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Nature in danger: Deforestation climbs high

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By Nithin Sridhar

The Center for Global Development based in Washington recently undertook analysis and interpretation of data and satellite imagery from around 100 countries and have estimated that around 714 million acres of tropical forests, roughly the size of India, may be cut-down by 2050.

tree-141692_640The report further observes that this deforestation may further add up to 169 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 2050.

Deforestation is a world-wide crisis which will have far reaching and long-term consequences on the ecology and future of the world. Forests play a very vital role in the ecological cycle. They serve as carbon storage banks and hence help in reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere by absorbing them during photosynthesis.

Forests are also a big source of various commercial and medicinal products. Tropical forests, in particular, are home to various species of plants, birds, and animals. Without forests, the rich bio-diversity cannot be sustained which in turn will lead to ecological disaster. The green cover helps to enrich the soil and recharge the ground water level.

Forests also help in regulating the water cycle. They prevent wastage of rainwater and allow it to permeate through the soils into the ground water. This water in turn helps various animals and birds through ponds or streams and to humans through man-made wells.

One of the major reasons for deforestation is agriculture. For last many centuries, forests have been repeatedly cut down and cleared to cultivate those lands with food and commercial crops. While, farming and producing food is important, the consequences of these actions were not given importance. Forests were also used and are still being used as a source for firewood and timber. A large number of trees are cut every day for utilizing the logs for various human purposes like buildings houses, making furniture, making paper etc. Industrialization has also been another major reason for felling of trees.

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Other causes include forest fires, mining, wars and battles, overgrazing, urbanization etc. The zeal shown in the cutting of trees does not match the enthusiasm which needs to be there while planting new trees. As a result, the area under forests is dwindling every day at a fast pace. It is clear that the major causes of rapid deforestation are the human thoughts and actions. Neither people have a clear perspective about the vital role played by forests, ecologically or economically, nor do they show any interest to know about it. Furthermore, some people work under the assumption that the world is forever present for providing them and fulfilling all their fancies. Therefore, there is a competition between humans and all other species present in the world over natural resources.

In “Deforestation: Causes, Effects and Control Strategies”, while explaining about these driving forces of deforestation, Sumit Chakravarty and others, quote Pearce and Brown thus:

1. Competition between humans and other species for the remaining ecological niches on land and in coastal regions. This factor is substantially demonstrated by the conversion of forest land to other uses such as agriculture, infrastructure, urban development, industry and others.

2. Failure in the working of the economic systems to reflect the true value of the environment. Basically, many of the functions of tropical forests are not marketed and as such are ignored in decision making. Additionally, decisions to convert tropical forests are themselves encouraged by fiscal and other incentives.

DSC_7139One of the most important consequences of deforestation is the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This increase in carbon dioxide will lead to increased trapping of heat on the earth surface and hence increasing the temperature of earth’s surface. Therefore, the decreasing forest cover can be directly correlated to global warming; which will further lead to climate change that will cause heat stress, floods, draughts, crop-failures, water scarcity etc.

Other harmful effects of deforestation include destruction of biodiversity, decrease in soil fertility and decreased ground water levels. Deforestation will also impact the world economically and socially. Water and food scarcity will induce more migration and food wars. Many indigenous people will also be devoid of their forest homes, hence causing a destruction of their entire culture.

The best measure to tackle growing deforestation is to strictly monitor felling of trees and to plant new trees. The reforestation programs will have long-term positive impact on the globe. At the same time, the rate of deforestation must be brought down. Brazil can be a good example, which has reduced deforestation in the Amazon. Controlling population growth can be another effective measure.

Massive awareness campaigns to increase awareness about forests and sincere efforts by various governments across the globe can definitely bring down the deforestation and may even slowly increase forest cover.

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Green Groups In Brazil Prepare A Climate Change Plan

A Brazilian version would draw on linkages between about 150 civil society groups who worked closely over the last year to oppose Bolsonaro's campaign

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Brazil, rainforests
This photo released by the Brazilian Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources Institute (Ibama) shows an illegally deforested area on Pirititi indigenous lands as Ibama agents inspect Roraima state in Brazil's Amazon basin. VOA

With its wooden walls and posters on protecting forests and fauna, Brazil’s pavilion at the U.N. climate talks in Poland offers no hint of the angst at home and abroad over mixed messages on global warming from its president-elect.

