in fact between 25 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year … is caused by deforestation.
In its 2007 report, the IPCC estimated that deforestation accounted for 17% of emissions.
Two years later, in a paper published in Nature Geoscience, Guido van der Werf and colleagues, argued that the figure was actually closer to 12%. While estimates of the rate of deforestation globally are fairly steady, emissions from burning fossil fuels are increasing rapidly. As such, the percentage of emissions from deforestation is falling.
A graph in the paper illustrates this clearly:
At the end of 2012, research teams from Winrock International and Woods Hole Research Center produced a joint study. Their conclusion was that,
“Tropical deforestation accounts for about 10 percent of the world’s heat-trapping emissions.”
The figures for deforestation used to produce this figure were between 2000 and 2005. Since then emissions from fossil fuels have increased and deforestation accounts for a lower percentage of global emissions today.
Of course this does not mean that the problem of deforestation is solved. Far from it. But deforestation accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions – a number that is falling.
On its website, UN-REDD still uses the 20% figure:
Deforestation and forest degradation, through agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure development, destructive logging, fires etc., account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector.
I’ve written to the UN-REDD Programme Secretariat and asked why they continue to use a figure that is almost double the most recent research. I’ll post their response in the comments.
This is the first in an occasional series of REDD myths on REDD-Monitor. If you have suggestions for other “REDD myths”, please let me know in the comments.
PHOTO Credit: NASA.