From our friends at IndyACT in Lebanon…

Mount Lebanon, May 10, 2009: Today more than 120 activists from two environmental NGOs, IndyACT and AFDC, gathered in a cedar forest to voice their concern against climate change and to highlight its impacts on Lebanon’s forests. There demand is that the future government and parliament put climate change high on the agenda.

The activists stood ‘drew a human chain’ in the Chouf Cedars Forest, the biggest Cedars forest in the country that could disappear due to climate change in the future. The projected increase in temperature will likely shift the many forest species to the North or to higher elevations, and 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.  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. A number of years ago, a new insect, Cephalcia Tannourinensis, destroyed cedars in an entire area in northern Lebanon. American University of Beirut did a study and concluded that this insect sudden outburst is due to climate change. Also Cedar trees seeds need to be covered by snow to germinate, and due to increased temperature, Lebanon’s snow is slowly disappearing.

“Forest fires are not only increasing in intensity, but are also the forest fire season is expanding”, said Karine Al-Zoughby 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 parliament candidates in the elections to memorize the number 350. 350ppm (parts per million) is the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere that climate scientists say we need to reach in order to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts. CO2 is the gas causing climate change, which has been constantly pumped into the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution, due to our addiction to 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 all together”, 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.”

This December, governments from around the World will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, to finalize a new global treaty on climate change during the biggest Climate Summit in history. IndyACT and AFDC call on the Lebanese government to prioritize climate change on the agenda, and actively participate in these negotiations.