Saving Forests


Now it is more important than ever. Did you know the burning and clearing of forests contributes approximately 16 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and fuels climate change? 

Human activity is the main cause of deforestation, usually tied to economic development, increasing consumption rates – in both developed and developing countries – and extractive industries such as logging.

Pristine jungles are burned and cleared for farming and ranching, or for plantations to produce biofuel crops. Cities and villages expand, prompting industrial development that supplants forests. Loggers extract more trees than the forest can reproduce, destroying ecosystems and leaving roads that invite other exploitative forces. 

Science in Action: Putting out Fires

The loss is irreplaceable. Tropical forests are home to more than half of all species on Earth, and their destruction means the extinction of countless plant and wildlife species, many still unknown to science.

Forests also are important ecosystems in the balance of nature, providing a multitude of resources and services essential to all people. Destruction of habitat and resources forces people to move elsewhere for food, shelter and jobs, leading to greater poverty and social instability.

In addition, burning and clearing forests emits approximately 16 percent of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, more than all the world’s cars, trucks, and airplanes combined. If left intact, these tropical forests are reservoirs of massive amounts of carbon.


Protecting and restoring forests then is an essential first response to climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, halting deforestation and restoring already degraded areas while adopting more forest-friendly agriculture and management practices would prevent the emission of more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over the next 40 years. That is more than total U.S. emissions over that same period, based on current levels.