Inhabitants of tropical rainforests will feel the consequences of climate change the keenest.
Without the resources to move or adapt, they will face life-changing difficulties. Yet by giving people a helping hand so they can continue to live and thrive in the forest, we might just avert disaster for all of us.
The communities that Cool Earth work with rely on the forest for food, culture and their livelihoods. Ask anyone in the rainforest for a story passed down the generations and they will tell you about respect for trees, and how the rainforest will provide for them. The Myth of the Bear is an example of one such story, from Cool Earth’s Asháninka partnership.
But, worryingly, more and more of the stories we hear from the rainforest reflect a change. Repeatedly we are told the weather is worsening, seasons are changing, and gardens are not growing as they did before. Those who live in rainforests have little historical responsibility for carbon emissions and climate change. Yet their lives are already aligning with the negative effects of increased carbon in the atmosphere.
Scientists are warning that the Amazon rainforest is drying out. As CO2 levels rise, forests evaporate less moisture into the air, resulting in fewer clouds forming above the trees. There is concern that drier forests and less rainfall will have an impact on biodiversity, freshwater availability and reliable food supplies for low-income forest communities.
By keeping their forest standing, Cool Earth’s partners in Milne Bay are insuring against severe weather. Here, mangroves provide unrivalled natural coastal defences, growing in the intertidal zones where rainforest meets the sea. And a new study had found that mangroves may store more carbon than we thought.
If every one of the 50 million inhabitants of the rainforest was given a helping hand to defend their forest, we’d all be insured against climate change.