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Forests: The Key to Controlling Global Warming

The end of the current global recession seems to be nowhere in sight (Sainsbury, 2010). As the world ponders through ways to alleviate the economy, global warming looms ahead and slowly reverts any gains made by the economist and politicians (Moulton, 2009). There is no question that global warming will happen and according to many scientists and organizations such as United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, time is running out to solve the dilemma (Maslin, 2004). The causes of global warming are many; examples include industrial pollutants and automobile exhaust. One the major reasons for global warming is the rapid deforestation of the world’s woodlands. There are a plethora of reasons for deforestation; they include the demand for lumber, energy and expanding agricultural activities. Cutting down forests might solve these economic problems in the short term, but in the long term global warming will reverse any gains. Furthermore, global warming caused by deforestation causes further decline in the health of forests (Maslin, 2004). To progress towards a brighter better future, activities which cause deforestation should be drastically reduced. Deforestation causes global warming in many ways. Twenty percent of all carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from the burning of forests to clear land. Trees consume carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for their metabolic process and exhale oxygen. Common sense tells us that when there are fewer trees, there are less net metabolic process and even less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is consumed. Carbon dioxide is an important player in global warming because there is a direct correlation between the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and historic mean temperatures. Carbon dioxide maintains the Earth’s temperature using the green-house effect (Maslin, 2004). Forests that have been cleared have poor soil quality and this forces people to utilize the land for ranching. The livestock that graze on the land exhale carbon dioxide which once again contributes its growing concentration in the atmosphere. From this one deduce that the process of global warming is a cycle where step gradually increases carbon dioxide levels (Maslin, 2004). Throughout the world the clearing of forests is expanding. Nowhere is this more alarming than in Brazil and Indonesia. In both these countries slash and burn agriculture

methods are used and these release huge amounts carbon dioxide. In the year 1997, the burning of forests in Indonesia alone emitted some 2.57 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which was approximated to be 10 percent of all carbon dioxide emitted that year in the entire world (Page, 2002). Not only does slash and burn agriculture release huge amounts of carbon dioxide, the agricultural yields are not sufficient because the soil in these tropical forests have low nutrients. The low productivity drive farmers and ranchers to further clear virgin forests and restart the process of burning forests and further releasing carbon dioxide again. In the short term, clearing forests by burning them may seem viable, but in the long term global warming has adverse effects on agriculture (Binan, 2004). As the earth becomes warmer, it evaporates the water from the soil and without sufficient amounts of moisture, agriculture flounders (Mendelsohn, 1994). Global warming melts ice-caps and raises sea levels. For island countries such as Indonesia, any rise in the sea level will inundate coastal cities and mangrove forests which grow in close proximity to the sea. This is a clear example of the long term negative side effects of satisfying short term economic goals. Other low lying countries such as Bangladesh will also be severely affected by rising sea levels and it is estimated that Bangladesh could lose some 20 percent of its land area to the sea and create millions of climate refugees if the current sea level rises by a few inches (Washington, 2005) Contrary to popular belief, the sea level rises not only because of the rise in temperature due to global warming, but also because of thermal expansion of the sea. This makes sense because substances that have a higher temperature are also denser and are less able to hold dissolved gases such as carbon dioxide (Wigley, 1987). Higher temperatures mean the loss of moisture in the forests through evaporation; Indonesia has seen for the first time that its forests are susceptible to forest fires. Inadvertent forest fire cause tremendous economic losses such as the loss of housing of people nearby and once again the release of huge amounts of carbon dioxide. Indonesia has a large amount of organic matter which has not decomposed in the forest floor which has slowly created peat. The rise in the chances of forest fires mean that these peat are burning because of the loss of humidity caused by global warming and the carbon dioxide is released from the beat burning. From this one can observe that global warming is a slippery slope in which more and more carbon dioxide is released (Page 1997).

The problem of deforestation is also a problem in Canada. Canada has large forested areas and supports a large forests industry. In the case of Canada, the statistical data has to be read analytically because Canada claims that it has a very small percent of net deforestation but the percentage of old growth trees is decreasing rapidly while new- growth is increasing. Old growth trees have more foliage than newer trees and thus perform more metabolic processes. This means that net photosynthesis will decrease every year (Forests and Global Warming, 1991). The forestry industry in Canada plays a large role in the economy contributing some three percent to the annual gross domestic product and generating some 20 billion dollars in trade surplus (Forests and Global Warming, 1991). According to the government report, only some thirteen percent of all forests are considered off-limits to loggers, thus even today there is a large potential for deforestation. Canada’s forests are a large carbon sinks and in some provinces such as British Columbia, limited slash and burn agriculture are practiced. Canada’s will be one the most affected countries by global warming since most of Canada’s trees are cold weather boreal trees and the doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (which is due to happen in 2030 under a “business-as-usual” scenario) will most likely increase the temperature by four to five degrees Celsius. Boreal forests are not tolerant to such rise in temperatures (Forests and Global Warming, 1991). This is another rational to preserve the forests as much as possible and curb global warming due to deforestation. If global warming is not curbed, the increase in pests will become another issue. The pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) especially found in British Columbia and Alberta will be especially epidemic to the forests. A longer warm season means that these beetles will have more time to have a new generation, which will results in an exponential increase in their populations. This will further fuel a cycle whereas deforestation increases global warming, and then more global warming increases deforestation (Logan, 2003). The loss of the forestry industry need not mean poor economic results. Forests can be used extract substances such as rubber, Brazil nut and maple syrup. This will reduce the dependence of fossil fuels to manufacture the same objects (such as tyres and other plastic products). Moreover, the loss of old growth forests means the loss of valuable biodiversity which could have used for the future discovery of drugs to cure diseases

(Allegretti, 1979). The forestry industry can retool their businesses for the future where they will be using sustainable forest products instead of using trees for lumber. Forests play an important role in the control of global warming by taking in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Controlling deforestation is the only logical step forward in the fight against the dire effects of global warming. Without a control on deforestation, carbon dioxide levels will never return to normalcy and without decreased amounts of carbon dioxide, the Earth’s future is jeopardized. Works Cited

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