Deforestation: The hidden cause of global warming

Deforestation: The hidden cause of global warming

In the next 24 hours, deforestation will release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as 8 million people flying from London to New York. Stopping the loggers is the fastest and cheapest solution to climate change. So why are global leaders turning a blind eye to this crisis?

By Daniel Howden

Published: 14 May 2007

The accelerating destruction of the rainforests that form a precious cooling band around the Earth’s equator, is now being recognised as one of the main causes of climate change. Carbon emissions from deforestation far outstrip damage caused by planes and automobiles and factories.

The rampant slashing and burning of tropical forests is second only to the energy sector as a source of greenhouses gases according to report published today by the Oxford-based Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of leading rainforest scientists.

Figures from the GCP, summarising the latest findings from the United Nations, and building on estimates contained in the Stern Report, show deforestation accounts for up to 25 per cent of global emissions of heat-trapping gases, while transport and industry account for 14 per cent each; and aviation makes up only 3 per cent of the total.

“Tropical forests are the elephant in the living room of climate change,” said Andrew Mitchell, the head of the GCP.

Scientists say one days’ deforestation is equivalent to the carbon footprint of eight million people flying to New York. Reducing those catastrophic emissions can be achieved most quickly and most cheaply by halting the destruction in Brazil, Indonesia, the Congo and elsewhere.

No new technology is needed, says the GCP, just the political will and a system of enforcement and incentives that makes the trees worth more to governments and individuals standing than felled. “The focus on technological fixes for the emissions of rich nations while giving no incentive to poorer nations to stop burning the standing forest means we are putting the cart before the horse,” said Mr Mitchell.

Most people think of forests only in terms of the CO2 they absorb. The rainforests of the Amazon, the Congo basin and Indonesia are thought of as the lungs of the planet. But the destruction of those forests will in the next four years alone, in the words of Sir Nicholas Stern, pump more CO2 into the atmosphere than every flight in the history of aviation to at least 2025.

Indonesia became the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world last week. Following close behind is Brazil. Neither nation has heavy industry on a comparable scale with the EU, India or Russia and yet they comfortably outstrip all other countries, except the United States and China.

What both countries do have in common is tropical forest that is being cut and burned with staggering swiftness. Smoke stacks visible from space climb into the sky above both countries, while satellite images capture similar destruction from the Congo basin, across the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo.

According to the latest audited figures from 2003, two billion tons of CO2 enters the atmosphere every year from deforestation. That destruction amounts to 50 million acres – or an area the size of England, Wales and Scotland felled annually.

The remaining standing forest is calculated to contain 1,000 billion tons of carbon, or double what is already in the atmosphere.

As the GCP’s report concludes: “If we lose forests, we lose the fight against climate change.”

Standing forest was not included in the original Kyoto protocols and stands outside the carbon markets that the report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed to this month as the best hope for halting catastrophic warming.

The landmark Stern Report last year, and the influential McKinsey Report in January agreed that forests offer the “single largest opportunity for cost-effective and immediate reductions of carbon emissions”.

International demand has driven intensive agriculture, logging and ranching that has proved an inexorable force for deforestation; conservation has been no match for commerce. The leading rainforest scientists are now calling for the immediate inclusion of standing forests in internationally regulated carbon markets that could provide cash incentives to halt this disastrous process.

Forestry experts and policy makers have been meeting in Bonn, Germany, this week to try to put deforestation on top of the agenda for the UN climate summit in Bali, Indonesia, this year. Papua New Guinea, among the world’s poorest nations, last year declared it would have no choice but to continue deforestation unless it was given financial incentives to do otherwise.

Richer nations already recognise the value of uncultivated land. The EU offers €200 (£135) per hectare subsidies for “environmental services” to its farmers to leave their land unused.

And yet there is no agreement on placing a value on the vastly more valuable land in developing countries. More than 50 per cent of the life on Earth is in tropical forests, which cover less than 7 per cent of the planet’s surface.

They generate the bulk of rainfall worldwide and act as a thermostat for the Earth. Forests are also home to 1.6 billion of the world’s poorest people who rely on them for subsistence. However, forest experts say governments continue to pursue science fiction solutions to the coming climate catastrophe, preferring bio-fuel subsidies, carbon capture schemes and next-generation power stations.

Putting a price on the carbon these vital forests contain is the only way to slow their destruction. Hylton Philipson, a trustee of Rainforest Concern, explained: “In a world where we are witnessing a mounting clash between food security, energy security and environmental security – while there’s money to be made from food and energy and no income to be derived from the standing forest, it’s obvious that the forest will take the hit.”

Argentinians Against Agrofuels and Al Gore

Argentinians Against Agrofuels and Al Gore


At the Conference on the Impacts of Monocultures in
the town of Gualeguaychíº on the 27th and 28th of
April, the following organisations have joined forces
to offer our strongest support to the popular
demonstration “Embrace the Uruguay River” in protest
against the installation of the proposed Finnish
cellulose pulp mill. We also propose to support each
other and to strengthen our campaign. We state that:

We are not convinced by the deluge of national and
international advertising promoting the expansion of
the agricultural industry and the production of
agrofuels. This will only serve to make the current
environmental situation even more unbearable, and will
contribute to the degeneration of the air, water and
soil, to which everyone has a right.

