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Note: Yes, deforestation needs to be addresssed–and NOT through the development of massive-scale industrial monoculture tree plantations, but by addressing deforestation at its very source–namely agro-industrial expansion, especially of GMO crops, livestock production and overconsumption of paper and timber products.

As far as climate change is concerned, the tunnel vision of the UN, World Bank and other bodies on deforestation as a driver of climate change has been a deliberate misdirection to keep the focus away from where it needs to be–reducing fossil fuel consumption, and preventing its replacement with plant-based fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, which also put out huge emissions.

-The GJEP Team

By Chris Lang, February 15, 2014. Source: REDD-Monitor

Photo: Arnoldo Garcia

Photo: Arnoldo Garcia

Myth: “Deforestation accounts for 25 percent of all man-made emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.”

That statement comes from a 2005 press release from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. A year later, FAO had decided that the figure was too low:

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:

ScreenshotAt 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.