En-en adult card 6 deforestation
Card #6: Deforestation
Deforestation consists in cutting or burning trees beyond the ability to restore the forest.
80% of the deforestation is related to agriculture.
Deforestation, clearance, clearcutting or clearing is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land which is then converted to a non-forest use. Deforestation can involve conversion of forest land to farms, ranches, or urban use.
Deforestation can be seen as a human activity, as a consequence of agriculture, or both. However, the main issue with deforestation is not so much that it destroys carbon sinks, but that it emits CO2 that took decades or centuries to capture. It's a question of flow vs. stock.
The consequences of this card and of the Other GHGs card are often forgotten, because participants often focus on the consequences of Fossil Fuels. It is important to make sure that participants also consider the consequences of this card.
- Industry This link is possible for wood-consuming industries. However, wood used by a factory from a sustainably managed forest is not considered deforestation.
- Transportation Road construction sometimes requires deforestation, but the one-dimensional aspect of the road makes it almost negligible compared to wide-scale agriculture-related deforestation.
- Carbon Sinks Participants often think that deforestation reduces carbon sinks. In reality, the impact is minimal because deforested areas represent a very small part of the total forest area. Moreover, a mature forest has reached its equilibrium and no longer absorbs carbon. Therefore, as mainly mature forests are deforested, this does not impact carbon sinks. On the other hand, the amount CO2 released is very high.
- Radiative forcing When forests are cut down, a dark green surface is replaced by a light green one, which has a higher albedo and therefore absorbs less energy.
- Disruption of the Water Cycle or River Flooding Vegetation retains water. Cutting it down can lead to flooding.
- Forest Fires One way of clearing forests is to burn them down, with the risk of losing control of the fire. This is what happened in the summer of 2019 in the Amazon forest and in Australia.
- Terrestrial Biodiversity Deforestation causes huge losses of biodiversity:
93% of the wood from deforestation is burned (paper, agriculture, disposable furniture, etc.) and only 7% is used in a sustainable way (long-lasting furniture, construction, etc.).
Distribution of causes of deforestation
The drivers of deforestation are:
- 40% for commercial agriculture, to breed livestock or to grow soy or oil palm
- 33% for local subsistence farming
- 10% for urban expansion
- 10% for infrastructure expansion
- 7% for mining.
These numbers are global averages, and vary greatly from country to country.
Speed of forest loss
The area of forest lost each year is gradually shrinking. It has decreased from 7.8 million hectares lost per year in the 1990s to 4.7 million hectares in 2010. This is mainly due to the fact that forests are growing elsewhere, either naturally or artificially..