Rainforest Disappearing
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Rainforest Disappearing

According to an email from Foreign Policy magazine rainforests, particularly in Brazil and the Congo are disappearing. Alexandra Sharp says:

Almost 10.2 million acres of primary rainforest around the world were lost in 2022, according to a report published Tuesday by the World Resources Institute in conjunction with the University of Maryland. That’s 10 percent more deforestation than occurred in 2021 and the equivalent of losing 11 soccer fields of trees every minute. The destruction of more than 10 million acres of forest produced 2.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide—or around the same amount as India’s total annual fossil fuel emissions.

What makes the report’s findings particularly devastating is that 2022 was supposed to be the “turning-point year” in global reforestation efforts, said Laura González Mantecón, a climate adaptation and reforestation fellow at the U.S. Forest Service. In late 2021, 145 nations pledged to reverse deforestation by 2030 at the U.N. climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, known as COP26. But international efforts to achieve that goal are already facing monumental challenges.

One of the greatest hurdles to achieving zero deforestation is the lack of financial liberties available to local communities. Lack of economic opportunity “leaves a lot of people with no other recourse but to clear land, to have a farm and be able to feed their family,” González Mantecón said, allowing large corporations to take advantage.

That is evident in the nations with the highest levels of deforestation last year—Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, respectively; they also have high levels of poverty and financial instability. In Brazil, home to 47 percent of the world’s total rainforest, cattle grazing and highway construction caused most large-scale clearing. And Indigenous communities in Congo, facing severe poverty, have been forced to clear land to expand their agriculture businesses as a primary means of subsistence.

These countries’ governments have also contributed to the world’s deforestation crisis, the report found. Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro used his four years in power to erode environmental protections and weaken the rights of Indigenous communities reliant on the land. Despite a $500 million agreement at COP26 to protect the African nation’s forests, the Congolese government auctioned off permits for oil and gas exploration in these very forests last November.

There is hope. Numerous countries have implemented policies to protect forests and limit the release of carbon dioxide. Last month, the European Union adopted regulations on palm oil, cattle, wood, coffee, cocoa, rubber, and soy—all of which contribute to large-scale clearings. In April, China announced a new collaborative effort with Brazil to control illegal trade caused by cutting trees. And under Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, deforestation in the country’s rainforest fell almost 10 percent in May.

“The value of a tree is not just the value of the timber that you’re selling, but the value of the biodiversity that it provides, the value of water filtration services that it does, the climate benefits that it brings,” González Mantecón said.

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