Forests fight climate change, we fight for forests.

We all depend on forests. From the cool air we breathe to the clean water we drink, forests are foundational to life on earth. Forests also regulate global temperatures and absorb massive amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere — one of the key drivers of climate change — and safely store it underground.

In fact, as trees and leaves absorb carbon over many years and fall to the ground, the dead plant materials accumulate at the base of the forest to form peatlands. Peatlands are a major part of rainforest ecosystems, and over thousands of years, they can become many meters deep, locking and storing away the carbon they’ve absorbed — which makes peatlands the largest natural terrestrial carbon store in the world.

Which makes deforestation one of the greatest threats to our climate. As rainforests around the world are intentionally set on fire, bulldozed and destroyed to make a profit for Big Agriculture, all of the carbon once stored within the forest is released into the atmosphere. In fact, tropical deforestation accounts for a huge percentage of the world’s annual carbon emissions.

If tropical deforestation were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world, only behind China and the United States.

And emissions from deforestation are only getting worse, having more than doubled in the last few years. If tropical deforestation continues at the current rate, a climate-stable future will be all but impossible.

The destruction of the world’s rainforests is a devastating, self-reinforcing loop: as the forests and carbon-rich peatlands are destroyed, they release an enormous amount of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and at the same time destroy the very trees and peatlands that could absorb that carbon and safely store it.

Aerial view of the recently land clearing by PT. Agra Bumi Niaga. Peunaron Village. East Aceh, Indonesia.

The world’s climate is at a perilous tipping point and the natural technology of forests is the solution. Forests, and the communities at the frontlines of forest destruction, are increasingly under threat. We still have the chance to protect what’s left and there’s no time to waste.

The science is clear and alarming. In a series of reports, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — a broad coalition of the world’s leading scientists — warn that we have only roughly 10 years to avert the worst effects of a growing climate crisis, which threatens the future livability of our very planet.

The world’s forests are being burned, bulldozed and stolen for greed and quick corporate profits; the local and Indigenous communities on the frontlines of expansion are seeing their rights violently disregarded in the process. And in the face of a growing climate and ecological crisis, forests have never been more critical to our collective survival.

Forests are the solution.

Forests of the Singkil-Bengkung region of the Leuser Ecosystem (Photo: Paul Hilton)
Forests of the Singkil-Bengkung region of the Leuser Ecosystem (Photo: Paul Hilton)

Deforestation is a significant contributor to the current climate crisis, but protecting and restoring forests plays an outsized role in the solution. According to the IPCC, reducing deforestation represents one of the most effective ways to mitigate climate change globally, with the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by nearly a third.

We don’t need high-tech carbon removal solutions, we just need forests. Or, as the scientists say: “The ‘natural technology’ of forests is currently the only proven means of removing and storing atmospheric CO2 at a scale that can meaningfully contribute to achieving carbon balance.”

We’ve had the solution all along: We must keep forests standing.