Managing Our Forests: Carbon, Climate Change, and Fire

Please join George Mason University and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute and Environmental Change and Security Program for a dialogue on  Managing Our Forests: Carbon, Climate Change, and Fire


  • Sandra Brown, Director and Chief Scientist, Ecosystem Services Unit, Winrock International
  • David Cleaves, Climate Change Advisor to the Chief, USDA Forest Service
  • William Sommers, Research Professor, Center for Climate and Society, George Mason University
  • Moderator: Thomas Lovejoy, University Professor, Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University, and Biodiversity Chair, Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars 6th Floor Flom Auditorium 1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Washington, DC 20004 USA

Webcast live at starting at 3:10

Please RSVP (acceptances only) with your name and affiliation to

[email protected]        

International climate change agreements emphasize sustaining carbon sequestration by global forests. At the same time, climate change and increased fire challenge the ability to sustainably manage those forests. The Earth’s forests, and other terrestrial biomes, have been sequestering carbon and evolving with climate change and fire for ~420 million years of Earth history. Records from ice cores, tree rings, charcoal sediments and other paleo data sources show climate, carbon flux, and fire to be strongly correlated over geologic time.   Humans have increasingly shaped global forest ecosystem evolution over the past 8,000 years, frequently through the use of fire. Maintaining the contribution of forests to global carbon cycles is one of seven criteria for Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) developed in accordance with  1992 Earth Summit guidance.

 With a quadrupling of pre-industrial atmospheric CO2 concentrations likely by 2100 under business as usual scenarios, the urgency for both enhancing forest carbon sequestration and for sustainably managing our forests while adapting to climate change is clear. But what approaches should we take? What do Earth history and current science offer as guidance for managing the forest component of our planet in the 21st Century?

Dr. Sommers will brief summarize historical and current conditions of global forests relating to carbon, climate, and fire. Dr. Brown will then describe the science for estimating the carbon dynamics of tropical forest degradation that can be used as the basis for developing baseline and monitoring methodologies for forest-carbon projects. She will provide a first person expert viewpoint on how forest carbon issues have been addressed via REDD+ in international negotiations. Dr. Cleaves will then address how these challenges are being addressed at the Federal level by an agency with lead responsibility for all of our Nations forests, and a major role in science, technical assistance, international support, and fire management. He will provide insights on adaptation approaches to climate change, the role of risk management, and the budgetary and other impacts of increasing fire activity.

This session is part of the “Managing the Planet” dialogues — developed jointly by George Mason University and the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program and Brazil Institute.  

Location: Woodrow Wilson Center at the Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (“Federal Triangle” stop on Blue/Orange Line), 6th Floor Flom Auditorium. A map to the Center is available at Note: Please allow additional time to pass through security.