- 9.9m Hectares: The amount of tree cover loss of tropical rainforests in 2014
- 300 million: The number of people dependent on rainforests for survival
- 50%: The amount of earth’s plant, animal and insect species that live in rainforests
Deforestation in one form or another has been happening for thousands of years. People have cleared areas of forest for their cattle to graze on, or to use the land for crops, or felled trees for building material or fuel. However, in recent times the rate of deforestation has exploded, increased exponentially and reached a critical point.
In 2014, 18 million hectares of tree cover was lost to deforestation. It might be hard to imagine how big an area this is. To help put it in perspective, this amount of tree loss would be enough to cover the whole of Portugal. Twice. And this is just the amount of deforestation that has happened in one year. Globally it is estimated that an incredible 1 billion hectares has been lost in the past 40 years. Again, this figure is hard to get in perspective, so imagine if the entirety of Europe was covered in trees, and then imagine every single one of those trees being cut down. That’s the equivalent of what has happened across the past four decades.
Tropical rainforests have been particularly hit by this deforestation. In 2014 just under 10 million hectares of tree cover was lost in rainforests. For example, the Brazilian Amazon, which makes up nearly two thirds of the whole Amazon rainforest, has lost almost 20% of its tree cover since 1970. While the rate of decline has slowed, the amount of forest is still in a steady downward trajectory.
The rainforest could disappear in as little as 100 years
The rate of deforestation in other locations has soared recently. Countries which were traditionally not seen as being subject to high levels of tree loss, such as Cambodia, Madagascar and Vietnam, and now seeing deforestation at an alarming rate. This acceleration in rate of deforestation of tropical rainforests is a result of the increase in global demand for commodities such as beef, soy, rubber and palm oil. If the rate of deforestation of global rainforest continues at the current pace then in 100 years they will be completely wiped out.
The death of the tropical rainforests would be devastating for life on earth. While they cover just 3% of the surface of the planet, they are home to an estimated 50% of the world’s plant, animal and insect species. And it’s not just the animals and plants that are dependent on the rainforests, an estimated 300 million people globally rely on the rainforests for food, water, income and security. Rainforests also have a huge impact on the environment. The Amazon rainforest produces around 20% of the oxygen in the world, and rainforests absorb and store a huge amount of carbon.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the rainforests though. While there is no denying they are under threat and are suffering, there is a global commitment to getting deforestation under control. The Paris Agreement pledges to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees, and one of the keys to meeting this goal lies in the forests. Stopping deforestation, conserving current forest areas, and regenerating forests could remove 7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.
Tackling the issue of rainforest conservation is a multifaceted and tricky problem, but an urgent one. If we don’t find a way to solve it then in a century there might not even be any rainforests to protect.
Further Reading: Related Start Ups and Organizations
- Proterra (http://www.proterra.com zero emission buses)
- UrbanSeeds (http://www.urbanseeds.nl/ develops and markets innovative solutions for an easy and sustainable living.)
- The climate data factory (climate model data for any application to help reduce time to action of climate change adaptation)
- Except Integrated Sustainability (http://www.except.nl/en/ a strategy and concept development agency working on the transition towards a resilient society)
- OOLUX www.oolux.org (solar power kits replace energy sources which pose a risk to the environment and the health of people living in areas without access to electricity.)
- Lumo (https://www.lumo-france.com/ a French crowdfunding website which enables citizens to invest directly in renewable energy projects… projects that generate electricity using established renewable technologies like wind, solar or hydro )
- Leachate Treatment Solutions ( solving a major waste challenges in both the public and private sectors — treating the toxic liquid that drains from the landfill and industrial waste.)
- Faro 360 (www.faro360.org Faro 360 is a social start-up that prevents and cleans up trash in cities around the world.)
- Emerald (http://emeraldair.co world’s first air monitoring available for everyone.)
- Arborea Ltd. (http://arborea.io/ Carbon neutral cities. Bionic systems to remove CO2 and purify urban air.
- Green City Solutions (climate-kic) (http://greencitysolutions.de/ The CityTree is a customised solution for urban spaces designed under the criteria of sustainability and combines a vertical plants’ display with air purification.)
This series of articles has been prepared with the support of our partner Viessmann — they’re celebrating 100 years of their company this year (2017) and are actively involved in positively shaping the next 100 years.