Cutting down rainforests accounts for 20% of global CO2 emissions and the extcinction of around 6.000 species!
Deforestation plays huge role in climate change
Deforestation is the removal of forest or stand of trees that leaves land permanently destroyed. The main methods of deforestation are burning and clear cutting. Many ecologists refer to clear cutting as the ”ecological trauma of nature” as this method cuts down trees from large parts of land all at once. The reasons behind deforestation are known: trees are cut down to be used as building material and wood products or to be sold as fuel, while the clear land is used for agriculture to plant crops, as pasture for livestock, and of course for the expansion of inhabitation.
However, the big scale deforestation of rainforests is inextricably linked with climate change and, now scientists have all the means to prove how much the damage is and what can be done to reverse the negative impact on human life. But, what links forests with climate and life?
Forests are live parts of the Earth
Forests cover approximately 30% of Earth’s land and play significant role in maintaining the Earth’s climate stable and viable for all the species, including humans. They do so, by storing the carbon dioxide (CO2) , the gas molecule which is responsible for the absorption of thermal infrared radiation that leads to an increase in temparature, warming the Earth’s surface more than usual. What’s more, trees not only keep the CO2 levels low but they also release oxygen in the atmosphere. According to Greenpeace, forests around the world store 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide while an acre of trees produce the amount of oxygen needed for 18 people annually.
A tree that weighs 1000 kg produces roughly 100 kg of oxygen/year. Humans breath 740 kg of oxygen/year which is equal to 7 or 8 trees/person.
However, the role of forests doesn’t stop here. Forests maintain the water cycle. Trees, during photosynthesis, release water in the form of vapor. This moisture contributes to the formation of rain clouds that travel around the world and which in turn, they send the water back in the rainforests, rivers and land, keeping the drought away.
Can you imagine a planet with no trees and plants at all? Huge ammounts of carbon dioxide would be released in the air, locking all the thermal infrared radiation of the Sun in the atmosphere and rising the temperature at unpresedented high degrees. This would be the onset of drought, depletion of oxygen and the convertion of fertile land into desert. In other words, life on Earth will cease to be as we know it if deforestation doesn’t stop.
Apart from that role, however, tropical forests are the natural home of at least 2/3 of the world’s species. This huge biodeversity exists in rainforests because it took hundreds of thousands of years for a forest to develop its fauna and flora and, the older a forest is the more unknown species live there.
Rainforests are natural habitat for over 80% of plants and animals. source: National Geografic
In the Amazon, for example, to date, there have been recorded 40.000 plant species, 3000 freshwater fish species, 378 reptiles, 400 amphibians, 1300 birds, 96.660 smaller life forms and more than 100.000 invertebrate species. (source: WWF.)
So, it is obvious that destroying a forest, leads rare life forms to extinction. It is a murder against nature!
The deforestation in figures and, the corrupt governments
Considering the fact that deforestation is not something new and in many cases logging is illegal, there are many questions be raised as to why governments haven’t taken any serious steps to protect the environment.
According to the World Bank, the formal timber sector generates a gross value of over 600 billion dollars globally, when at the same time the illegal logging in US is estimated up to 23 billion dollars. It is also estimated that within 5 years, 33 billion dollars that was projected to the protection of important forests, ”lost their way” and ended up to funding political parties’ campaigns or covered the luxurious expenses of some politicians native to the cleared areas…Not only that, but many ”progressive” politicians constantly try to degrate the deforestation problem by referring to cleared areas as ‘the development of wood trade which opens new job positions.’ You see, for many nature lovers deforestation means the death of nature but in business world clearing down trees is equal to development.
A study of the European Commission gave some interesting yet worryingly numbers about deforestation in recent years. More specifically, 13 million hectars of pure rainforest are ripped out each year. This is approximately the size of Greece that is 131.957 km2 ( 50.949 sq miles). In the last 30 years, has been destroyed around 50% of tropical rainforests globally with the Amazon alone having lost 17% of its vegetation. In 2016, 29.7 million hectares were lost around the world (University of Meryland), while another study of the University of Michigan, this time, revealed that since 1600, 90% of Continental United States’ indigenous forest has been cut down.
Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, Africa and South America have been recorded with the biggest scale of deforestation in the last years. And here it comes the question: who is responsible for the protection of forests?
3.9 billion hectares (86%) of world’s forests are publicly owned which means that laws about the protection of the environment are often not supported by commensurate institutions. Law enforcement is often weak and corruption pervasive; Governments have begun to devolve more control of public lands to communities for forest managment.
xiii world Congress Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2009
Nine years ago, there was no political consensus about the managment of public forests! Only local communities and simple citizens took initiatives about the control of forests. It was only in 2015, after Paris climate agreement, when there was at last an acknowledgment of deforestation problem and its link with climate change and, the common agreement that if no countermeasures be taken globally, the impact on planet and our lives would be serious. In the articles 4 and 5 of the agreement it is referred that..
This Agreement, in enhancing the implementation of the Convention, including its objective, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change…(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change; (b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and Parties should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases as referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d), of the Convention, including forests… Parties recognize that adaptation is a global challenge faced by all with local, subnational, national, regional and international dimensions, and that it is a key component of and makes a contribution to the long-term global response to climate change to protect people, livelihoods and ecosystems, taking into account the urgent and immediate needs of those developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
Since April 2018, 194 states and the European Union have signed the agreement. The matter now, is how many of those countries will implement the environmental policies and what results will bring – who can absolutely trust politicians?
Remember that the best solution to the protection of the environment is always in people’s hands. You can be one of those who respect nature and, no matter how small step it may seem, by planting even a small bush you can also contribute to this endeavor. Join a volunteer team and be another one who makes the difference!