Global Warming Science:


Deforestation: The Leading Cause of CO2 Emissions


[last update: 2010/06/13]



Deforestation: The hidden cause of global warming (Daniel Howden, 2007/05/14):


  • In the next 24 hours, deforestation will release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as 8 million people flying from London to New York. Stopping the loggers is the fastest and cheapest solution to climate change. So why are global leaders turning a blind eye to this crisis?” … “The accelerating destruction of the rainforests that form a precious cooling band around the Earth's equator, is now being recognised as one of the main causes of climate change. Carbon emissions from deforestation far outstrip damage caused by planes and automobiles and factories ...deforestation accounts for up to 25 per cent of global emissions of heat-trapping gases, while transport and industry account for 14 per cent each; and aviation makes up only 3 per cent of the total” []




The Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF) released  a report on the “Human Impact of Climate Change”

(called “The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis”) (29 May 2009). Kofi Annan, the president of the GHF, wrote the report introduction – “Message from the President” in which he makes the following statement: “Ninety-nine percent of all casualties occur in developing countries. A stark contrast to the one percent of global emissions attributable to some 50 of the least developed nations. If all countries were to pollute so little, there would be no climate change.” Annan’s blame it all on the U.S. approach neglects the reality.


The Executive Summary states: “Already today, hundreds of thousands of lives are lost every year due to climate change. This will rise to roughly half a million in 20 years. Over nine in ten deaths are related to gradual environmental degradation due to climate change – principally malnutrition, diarrhoea, malaria…It is a grave global justice concern that those who suffer most from climate change have done the least to cause it. … Climate change threatens sustainable development and all eight Millennium Development Goals. … climate change is already responsible for forcing some fifty million additional people to go hungry and driving over ten million additional people into extreme poverty.



What the GHF and others neglect is that the local environmental problems in these “innocent” countries are the result of rampant population growth and the associated deforestation.


See: for more details on the GHF



REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)

“Africa: Tackling deforestation is critical” []: “REDD acknowledged the need to fund the developing world's efforts to fight deforestation, but it was still unclear how this would be done, said Peter Frumhoff, main author of the IPCC Special Report on Land Use, Land-use Change and Forestry, and Director of Science and Policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a US-based nonprofit advocacy group. One of the options in the REDD programme is that countries fighting deforestation could be rewarded with carbon credits, which they could sell to rich countries to meet their emission targets. Under the Clean Development Mechanism, one of three options offered by the Kyoto Protocol, the industrialised world can use carbon credits to reach their emission reduction targets.” In other words Kyoto is not really about reducing CO2 – it is about transferring funds to “developing” countries.




The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported in October 2006 that deforestation accounts for 25 to 30 percent of the release of greenhouse gases []. The report states: “Most people assume that global warming is caused by burning oil and gas. But in fact between 25 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year – 1.6 billion tonnes – is caused by deforestation. … Delegates of the 46 developing countries present at the Rome workshop signalled their readiness to act on deforestation, 80 percent of which is due to increased farmland to feed growing populations. … But they also stressed that they needed financial help from the developed world to do the job.


From 1990 to 2000, the net forest loss was 8.9 million hectares per year. From 2000 to 2005, the net forest loss was 7.3 million hectares per year. []


  • The ten countries with the largest net loss of forest per year (2000 – 2005) are: Brazil, Indonesia, Sudan, Myanmar, Zambia Tanzania, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela (combined loss of 8.2 million hectares per year).


  • The ten countries with the largest net gain of forest per year (2000 – 2005) are: China, Spain, Viet Nam, United States, Italy, Chile, Cuba, Bulgaria, France and Portugal (combined gain of 5.1 million hectares per year).





Al Gore – “An Inconvenient Truth”:


  • Page 227:Almost 30 % of the CO2 released into the atmosphere each year is a result of the burning of brushland for subsistence agriculture and wood fires used for cooking.”


  • Page 230-231 shows a “six-month time lapse image of the world at night” from satellite imagery, in which Africa stands out partly because of the prevalence of wood fires for cooking.” (Other burning areas can be seen in South America and Southeast Asia.)









Africa: Tackling deforestation is critical


  • "People often do not take into account the main driver of deforestation, which is very different in Africa, where it is the need for fuel wood," said Kevin Conrad, director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations at the Earth Institute of Columbia University. … Deforestation is responsible for 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon emissions every year, amounting to one-fifth of the global total, and to more than the combined total contributed by the world's energy-intensive transport sectors, according to the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). "Deforestation contributes almost as much to climate change as does US fossil fuel use," said Conrad. "Yet deforestation was specifically excluded from the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which failed to address this significant source of carbon emissions." []


  • Sub-Saharan Africa has long been considered one of the poorest regions on earth despite its rich biological diversity and mineral wealth. The poor turn to the forests for subsistence agriculture, the collection of fuelwood, and the poaching of forest animals for food. The rapid population growth of the region—among the highest in the world—combined with high rates of urbanization have promoted these unsustainable activities by creating demand for bushmeat, fuelwood, and other forest products. Fuelwood makes up more than 8o percent of the total roundwood produced in the region.” []


The following figures are from the UN FAO 2007 report on Africa’s forests []. The left figure shows the extent of forest burning (as detected from satellite data). The right figure shows the increasing cutting of forests for fuelwood.



