Forests provide habitat for more than half of all species living on land, help filter pollutants out of the air and water, and prevent soil erosion. They also play a major role in regulating global temperatures by absorbing heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in their cell walls. Unfortunately, the global benefits provided by trees are threatened by deforestation.
Earth loses more than 18 million acres of forestland every year—an area larger than Ireland—according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). When trees are cleared, their stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere. As a result, tropical deforestation is responsible for about 20 percent of total annual global warming emissions, making it second only to fossil fuels in terms of climate impact.
The best way to reduce emissions from tropical deforestation is to help ensure these trees are not cut down in the first place. Your purchasing decisions can play a role in this effort:
Planting trees, while not a substitute for stopping deforestation, can provide important climate benefits, especially in urban areas. In addition to absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, trees cool the air by providing shade and transpiring water from their leaves, which help reduce air conditioner use (and subsequent emissions from electricity production) during the summer months.
Written by: Union of Concerned Scientists
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