Deforestation Adds More Atmospheric CO2 Than the Sum Total of Cars & Trucks on the World’s Roads


Illegal land clearance to make way for soy production in Para, Brazil. Credit: Photo by Alberto César courtesy of Greenpeace

Deforestation in tropical rainforests adds more carbon dioxide to the Earth’s atmosphere than the sum total of cars and trucks on the world’s roads. Cars and trucks account for 14% of global carbon emissions, while most analysts attribute 15% to deforestation.

One of the reasons why logging is bad for the climate is that when the trees are felled, they release the carbon that they are storing into the atmosphere, where it will mingle with greenhouse gases from other sources. This effect contributes to global warming and preventing deforestation would help decrease emissions as much as increasing fuel efficiency and reducing automobile usage does.

32 million acres of tropical rainforest were cut down each year between 2000 and 2009, and the pace of deforestation continues to accelerate. Forest clearing will put another 200 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere in the coming decades, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, a leading green group.

“Any realistic plan to reduce global warming pollution sufficiently—and in time—to avoid dangerous consequences must rely in part on preserving tropical forests,” states the Environmental Defense Fund. “Conservation costs money, while profits from timber, charcoal, pasture, and cropland drive people to cut down forests,” adds EDF. This also wipes out biodiversity since more than half of the world’s plant and animal species live in tropical rainforests.

Brazil is among the countries embracing the United Nations’ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program and has slowed its deforestation by 40% since 2008 and is on track to achieve an 80% reduction by 2020.

2 Comments on "Deforestation Adds More Atmospheric CO2 Than the Sum Total of Cars & Trucks on the World’s Roads"

  1. By using the iFORE software we can scientifically measure the impact of deforestation on CO2 and other air quality indicators. Developed by the U.S. Forest service; I have used it to measure the impact of clear cutting wind farm sites for turbine pads, access roads, and transmission corridors and was shocked to learn that the negative impact was not deducted from their carbon subsidies.

    In fact, under Maine’s Wind Siting act this environmental impact is omitted and not required for a permit…..AMAZING!

    • Bengt Andersson | January 27, 2016 at 3:33 am | Reply

      In Sweden I see that if we stop cutting trees, 100 Mio m2; the CO2 pollution will be reduced by the similar quantity each year.

      At the same time the stock of biomass will increase from 3000 Mio m2 to 4500 Mio m2 in about 50 years.
      This is about what Sweden has to do to reduce for the 1,5 degrC level.

      Most enviromental people claim “cut more”

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