Deforestation and Food🔗
Decrease or increase the amount of forests and make changes to global food and agriculture choices. The main driver of deforestation is the need for cropland, which results in the permanent removal of forests. If the demand for additional cropland is avoided as a result of less food from animals, less food waste, or better crop yield then deforestation can be significantly reduced. Forest degradation is the temporary loss of forests due to harvesting for wood products or bioenergy.
- Government policy to preserve forested land and place restrictions on industries such as soybean and/or palm oil.
- Shifting from animal-based diets to more vegetarian and vegan diets.
- Improved supply chains that result in less food waste.
- Increased support for Indigenous land rights.
- Public support and campaigns to encourage land preservation.
- Reducing deforestation is part of a multi-pronged effort to address climate change. However, deforestation emissions are overshadowed by the enormous amount of carbon dioxide released through fossil fuel combustion.
- Protecting forests is helpful for many reasons other than climate action, including biodiversity conservation and protection of Indigenous peoples' lands.
- Highly reducing deforestation emissions reduces temperature less than most people would estimate. View the “Greenhouse Gas Net Emissions by Gas – Area” graph to see the role of land use, land use change, and forestry relative to all the other sources of emissions.
- As consumption grows, food waste and animal-based food demand increase the amount of cropland needed, which drives more deforestation.
- Drivers of forest degradation also include logging and harvesting forests for products like wood bioenergy (e.g., firewood and wood pellets), lumber, and paper products.
- Reducing deforestation and forest degradation reduces the net emissions from the land use sector. There is more carbon removal capacity from the forests if they are left to grow, and there are less gross emissions from carbon taken from forests through logging and harvesting.
Potential Co-Benefits of Decreasing Deforestation🔗
- Diets that include more plants have been shown to be healthier for individuals and have less impact on ecosystems.
- Forests protect biodiversity and provide ecosystem services and food sources.
- Trees reduce erosion and prevent soil loss, which can negatively impact water quality downstream.
- Forests provide livelihoods for people (e.g., small-scale resource gathering and sustainable forestry) that can be lost when land is shifted to other uses.
- Forest preservation efforts have sometimes restricted the land access of Indigenous people who have lived sustainably on the land for generations. Policies should be created with local stakeholder engagement.1 2
- Many cultural values are attached to certain foods, meaning a change to more plant-based diets could require a large societal shift.
|highly reduced||moderately reduced||status quo||increased|
|Percent per year reduction or increase||-10% to -4%||-4% to -1%||-1% to 0%||0% to +1%|
This sector tracks multiple different types of land to assess the impacts of forest gain, loss, and degradation, and the associated land use, land use change, and forestry greenhouse gas emissions. The key aspects are:
- Deforestation deforestation: The clearing of trees, transforming a forest into cleared land, often through burning and removing forests to make land available for crops like soybeans, corn, or palm oil. is driven primarily by the growing need for crops and grazing land. As a result, more food waste and more animal-based products consumption lead to more deforestation. Reducing these drivers, or implementing forest protection policies, leads to less deforestation.
- Mature forest degradation mature forest degradation: The harvesting of older forests for wood bioenergy or other forest products. Although the trees may not be permanently or completely lost, this disturbs the forest, releasing part of the carbon locked in the trees and soils, and reducing its capacity to remove additional carbon. is driven by the need for wood bioenergy and other forest products, such as paper and lumber. Taxing bioenergy or having a target reduction in mature forest degradation policy can reduce the harvesting of older forests that store large amounts of carbon.
- Crop yield crop yield: The amount of food or animal feed produced per hectare of farmland, measured in kilograms/year/hectare. In En-ROADS, the crop yield is the global average productivity on land.: higher yields avoid the need for cropland expansion through deforestation. Larger crop demand—due to population growth and higher GDP (which increases animal-based products consumption)—can be met by higher yields in the existing cropland area rather than its expansion (slider is in the En-ROADS Assumptions).
- Crop yield reduction from temperature: crop yield is steadily growing in the Baseline Scenario, following historical trends, although climate change slows down this growth (slider is in the En-ROADS Assumptions).
FAQs and Other Resources🔗
Please visit support.climateinteractive.org for additional inquiries and support.
: Salopek, P. (2019, May 16). Millions of indigenous people face eviction from their forest homes. National Geographic.
: De Sam Lazaro, F. & Hartman, S. C. (2021, October 21). Uganda’s Batwa tribe, considered conservation refugees, see little government support. PBS NewsHour.