Dwindling Forests, Rising Temperatures
TROPICAL deforestation. The greenhouse effect. These two crises are often mentioned in the same breath. And with good reason: The former helps to cause the latter. As mankind burns, bulldozes, and floods vast regions of forest to make way for ranches, roads, and hydroelectric dams, the forests release their vast stores of carbon to the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide that results is just one of many gases that make the atmosphere retain heat, slowly warming the globe.
Recent reports by the United Nations reveal that both crises may be worse than previously thought. For instance, over 300 climate experts from around the world issued a warning in May 1990 that the average worldwide temperature will rise by 4 degrees Fahrenheit [2° C.] in the next 35 years and 11 degrees Fahrenheit [6° C.] by the end of the next century if man does not reverse the trend.
This would represent the most dramatic change in average temperature the earth has seen in ten thousand years, the scientists claim. While the greenhouse effect has been a matter of controversy among scientists, The Washington Post notes: “Scientists who wrote the report . . . said that it represented a remarkable consensus among hundreds of usually contentious scientists.”
Meanwhile, a report entitled World Resources 1990-91, estimated that the world is losing its tropical forests up to 50 percent faster than previous estimates indicated. The combined rate of tropical deforestation for nine countries—in Asia, Africa, and South America—more than tripled during the 1980’s! The world total, according to the report, is between 40 and 50 million acres [16-20 million ha] of tropical forest destroyed each year.
Deforestation is already taking its toll. International Wildlife notes, for instance, that the world’s rain forests are home to at least 5 million and perhaps as many as 30 million species of plants and animals—“more than live in all other terrestrial ecosystems put together.” These species are virtually stampeding into extinction. Already some bird-watchers in northern climes have begun to notice that the birds that migrate seasonally from the tropical forests are becoming scarcer.
In Madagascar some 80 percent of the flowering plant species are found nowhere else on the planet; one of them, the rosy periwinkle, is the basis for some of the world’s most crucial anticancer drugs. Yet, more than half of Madagascar’s forests have already been degraded or wiped out.
Man is indeed “ruining the earth” in these last days, as the Bible long ago indicated he would.—Revelation 11:18.
[Picture Credit Line on page 15]
Abril Imagens/João Ramid