After analyzing deforestation rates in the world’s major regions between 1990 and 2009, the IPCC revised its previous worst-case projections by about 25 percent. It now sees up to 12 percent of the world’s forests being wiped out over the next two decades. That still means nearly 17 percent of the world’s forests could be lost by 2030 and 60 percent by 2050, the report says.
Brazil will account for half the loss of forest cover, accounting for about 40 percent of the total area in 2060, the report shows. In Southeast Asia, Australia, North America and Central America, roughly 30 percent of forests could be gone by the middle of the century.
“Some of the countries that are particularly vulnerable are the countries in the tropics. And where the tropical forest is located is also very important because it is the place where a lot of the rain-forest species are.” Patricia Campos, deputy coordinator of the Scientific Panel on Global Climate Change
The researchers said that agricultural expansion and oil and gas drilling are the main drivers of deforestation. Forests in the Amazon have been drained by cattle farmers for more than half a century, while in Indonesia and Malaysia, palm oil plantations have replaced much of the trees.
Many of the deforestation hotspots are also important food-producing regions. The land used to grow palm oil, Brazil’s main cash crop, is an important source of food for Indonesia and Malaysia, two of the world’s most populous nations.
About 3.5 billion people depend on tropical rain forests for their food, according to the report. The report estimates that a fifth of global food crops could be lost if deforestation continues at the current pace.
As forests disappear, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Some estimates put the current rate of deforestation at 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually.
By mid-century, many of the world’s small islands could become unliveable, the report shows, while hundreds of millions of people could lose access to water, posing a threat to public health.
The report also predicts that there will be millions of climate refugees — people forced to move because of climate-related disruptions — from the world’s tropical regions in the coming decades.
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