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Impacts of Deforestation on Climate Change

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 3143 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Deforestation and Climate Change


 The ways in which humans interact with the environment can have detrimental changes to the worlds systems. These practices have contributed the deforestation in places such as the Amazon forest which covers part of Brazil. The roles in which forests, especially those of the tropical species, play in terms of global climate change have gained lots of attention and concern as the elimination of these forests are having a much greater impact (Archard, et al., 2010). It has been estimated that the deforestation activities in the countries of Brazil and Indonesia combined make up almost three quarters of GHG emissions which are attributed to land use change (“Deforestation and Climate Change”, 2010). Tropic regions, such as the Amazon in Brazil, play a vital role in the global carbon budget. Plant life is a large carbon storage unit on Earth which takes in and stores CO2 emissions and releases oxygen. However, with the removal of trees and other vegetation, the carbon is released into the atmosphere, thus adding to the greenhouse effect, in addition to affecting the climate. For this very reason it is crucial that the forests be protected in places such as the Amazon in order to help reduce the GHG emissions and overall global climate change.

Brazil and Deforestation Patterns

 The Amazon is one of the world’s largest and most diverse rainforests still in existence, however, with the anthropogenic forces working against it, it is becoming increasingly degraded which results in negative environmental impacts. Brazil has seen many changes to its forests over the years, and there is still continuous disturbance and reduction of this vegetation. One of the largest drivers in terms of land use change is related to economic opportunities. It has been identified that some of the driving forces of land use related to deforestation are cattle ranching and soybean farming, agricultural intensification, poor technological use in the timber sector, infrastructure issues and more. The conditions listed have resulted in more than 80% of the deforestation rates in the country (Archard, et al., 2010). Although Brazil saw somewhat of a decline in terms of deforestation around 2013/2014, they have seen a recurring surge of the degradation due to exports becoming more profitable, and therefore the need to produce and export more (Fearnside, 2015).

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 Brazils history also has evidence of harmful degradation practices that still have lasting effects on the forests and environment. The method of burning trees to make room for agriculture was a very prevalent practice in the country. This method cleared immense amount of forested area in a short amount of time, having detrimental impacts. Although the country has banned this practice, it continues to happen. It has been found that a number of smaller or local farmers continue to burn crops such as sugarcane as a way to prep soil for pre-harvest as well as clear more space for cropland, which continues to have lasting negative effects (Nuweraug, et al., 2017). The effects of slash and burn and its carbon emissions in Brazil contributes to 20% of the global carbon emissions as a result from slash and burn (Holden, 1995). The effects of this specific practice also contribute to black carbon that enters the ocean, which has additional effects on the climate and the environment. These examples provide examples of how the deforestation practices in the country is not just impactful within the country but can also have larger global scale effects.

 From the evidence presented above it is evident that harmful practices resulting in deforestation are continuing in the country of Brazil. For this reason, it is crucial that these issues be addressed through mitigation and policy in order for their effects to be decreased and hopefully one day eradicated.

Government Policies and History

 There has been a long history of Government policies in Brazil surrounding deforestation in the country. There have been a number of disputes and problems that have resulted from this, and there seems to be a disconnect between the government and the protection of these forested areas.

 An example of this the Brazilian Forest code. This code consisted of federal laws which aimed to regulate and create buffers in order to protect riparian areas and mountain regions from deforestation (Stan, Sanchez-Azofeifa, Espírito-Santo & Portillo-Quintero, 2015). However, the code was repealed for a new law which has the potential to increase degradation of forested areas. The new laws reduced the restrictions on locations that are heavily impacted by deforestation as well as decreasing penalties on people who contribute to deforestation. Therefore, these changes have strong potential to further degrade the forested areas in the Amazon.

 In addition, there have been other government policies that have encouraged economic activities that encourage practices which result in further deforestation. These include policies that open up the forested areas for human settlement, and encourage livestock projects which contribute immensely to the deforestation process (Silva, Barioni, Pellegrino & Moran, 2018). If these policies continue and are unaltered rapid deforestation will continue. This calls for serious re-evaluation and reform in regards to government policies and interaction with forested areas. If there is no change, regions have potential to face further rapid deforestation and contribute to the rise of the climate.

