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By Chris Arsenault
TORONTO, Aug 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tropical forests covering an area nearly the size of India are set to be destroyed in the next 35 years, a faster rate of deforestation than previously thought, a study warned on Monday.
The Washington-based Center for Global Development, using satellite imagery and data from 100 countries, predicted 289 million hectares (714 million acres) of tropical forests would be felled by 2050. The results will have dangerous implications for accelerating climate change, the center’s study said.
Deforestation contributes to climate change as forests store carbon while acting as a filter taking the heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas out of the atmosphere.
If current trends continue, tropical deforestation will add 169 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 2050, the equivalent of running 44,000 coal-fired power plants for a year, the study’s lead author said.
“Reducing tropical deforestation is a cheap way to fight climate change,” environmental economist Jonah Busch told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
He recommended taxing carbon emissions to push countries to protect their forests.
U.N. climate change experts estimate that the world can only burn one trillion tons of carbon in order to keep global temperature rises below 2 degrees, the maximum possible increase to avert catastrophic climate change.
If trends continue, the amount of carbon burned as a result of clearing tropical forests is equal to roughly one sixth of the entire global carbon dioxide allotment, Busch said.
“The biggest driver of tropical deforestation by far is industrial agriculture to produce globally-traded commodities, including soy and palm oil,” he said.
The study predicted the rate of deforestation will climb through 2020 and 2030 and accelerate around the year 2040 if changes aren’t made.
There have been some success stories where countries reduced tropical deforestation without compromising economic growth or food production, the study said.
Brazil decreased deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by 80 percent over a decade through the use of satellite monitoring and increased law enforcement, even as cattle and soy production rose, the study said. (Reporting By Chris Arsenault, Editing by Leslie Gevirtz.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)