Deforestation… Earth is losing lungs

 Trees and all green plants take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen during photosynthesis. But when the trees are growing, photosynthesis exceeds respiration, and the surplus carbon is stored in tree trunks, leaves, branches, roots, and the soil.

Two human cutting tree

Forests are vital to the existence and are the home of millions of species. They help protect soils from erosion. generate carbon dioxide and oxygen and aid in regulating the climate.

Forests are essential for our survival because they provide medicines, shelter, and food along with numerous other essential things. They also clean our air as well as the water we require for survival. Human-caused deforestation causes all of these vital functions to diminish and, consequently, deteriorating the earth’s atmosphere further.

Forests play a significant contribution to the carbon cycle of our planet. When forests are removed and logged, not only does carbon absorption stop, but, the carbon stored within the trees gets released into the air as CO2 when the wood is burned, or even left to decay after the process of deforestation.

Smaller crops e.g. agricultural crops and plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. However, forests store up to 100x more carbon than agricultural fields in the same region.

Deforestation is one of the major factors in the process of global warming. The reason for climate change is an increase in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. If we keep in the direction of reducing the main tool to decrease the amount of CO2 that is accumulating We can anticipate the climate on our planet to alter dramatically in the coming decades.

There is a consensus that around 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere as a result of deforestation. This is mostly due to the burning and cutting down of forests each year.

More than 30 million acres of forests and woodlands are destroyed each year due to deforestation. This causes a massive loss of income for residents of remote areas who rely on the forest to live.

Deforestation and Carbon Cycle

When forests are cleared or burnt, the stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, mainly in carbon dioxide form. The average global loss of tropical forests contributed 4.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year which is about 8-10% of annual human emissions of carbon dioxide.

As forests are important carbon sinks, they draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the carbon stored in these sinks is part of an active and quick carbon cycle. As living things including trees die and decay, the carbon that they once stored is released back into the atmosphere.

But carbon stored underground in the form of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas is much more stable, and also is part of the slow carbon cycle. Without the influence of humans burning these fossil fuels for energy, this carbon would be unlikely to reach the atmosphere. When fossil fuels are burned, carbon from dead and decaying plants is released into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide.

Deforestation and Climate Change

Burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and other such activities have contributed to more and more carbon dioxide building up in the atmosphere. The buildup of carbon dioxide is driving global warming, as it traps heat in the lower atmosphere. Carbon levels are now very high in human history.

Knowing that deforestation robs us of a crucial weapon in the battle against climate change and creates further emissions, we still on clear forests. The main reason is agriculture. The world’s exponentially growing population has made it profitable for big businesses to raze forests so they can plant mega crops like soy and oil palm. Meanwhile, on a much smaller scale, subsistence farmers often clear trees so they can plant crops to feed their families and bring in a small amount of cash.

But there is a tragic irony to clearing rainforests for agriculture, their underlying soils are extremely poor. All the nutrient richness is locked up in the forests themselves. So once they are burned and nutrients from their ashes are used up, farmers are left with utterly useless soil. So on they go to the next patch of forest, raze, plant, deplete, and repeat.

It’s not effective to offset greenhouse gas pollution from burning fossil fuels by storing carbon in forests. This is because fossil fuels are pumping much more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than existing forests can absorb. At the same time, carbon stores in forests and other natural carbon sinks will become increasingly unstable as climate change progresses. Heatwaves, droughts, tropical storms, and fire weather are increasing in severity and frequency because of climate change. This will continue to result in an increased loss of forests and contribute more and more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

What’s the extent of deforestation, and what is its impact on the climate change process?

The forests, as well as the trees, contain carbon. If they are destroyed or cleared completely, e.g. through fire – which is known as deforestation this carbon stored could release back into the air as carbon dioxide and thus contribute to the warming of the climate.

In the last 10 years, the greatest amount of forest loss occurred in the tropical humid regions. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 130 million hectares of forest nearly equal to the size that is South Africa – were lost 1990 between 1990 and the year 2015. In general, the rate of loss net has decreased from 0.18 percent during the 90s, to 0.08 percent (3.3 million hectares per year) between 2010 and 2015. However, the amount of land that was lost in the year 2016 was five-fifths larger than the previous year, mostly because of forest fires. Other major causes of forest destruction include the agribusinesses’ clearing of vast forests to allow for monoculture farms, which produce high-value cash crops such as soya and palm oil, and cattle ranching.

