Scattered across parts of Asia, Africa, and South America, rainforests are home to many diverse species of plants and animals both known and yet to be discovered. These forests represent one of Earth’s greatest resources of not only bio-diversity, but potential discovery and a natural cushion against climate change. Unfortunately, these forests are all at some risk, from either direct or indirect human interaction, and that can have a serious impact on their regulating of the Earth’s temperature.
For many years people have heard all about global warming and how the destruction of the Earth’s rainforests only helps to accelerate the process. People who aren’t aware of the rainforests and their ties to global warming might think that the burning of the trees and clearing of land are the main causes, and that the smoke adds to the atmospheric problems that contribute to the promotion of warming, but that’s not it. The real reason is due to carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide is a gas that currently makes up roughly 0.03% of the Earth’s atmosphere and increasing quantities contribute to the greenhouse effect of the sun’s rays on the planet, where the light is let in, but the heat is mostly retained. This gas, produced by the emissions from burning fossil fuels, methane release into the atmosphere, and the exhalation of animals, is also used primarily in the photosynthesis process of plants. This process uses sunlight energy and the absorbed carbon dioxide from the air in conjunction with water as food, and ‘exhales’ oxygen as a waste gas. Oxygen is then breathed in by animals and the process repeats.
If factoring out naturally produced carbon dioxide and focusing only on the amount produced from emissions, rainforests absorb nearly one fifth of the amount produced each year. However, since the start of the industrial revolution, nearly 350 billion tons of carbon dioxide has already been pumped into the atmosphere. If plants reduced that by a fifth then the quantity would still be at 280 tons, excluding animal and natural contributions, and forgoing the siphon of other plant life and amounts diffused into the world’s oceans. This indicates that rainforests have reduced emission-related warming by a fifth only. Although not enough to reverse anything, it has slowed the process somewhat.
Currently, reducing sections of the rainforests will remove this natural buffering process and the extra carbon dioxide will be left in the atmosphere. Additionally, with the changing climates, the rainforests may be subjected to drought and fire, further increasing their destruction and accelerating the warming process even more. This is why rainforest preservation is important. With rainforests there is a chance of slowing global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Without them there is even less time to counter the process.