A revolutionary study released on Monday by the Norwegian nonprofit, Rainforest Foundation Norway, reported that two-thirds of Earth’s tropical rainforests have been destroyed or degraded. As one of the world’s leading organizations in the field of rights-based rainforest protection, the foundation successfully completed the world’s first complete historical and current overview of Earth’s tropical rainforests.
“We now know how much tropical rainforest that is left in the world and the state it is in, and we have compared this to estimates of how much tropical rainforest that existed before modern human interference. This knowledge is essential for the upscaling of the global fight to save what is left. It is alarming that nearly half of the world’s rainforests are degraded, ” says Anders Krogh, a tropical forest researcher.
According to the RFN report, of the approximately 14.5 million square kilometres of tropical rainforest that once covered Earth’s surface, only 36 percent remains intact. Just over a third, 34 percent, is completely gone, and the last 30 percent is in various forms of degradation.
Although seemingly out of reach from urban society, rainforests play a critical role in maintaining our Earth’s ecosystems; afterall, they are known as the lungs of the planet. Rainforests provide a home to over 30 million species of plants and animals, protect against naturals disasters such as flood, drought, and soil erosion, and are a source for medicines, foods, and ancestral territory for indigenous people; but more importantly, rainforests are the number one mechanism that helps stabilize the world’s climate and combat against global warming. By absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, as well as maintaining the world’s water cycle, rainforests regulate Earth’s climate and provide an integral source for human breathing.
Furthermore, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) states that deforestation and forest degradation are the biggest threats to forests worldwide. Deforestation occurs when forested areas are converted to agriculture land, road constructions, or any non-forest use. Unsurprisingly, humans are the driving forces behind deforestation initiatives.
“These highly specialised ecosystems are suffering from constant and persistent abuse [by humans], through our bottomless appetite for land and resources,” Krogh continues. “We expect that upcoming UN climate and biodiversity summits provide specific targets and measures to protect intact tropical rainforests.”
The next UN climate summit Krogh refers to is the 2021 UN Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 climate change summit hosted by the UK. UN officials expect nations to continue to work to deliver their updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in accordance with the Paris Agreement of 2015.
As Krough says, “The world depends on tropical rainforests to provide these services”. The diplomatic missions of the UN summits encourage countries to mutually motivate each other to follow the restrictions at the expense of their fossil-fuel economies, but in the spirit of protecting and saving the environment. The Paris Agreement as a precedent-setting policy is a start, but the responsibility and accountability of nations to seriously adhere to the environmental and collectivist values it upholds is imperative in our global fight against climate change.