It is a little known fact that one of the major contributors of carbon emissions into the atmosphere is deforestation. If we could stop deforestation today, we would effectively eliminate the number two man made cause of carbon emissions.
The United Nations declared that deforestation accounts for around 25 percent of all emissions of carbon dioxide as a result of human activity. This is roughly the same amount of carbon discharged by the United States each year, the world’s largest polluter.
Over 30 billion tonnes of carbon in the form of CO2 is predicted will be released into the atmosphere this year. It is estimated that this will continue to increase to a staggering 33.1 billion tonnes by 2015.
Deforestation Causes 25% of Our CO2 Emissions
Of the estimated 30 billion tonnes of carbon discharge this year, the felling of trees in Brazilian forests, old growth forests in Asia and in Africa will contribute over 2 billion tonnes. That is unless we start acting now to actually stop deforestation.
The World’s forests harbour a total of approximately 280 gigatonnes of carbon in their biomass. The total amount of carbon stored in forests including their biomass, fallen timber and debris, leaf litter and the soil in which the forests grow is estimated to be one trillion tonnes. This represents almost twice the amount of carbon already present in our atmosphere today.
Is the Answer to The Problem Plantation Grown Timber?
I think yes. Let’s look at the basic forest cycle. Trees like all plants use carbon dioxide as a food source. CO2 combined with sun light and water by means of photosynthesis, converting CO2 into carbohydrates for nourishment and oxygen which is released as a by product.
Planting renewable forests is beneficial in two main ways, firstly new trees will leech CO2 out of the atmosphere, secondly oxygen as we have already said is a by product released by photosynthesis. The new trees will keep the carbon dioxide contained for the life of the plant.
The only trouble with plantation timber being when trees die or indeed are harvested for our use, the original carbon dioxide is released and our CO2 discharge increases with it. As I write today globally we fell many more trees than we are replanting and replacing.
This means that more CO2 is being released than is being captured by the plants and trees photosynthetic processes, leading to our carbon emissions accelerating.
By planting new trees at the same (or indeed a faster) rate that we are consuming the forest resources, we reduce our carbon output by 25%, that’s 7.5 billion tonnes per year at current levels, a huge decrease in CO2 emissions that can be achieve with very little penalty at all.
Plantation Forests May Be the Answer
So are there good reasons to stop deforestation? I believe the answer is self evident. By putting a halt to the felling of old growth forests and replacing our timber consumption with plantation grown trees, and replacing them at an equal or better rate than our prevailing timber appetite, we can put a halt on the second the biggest contributor of man made CO2 emissions that exists today.
We can still use timber for construction, we can enjoy its warmth and beauty in furniture and around our homes. We can stop deforestation without any negative impact on our lives at all. How can we work together to help stop deforestation once and for all?
What do you think?