An estimated two-thirds of the world’s original tropical rainforest has been degraded or destroyed by people, new data has revealed, sparking concern that a vital natural buffer against the climate crisis is disappearing quickly.
As well as providing protection against the impacts of climate change, the loss of forest has also majorly contributed to climate-warming emissions, analysis by non-profit Rainforest Foundation Norway has shown.
Agriculture has spurred logging and land conversion, which has already erased 34 per cent of the Earth’s original old-growth tropical rainforests, with additional 30 per cent increasingly vulnerable to fire and future destruction.
Brazil, home to the Amazon rainforest, coined ‘the Earth’s lungs’, has been hugely impacted by an uptick in agriculture.
Livestock and soy
In its report, the Norwegian foundation found that the growing appetite for meat in Europe has fuelled land degradation in Brazil as landscape is burnt to make way for livestock and soy.
“Permissive environmental laws and inadequate law enforcement on illegal activities combined with increasing international demand makes land speculation in this area a lucrative business,” the foundation said.
“Invisible to the average consumer, their soy is fed to large amounts of livestock and farmed fish produced and sold in Europe.”
Brazil, the second largest producer of soybeans worldwide, accounts for 30 per cent of the global soy production.
Meanwhile, Brazilian beef accounts for 24 per cent of tropical deforestation globally, research by Our World in Data has found.
The head of research at Our World in Data, Hannah Ritchie, said at the end of February that “soy is one of the leading drivers of deforestation”, which hurts people’s chances of minimising the effects of climate change.
“More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of global soy goes to animal feed,” she added, highlighting tropical rainforest destruction as a vicious cycle between producing and feeding livestock globally.