To Stop Climate Change, We Must End Deforestation

The current rate of global deforestation could impact climate change even more than scientists had previously estimated, a new study warns.

Publishing in the journal “Nature Communications,” an international group of scientists warn of the massive “accumulated loss of trees” expected to happen in the next three to four decades. Regardless of current efforts to reduce climate change, deforestation would intensify greenhouse gas emissions.

Researcher Paulo Artaxo of the University of Sao Paulo’s Physics Institute explained:

After adjusting the model to reproduce the current conditions of Earth’s atmosphere and the rise in surface temperatures that has occurred since 1850, we ran a simulation in which the same scenario was maintained but all forests were eliminated. The result was a significant rise of 0.8 °C in mean temperature. In other words, today the planet would be almost 1 °C warmer on average if there were no more forests.

Official figures show we have lost the equivalent of 1,000 soccer fields of forests per hour over the last 25 years.

While deforestation declined by half over the past three decades, and recent forest conservation projects have made significant steps, the loss is still too high. This study, therefore, offers much-needed insight as to why our forests are so critical for climate regulation.

Crunching the numbers in new ways.

To explore this problem, the researchers embarked on a seemingly epic quest: They sought to reproduce the planet’s current atmospheric conditions using computer models developed by the UK’s meteorological service. This approach allowed the scientists to examine multiple variables, including aerosols, VOCs, ozone, carbon dioxide and methane.

The researchers also looked at years worth of data on vegetation and tree cover and forest emission rates.

This study showed a major difference that previous models hadn’t produced, largely due to one key factor: biogenic volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. Trees everywhere release VOC emissions, which become aerosols when they meet oxygen in our atmosphere. Because these aerosols reflect some of the sun’s radiation back into space, they can regulate our climate and stop some of the warming.

Deforestation: lose our forests, lose our cool.

Perhaps the most critical take-away from this study is that carbon emission reduction efforts will count for little if deforestation continues. That finding should serve massive wake-up call, and it adds to a growing chorus of concern.

Scientists Thomas Lovejoy and Carlos Nobre recently warned in “Scientific Advances” that the loss of the Amazon rainforest is also reaching a tipping point, which could disrupt the world’s hydrological cycle. Were that to happen, 50 percent of the forest could become a “degraded savannah.”

These recent studies suggest that forest loss and climate change are intimately linked — and, unless we act now, these problems may rapidly worsen.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

124 comments

Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Knud Thirup
Knud Thirup2 months ago

Ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R3 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R3 months ago

ty

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Kate G
Kate G3 months ago

we need to plant more trees and reduce, reuse and recycle.

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Arlene C
Arlene C3 months ago

MERCI STEVE

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