Tropical forests play such a crucial role in maintaining stable climate that they have been said to act as the lungs and temperature regulator for the planet. More than half of the species on earth reside in tropical forests, yet every year, 20 million hectares of tropical forests are being destroyed, releasing 2 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Every second of every minute of every hour, an area of tropical rainforest the size of a football field is being destroyed.
A study by the Woods Hole Research Centre concluded that the Amazon Forest is at imminent risk of being turned into desert. If the 90 billion tons of carbon stored in the Forest were to be released into the atmosphere, it would have disastrous consequences on the world’s climate, increasing global warming by an estimated 50%.
Deforestation has been found to be responsible for 20-25% of global warming, due to the massive release of CO2 that had been captured and stored in the trees. To get a picture of just how much CO2 is being released, deforestation releases as much CO2 into the atmosphere in one day as would 8 million people flying from London to New York.
According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization’s 2007 report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, 70% of total Amazon deforestation, and over 90% of Amazon deforestation since the 1970’s, is due to clearing land for pasture and for growing soya bean crops to be fed to livestock.
In addition, scientists have found that 60% of the black carbon particles building up on the surface of the ice in Antarctica were carried there by the wind from South American forests, which are burned to clear land for livestock production. Black carbon, or soot, is 680 times more heat trapping than CO2.