Some Key Takeaways
- There is more carbon stored in existing forests than in all recoverable oil, coal, and natural gas.
- Avoiding the release of forest carbon emissions by land use changes is just as urgent as halting our use of fossil fuels.
- As our climate changes, we need our forests more than ever. Yet, they are even more vulnerable to loss from disease, drought and fires.
Forests Are Part of the Solution! Let’s Protect Them
The causes of deforestation — mining, fires, logging and land clearing for unsustainable agricultural practices — occur, unabated, across the globe. When any of these activities occur, most of the organic carbon that has been stored in these trees, often over centuries, is lost to the atmosphere. The World Resources Institute estimates that loss of forests contributes between 12% and 17% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. As deforestation continues unabated, loss of forest increases to those emissions.
We Must Keep Forest Carbon Firmly Rooted in the Ground
A recent IPCC report tells us that to have a greater than 66% chance of keep warming below 1.5°, we cannot emit more than around 750 billion tons of CO2 in the coming decades. This report also claims that recoverable fossil reserves hold 3.5 times that amount. But, the IPPC also found that the world’s forests hold over 4 times that amount!
It is clear that protecting our forests is just as urgent as halting our use of fossil fuels. To stay below 1.5°C, we must keep forest carbon rooted in the ground. We cannot afford to keep losing our forests to land use changes any more than we can afford to continue to rely on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs.
The effects of deforestation. Photo by Dikshajhingan. March 2016. Creative Commons, Wikimedia.
How Do We Do It?
The major challenges to preventing deforestation are political and economic. Protecting earth’s forests will require large-scale incentives and regulatory mechanisms to address the major sources of deforestation, which include logging, farming, ranching, mining, invasive species and pests, fire, and palm oil production in the tropics.
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