Human appetites drive global rainforest destruction. Now science has measured how Europe’s food imports leave scorched tropical soils and greenhouse gases.
LONDON, 5 April, 2019 − European scientists have worked out how European consumers can reduce tropical forest loss and cut down greenhouse emissions in other countries.
One: stop buying beef, especially from Brazil. And two: be sparing with the oil from tropical palms and soybean plantations.
In theory, this should be news to nobody. Forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and slow global warming. But forests that have been felled for cattle-grazing or burned and cleared for oil plantations are net emitters of carbon into the atmosphere to accelerate global warming and precipitate yet more dangerous climate change.
But in two related publications, researchers have looked beyond the theory to identify the responsibility of one geopolitical grouping for precise volumes of greenhouse gas emissions in faraway places.
First they report, in the journal Global Environmental Change, that they looked at the loss of tropical rainforests, and then at the ways in which the felled or scorched forests have been used, for food production.
“If you give tropical countries support . . . to protect the rainforest, as well as giving farmers alternatives to deforestation to increase production, it can have a big impact”
And then, in the journal Environmental Research Letters, they took the measure of carbon dioxide emissions that might be linked to food production from the destroyed rainforest, and then worked out from world trade data where that food went.
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