Tropical forests which include those in the Philippines, act like a sponge, soaking up excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making them a good ally against climate change. The bigger the forest, the more it can hold, but every sponge has a limit.
Tropical forests, you see, also emit carbon dioxide. When wood, dry leaves, and other organic matter rot, carbon dioxide is produced. Normally, tropical forests can remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they add to it. So there’s a good equation. We need greenhouse gasses, after all, to keep the Earth warm, but not too much or else the planet will heat up too much and our glaciers will melt.
This is the scene of another kaingin or forest arson in the Ipo Watershed north of Metro Manila.
Alarmingly, that balance is now upset, according to a recent study published in the journal Science. Our forests are losing more carbon to the atmosphere than they are soaking up. The study says tropical forests are releasing up to 424 million metric tons per year, which is about four times more than all the greenhouse gas emissions from the Philippines or from all U.S. cars and trucks combined.
The researchers used satellite images, laser technology, and field measurements to record how vast areas of forest have been lost since 2003.
Why is this happening?
They said the culprit is mass forest degradation or thinning of forests resulting from deforestation, selective logging, fire, drought, and hunting.
Forest degradation and selective logging add up over the years, causing tremendous damage to the environment.
Are we doomed?
On the contrary, says the researchers, their findings allow us to zero in on the most cost-effective solution to climate change, and that is to protect what continues to be the most powerful carbon-capture technology we have, our forests.
Moving forward, planting trees and stop chopping them down is still the most effective long-term solution, they say. Supporting the land rights of indigenous people is another as those living in the forests can make a difference.
How about here in the Philippines? What can we do?
We can start close to home for starters. The city of Manila is planning to put up a gym inside Arroceros Forest Park, the last lung of Manila, which could be devastating. How about supporting the petition against this? To learn more, click here.
What do you think? Can we reverse the situation and make our forests effective carbon sinks again? Share your thoughts below!