The research, carried out between 2000 and 2009, focuses on eight tropical countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. It takes into account the four commodities which pose a risk to deforestation and therefore cause an increase in emissions of greenhouse gases (CO2) into the atmosphere, causing global warming.
The causes of tropical deforestation
The research argues that one-third of recent deforestation has been caused by increased production of beef, soy, palm oil and timber exports to international trade. With a few exceptions, the countries studied represent a large proportion of the volumes of the export products studied. The trade of timber accounts for about half of the world’s trade, while 83 percent of beef and 99 percent of soybeans come from Latin America. Indonesia and Malaysia produce 82 percent of all palm oil present in the world, accounting for 97 percent of global exports.
These figures also impact on climate change, one of the most serious threats that the international community is trying to address with little success. The production and trade of these products were responsible for the deforestation of 3.9 million hectares and the emission of 1.7 billion tons of CO2 in 2009 alone.
Meat, soy and more
Beef is the worst product for the climate and the environment. Beef alone was responsible for 739 million tons of CO2 (about half of the total), of which 645 million in Brazil alone, causing two-thirds of deforestation (2.6 million hectares). Wood products, pulp and paper included, are the second largest source of emissions producing 481 million metric tons of CO2, while the cultivation of soybeans was the second leading cause of deforestation, with half a million acres burned to the ground.
Exports and therefore the globalization of consumption cannot be analyzed separately because about one third of all deforestation has become necessary to meet the rise in demand for agricultural products, particularly from China and the countries that are part of the European Union. Exports, therefore, have been the driving force behind deforestation in almost all the countries covered by the research with the exception of Brazil and Bolivia: a worrying number given that exports have risen in six of the eight countries.
At a time in history when the fight against global warming, protecting biodiversity and the phenomenon of land grabbing are among the most serious issues that our generation faces, we must keep in mind these data when choosing the type of diet to follow. For example by reducing meat, increasing your intake of in-season and local fruits and vegetables, avoiding products with certain components (palm oil is now ubiquitous) or checking geographical origins, can all make a difference.