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Here’s a Way We Can Immediately Cut Carbon Emissions by 20%

Here’s a Way We Can Immediately Cut Carbon Emissions by 20%

Environmentalists are often stereotyped as tree-huggers, but it turns out that anyone who hopes to avoid the mounting global warming catastrophe better start showing some affection toward trees, particularly those that grow in the tropics.

In the first study of its kind, researchers at the University of Edinburgh calculated the environmental value of tropical trees. They found that if humans were to stop chopping down trees in these regions, our planet’s overall carbon emissions would be reduced by as much as 20%.

It’s not that the act of cutting down trees generates a lot of pollution, it’s that the trees are natural receptacles for carbon dioxide. When the trees suck in CO2 and store it in their leaves and bark, there is that much less carbon available to heat the planet. Specifically, the Edinburgh researchers found that tropical forests are capable of taking in two billion metric tons of carbon.

When trees are chopped down, not only are they no longer available to suck in additional carbon dioxide, but they release the CO2 they’ve been holding on to for all these years back into the atmosphere. All of the work they have done to help delay global warming vanishes.

An immediate 20% reduction in carbon emissions could be critical. “If we limit human activity in the tropical forests of the world, this could play a valuable role in helping to curb the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” said Professor John Grace, the study’s lead researcher. “Preventing further losses of carbon from our tropical forests must remain a high priority.” Provided world leaders involved themselves in preventing mass deforestation, this drastic drop in pollution could be achievable.

Alas, like most environmental issues, it’s easier said than done. Deforestation is a lucrative industry for these parts of the world. In reality, most of these forests are cleared not for the trees themselves, but in order to create more space for farming and livestock grazing. Growers of crops like palm oil, sugar, and soybeans are particularly responsible for knocking down tropical trees at alarming rates.

While it may not be easy, it’s certainly a worthwhile pursuit. Though a 20% reduction won’t help us to deflect catastrophe altogether, it would certainly help to buy us more time to figure out how to solve other facets of the problem. Why do we continue to knock trees down when they are some of the best allies we have in the fight against climate change?

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97 comments

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4:05PM PDT on Jun 18, 2014

Plant trees and the vegetation that growing around them.

1:07PM PDT on Jun 15, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

8:49AM PDT on Jun 15, 2014

Thanks

10:13PM PDT on Jun 14, 2014

John w.,
If that were to happen, the atmospheric rise of CO2 would be reversed - in theory.

2:48PM PDT on Jun 14, 2014

Great post. Thanks.

1:00PM PDT on Jun 14, 2014

YES! Great post, but as Dahna says, it's easier said than done. But we must do it.

3:53PM PDT on Jun 13, 2014

Save acres of rainforest for the cost of a cup of coffee (and stop 1000 tons of CO2 emissions at the same time):
https://www.rainforesttrust.org/acres-for-50cents/

4:25AM PDT on Jun 13, 2014

I remember reading somewhere, that if we reforested all the deforested land from the last 100 years, we could reverse global warming.

4:23AM PDT on Jun 13, 2014

This is why I try to give to protect rainforests & to reforestation projects.

3:29PM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

I cringe at trees being cut

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