But campaign promises made by Jair Bolsonaro that could weaken protection for the Amazon rainforest are a hot topic of conversation among visitors, said Caio Henrique Scarmocin, one of three hosts on the stand.

At the conference, whose outcome will be key to implementing the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, scientists and environmental activists said they were laying the groundwork should calls for Bolsonaro to protect Brazil’s forests fail.

Campaign statements from Bolsonaro, who takes power in January, suggested indigenous lands could be opened up to economic exploitation, including agribusiness and mining, and environmental fines eased.

Brazil President, rainforest
Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro arrives for a meeting in Brasilia. VOA

The ability of Ibama, Brazil’s environmental protection agency, to fine those who break environmental laws is one of the government’s best defenses against the destruction of forests, stoking fears of a deforestation spike under the new government.

Bolsonaro, who campaigned on a far-right platform, also pushed the Brazilian government to withdraw its offer to host next year’s U.N. climate conference.

“He has a hostile approach over environmental issues,” said Paulo Barreto, a researcher with Imazon, a Brazilian institute monitoring deforestation in the Amazon.

Brazil is home to about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, considered by many as nature’s best weapon against global warming, because trees absorb and store carbon from the air.

Alfredo Sirkis, executive secretary of the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change, said he thought dialogue with the incoming government was still possible.

Rainforest, Brazil
In this May 4, 2018 photo released by Ibama, the Brazilian Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources Institute, members of a specialized inspection group of Ibama walk with their weapons up through an area affected by illegal mining, after landing in helicopters in Munduruku indigenous lands in Para state in Brazil’s Amazon basin. VOA

But if environmental roll-backs proceed, there was a “contingency plan,” he told journalists.

A coalition would assemble regional governments committed to respecting Brazil’s emissions reduction goals set under the Paris pact, said Sirkis.

Governors in as many as seven Brazilian states, including Amazonas, Pernambuco, the Federal District, Espirito Santo, Parana and Rio Grande do Sul, had already expressed interest in joining, he said.

“This is for starters,” said the former congressman.

A spokesman for the presidency of Brazil at the climate talks declined to comment.

U.S. shows the way

The plan has similarities with “We Are Still In,” a U.S. group of more than 3,500 mayors, governors and business leaders who have promised they will not retreat from the Paris deal.

Brazil, cuban doctors, rainforest
Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro talks to the media, in Brasilia, Brazil. VOA

Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump gave notice the United States would leave the accord — although it cannot formally withdraw until 2020 — arguing it was bad for the economy.

Mauricio Voivodic, executive director of WWF-Brazil, said his group had been in touch with the U.S. campaign through WWF-US, which is part of the “We Are Still In” secretariat.

The American coalition has its own pavilion at the U.N. climate talks.

“We are learning from ‘We Are Still In’ the importance of sub-national (governments) and companies enhancing commitments for the implementation of the Paris Agreement,” Voivodic said.

But WWF-Brazil is not yet trying to emulate the model because it wants to prioritize dialogue already under way with the transition government, he added.

“It could be an option, but we are not going in the direction of starting planning this,” said Voivodic.

Deforestation, Brazil
Brazil Surpasses 2020 Target to Cut Deforestation Emissions. Flickr

Brazil’s future environment minister told Reuters on Monday his “inclination” was not to leave the Paris Agreement, after Bolsonaro said on the campaign trail he might quit the deal, under which countries set their own targets to cut emissions.

Marcio Astrini, public policy coordinator for Greenpeace Brazil, said he also looked to the United States as a vague blueprint to build a similar “resistance movement.”

A Brazilian version would draw on linkages between about 150 civil society groups who worked closely over the last year to oppose Bolsonaro’s campaign, he said.

Also Read: Many Countries Refused To Endorse Landmark Study as Climate Conference Enters Second Week

Also mirroring tactics used in the United States, his group does not exclude filing lawsuits to push back against potential weakening of environmental and climate regulations in Brazil.

“It’s on the table,” he said, adding that it was still a last-resort option. (VOA)