Degradation of tropical forests could be as severe a
problem as full-scale deforestation when it comes to their carbon
While not as widely recognised within
policymaking circles, the steady deterioration of forests across
places such as the Amazon and Borneo could be responsible for 6-14%
of all human-caused emissions.
This is the finding of a
new review into the state of the world's
tropical forests, conducted by the International Sustainability
Unit, a charity backed by Prince Charles.
The problem demands a re-evaluation of forest
policy, which leans towards stemming deforestation as the key to
curbing tropical forest emissions, says the report.
Carbon Brief looks at the role of forests in
curbing climate change.
Tropical deforestation is a major driver of
climate change. In areas such as the Amazon, forest ecosystems
absorb and store carbon, and cutting them down emits between 2.9
and 3.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide* every year, or around 8% of
the global total, the report says.
But deforestation is only part of the story. In
addition to this, the degradation of tropical forests releases
between 2.2 to 5.39 gigatonnes into the atmosphere, or around 6-14%
of global carbon dioxide emissions.
This means that total combined emissions from
tropical forests comes to between 5.1 and 8.36 gigatonnes of carbon
dioxide, or between 14 to 21% of all human-caused emissions (green
In comparison, 31.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide
is emitted every year by fossil fuels and cement production (grey
Percentage of annual carbon dioxide emissions
from fossil fuels and forests. Data from ISU report.