Fighting Climate Change by Protecting the World’s Most Important Tropical Forests
In the midst of the worsening climate crisis, tropical deforestation is once again on the rise. In 2020 alone, the world lost over 30 million acres of tropical forest - that’s nearly an acre per second. This rampant deforestation has dumped into our atmosphere 2.64 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, approximately seven times the UK’s annual emissions.
We must act now.
In 2021, Rainforest Trust launched the Rainforest Climate Action Fund, fighting climate change by protecting the world’s most important tropical forests. Donating to this fund may be the most efficient way to fight climate change right now, while also saving biodiversity. Together, we will work to permanently lock up 15 billion tonnes of carbon by 2025.
About a quarter of the 1.5 trillion tons of CO2 we humans have emitted since the industrial revolution has been caused by land-cover change, especially deforestation. At the same time, almost half of these emissions have been safely re-absorbed by oceans and forests. But this process of sequestration will end and the stored carbon will be dumped back into the atmosphere if we continue to degrade nature.
Each of the 193 protected areas we and our partners have created since 1988 have helped save endangered species and ecosystems from extinction. But many of these projects also have had a huge impact protecting the planet from climate change. Several types of projects are particularly impactful.
First are projects which massively reduce carbon emissions in the immediate future because they protect forests in imminent danger of destruction, so-called “frontier forests”.
Second are projects which protect forests that are actively drawing large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere and sequestering it underground. These “super-sequesterers” include the flooded forests of the Amazon, swamp forests of the Congo, peat forests of Borneo, and mangroves which fringe many of the world’s tropical coastlines.
The third type of projects lock up carbon in large, tall, intact hardwood forests in perpetuity for a reasonable cost. Such protected forests store vast amounts of carbon in their wood, roots and soil, locking up much of that carbon in perpetuity.
It all starts, however, with creating protected areas, and that is where charitable giving can have such a huge impact. Our track record of preventing deforestation long-term has been great: of the protected areas we have helped create since 1988, 92% have seen less than 5% total deforestation.
Launching the new fund on Earth Day 2021, Rainforest Trust CEO Dr James Deutsch said “We are now actively seeking some projects that have a disproportionate impact on climate, and this Earth Day we launch our Rainforest Climate Action Fund to enable our donors and partners to maximize the impact of their support on climate change.”
5 Ways Rainforests Mitigate Climate Change
Rainforests are one of nature’s best defences against climate change. All forests and other landscapes sequester carbon dioxide and store carbon, but tropical rainforests do better. That’s why Rainforest Trust is committed to preventing deforestation of these valuable landscapes. We’ve protected 39.6 billion trees so far! Here are 5 important reasons why rainforests are key to climate stabilization:
1. Rainforests sequester and store carbon. Forest ecosystems absorb roughly 2 billion tons of CO2 each year, making them the largest terrestrial carbon sinks on Earth. They capture, or sequester, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transform it into biomass through photosynthesis. Sequestered carbon is then stored in live trees, deadwood, litter and forest soils—contributing to the worldwide carbon “reservoir” that serves to mitigate climate change.
2. Rainforests add humidity to the atmosphere via transpiration (the process by which plants release water through their leaves), which in turn creates rain clouds. The moisture generated then returns to the land. Significant reductions in forest cover decrease rainfall and increase the incidence of drought.
3. Rainforests lessen the Earth’s reflectivity because they absorb more heat than unforested surfaces. When rainforests are cut down, the heat they would have absorbed is reflected back into the atmosphere. This changes local rainfall amounts and weather patterns, and over large enough areas, affects global weather patterns.
4. Forests are nature’s water filters. Forests filter pollution and debris from runoff before it flows into larger bodies of water and water supplies. Forests also moderate the movement of rainwater so that it replenishes underground reserves.
5. Rainforests stabilize our Earth’s climate. Rainforests help maintain the delicate balance of local climate systems and stabilize the complex, natural processes that govern Earth’s climate. Large-scale destruction of rainforests disrupts these very same systems, and that contributes to climate change.
Rainforest Trust has protected over 2.8 million acres so far in 2021 alone, and over 37 million acres since we began in 1989. These protected landscapes currently store over 11 billion tons of CO2 equivalents! That’s equal to the yearly average emissions of 2.5 billion cars driven for one year.
Our goal is to permanently lock up 15 billion tons of carbon by 2025. While we save forests to save the climate, we will also safeguard over half the world’s species and the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples.
Together with your support, we can do this! Your donation through Work For Good can help us to achieve these goals and fight climate change together.
Why Are Protected Areas So Important For Our Planet?
Rainforest Trust’s mission for over 30 years has been to prevent the destruction of rainforests and other tropical habitat through the creation of protected areas. We've already helped to create 178 protected areas totalling over 37 million acres, and have another 100 or so in the works. So why are protected areas so important? Here are our top five reasons.
1. Safeguard Biodiversity
Protected areas guard critical habitat for species. Recent studies show that on average the number of species in a protected area is 10.6% higher than outside, and the populations of those species are 14.5% greater when they live on protected land.
2. Protect Our Climate
Rainforests store billions of tonnes of carbon, which is released into the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas CO2 when forests are set on fire. Protected areas preserve these vital carbon sinks, helping to reduce the impacts of climate change.
3. Provide Local Economic Success
When protected areas are created in collaboration with rural communities, local economies stand to benefit in a number of ways. Communities often find employment in protected areas, as forest guardians, in ecotourism or through sustainable farming.
4. Prevent the Spread of Disease
Clearing rainforest habitat displaces biodiversity and renders ecosystems unbalanced. 60% of infectious diseases – including SARS, Lyme, Ebola and Covid-19 – are zoonotic in origin. Protected areas help to keep ecosystems intact, thus playing a vital role in disease prevention.
5. Ensure Food and Water Security
Management plans within our protected areas often promote best practices for sustainable agriculture that result in greater supplies for local communities to consume or sell. These areas also protect watersheds that ensure a clean water supply.
Protected areas matter. We all benefit when nature is protected, and the need for protected areas has never been more urgent. By supporting our work, you can benefit our planet for species, communities and future generations.