There are two main causes of this rainforest destruction: the first cause is large-scale timber and paper production and the second one is clearing for large-scale commercial plantations (sugar cane, palm oil, soja and corn). Many people and businesses clear the rainforest without any kind of permit: they grab state forestland for their own private interests, often with a mere verbal agreement from local government and money under the table. There is no government law enforcement to stop this in most developing countries. It is easy gain on free land, with no one opposing land grabbing.
That is exactly what is happening right now in Indonesia. Hundreds of people are illegally clearing the rainforest in Sumatra and Kalimantan, resulting in uncontrolled forest fires affecting all neighboring countries with toxic levels of CO2 in the air that are 100 times above safe levels for humans to breathe. It is so bad that it has been coined “the 2015 Southeast Asian haze air pollution crisis.” From March to December 2015, the fires are causing the air to reached CO2 levels of 2000 in neighboring countries and 3,300 in Kalimantan (Pollutant Standards Index or PSI) making the air so toxic that, during “red alert” weeks, governments are prohibiting children from going outside, in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, South Thailand, and Vietnam.
At this point in history, most governments of tropical countries are not taking responsibility for the destruction of their tropical forests. There is little or no understanding of the consequences of massive deforestation on public health and unemployment.
People are clearing the forest for crops, but it does not work as they had hoped: first because the good soil, the arable land layer that they were seeking to cultivate for crops, is quickly eroded by strong monsoon rains that beat the surface of the ground and wash away the fertile soil. The root system of the forest is no longer there to hold the soil in place. This leaves people with very poor, sandy soils, where crops do not grow well and grass planted for livestock grazing does not survive. This means that crops are planted for a short time only, because harvest yields become poor very quickly, 2 to 5 years. This pushes people to bulldoze new plots of forest again and again, searching for new arable land because the old plots are not producing anymore. This pushes people into further poverty and makes them dependent on endless destruction of natural resources.
Another problem with deforestation of tropical forests is drought. Once the rainforest is removed, the denuded land area becomes very dry and hot. Crop growth is stinted because rainfall does not come as often as before: the cleared land area is now too dry to attract rain clouds. Before, when the rainforest covered the land, humidity and cool moisture was maintained due to constant misting of water droplets into the air by the natural forest leaves that created a micro-climate of moisture and rainfall.
There is not much interest from the public in the United States and Europe about deforestation in the Tropical Belt. That is because the public is not informed about how deforestation in the south affects their climate in the north.
NASA Reports and Duke University Reports show:
- a direct correlation between deforestation in the Amazon and increased droughts in the United States;
- a direct correlation between deforestation in the Congo Basin and increased droughts in Europe;
- a direct correlation between deforestation in Southeast Asia and climate changes in the Middle East.
Tropical rainforests play a vital role for the climate of our planet as a whole: their vast canopy emits constant moisture into the air, keeps the atmosphere cool, stabilizes air currents, and regulates rainfall.
It is estimated that about the size of the state of New Jersey (or the size of Belgium in Europe) is the surface of tropical forests bulldozed, burned and cleared each year.
This represents enormous surfaces of tropical rainforests removed from the surface of the Earth each year, and this cannot be done without massive ecological consequences for the entire planet. When vast tracks of rainforest are removed, the natural “air conditioning” system is disconnected, moisture retention and circulation by the forest canopy stops. The result: the ground surface in these hot, tropical countries is no longer protected from the sun and heats up very quickly. This reduces rainfall. The increased ground heat then travels up into the atmosphere and creates hot air currents. These hot air currents move to other locations and affect the atmosphere in other countries.
2015 will likely be the hottest year ever recorded, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Worldwide temperatures are expected for the first time to reach more than 1 degree above pre-industrial temperatures.