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Deforestation, Climate Change: There Still is No Planet B

A recent article by Bobby Magill of Climate Central looks at massive deforestation and how it contributes to the rising carbon emissions that impact global warming. The article tells of a study by Global Forest Watch  revealing how the world lost 47 percent more forested land in 2015 than it did 16 years ago and how in 2015 about 49 million acres of forest disappeared worldwide, equivalent to the size of Nebraska.

The truth is that deforestation is a growing contributor to climate change. Cutting down forests hurts two ways. First by losing trees’ capacity to remove CO2 from the air and store it in their leaves and wood. Second when trees are burned or rot, by releasing the stored CO2 back into the air. This is not a small problem. We’re talking about cutting down forests the size of Nebraska. We’re talking about cutting down 70% of the trees in Indonesia, to clear the land to grow palm oil trees. We’re talking about Brazil cutting down vast areas of rain forest for logging and agriculture.


How much does deforestation contribute to global warming? The scientists aren’t sure, but they’re working on it. For now all they will say is that if we collectively don’t slow the rate of deforestation, we have little chance of meeting the Paris Agreement target of limiting the global temperature rise to 2°C.

So, add less deforestation to the list of must dos: have fewer kids, burn less carbon, drive and fly less, eat less meat, recycle more, capture and store lots of carbon. If we don’t do these essential cut backs, we will be forced to take bigger, more dangerous, unknown risks. We’re not talking about seeding a cloud or two, we’re talking big weather changing experiments with big risks and unknown, unforeseeable consequences such as geoengineering, harnessing the earth’s reflectivity. We should realize however, that at some point, we may have no choice but to take those risks to avoid disaster or a doomsday scenario.

Pray we never reach that point. There is still no Planet B.

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2 Responses

  1. As a kid, I was taught that deforestation was one of the biggest environmental problems facing society. As time has passed and as I have delved more in-depth to the science of climate change and environmental problems, I have learned that deforestation is just one of a whole host of problems that is exacerbating climate change (you mentioned some, like meat consumption, carbon release, and airplanes). However, I was surprised to read that scientists aren’t sure how much deforestation actually contributes to global warming. What are some reasons why they are unsure, and what methods and measurements are they using to determine how deforestation affects global warming? Has there been significant comparison of current deforestation trends and historical ones, since the vast majority of forest old growth has been eliminated throughout various time periods?

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment on the deforestation post. Your questions are good ones and justify scientists’ further research. It would be, indeed, quite interesting to find out more in the historical context. Keep asking those questions!

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