Climate change: Decisive role of deforestation confirmed

Deforestation generates around 20 percent of human CO2 emissions

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Now it's official: A new study published in "Science" shows that the clearing of tropical rainforests is a major contributor to climate change. 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually releases the grubbing and is responsible for about 20 percent of total manmade CO2 emissions.


In the first study of this kind, an international team of scientists compared data from eleven climate-greenhouse gas models. The results confirm that tropical forests are important CO2 sinks that will store and thus remove significant greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this century. At higher temperatures, however, this buffering effect relaxes. The clearing of forests releases a large part of this stored CO2 and thus makes a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

130 billion tons of CO2

"Tropical deforestation accounts for 20 percent of human carbon dioxide emissions, " says Pep Canadell of the CSIRO's Global Carbon Project. This release equates to an estimated 87 to 130 billion tonnes of carbon by 2100, which is larger than the amount of carbon released in 13 years of burning fossil fuels.

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In order to stabilize the atmospheric greenhouse concentrations, the protection of the forests as a carbon sink is therefore of great importance. "The new data shows the value of conserving tropical forests, as in the Amazon or in Indonesia, " says Canadell. But they also show that we need to avoid stronger global warming, as this reduces the ability of forests to store carbon.

Reduction of grubbing-up only part of the package of measures

In the opinion of the researcher, even a partial reduction of deforestation could have a positive effect: If we reduce deforestation by 50 per cent by 2050 and decide to cease all deforestation when tropical forests reach the limit Half of its area has shrunk and we could prevent the emission of 50 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, "explains the climate researcher. "This 50/50 option is equivalent to saving six years of global fossil fuel burning."

However, Canadell also suggests that reduced deforestation is just one of the measures needed to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Globally, a whole range of measures is needed. However, this study at least ensures that the actions in the field of forests are on a secure database.

(CSIRO, 14.05.2007 - NPO)