According to a new study, humans are responsible for destroying or degrading two-thirds of the world’s tropical rainforests

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Tropical rainforests are disappearing at an alarming rate, and it’s people’s fault, according to a dire new report from the NGO Rainforest Foundation Norway. Global reliance on coal, agriculture, soy, palm oil and mining has resulted in two-thirds of the world’s tropical rainforests being completely destroyed and the remaining ecosystems “closer to a tipping point,” the report released Tuesday said.

According to the RFN, tropical rainforests once covered 14.5 million square kilometers – 13% – of the earth’s surface, today only a third of it is intact. Of the original tropical rainforests that were once occupied, 34% have “completely disappeared” and 30% are suffering from degradation.

All that remains is approximately 9.5 million square kilometers, and 45% of that is in a “degraded state,” the study says. Only a third of the original tropical rainforest is still “intact,” the report said.

Anders Krogh, who wrote the report and works as a special advisor to RFN, said in a press release that the results were “alarming”.

“The good news is that we have an area half the size of Europe and still completely intact. However, the remaining tropical rainforests are either badly damaged or increasingly fragmented,” said Krogh. “Humans are chopping these once vast and impenetrable forests into smaller and smaller pieces, undermining their ability to store carbon, cool the planet, produce rain and create habitats. The world relies on tropical rainforests to provide these services. ”

The study analyzed tropical rainforests from 2002 to 2019 and found that since 2002 the area of ​​lost rainforest has been larger than the size of France.

Researchers blame “human consumption” for the loss. While agriculture has always been a driving factor in rainforest loss, the report states that energy use, international trade and the production of soybeans, palm oil, livestock, logging and mining have been the greatest threats in the last century.

A significant amount of US goods rely on resources from tropical rainforests. The country relies heavily on palm oil, rubber, and cocoa, all of which come from forests around the world. Often these resources are harvested from illegally deforested areas.

Tropical rainforests are home to more than half of the world’s biodiversity and, according to the RFN, contain more carbon in living organisms than in any other ecosystem. In addition to supporting significant animal life, tropical rainforests are important in slowing global warming.

70% of the world’s remaining tropical rainforest cover is in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, the two provinces of Papua and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which alone is home to more than half of Africa’s tropical rainforests.

Now, researchers say, the remaining ecosystems in these forests are facing a turning point.

“These highly specialized ecosystems suffer from constant and ongoing abuse from our bottomless appetites for land and resources,” said Krogh. “We expect that the upcoming summit on climate and biodiversity of the United Nations will offer specific goals and measures to protect intact tropical rainforests.”

The researchers also believe that the loss of tropical rainforests puts “the whole world” at risk for future pandemics.

“Massive deforestation violates nature’s natural virus protection mechanisms and puts the world at risk with potential new pathogens that can spread from animals to humans,” said Krogh. “The consequences of COVID-19 should put rainforest protection high on the agenda of all world policymakers and leaders concerned about preventing new pandemics from breaking out. “

On Monday, 15 United Nations organizations issued a joint statement recognizing “the right to a healthy environment”. According to the UN, the declaration was the first of its kind on a global scale.

“We are faced with a triple environmental crisis: climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution. The rights of present and future generations depend on a healthy environment,” the statement said. “Global recognition of the right to a healthy environment will support efforts to leave no one behind, ensure a just transition to an environmentally healthy and socially just world, and realize human rights for all.”



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