Logged off: can deforestation be controlled?

  • Written by  Marco Magrini
  • Published in Forests
Logging in the Kaluga region, Russia Logging in the Kaluga region, Russia Andrew Koturanov
09 Mar
2017
Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This month, Marco Magrini looks at deforestation

With the multilateral commitments agreed so far, the world aims to halve deforestation by 2020 and erase it altogether by 2030. It is a magnificent idea as, once felled, trees send back into the atmosphere the carbon dioxide they had captured: the loss of green cover is responsible for 11 per cent of global emissions. Brazil, which once had the highest felling rate in the world, has already reduced its annual logging from a record 11,000 square miles in 2004, to 2,300 in 2015.

Don’t feel too relieved, however. According to a recent study in Science Advances, our world is not really putting the action where its mouth is. Taking into account intact forest landscape (IFL), or spotless and remote green areas of a minimum 200 square miles, researchers found that from 2000 to 2013, the global IFL area decreased by 354,000 square miles, a reduction of 7.2 per cent.

With Brazil tapering off, Russia is now the top offender, and Canada in third place. Since the beginning of this century, Romania lost all of its IFLs, while Paraguay nearly did the same.

‘Laos, Equatorial Guinea, Cambodia, and Nicaragua each lost more than 35 per cent of their IFL area,’ the study reports. You can blame energy, such as Canada’s tar sands operations that raze forests in order to dig for bituminous soil. You can blame multinational agribusiness; according to Greenpeace, 420 square miles of green cover were lost in Argentina last year alone. But what happens when climate change itself is to be blamed?

The 233,000 (and counting) square miles of forests incinerated in Chile by the end of January were probably devastated by arsonists. Still, global warming has already contributed to wildfires. The blaze that last year devoured Fort McMurray in Canada was attributed to a warmer and drier climate, clearly affecting all of the huge expanse we call boreal forest, from Alaska (7,800 square miles reduced to ashes in 2015) to Russia (109,000 in 2012). Add the armies of alien bugs ravaging trees across the northern hemisphere, assisted by global trade and drought-weakened conifers, and a dangerous climatic feedback on our planet’s green cover seems all but assured. We need to save our forests in order to save our forests!

Were nations blessed with foresight, they would call for an unconditional truce to deforestation. For now, a halt to indiscriminate forest logging is the best we can aim for.

This was published in the March 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Forests

HSBC has requested an Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil investigation…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig explores visions of a world made bright by humanity

Forests

The EU has asked the European court to authorise an…

Forests

Was last year’s El Niño a practice run for future…

Cities

Far from being separate threats, scientists have found links between…

Mountains

Is the official height of Mount Everest accurate?

Mapping

Where in the world is the highest density of languages?…

Cities

The next stage in autonomous vehicles is hoping to transform…

Mapping

Geographical’s resident data cartographer presents a true picture of the…

Water

What impact could an unprecedented incident of ‘river piracy’ have…

Mountains

Norway is to undercut a mountainous peninsula to create the…

Mapping

Benjmain Hennig explores global mortality with maps

Water

Last winter’s cold conditions contributed a further influx of road…

Water

As one of America’s biggest cities, supplying clean drinking water…

Cities

Cape Town’s Foreshore Freeway Bridge has been left unfinished for…

Mapping

An interactive map highlights the shocking number of ongoing conflicts…

Mapping

Repurposed NASA maps show the racial diversity (and segregation) of…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig maps Europe's public train networks

Mapping

A new map of global landslide susceptibility reveals vast geographical…

Deserts

For decades, scientists have been divided over how these eerily…