With a new statement rejecting the notion that drastically curbing emissions alone is enough to curb the threat of human-caused global warming, a group of scientists are urging world leaders to take immediate action to stop deforestation—calling it a key solution to stem the planetary climate crisis.
Forty scientists from five countries signed a statement days before the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is scheduled to meet in South Korea, warning that stopping deforestation is as urgent as ending the world's dependence on fossil fuels.
"We must protect and maintain healthy forests to avoid dangerous climate change and to ensure the world's forests continue to provide services critical for the well-being of the planet and ourselves," the statement read. "Our message as scientists is simple: Our planet's future climate is inextricably tied to the future of its forest."
Because forests absorb about a quarter of the carbon released by human activity, the elimination of forests and jungles around the world would release more than three trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—more than the amount that could be released from all of the world's oil, gas, and coal reserves.
"The forest piece of the conversation is often lost and I don't think the IPCC report will highlight it enough," Deborah Lawrence, a professor at the University of Virginia who signed the statement, told The Guardian.
Deforestation represents a vicious cycle in the fight against the climate crisis. As the burning of fossil fuels leads to a warmer planet, changes in the climate have had multiple effects including wildfires like the ones that have swept through Europe and the U.S. in recent months, contributing to more deforestation which then releases more carbon.
"We will have a hotter, drier world without these forests" Lawrence told The Guardian. "There needs to be an international price on carbon to fund the protection of forests."
The IPCC is scheduled to meet Monday.