The Economist’s last week issue had an in-depth look into “The World’s Lung,” that is our forests. How deforestation in one country like Brazil could have an impact across the Americas.
A must read.
In most rich countries the pressure on forests has eased; but in many tropical ones—home to around half the remaining forest, including the planet’s green rainforest girdle—the demand for land is increasing as populations rise. In Congo, which has more rainforest than any country except Brazil, the clearance is mostly driven by smallholders, whose number is about to double. Rising global demand for food and biofuels adds even more to the heat. So will climate change. That may already be happening in Canada, where recent warm winters have unleashed a plague of bark beetles, and in Australia, whose forests have been devastated by drought and forest fires.
Clearing forests may enrich those who are doing it, but over the long run it impoverishes the planet as a whole. Rainforests are an important prop to continental water-cycles. Losing the Amazon rainforest could reduce rainfall across the Americas, with potentially dire consequences for farmers as far away as Texas. By regulating run-off, trees help guarantee water-supplies and prevent natural disasters, like landslides and floods. Losing the rainforest would mean losing millions of species; forests contain 80% of terrestrial biodiversity. And for those concerned about the probable effects of climate change, forests contain twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, in plant-matter and the soils they cover, and when they are razed and their soils disturbed most is emitted. If the Amazon went up in smoke—a scenario which a bit more clearance and a bit more warming makes conceivable—it would spew out more than a decade’s worth of fossil-fuel emissions.
via the Economist