Current Policies and Solutions

 There are a number of different policies, organization and different solutions that can, and have been, put in place in order to aid in the environmental impacts of deforestation. This section will discuss 2 of the main current policies, as well as outline the benefits of these projects as well as some of the drawbacks or areas of improvement. These are separate from the Government policies previously discussed, and are a product of different organizations and their aid and effort towards the issue at hand.

Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD and REDD +) Program

 Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program was created to connect governments with high emissions as a result of deforestation. The premise is that this program provides monetary incentives as a way to keep forests intact so that these countries can meet their carbon footprint requirements (Tollefson, 2009). There are claims that REDD projects have the potential to generate enough revenue to put a halt to deforestation in countries such as Brazil (Toni, 2011). This program will implement measuring and monitoring systems that will measure, report and verify concepts that agreed upon at conferences. In addition, the program works with the countries in order to develop cost- effective ways in which the countries can monitor and produce greenhouse gas inventories. This program has been recognized as one of the top cost effective ways of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent the overall global climate of rising to the two-degree marker. The use and continuation of this project has the potential to reduce the drivers of deforestation, therefore aiding in the reduction of climate change.

Alternative to Slash and Burn (ASB) Program

 In 1991 the ASB program was initiated in order to address the numerous issues surrounding slash and burn in humid/tropical regions. The goal of this program was to compare environmental and social impacts of land use systems as well as finding alternatives to these land uses (Palm, et al, 2004). The initial phases of the program focus on the direct and indirect drivers of land use change and deforestation in tropical forest regions such as the Amazon in Brazil. However, over the years with the accumulation of more data and information the program made slight changes in order to better address the issue as it evolved. These later phases placed greater emphasis on technical and institutional responses, including adding value to tree crop systems, reform of property rights and conditional rewards for environmental services (“History of ASB”, 2015). Currently, the organization is putting its main focus on the emissions from the land use change while also ensuring that the livelihoods for people who rely on the land and enhancing the co benefits of both he social and environmental sides.

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 One drawback of this program that should be addressed, however, is that there is a large focus on developing new alternatives, however it does not take into account the alternatives that already exist (Pollini, 2009). Instead of building on previously established programs and alternatives that are implemented, it aims to create their own which can limit the strength and movement of other alternatives that have already been put in place. In spite of this, it still has made progress in the works towards eliminating deforestation and more specifically the slash and burn practice.

 These examples are two of the larger more globally known solutions working towards eliminating deforestation in countries such as Brazil. In saying this, there are many other organization, groups, etc. applying policies similar to these in order to help save the forests. These are just two of the prominent examples and give a general idea of the work being done not directly within the government, however they do require help from the government in order to be completely successful.

Moving Forward and Future Recommendations

 In order for there to be movement away from deforestation practises that affect climate change there must be a movement towards more sustainable practices, actions must be taken to strengthen policies and solutions. For policies to have long lasting, successful impacts they must meet a number of criteria. These include collaboration and agreement among different actors, appropriate and possibly substantial investment and a thorough and deep understanding of the impacts to the climate. These points are key factors in building a strong framework for policies and other solutions as they focus on basic core values that contribute to success.

 In addition to this, there several different ideas in which these polices and solutions should look like moving forward. In addition to pursuing and strengthening the previously mentioned policies, the following 5 recommendations obtained from the Earth Innovation Institute for forest should be implemented moving forward. These recommendations set the basic framework that should be followed for future policies (Robledo, et, al.).

  1. Strengthening, altering and elaborating on policies for rural development with rural development

This focuses primarily on government policies and making sure that there is an overall framework set around deforestation that can be followed. This framework should include aspects such as new incentives, promoting non-deforestation practices in sectors that have a direct impact. In addition, it can include rural development plans which can incorporate the incentivizing new ways of production and practices. By setting this framework there is a consistent base to work off that promotes working towards a common goal of eliminating deforestation and therefore reduce carbon emissions.