The UN FAO 2007 forest report [] states:


  • in Africa, almost 90 percent of all wood removals are used for energy


  • Deforestation and forest degradation will continue in most developing regions; a reversal of the situation would depend on structural shifts in economies to reduce direct and indirect dependence on land. In most developing tropical countries, agricultural land used for both subsistence and commercial cultivation continues to expand. Consequently, loss of forests will continue.”


  • While heating and cooking will remain the principal uses for fuelwood and charcoal in developing countries, the use of solid biofuels for the production of electricity is expected to triple by 2030


  • Wood energy could become a motor for the development and expansion of forestry activities. Progressive policies are required to ensure that these changes help alleviate poverty in developing countries. … new energy and environmental policies are making woodfuel an essential ingredient of energy policy in both developed and developing countries. In developed countries, it is likely that the use of wood for energy will continue to increase


  • For many developing countries, wood will remain the most important source of energy. The rising price of oil and increasing concern for climate change will result in increased use of wood as fuel in both developed and developing countries.


These are very telling statements: “new energy and environmental policies are making woodfuel an essential ingredient of energy policy in both developed and developing countries”… and “increasing concern for climate change will result in increased use of wood as fuel in both developed and developing countries”. The environmental policies that are referred to are the anti-fossil-fuel policies, wherein the burning of wood is deemed preferable because it is “renewable biomass”. The fact that burning wood releases more greenhouse gases per unit of energy released than burning oil or natural gas does, is simply overlooked.


The following figure from the same report shows the expected increase in biomass burning as a source of energy. The U.S. can curb CO2 emissions all it wants – globally it will achieve nothing.








  • Predictions for future deforestation in Central Africa estimate that by 2050 forest clearance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will release a total of up to 34.4 billion tonnes of CO2, roughly equivalent to the UK’s CO2 emissions over the last sixty years. … The Congo rainforests of Central Africa are of global importance. They form the second largest rainforest block on earth after the Amazon rainforest, covering more than 172 million hectares. … Greenpeace’s research exposes just what a threat the selective logging practised across Central Africa is to biodiversity and the global environment. ... The impact of logging infrastructure on the climate is significant but does not figure in global calculations.” []






  • Nigeria and Sudan were the two largest losers of natural forest during the 2000-2005 period, largely due to subsistence activities. At 11.1%, Nigeria's annual deforestation rate of natural forest is the highest in the world and puts it on pace to lose virtually all of its primary forest within a few years.” []






  • In Ghana, about 35% of the land surface experiences severe erosion and loss of productivity through deforestation and land degradation, amounting to a 4% loss of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It has also been estimated that the original 8.2 million hectares of the closed forest in Ghana have been destroyed, leaving about 1.962 million hectares. Desertification in Ghana has come about as a result of population growth, deforestation, high incidence of bushfires and inappropriate land use practices, such as the slash and burn system of agriculture, which has caused the expansion of the savannah zone across the deciduous forest zone to the high rain forest ecozone.” []



  • According to National Geographic: “Rain forests help generate rainfall in drought-prone countries elsewhere. Studies have shown that destruction of rain forests in such West African countries as Nigeria, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire may have caused two decades of droughts in the interior of Africa, with attendant hardship and famine.” []








  • The deforestation of the Mau Forest has continued unabated, Nuttal said, noting that charcoal burning and farming activities were the main causes of the destruction. An estimated 11,000 sq km of the forest have been affected by the destruction. Contrary to conventional wisdom, an estimated 62 percent of precipitation occurs over land as a result of evapotranspiration from lakes and wetlands and dense vegetation, particularly forests, which pump ground water into the sky.” []


  • “The deforestation that has occurred in Mt Kenya, Mau, Aberdare, Mt Elgon and Kaptagat forests has negatively affected watersheds. Due to the loss of forest cover, the ability of water catchment areas to regulate run-off has been reduced, with subsequent flooding. The area under forest cover has rapidly diminished from 165,000 hectares in 1988 to 80,000 hectares in 2003.”[]


  • “Lake Nakuru is faced with extinction due to industrial pollution and massive deforestation in its water catchment areas. Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Wilfred Ndolo says river Njoro, the main distributor of the lake has dried up due to degradation of the Mau escarpment forest.” []


