Daniel J. Zarin has been named the Wildlife Conservation Society’s first Executive Director of Forests and Climate Change to lead the organization’s work emphasizing forests as a key nature-based solution to the climate crisis.
Zarin is a scientist and global thought-leader who has been focused on addressing the climate crisis for more than 30 years. He is well positioned to lead WCS’s strategy to protect and grow the role of the world’s forests as critical natural infrastructure for climate change mitigation and adaptation, for biodiversity, and for the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people.
Today, forests absorb and store about one-third of the fossil fuel emissions produced each year, but this essential “carbon sink” is increasingly vulnerable. Without it, climate change would be considerably worse; and the oceans considerably more acidic.
Zarin has been at the forefront on catalyzing action to reduce deforestation and advance other natural climate solutions. He served as Senior Director of Programs for the Climate and Land Use Alliance since its inception in 2010 and was previously a Senior Advisor to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Zarin has published widely on forest ecology, management, and policy, and the interface between deforestation and climate change.
A native of Great Neck, NY, Zarin began focusing on climate change after being influenced by US Senate testimony on climate in 1988 and while studying land use and deforestation issues in the Peruvian Amazon.
Said Zarin: “If governments and businesses had taken the science seriously and taken serious action during the past 30-plus years, we’d be in much better shape today. So now we’re facing a formidable problem. The bottom line is that we may have about a decade left to grapple with the climate crisis in ways that avoid a deeply impoverished natural world, and deeper human suffering.”
Since the early 1990s, Zarin has been involved in work in Brazil at the intersection between forest ecology, management and policy. He has been influenced and motivated by leaders of indigenous and other traditional communities who have committed their lives to protecting many of the world’s remaining forests.
Zarin will develop and lead the WCS forests and climate change strategy, which will prioritize science, on-the-ground conservation, and policy reforms at multiple scales – aimed at ensuring that the value of intact forests is accurately reflected in decisions that affect their future, and ours. In addition to being crucial for climate change mitigation and adaptation, intact forests sustain the livelihoods and cultures of many Indigenous Peoples; minimize extinction risk for huge numbers of wildlife and plant species; and maintain regional rainfall patterns that are critical for urban and agricultural water supplies. Tropical forests contribute to local and regional cooling – without them, large equatorial regions may become uninhabitable.
WCS aims to deploy its new strategy across our entire forest and climate change portfolio, which extends to 55 landscapes across our field conservation program in 25 countries across the globe. WCS has made long-term commitments to these landscapes, working closely with national governments, indigenous and local communities, as well as an array of private sector partners and multilateral agencies.
From 1995-2010, Zarin was a professor, first at the University of New Hampshire and subsequently at the University of Florida. He has a B.A. in History and a Master’s of Forest Science from Yale University; and a Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Pennsylvania.