Forests - threats

Around the world, lush tropical forests are being logged for timber and pulp, cleared to grow food, and destroyed by the impacts of climate change. Four fifths of the forest that covered almost half of the Earth's land surface eight thousand years ago have already been irreplaceably degraded or destroyed.

Every two seconds, an area of forest the size of a football pitch is lost due to logging or destructive practices. Seventy two per cent of Indonesia's intact forest landscapes and 15 per cent of the Amazon's have already been lost forever. Now the Congo's forests face the same threat.

While the causes vary from region to region, they all have one thing in common: human activity. Through agriculture and logging, mining and climate change, humankind is wiping out irreplaceable forests - and the life that depends on them - at a terrifying pace.

View of the Amazon from above. This 1645 hectare area has been logged to plant soy.

Agri-business is responsible for massive rainforest destruction as forests are burned to make way for cattle ranches, or cleared for palm oil or soya plantations. In this way, irreplaceable rainforests are converted into products that are used to make toothpaste, chocolate and animal feed.

Industrial logging for timber, pulp and paper has also devastated much of the world's rainforests. Not only are ancient trees cut down on a vast scale, but unplanned and inefficient practices lead to enormous additional wastage. And, by building roads into pristine rainforests, the logging industry opens them up to secondary effects like human settlement, hunting, fuel-wood gathering and agriculture.

Today, forests face another threat. Deforestation contributes to climate change (overall, it accounts for one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions - which is why Indonesia is the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter and Brazil the fourth). At the same time, climate change itself threatens forests on a terrifying scale.

Rising global temperatures damage and kill trees, and increase drought and forest fires. Dying trees release still more carbon, which further increases our global temperature. This cycle of forest collapse represents a critical feedback loop that could drive warming for centuries, change life cycles on Earth, and usher in a sweeping transformation of human civilisation. The surest way to stop it is to end deforestation.

Greenpeace is campaigning for zero deforestation globally by 2020 because protecting forests is one of the quickest and most effective ways to prevent climate change, protect biodiversity and defend the rights of forest communities.

To realise this vision, the international community, corporations, forest communities and individuals in consumer countries will need to work together in an unprecedented, concerted effort. You can read more about the solutions to forest destruction here.

The latest updates

 

How community land rights can save our forests and climate

Blog entry by Fionuala Cregan | 21 March, 2017 1 comment

Almost exactly two years ago, the local communities of Mahan forest, in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, had plenty of reason to celebrate. On the eve of the International Day of Forests 2015, they received news that their...

In Brazil, dams threaten rivers, the environment and people's lives

Blog entry by Luana Lila | 14 March, 2017 2 comments

Today is the International Day of Action for Rivers: a time to remember and honour the communities who have been impacted by the construction of dams and the movements trying to prevent disastrous new dam projects. For Brazil, the...

I don’t want to be a part of the problem

Blog entry by Khalimat Tekeeva | 6 March, 2017

My name is Khalia, I have been working with Greenpeace Russia for more than three years to try and make our planet a better place. I love The Great Northern Forest for its wild beauty, for the inspiration it offers to anyone who...

HSBC promises to cut ties with forest-trashing palm oil companies

Blog entry by Annisa Rahmawati | 21 February, 2017 1 comment

There's been a major breakthrough in protecting Indonesia's forests: HSBC has committed to  breaking its links to palm oil companies destroying forests and peatlands. This is a fantastic  result for everyone who has been campaigning...

I've seen the forest fires HSBC is helping to fund

Blog entry by Adi Prabowo | 13 February, 2017

The elderly gentleman approached me as our morning protest yesterday unfolded in front of HSBC’s Indonesian head office in Jakarta’s World Trade Centre building. Refusing the campaign postcard that I offered, his brow furrowed, he...

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