Tropical deforestation drives more than 7% of global carbon dioxide emissions, about the same share as the entire population of India. A new analysis released Thursday found that the world lost tropical forest in 2021 at a rate of about 10 soccer pitches a minute.
Last year saw a global loss of 3.8 million hectares (14,286 square miles) of tropical forest, according to the University of Maryland’s 2021 tree-cover loss data published by the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch. That’s a decrease of 11% from 2020, following a 12% rise in 2019, with fire accounting for much of the year-to-year variation.
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Deforestation related to agriculture continues to grow. Brazil, which is home to more rainforest than any other country, lost 1.5 million hectares, 40% of the global total and three times more than the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which ranked second. Non-fire tree loss in Brazil rose 9% last year, to the highest rate seen in the Amazon since 2006.
Scientists have documented concerns that the Amazon is approaching a tipping point, when the changing climate will shift the area toward savanna-like ecosystems. More than 140 countries at last year’s United Nations climate conference in Glasgow agreed to stop forest loss by 2030.
Indonesia, the country with the third-largest amount of rainforest, extended its streak of reducing forest loss to five years, with the loss rate dropping last year 25% below 2020. The trend bodes well for the nation’s climate commitments, which were updated in 2021. Indonesia says that forestry emissions will fall so far by 2030 that it will become a net sink for carbon dioxide.
Bolivia saw the third-highest rate of forest loss last year, with about a third of its 291,000 hectares felled by fire—a phenomenon that is worsened by hot, dry weather brought on by climate change.
Northern forests also see massive tree loss every year, driven by the forestry industry and wildfires. Unlike in tropical forests, northern forests tend to grow back, which is why they account for less than 4% of deforestation.
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