Rainforests absorb one fifth of CO2 emissions
by David Masters
February 20, 2009
Trees in undisturbed tropical forests absorb almost a fifth of the world’s carbon emissions released by burning fossil fuels, a new study of African rainforests has revealed.
The world’s remaining rainforests remove 4.8 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year, the study’s authors said.
The research, released yesterday, found that Africa’s tropical forests are a critical sponge for greenhouse gases – absorbing 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases every year.
Total carbon absorbed by the world’s rainforests is worth $18 billion a year at current carbon trading prices.
Dr Simon Lewis, lead researcher from the University of Leeds, said: “We are receiving a free subsidy from nature.
“Tropical forest trees are absorbing about 18% of the CO2 added to the atmosphere each year from burning fossil fuels, substantially buffering the rate of climate change.”
Policymakers and scientists have argued that countries with tropical forests should be paid to keep them intact.
Whilst Lewis agrees this is a good idea, he believes that preserving the forests we already have won’t be enough to slow down global warming.
“Even if we preserve all remaining tropical forest,” Lewis said, “these trees will not continue getting bigger indefinitely.”
A spokesperson for Greenpeace welcomed the findings, but warned that preserving the world’s rainforests should not be seen as a substitute for reducing human-made carbon emissions.
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