Why are tropical forests important?

Why are tropical forests

Tropical forests are large sources of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, due to deforestation. They could instead be a big part of the climate solution. There is simply no way to reach the climate goals or the sustainable development goals without a change of direction.

The Forgotten Solution

Global warming is one of the greatest threats to life on our planet. Tropical forests could be a big part of the solution, by taking CO² out of the atmosphere.

Natural Carbon Capture and Storage

Scientists all over the world are working hard to develop technology to capture and store carbon.  But we have this technology already: The forests. The process is called photosynthesis.  It happens all over the world – every day!

When the warm sunlight hits the leaves of plants and trees, they inhale carbon dioxide – CO²  – from the atmosphere.  As the trees grow, they store the carbon in their roots and trunks, and exhale the oxygen – O²  – back into the atmosphere. This enormous process of balance has worked for millions of years.

Essential Forest Functions

Tropical forests are not just important for the climate. They have many functions, and provide us with food and water.

Tropical forests are some of the most species-rich and varied environments on the planet. The animals are important in their own ecosystems, and invaluable to humans as sources of food and medicine. For instance, on a single bush in the Amazon, you can find more species of ants than on all of the British Isles.

These forests also guarantee fresh water supplies to millions of people living in and around them.  Tropical forests influence regional rain patterns. They are essential to life on the planet.

Fossil Fuels

In the last 200 years, CO²-levels have sky-rocketed. Scientists agree that human use of fossil fuels is the main reason.

Coal, oil and gas are all the result of ancient carbon capture from trees and plants. When we burn fossil fuels, the carbon that is released into the atmosphere upset the natural balance of the carbon cycle. This causes increased CO² levels in the atmosphere, which leads to global warming.

We need to stabilize and reduce CO² -levels in the atmosphere in order to reduce global warming. This takes reducing carbon emissions on the one hand, and taking carbon out of the atmosphere on the other. To accomplish this, natural solutions like preserving and expanding forests and reducing emissions from land use are absolutely crucial.

Today an area of natural tropical forest the size of a football pitch is cleared every 6 seconds.

At the climate summit in Paris 2015 world leaders committed to limiting climate change to 2°C and to striving for 1.5°C. To reach these goals, according to the IPCC, we need to cut fossil fuel emissions in half and increase forest cover with an area the size of Germany every year. We also need to take carbon out of the atmosphere.

Time is Running Out

In recent years deforestation have remained at unacceptable levels. This happens in spite of efforts in many countries to reduce deforestation.

There are some successes though, and compared to 1990 levels deforestation has declined on a global level. But more has to be done, and time is running out.

Ensuring the Future

Without the massive rainforests like the Amazon or the Central African forests, severe droughts could occur more often.

In the worst case, this could cause famine and unprecedented migration from the dried-out areas.

As climate change becomes more urgent, forests protect us from floods and devastating landslides.