  1. Strengthening analysis and impact of policies

This point focuses on holding these policies accountable for their actions, as in the past this has been a problematic area within the country. It encourages more serious analysis and regulation of the implementation of new policies. Ways in which this can be done is approaching it from a local perspective and encouraging sustainable practices and regulation within that level, holding locals more accountable.

  1. Strengthening forest management and regulation

This places focus on the importance of forest management. In order for this to happen there needs to be strengthened sustainable practices and protection surrounding the forests, as well as set procedures for managing, transporting and commercializing forest products. This can also include incentives for the people who monitor themselves in order to obtain the most accurate and honest information and regulation. This will put in place sustainable and reliable practices that stray away from deforestation and has potential to be one of the main ways in which these changes can be long lasting.

  1. Reviewing and redefining territorial land use

Territorial planning is an integral solution that should be implemented in order to move away from deforestation. This requires a critical assessment and clarification of relationships between territories and natural resources. By making this clarification there can then be opportunities to work towards territorial land use planning in conjunction with rural development plans. Furthermore, this can promote land use changes that don’t require forest clearing practices.

  1. On Farm Monitoring Systems

This point specifically focus on programs and systems that monitor farms and their practices closely. The ways in which this can be accomplished is through is through systems that require registration of land titles. This could be done through online registration which would enable better regulation and monitoring of land use patterns. This would allow for a better measure of the results of different activities. In addition, this can help to determine payment to land owners who are actively participating in deforestation reduction practices.

Final Remarks

 Deforestation is still a prevalent issues and is directly linked to climate change with the immense release of carbon into the earths system from the removal of trees and vegetation. Brazil being one of the key contributors to this issue needs to re-evaluate and strengthen policies and other organization in order to decrease this issue which will result in better climate change mitigation. This briefing note discusses a number of ways this is possible, and if the country is able to properly employ these ideas then they have the opportunity to make a significant difference to not only the environment of their country, but also the global environment.


Work Cited

  • Achard, F., Stibig, H. J., Eva, H. D., Lindquist, E. J., Bouvet, A., Arino, O., & Mayaux, P. (2010). Estimating tropical deforestation from Earth observation data. Carbon Management1(2), 271-287. doi: 10.4155/cmt.10.30
  • Deforestation and climate change. (2010). Business and the Environment, 21(4), 1-3. Retrieved from http://sfx.scholarsportal.info/guelph/docview/89317830?accountid=11233
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  • History of ASB. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.asb.cgiar.org/page/history-asb
  • Holden, C. (1995). Burning questions. Science, 270(5235), 379. Retrieved from http://sfx.scholarsportal.info/guelph/docview/213564611?accountid=11233
  • Nuweraug, R., WadmanNov, M., RabesandratanaNov, T., Vogel, G., EnserinkNov, M., & LanginNov, K. (2017). Years After Slash and Burn, Brazil Haunted by ‘Black Carbon’. Retrieved from http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2012/08/years-after-slash-and-burn-brazil-haunted-black-carbon
  • Palm, C., Tomich, T., Van Noordwijk, M., Vosti, S., Gockowski, J., Alegre, J., & Verchot, L. (2004). Mitigating GHG emissions in the humid tropics: case studies from the Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn Program (ASB). Environment, Development and Sustainability6(1-2), 145-162. doi: 10.1023/B:ENVI.0000003634.50442.ca
  • Pollini, J. (2009). Agroforestry and the search for alternatives to slash-and-burn cultivation: From technological optimism to a political economy of deforestation. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment133(1-2), 48-60. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2009.05.002
  • Robledo, V., Becerra, M., Barrera, X., Camacho, A. & Velez, S. (n.d.) Instruments and policy strategies for reducing deforestation in the Colombian Amazon region. Earth Innovation Institute. Retrieved from https://earthinnovation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Policy-white-paper-EN.pdf
  • Silva, R. D. O., Barioni, L. G., Pellegrino, G. Q., & Moran, D. (2018). The role of agricultural intensification in Brazil’s Nationally Determined Contribution on emissions mitigation. Agricultural Systems, 161, 102-112. doi: 10.1016/j.agsy.2018.01.003
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