Forests play an important role in regulating our climate because they absorb CO2 from the air and store it in trunks, branches, roots and leaves. Deforestation–especially the destruction of rainforests for creating palm oil plantations—contributes significantly to climate change by releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. Scientists estimate that forest loss and other changes to land use cause 23% of CO2 emissions. According to Global Forest Watch, between 2001 and 2017, 800 million acres of trees were lost to agriculture, logging and cattle ranching. We can’t continue along this path and expect to rein in climate change.
The planet continues to lose 25 million acres to deforestation each year. Also lost are biodiversity and ecosystem services that forests provide, such as water and air purification. Frances Seymour from the World Resources Institute says countries have the capacity to enforce sustainable forest management, but political will stands in the way.If made a priority, deforestation could be reduced to zero over the next several years.
Richard Houghton, a leading expert at Woods Hole Research Center, says a significant impact on global warming could be made in a few decades by planting trees on 500 million acres. The world has about ten times that amount in available pasture land.
Although reforestation helps, it doesn’t offer as much benefit as limiting forest destruction. It takes several decades of new forest growth to achieve the same carbon storage benefits of mature forests. This is why we must protect our existing forests as well as plant new ones. Progress to reduce forest loss has been made, but we need to do more.
What you can do
Every tree counts! Set an example. Plant a tree on your property.
Talk to your family, friends and neighbors about the importance of trees in reversing climate change.
Contact your Congressional representative to express your opinion on reforestation and deforestation.
Donate to Arbor Day Foundation
Learn more and find out how you can get involved with National Forest Foundation, an organization committed to planting 50 million trees in our national forests by 2023.