The Earth’s army of roughly three trillion trees has helped to regulate our climate for millennia by sucking up carbon dioxide from the air and turning it into oxygen. But the tide is turning, and the planet’s dwindling tropical forests can’t keep up -- to the point where the Earth’s forests now emit almost twice as much carbon as they consume. In 2017, scientists from Boston University and the Woods Hole Research Center reported these grim facts, warning readers that “we need to drastically reduce emissions and greatly increase forests' ability to absorb and store carbon” in order to keep global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels.
Don't say you weren't warned:
- The researchers said that ending deforestation practices in the tropics could reduce global carbon emissions by 8 percent, but that there’s a limited window of opportunity to reverse the trend.
- Around 20% of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed in recent years. Satellite images and laser technology were used to record how vast areas of forest have been lost since 2003.
- The study found that the tropics now contribute more carbon to the atmosphere than they take in -- 862 teragrams of carbon are emitted while only 437 teragrams are consumed.