Climate change will kill off billions of acres of tropical forests in the coming decades, threatening more than a billion people and destroying biodiversity, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The paper, authored by two scientists from the University of Wisconsin, finds that forests can be saved only if people take drastic action to mitigate climate change.
The researchers have found that deforestation can be done only with the help of community and government action, and they also show that carbon-sequestration targets and carbon markets are needed.
They argue that governments need to take immediate steps to save more than half of the tropical forests, and that forest management and carbon capture and sequestration systems could save more forests than current emission reductions alone.
The study, which included data on tree cover, tree species, and vegetation, is the first to examine the effects of forest degradation on the world’s biodiversity.
The research was led by David G. St. Pierre, a UW-Madison doctoral candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology.
The scientists report that the world loses around 2.7 million square miles of forest each year, equivalent to the size of Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey combined.
St Pierre and colleagues focused on forests in Brazil, a country that has been heavily impacted by deforestation for several decades, due to deforestation, and found that the Amazon basin is the most affected region.
They estimated that the loss of 1.5 million square kilometers of tropical forest is equivalent to nearly 1 percent of the country’s total forest cover, and the forest cover of the Amazon is already declining due to climate change, and will continue to decline as a result of the impacts of climate change on the region.
“Forest degradation can lead to a dramatic increase in forest mortality, including mortality rates of many species of birds, mammals, and insects,” the researchers wrote.
“A combination of mitigation strategies will be needed to prevent these losses.”
The authors found that reducing deforestation and increasing carbon capture in the Amazon Basin can save up to 50 percent of forests lost in the region and will require a combination of measures, including the use of carbon markets, community-led efforts, and forest management.
“For many forested areas in Brazil and elsewhere, there is currently little or no effective forest management,” they wrote.
The authors of the paper also showed that the effects can be mitigated by adopting a carbon market that is based on emissions reduction targets.
The economists also show the carbon markets can provide incentives for people to change their behavior.
The carbon markets currently exist in two forms: carbon capture for power plants, and carbon sinks for industries.
The markets are not fully effective in addressing the carbon emissions associated with deforestation, however, and are a potential problem for future development and adaptation to climate warming.
“The carbon markets have been a model for other countries to use to achieve reductions in emissions, but we argue that they cannot be implemented as a primary solution to forest degradation,” the authors wrote.
They suggest that carbon markets should be used to mitigate deforestation.
“Instead, we propose that governments adopt a carbon-capture/carbon-sink model for forest degradation, which could be implemented by a carbon capture-and-storage facility or a carbon auction,” they said.
They also suggested that a carbon exchange could be used, and called for a carbon price to be introduced in the form of carbon credits.
The cost of these credits would be set by governments.
The World Bank, the U.N. Environment Program, and other organizations have been working on carbon markets and carbon credits since 2009.
However, they have only recently been adopted as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and have faced resistance from some countries.
The United States has proposed using carbon credits to offset the emissions from existing power plants that generate electricity.
A group of countries in the European Union is also working on a carbon credit scheme that would help countries reduce their carbon emissions.
“Although the carbon market is the dominant form of forest management, the current carbon market has been a failure and is likely to continue to be a failure even as the climate is changing,” the economists wrote.