“Sobering, Inspiring, Frightening, and Educational”: Woodwell Climate scientist talks about COP25

Wayne Walker on a panel discussion at COP25.

Woodwell scientist Wayne Walker on a panel discussion at COP25.

Woodwell Climate Research Center (formerly Woods Hole Research Center) scientist Dr. Wayne Walker attended the COP25 United Nations climate change meetings in Madrid this month, with an eye toward highlighting the climate mitigation value of tropical forests. His particular focus was on the aboveground forest carbon stored in indigenous territories and protected natural areas of the Amazon. Dr. Walker spoke at two official side events, alongside Woodwell Climate’s long-standing partners IPAM, COICA, and, FAN Bolivia.

What event was most important for you at COP25?

Wayne Walker: The COICA/Woodwell Climate co-hosted official UNFCCC Side Event titled, “Contribution of Amazon Indigenous People to Climate Protection.” The event was an opportunity to preview new Woodwell research (expected out soon) focused on the role that Amazon indigenous territories and protected natural areas—and the people living within them—have played in maintaining forest carbon intact in the face of pressures from deforestation, forest degradation, and natural disturbance.

From your perspective, what made this year’s COP unique?

Wayne Walker: The long-neglected processes of forest degradation and disturbance are receiving the level of attention they deserve where their contributions to forest carbon emissions are concerned. Improvements in tools and techniques have enhanced our ability to map and monitor these difficult-to-detect phenomenon, and a number of new studies are shining much-needed light on the problem. Unfortunately, this progress comes at a time when deforestation is on the rise across the Amazon and elsewhere. Hence, while our ability to track forest carbon emissions is increasingly comprehensive, the research is revealing a source of carbon to the atmosphere that is considerably larger than previously appreciated.

Why is COP an important event? 

Wayne Walker: Despite the slow pace of international climate negotiations, this annual event remains the largest “meeting of the minds” on climate change, spanning the broad range of stakeholders and interests. Any given day can be at the same time sobering, inspiring, frightening, and educational. Overall, it continues to be an excellent opportunity to gain key insights on how [Woodwell Climate]’s science can be best applied for maximum impact on the climate crisis.

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