  • During the last 30 years, the Lake Nakuru basin has been transformed from a sparsely populated and densely forested expanse into a region that is heavily settled, extensively cultivated, and rapidly urbanizing. A key driver has been the substantial increase in the human population, resulting from both past and continuing high fertility and extensive in-migration.” []


  • A study of the effects of microclimatic changes caused by deforestation in the Kenyan highlands (American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene): the mean indoor temperatures of houses located in the deforested area were 1.2°C higher than in houses located in the forested area during the dry season and 0.7°C higher during the rainy season []


  • Kenya’s annual deforestation rate for 1990 – 2005: 12,000 ha / year (total remaining forest: 3.5 million ha). Population: 34 million (60 % rural), growth rate: 2.8 %, fertility rate (children / woman): 4.8, population doubling period: < 28 years. [] (42 % < 14 years of age).


See: for more details on Kenya’s deforestation problems






  • As much as 90% of all primary energy consumed in Tanzania is biomass based. The commercial and industrial energy sectors in Tanzania are extremely small in relation to the household sector. Virtually, all of Tanzania's wood fuel comes from forests-over 90% of all roundwood harvests are for charcoal and fuelwood. As can be expected, much of the demand for fuelwood is satisfied through deforestation. It is estimated that about 70% of the deforestation in Tanzania is due to fuelwood harvests, directly or indirectly, with about 30% of the deforestation being the result of agricultural land clearing. As the economy matures, deforestation associated with agricultural land use clearing is expected to grow, increasing emissions of greenhouse gases.” []


  • In total, between 1990 and 2005, United Republic of Tanzania lost 14.9% of its forest cover, or around 6,184,000 hectares. Measuring the total rate of habitat conversion (defined as change in forest area plus change in woodland area minus net plantation expansion) for the 1990-2005 interval, United Republic of Tanzania lost 37.4% of its forest and woodland habitat.” []



  • A scientific theory has linked the loss of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro to deforestation and dismissed suggestions that the dwindling of glaciers on Africa`s highest peak was due to global warming. Deforestation of the mountain`s foothills is the most likely culprit because without forests there is too much evaporation of humidity into outer space. Loss of humidity automatically leads to a reduction in cloud cover. Clouds play a crucial role in protecting ice from sunrays, with fewer sunrays meaning faster freezing of water,`` he added, citing reduced precipitation as another reason for the receding ice cover on the mountain`s summit.[]


The following figure shows the deforestation around Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro.



See: for more details on this area






  • Mali is highly dependent on wood for its fuel needs. Over 90% of energy needs are met from primary sources such as wood and charcoal. However, Mali has never had extensive forest cover. Deforestation for the purposes of agriculture, fuel and building materials has denuded vast areas of Mali. Livestock grazing then slows the ability of the trees to regenerate. The lack of trees contributes to desertification.” []


  • The use of fire to manage agricultural land is one of the leading causes of land degradation; an estimated 14.5 million hectares of pasture are burned each year, equivalent to 17 per cent of the country“ [


See: for more details on Mali’s deforestation problems






  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report: “Environmental Degradation Triggering Tensions and Conflict in Sudan” provides insight into the environmental crisis. The most serious concerns are land degradation, desertification and the spread of deserts southwards by an average of 100km over the past four decades. These are linked with factors including overgrazing of fragile soils by a livestock population that has exploded from close to 27 million animals to around 135 million now. Many sensitive areas are also experiencing a "deforestation crisis" which has led to a loss of almost 12 per cent of Sudan's forest cover in just 15 years. Indeed, some areas may undergo a total loss of forest cover within the next decade. … The crisis is being aggravated by degradation of water sources in deserts known as wadis or oases. "Virtually all such areas inspected by UNEP were found to be moderately to severely degraded, principally due to deforestation, overgrazing and erosion," … “The environmental impacts of many of the [refugee] camps is high, especially in respect to deforestation for fuel wood. The UNEP study found that in Darfur, extensive deforestation can be found as far as 10km from a camp. The situation is being aggravated by brick making in some camps. …At the regional level, two-thirds of the forests in north, central and eastern Sudan disappeared between 1972 and 2001. In Darfur, a third of the forest cover was lost between 1973 and 2006. Southern Sudan is estimated to have lost 40 per cent of its forests since independence and deforestation is ongoing," This is largely driven by slash and burn agriculture and energy demands.” []






  • Global Envision: “Ugandan Forests In Danger”: “The country's forests are disappearing at an alarming rate of 2% per year, the highest in the world. Six thousand hectares of trees are being cut down every month, 72,000 hectares in 2006. At this pace, Uganda's forests will have gone in 50 years. … With 7.1 births per woman, Uganda has the second highest fertility rate in the world. Only Niger, with 7.9 births per woman, scores higher. By 2050, according to the UN, Uganda's population will have soared to 130 million. Presently, 97% of the population uses charcoal and firewood for cooking. … Deforestation leads to climate change and drought. []






  • The following figure is from [], which states: “Deforestation in Malawi, Africa, is a major problem, and 30% of the forests have disappeared in the last 10 years. Deforestation is happening very quickly on a frightening scale, and there is tremendous pressure on the natural resources because of the burgeoning population.”




