Halving deforestation in five years is doable—and it would result in the storage of 1.135 billion tons of carbon.
That’s according to a study released on the eve of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris. Written by a team of researchers from the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia and Russia, the Global Change Biology article, “Can carbon emissions drop by 50% in five years?,” provides evidence that cutting global deforestation in half by 2020 is possible if forest nations follow the lead set by Brazil.
Though the South American country home to the Amazon rainforest saw an uptick in deforestation in 2015, it successfully scaled back the destruction of trees between 2003 and 2013. While Brazil still ranks first among all tropical countries for carbon emissions from tropical deforestation, it also achieved the biggest reduction in those emissions over a ten-year period.
In 2003, deforestation in Brazil was responsible for emitting 1.766 gigatonnes of carbon—a similar amount to Russia’s 2013 carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and the manufacture of cement—but only 0.428 gigatonnes in 2012. Brazil’s emissions from gross deforestation accounted for 20 percent of the tropical total in 2012, a huge decrease from the peak of 69 percent in 2003.The paper argues that if other countries were to use this ten year period in Brazil as a model for how to cut down on deforestation, the world could succeed in protecting forests.
Forests are crucial to climate change efforts because they store carbon when they stay standing, but emit the greenhouse gas when they’re torn or burnt down. The climate change treaty signed in Paris in December strongly asserts the importance of forests in reducing the emissions that contribute to the changing climate.