National Geographic News Watch: You Cannot Save the Climate Without Trees

By Allie Goldstein

The People’s Climate March that trumpeted its way through the streets of Manhattan yesterday was led by communities on the front lines of climate change—and Indigenous Peoples were at the forefront of this group.  The tropical forests where they live are not only getting hammered by changing weather patterns, drug traffickers, invasive pests, and massive fires, but these woodlands are also being cleared at an alarming rate, making way for cropland, pastureland, strip mines, and other ventures that extract natural resources from the Earth.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization rang the alarm bell on the world’s forests in April of this year.  Working off of its own data as well as the most recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—a group of 2,000 scientists from around the world—the FAO declared that 13 million hectares of tropical forests are now cleared every year, an area larger than half the countries in the world.  The process of this “conversion” releases an estimated 4 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually, almost twice the amount produced by urban transportation (cars, trucks, buses, et. al.) throughout the world.

The reason deforestation releases so much carbon dioxide is that trees store an incredible amount of carbon in their trunks, roots, and limbs.  The FAO also estimated that the world’s forests remove approximately two billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year.

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