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.

Cattle Paths in the Amazon

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.

Pristine forests near Manokwari in West Papua, the last frontier of intact ancient forest in Indonesia

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

 

A Deadly Trade-off

Publication | 27 September, 2016 at 6:00

Over the last two decades, the plantation sector has laid waste to Indonesia’s forests and peatlands. Millions of hectares have been destroyed for pulp and oil palm concessions at great cost to wildlife, the climate and people.

Burning Issue

Publication | 9 June, 2016 at 0:00

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) suspended Malaysian palm oil company IOI in March 2016 for breaches of RSPO principles. Since its suspension, IOI has lost many of its biggest customers. It responded with a lawsuit against the RSPO,...

Damning the Amazon

Publication | 13 April, 2016 at 8:00

Brazil’s Amazon region, which includes most of the world’s largest remaining area of rainforest, is under attack by uncontrolled economic exploitation. Mainly as a result of industrial agriculture, cattle ranching, mines and infrastructure...

Cutting Deforestation Out Of Palm Oil

Publication | 3 March, 2016 at 6:00

In recent years, the world’s biggest companies have woken up to the environmental costs associated with palm oil and the other commodities they buy. Nowhere are those costs more evident than in Indonesia, which has lost 31 million hectares of...

Forest Reference Emission Level (FREL) report

Publication | 2 December, 2015 at 11:00

In September 2015, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) announced the publication of a new Forest Reference Emission Level (FREL) report. This is the country’s official report to the UNFCCC, establishing baseline...

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