We reject the imposition of global market strategies,
which take our produce and dictate our destiny,
resulting in devastating consequences for our
communities and our environment.

We denounce Al Gore, ex-Vice President of the USA, as
a new coloniser and publicist for global markets, and
we also denounce his film “An Inconvenient Truth” for
half- revealing the reality in order not to unsettle
his financial backers – the oil, seed, and motor

We refuse to be subjugated to the neo-colonial role
assigned to us by global capitalism or any other model
which makes us dependent on international markets and
reduces our food sovereignty. We will resist the
cellulose pulp mills, and the production of ‘food’ for
North American and European cars. We will fight
against the shameless wastefulness of consumerism
which is jeopardising our heritage and environment and
leaving us to face the future defenceless and

We will not allow another hectare to be given over for

Signed on the 29th April 2007 in the town of
Gualeguaychíº, Province of Entre Rios, Republic of
Argentina by:

-GRR, Grupo de Reflexión Rural.
-RENACE. Red Nacional de Acción Ecologista.
-Asamblea contra el saqueo y la contaminación de Gral.
Roca, Prov. de Rí­o Negro.
-SER, Sociedad Ecológica Regional El Bolsón.
-Movimiento de mujeres en lucha de Rí­o Negro.
-Vecinos de los pueblos fumigados de Entre Rí­os.
-Centro de Acción popular Olga Márquez de Aredez de
Jujuy y Salta.
-Foro Social Mundial, comité Paraná. La Tierrasinmal,
noticias de ecologí­a.
-Compañí­a Teatral Antes de la Ciudad de La Plata
-Cátedra Libre de Soberaní­a Alimentaria de la UN de La
-Agrupación Poner el Hombro de La Plata, Berisso y
-Taller Ecologista Chacabuco Sustentable Provincia de
Buenos Aires.
-Comité La Paz del Foro Social Mundial, Entre Rí­os.
-Grupo López Jordán FTNyP de Entre Rí­os.
-Centro de Estudios Históricos Arturo Jauretche de la
Prov. de Entre Rí­os.
-CeProNat, Centro de Protección a la Naturaleza de
Santa Fe.
-Periódico virtual El Norte del Bermejo, Tartagal,
Prov. de Salta.
-Comisión 4 y 5 de Derecho Agrario de la Facultad de
Ciencias Jurí­dicas y Sociales de la Universidad
Nacional de La Plata
-Autoconvocados por la Nacionalizació n del Petróleo y
el Gas. Ing. Mario Cafiero
-Grupo de Ecologí­a y Ecumenismo de la Parroquia del
Valle de Buenos Aires.
-Chaya, comunicación alternativa
-Asoc. Civil por la Reserva Vecinos Autoconvocados
-Diputada Nacional Marta Maffei

More signatures are following

For further information please write to

New Zealand: Coal rail line blockaded

From Aotearoa (New Zealand) indymedia:

The Save Happy Valley Coalition has begun a blockade of the main rail line
that coal miner Solid Energy uses to transport coal between the West Coast
and Christchurch. There are two people locked into the railway tracks in
prelaid concrete, much like a blockade in 2005, and they have thus far
resisted efforts by police to remove them.

The blockade began around midday, and about 20 protesters clambered over the
first stopped coal train and displayed a 22 metre banner reading "Solid
Energy: Govt Sponsored Climate Chaos".

From their media release: "Solid Energy is ever increasing its production,
leaving decimated ecosystems and waterways in its wake. Already, they are
responsible for annual carbon dioxide emissions approximately equivalent to
New Zealand's entire transport fleet. Saying "no" to new coal mines would be
an easy first step in actually addressing climate change," said Simon
Riddel, one of the activists locked to the tracks.

2.30pm: The blockaders have been declared prisoners, and a police line has
formed around them. Their support person has been arrested for communicating
with prisoners while trying to get water to them.
3:15pm: After about 3 and a half hours, police managed to dig a large enough
hole and drag one of the blockaders through, and have since managed to cut
open the lockbox Three arrests in total..

Indiana: Action against Duke Energy’s involvement in Mountaintop Removal and Plan Puebla Panama

Action against Duke Energy: Against Plan Puebla Panama and Mountain Top Removal

Approximately ten demonstrators shut down the Bloomington office for Duke Energy yesterday for a few minutes before pushed out by loyal company managers. The action was in response to Duke Energy’s involvement in the recently revived Plan Puebla Panama- a globalization infrastructure scheme that will destroy communities across Mesoamerica. The demo also occurred in solidarity with communities in Appalachia that continue to be devastated by Mountain Top Removal, a practice which Duke Energy relies upon to continue their production of electricity for profit.In both Mesoamerica and Appalachia, threatened communities have taken up a struggle to defend their lives and homes, a struggle which continues to challenge the ability of multinationals to extract profit from suffering and from ecocide. Its offensive (though we are not surprised) to find that those involved in such projects of death can continue to do business with no consequences whatsoever. Thus, Duke Energy can now count upon the fact that they will face demonstrations until they withdraw completely from the PPP and from Mountain Top Removal. In addition to the demonstration, concerned locals have also begun an effort to share information about Duke Energy’s bloody hands via posters and flyers.

Continue reading