2021 Saw Record Numbers of Trees Destroyed

Most deforestation took place in Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, increasing deforestation in the Arctic due to climate change alarms experts.
May. 10, 2022
Ephantus Mukundi

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Widespread destruc­tion of rain­forests con­tin­ued unabated in 2021 despite the agree­ment at COP26 to end defor­esta­tion by 2030 and world lead­ers pledg­ing more than €16.4 bil­lion to those efforts.

Continued defor­esta­tion, pri­mar­ily con­cen­trated in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, resulted in the loss of bio­di­ver­sity and the emis­sion of 2.5 bil­lion tons of car­bon diox­ide, which is equal to India’s annual CO2 emis­sions. India is cur­rently the third-largest pro­ducer of CO2 emis­sions glob­ally after China and the United States.

Global warm­ing is gen­er­ally hap­pen­ing faster as you get closer to the poles… so we’re see­ing fires that burn more fre­quently, more inten­sively and more broadly than they ever would under nor­mal con­di­tions.- Rod Taylor, global direc­tor of the forests pro­gram, World Resources Institute

According to the new report by the Global Forest Watch and the University of Maryland, the destruc­tion is most acute in the Congo Basin and the Brazilian Amazon. In total, the trop­ics lost 11.1 mil­lion hectares of tree cover in 2021.

Of sig­nif­i­cant con­cern was the loss of 3.75 mil­lion hectares of pri­mary trop­i­cal rain­forests, which are highly val­ued for car­bon seques­tra­tion and pre­vent­ing loss of bio­di­ver­sity.

See Also:Ancient Trees Are Key to Healthy Forests, Scientists Say

While most of the report focused on trop­i­cal rain­forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Brazil, where an esti­mated 96 per­cent of defor­esta­tion occurs, 2021 also brought increased con­cern over defor­esta­tion in the Arctic. Boreal forests in north­ern regions of Alaska, Russia and Canada expe­ri­enced unprece­dented loss mainly due to wild­fires.

Though cut­ting or burn­ing down trees rarely results in long-term defor­esta­tion, 2021 held the record for the high­est num­ber of trees destroyed in recorded his­tory.

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Rod Taylor, the global direc­tor of the forests pro­gram at World Resources Institute, which was part of the team involved in the report, said the trend is alarm­ing.

Global warm­ing is gen­er­ally hap­pen­ing faster as you get closer to the poles,” he said. It’s like hav­ing a chang­ing cli­mate and an ecosys­tem that’s not cop­ing, so we’re see­ing fires that burn more fre­quently, more inten­sively and more broadly than they ever would under nor­mal con­di­tions.”

Environmental experts are also wor­ried that the Amazon rain­for­est is quickly approach­ing a point of no return when the region emits more CO2 than it can absorb.

This would reverse the progress in reduc­ing car­bon emis­sions and keep­ing global tem­per­a­tures from exceed­ing pre-Industrial aver­ages by more than 1.5 ºC.

Experts said the 143 gov­ern­ments that com­mit­ted to stop­ping and reduc­ing defor­esta­tion by 2030 at COP26 should keep their word by tak­ing dras­tic steps.

According to Taylor, while the global rate of defor­esta­tion seems to be slow­ing, there is an urgent need for defor­esta­tion rates to decrease even more dra­mat­i­cally if the world is to meet the cli­mate goals laid out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

When you look at unchang­ing year-on-year sta­tis­tics, you could con­clude that they don’t really offer a news­wor­thy head­line,” he said.

But when it comes to the loss of pri­mary trop­i­cal forests, stub­bornly per­sis­tent rates related to the cli­mate, the extinc­tion cri­sis and the fate of many first peo­ples,” he con­cluded, high rates of loss con­tinue despite pledges from coun­tries and com­pa­nies.”



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