See: for more details on Malawi’s deforestation problems











The United States is listed as one of the top 10 countries in the world with net forest increase. []


The following figure shows the net flux of carbon to the atmosphere due to land use change. The United States has the largest land use change carbon sink in the world – i.e. while much of the world is burning its forests, the US is absorbing the carbon from the atmosphere. This figure shows: Cumulative Emissions of C02 From Land-Use Change measures the total mass of carbon absorbed or emitted into the atmosphere between 1950 and 2000 as a result of man-made land use changes (e.g.- deforestation, shifting cultivation, vegetation re-growth on abandoned croplands and pastures). Positive values indicate a positive net flux ("source") of CO2; for these countries, carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere as a result of land-use change. Negative values indicate a negative net flux ("sink") of CO2; in these countries, carbon has been absorbed as a result of the re-growth of previously removed vegetation.” []. 


The same report also states: “While the majority of global CO2 emissions are from the burning of fossil fuels, roughly a quarter of the carbon entering the atmosphere is from land-use change.”






Species Diversity


Even though global warming alarmists pretend that warming will decrease species diversity, the reverse is actually true. Habitat destruction is the greatest threat to the world’s species. “Although tropical forests cover only about 7 percent of the Earth’s dry land, they probably harbor about half of all species on Earth.” This is illustrated in the following figure showing species by environment. []



Graph showing number of species in each of the Earth's 14 biomes.





Deforestation by Region






See The UN Food and Agriculture Organization tables on changes in forested land by country:






Above from





The World Bank World Development Report “Agriculture for Development” 2008 [] in a section called “The global environmental footprint of expanding livestock” stated: “Rapid growth in exports from Argentina and Brazil has been supported by bringing new land under cultivation, often at the expense of forests and woodlands. In the northern Salta region of Argentina, half the area under soybean cultivation in 2002/03 was previously covered by natural vegetation. Much of this area included the highly threatened Chaco ecosystem. In Brazil the states of Goias, Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso do Sul doubled the area under soybean cultivation between 1999/2000 and 2004/05 by planting an additional 54,000 square kilometers—an area larger than Costa Rica—much of it displacing ecologically important savanna woodland (cerrado) and forest. The mean annual deforestation rate in the Amazon from 2000 to 2005 (22,392 km2 per year) was 18 percent higher than in the previous five years (19,018 km2 per year), partly the result of agricultural expansion. Because trees are being burned to create open land in the frontier states of Pará, Mato Grosso, Acre, and Rondônia, Brazil has become one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases.


Retired Director of Research of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, Hendrik Tennekes said: [] We should keep in mind that local and regional climates respond not only to greenhouse gases, but primarily to changing land-use patterns. Civilization has a long history of dealing with unintended regional climate change caused by large-scale deforestation. The present deforestation in the Amazon basin and in Indonesia threatens to repeat the many mistakes made in the past. The incessant emphasis on CO2 and its effects on globally averaged temperatures leads many to ignore the fact that changes in the distribution of precipitation are far more threatening to agriculture and biosphere than any slight temperature changes.






In May 2008 a tropical cyclone hit Myanmar (the worst since 1991) causing more than 20,000 deaths. The cyclone had deteriorated to category 1 by the time it hit the main populated city of Yangon [].


Al Gore appeared on that day on NPR to publicly blame it on global warming [].


However, a BBC article provides a more balanced evaluation (“Mangrove Loss ‘left Burma Exposed’ []) which stated: “ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said coastal developments had resulted in mangroves, which act as a natural defence against storms, being lost. … Encroachment into mangrove forests, which used to serve as a buffer between the rising tide, between big waves and storms and residential areas; all those lands have been destroyed. … A study published in December 2005 said healthy mangrove forests helped save Sri Lankan villagers during the Asian tsunami disaster, which claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people. … While two people died in the settlement with dense mangrove and scrub forest, up to 6,000 people lost their lives in a nearby village without similar vegetation.” According to the UN FAO, 20 percent of the world’s mangrove forests have been destroyed since 1980 []. (Myanmar has the third-largest rate of tropical deforestation in the world, as shown a previous figure.)


The following figure shows Google satellite imagery for the area of Myanmar hit by the cyclone – the huge deforested areas are clearly visible.





Even the Rainforest Foundation is smarter than the Global Humanitarian Foundation (or perhaps it’s just more honest).