Climate change is the most significant issue facing our planet today.

Members of Rainforest Partnership are at the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid, meeting with organizations and individuals from around the world to determine the most effective way to take climate action.

The climate is warming at an unprecedented rate, wiping out species and making many habitats and regions uninhabitable. Copious plant, animal, and human communities are already experiencing devastating impacts from our rapidly changing climate. Among these impacts are greater food and water scarcity, loss of habitat, flooding, large-scale extinction, and extreme weather events, such as more powerful tropical storms and stronger heatwaves.

Photo by Rodrigo Baleia for The Guardian
Photo by Rodrigo Baleia for The Guardian

One of the main contributors to climate change is deforestation, accounting for 8-10% of total global emissions. Three of the primary drivers of deforestation are industrial expansion, conversion of forest to farmland, and logging. 

While deforestation is warming the planet, protecting and regenerating rainforests will cool it down.

Tropical rainforests are carbon sinks, storing up to 25% of the carbon dioxide humans generate and producing 20% of our oxygen. Unfortunately, when forests are cut down or burned they become carbon sources. All of the carbon that had been stored in the trees is sent back into the atmosphere. 

Deforestation graphic by World Resources Institute
Graphic by World Resources Institute

If we were to stop and reverse deforestation of tropical forests, net emissions could go down by 20-30%

In order to do this, we must all become cognizant of the factors enabling deforestation in South America and of our role in perpetuating them. Taking small steps like reducing meat and dairy consumption, contributing to reforesting campaigns, and purchasing recycled goods could make a big difference in reducing deforestation of the Amazon.

Rainforest photo by Martin Edström
Photo by Martin Edström

We have always relied on forests for our global ecosystem health. The Amazon supplies us all with oxygen, freshwater, and natural medicine. It also provides shelter and food for millions of species and countless human communities. 

Protecting and regenerating rainforests is one of the cheapest and most effective means of combating the global threat of climate change, much more economical than developing new technologies.

We must act now if we are going to protect this crucial global resource. Without healthy tropical forests, our planet and our future are in significant trouble.