals. Recommended for animal lovers, adventurers, eco worriers, tricksters and children who love a funny story supported by bright bold illustrations. Age range: 3 to 7 years.”

Delta Energy and Environment offset their carbon again

Delta Energy & Environment is a research and consulting company that provides its clients with independent information, analysis, insight and advice into low carbon heat and distributed energy markets.

They have been offsetting their travel with UBoC for a number of years, and calculated that in 2017 they had been responsible for 178 tonnes of unavoidable carbon carbon emissions, which we were pleased to offset on their behalf using certificates for Plan Vivo’s Trees of Hope project in Malawi.Delta

At Delta-ee we produce high quality, client orientated research and consultation on distributed heat and energy, which inevitably involves national and international travel. We always choose the greenest options, but our company still produces some CO2 emissions. So we offset by various means, and this year have again offset all emissions from flights and train journeys with UBoC”. 

Dr Philippa Hardy Research Manager


Madagascar Smashes It!

(… the target for Terrific Tropical Trees, that is).

With help from private donors, UBoC originally set out to fund 15,640 trees at this remarkable project in Madagascar, via our partners, the International Tree Foundation (ITF).

But thanks to huge efforts by local delivery agency Education Développement, Environnement Naturel (EDENa),  that target has been smashed – with around 24,500 trees being planted for the money we provided – an achievement ITF dub ‘outstanding.’

Potting the orange tree nursery under the shade in Antanifotsy

This project is highly worthy of continuing funding – please contact Tom if you or your organisation would like to contribute.

The full story – with regular updates – is here.

Forests and Well-being – exploring the links.

UBoC’s Jamie Carr has published an interesting piece in The Conversation:

Forests are growing again where human well-being is increasing, finds new study

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John Swanepoel / shutterstock

Jamie Carr, University of Leeds

Countries with high levels of human well-being are more likely to show increasing forest growth. That’s the finding of a new study by a group of Finnish scientists, published in PLOS ONE. Their work shows that countries exhibiting annual increases in the amount of trees typically score highly on the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI), a scoring system that uses measures of life expectancy, education, and income to assess development status. Meanwhile, countries with a net annual forest loss typically score lower on the HDI.

The logical leap of faith here is to think that a remedy for the ongoing loss and degradation of much of the world’s forests would be a massive push for development in deforested countries. But while such a noble undertaking would be desirable in many ways, these apparent environmental links warrant scrutiny.

Continue reading Forests and Well-being – exploring the links.