Deforestation is responsible for approximately 10% of carbon dioxide emissions resulting from human activities, according to 2013 data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The figure increases up to 15 percent in the event of the degradation of forests (changes that adversely affect the forest’s structure or functions but do not reduce the area) as well as the emissions from tropical peatlands are also included. The tropical forests today release greater carbon than they absorb due to deforestation as well as degradation, and are no longer a carbon sink as per an article published in the year 2017. The study was based on satellite information from 2003 to 2014.

What is REDD+? how does it function and, more importantly, what are the objectives?

Scientists have realized the importance of protecting forests when it comes to tackling climate change. As a result to this, policymakers have created several policies, collectively known as Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Decreasing (REDD+) which give financial incentives for agribusinesses, governments, and communities to preserve and perhaps increase than decrease the amount of forest coverage. In REDD+, incentives for forest protection are provided to nations, communities, and private landowners in exchange for slowing the deforestation process, and carrying out actions that encourage reforestation as well as the sustainable management of forests. When local residents are fully engaged in participating in the REDD+ process it may aid in alleviating rural poverty. The concepts that underlie REDD+ were further reinforced in the Paris Agreement regarding climate change.

REDD+ policies are implemented through various mechanisms, such as those run via the United Nations (UN-REDD) and the World Bank (the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility). REDDand finance is thought of in global climate change talks as an important element in international climate finance discussions and is typically channeled via the carbon markets for voluntary participation as well as through the activities of non-profit and for-profit organizations.

How effective, fair, and efficient is REDD+?

Although experts have shown how REDD+ has the potential to cut the CO 2 emissions, it’s not without its challenges. Some people question the validity of a plan which focuses on reducing emissions that are caused by the world’s most disadvantaged people, and yet emissions continue to rise in countries with higher incomes. Some countries in the developing world may be cautious about interference from foreign countries in their land-use policies. Researchers also raise operational concerns like the difficulties in monitoring and assessing deforestation levels, or attributing deforestation changes due to REDD finance. Local variations in conditions and capacities of institutions make it clear that not all countries with tropical forests are equipped to meet these challenges.

What amount of the REDD+ financing has been promised?

REDD+ finance to developing countries is still quite small in terms of size. That is an important obstacle to scaling up and therefore the effectiveness of REDD+ to cut pollution from deforestation as well as degradation. Estimates of the price of the REDD+ can vary widely, but at least $15 billion is required annually to combat deforestation in tropical areas around the globe. The current funding is far from this figure, however, with Norway being the only country to provide 61 percent of the total amount and having committed just under $2.5bn to the REDD+ fund from 2008 to 2016. With a limited amount of financing available, it is difficult to safeguard forests, especially when alternative ways to use land (such as palm oil) could provide faster and guaranteed cash returns.

Thus many experts have called for expansion of commitments and financial flows, though some have suggested that even if massive-scale REDD+ finance does materialize it will struggle to compete against other land use options, particularly since the cost of commodities continues to climb.

Whatever happens with REDD+’s future experts are of the opinion that the first priority should be the areas that are most efficient to deliver the greatest CO 2 reductions (such as tropical peat swamps) as well as offering the possibility of biodiversity conservation and alleviating poverty.


We are losing a crucial ally in keeping excess carbon out of the atmosphere and in slowing global warming.

Deforestation affects the climate in many ways which create an imbalance between the environment and climate.

About 70% of animals and plant species live in forests. Not only does deforestation threaten species but also loss of habitat.

Effects of Deforestation

Trees help the soil retain water and topsoil which provide nutrients to sustain forest life. The barren land left behind from deforestation is more susceptible to flooding and soil erosion.

The increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to deforestation and burning fossil fuels make oceans more acidic which are posing ocean species and ecosystems at risk.

What have to do next?

Protecting natural ecosystems and sustainably managing forests are important ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The best thing we can do to fight climate change is to keep forests standing. Also, there is need to feed a rapidly growing population is urgent. That’s why rainforests and other forest dwellers develop livelihoods that don’t hurt forests or ecosystems. We stand more of a chance in this fight with forests standing strong.

Author: Engr. Husnain SultanEnvironmental Engineer. Passionate to spread awareness regarding current and future environmental crisis.An international consultant, advisor and trainer with expertise in waste management, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, environment protection and resource conservation.

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