Deforestation

Page - July 20, 2010
Deforestation and forest degradation are both causes and results of global warming. As humans cut and burn the Earth's remaining ancient forests, massive amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. As global warming worsens, forests around the world are exposed to new stresses like droughts and unnatural forest fires -- phenomena that can lead to more deforestation and more greenhouse gas emissions.
Burning rainforest
Many of the world's richest rainforests are destroyed by human-set fires, releasing enourmous amounts of greenhouse gases.

The US and the international community must take action now to stop this vicious cycle from spinning out of control.

Every year, more dangerous greenhouse gases are emitted from forests than from all the world's cars, trucks, planes, trains and boats combined. Over the last 150 years, 30 percent of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere is thought to come from deforestation. The Canadian and Russian Boreal forests alone hold a whopping 40 percent of the world's land-based carbon stocks. Natural forests and their ancient soils create massive carbon storehouses we need to keep out of the atmosphere to avoid catastrophic climate change.

How Global Warming Hurts Forests

Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns can set off devastating chain reactions for forests. For example, droughts and higher temperatures could dry out the Amazon, leading to unnatural forest fires. Unadapted to fires, fragile Amazon soils would be impoverished, and rainforest trees and plants would have difficulty growing back. In their place, invasive, non-native species could take root, permanently changing the landscape. This combination of events could lead to the destruction and desertification of one of the world's most important ecosystems.

Global warming can also make natural phenomena extreme and out of balance. For example, forest fires, which are critical to the life cycle of many temperate forests, can become more hotter, larger, and more frequent. Likewise, insects play a role in forest ecology - they decompose litter, supply food for birds and small animals, and fuel an important cycle of life, death, and rejuvenation. But in northern forests, massive insect outbreaks are likely to increase in frequency, size and intensity as global warming creates droughts that weaken trees and warmer winters allow tree-consuming insects to thrive.

A Golden Opportunity - Save Forests, Save Our Climate

Jaguar
Forest protection benefits people, our climate, and endangered forest-dependent wildlife.

Fortunately, the connection between forests and the climate also provides us with a tremendous opportunity. There is now broad recognition that protecting forests is one of the most efficient and affordable ways to counter global warming.

Forests for Climate is a groundbreaking Greenpeace proposal to protect tropical forests through an innovative international fund. From the Congo to the Amazon, Forests for Climate provides a practical way to conserve tropical forests for our climate while protecting indigenous peoples and biodiversity. The mechanism would become part of the second phase (post-2012) of the Kyoto agreement on climate change.

Read more about the Forests for Climate proposal

Forests for Climate brochure (2nd edition)

Forests for Climate technical report

At the same, Greenpeace is actively campaigning to ensure northern forests - such as the Canadian and Russian Boreal forests and US National Forests - are conserved through market solutions and government actions. Learn more about these initiatives here.