Deforestation is as BIG of a Problem as Fossil Fuels!

Alan L. Johnson

Deforestation continues to plague the environment globally and with a focus on reducing fossil fuels or promoting alternative energy we're forgetting that we also need trees!

Deborah Lawrence, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia said in a Guardian article:

The forest piece of the conversation is often lost and I don’t think the IPCC report will highlight it enough. We almost take forests as a given but we lose forest every year, which means we are diminishing them as a carbon sink. Deforestation has been massively reduced in the Amazon, but that hasn’t happened elsewhere. As countries get more peaceful in Africa we could lose more tropical forests, which really worries me.

The IPCC refers to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who launched a report on how the world can avoid warming of 1.5C (2.7F) beyond pre-industrial levels, an aspirational target of the landmark Paris climate deal in 2015.

NC State University reminds us:

  • Trees create an ecosystem to provide habitat and food for birds and other animals.
  • Trees absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide from the air, and release oxygen.

According to Oliver Milman from The Guardian:

Protecting and restoring forests would reduce 18% of emissions by 2030 and help to avoid global temperature rise beyond 1.5C.

The Rainforest Action Network says that:

The biggest threat to forests today is industrial agriculture production of commodities like conflict palm oil, fabric, and paper.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2016 State of the Forests:

7 million hectares of forest are lost annually while agricultural land expands by 6 million. Only 4 billion hectares of forest remain worldwide.

With this alarming deforestation rate from agriculture and a clear need for preserving the world's lungs, what can we do?

Dr. Lawrence goes on to say that:

It breaks my heart to think we’d lose half our tropical forests for plantations just to save ourselves. It’s horrifying that we’d lose our biodiversity to avert climate change. Losing tropical forests is not somehow cheaper than putting up wind farms in the US or Sahara.

Some people have suggested that a carbon tax should be applied to save forests, others believe in protectionist policies or simply giving sovereignty to indigenous peoples who would protect the forests themselves, but all of these are policy and longer-term initiatives. What about right now, what can we do to help reduce the amount of trees taken?

Thankfully the Mother Nature Network has given us a great blueprint with 5 things we can all do to help prevent deforestation:

  1. Plant a tree.
  2. Go paperless.
  3. Recycle and buy recycled products.
  4. Look for Forest Stewardship Council(FSC) certification on wood and wood products.
  5. Eat vegetarian meals as often as possible.

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. How might you change your behaviors to help reduce your paper consumption?

Q2. Would you pay a carbon tax to help stop deforestation?

Q3. What might you do to help someone else understand how big the deforestation issue is for our environment?