While Boasting About Cutting CO2, Europe In Fact Driving Up Carbon Dioxide Emissions …Through TROPICAL DEFORESTATION!

By Die kalte Sonne

Europeans are eating too many imports from tropical countries, which are cutting down the rainforest and thus fueling climate change, says Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg:

EU consumption linked to tropical deforestation

A sixth of all emissions resulting from the typical diet of an EU citizen can be directly linked to deforestation of tropical forests. Two new studies, from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, shed new light on this impact, by combining satellite imagery of the rainforest, global land use statistics and data of international trade patterns. “In effect, you could say that the EU imports large amounts of deforestation every year. If the EU really wants to achieve its climate goals, it must set harder environmental demands on those who export food to the EU,” says Martin Persson from Chalmers, one of the researchers behind the studies.

The link between production of certain foods and deforestation has been known before. But what Martin Persson and Chalmers colleague Florence Pendrill have now investigated is the extent to which deforestation in the tropics is linked to food production, and then where those foods are eventually consumed. In the first study, they focused on how the expansion of cropland, pastures, and forestry plantations has taken place at the expense of the rainforest. “We can see that more than half of deforestation is due to production of food and animal feed, such as beef, soy beans and palm oil. There is big variation between different countries and goods, but overall, exports account for about a fourth of that deforestation which is connected to food production. And these figures have also increased during the period we looked at,” says Florence Pendrill.

Using this information, the researchers investigated, in the second study, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions resulting from this production (see the picture below), and where the produce is then consumed. The figures for the EU are particularly interesting, since the EU is a large food importer. Furthermore, the EU shall soon present a plan for how to reduce its contribution to deforestation. The EU already has strict requirements in place connected to deforestation which producers of timber and wood products must adhere to in order to export their goods to the EU. This demonstrates their ability to influence other countries’ work in protecting the rainforest.

“Now, as the connection between food production and deforestation is made clearer, we should start to discuss possibilities for the EU to adopt similar regulations for food imports. Quite simply, deforestation should end up costing the producer more. If you give tropical countries support in their work to protect the rainforest, as well as giving farmers alternatives to deforestation to increase production, it can have a big impact,” says Florence Pendrill. The current studies were done in collaboration with researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute in Sweden, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Germany, and NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. They are a continuation of research which was done through the Prince project (Policy Relevant Indicators for National Consumption and Environment), where the connections between Swedish consumption and emissions from deforestation were presented in the autumn.

The studies indicate that, although there is a big variation between different EU countries, on average a sixth of the emissions from a typical EU diet can be directly traced back to deforestation in the tropics. Emissions from imports are also high when compared with domestic agricultural emissions. For several EU countries, import emissions connected to deforestation are equivalent to more than half of the emissions from their own, national agricultural production. “If the EU really wants to do something about its impact on the climate, this is an important emissions source. There are big possibilities here to influence production so that it avoids expanding into tropical forests,” says Martin Persson.

Above all, Martin Persson believes the responsibility for achieving these changes lies with bigger actors, such as countries and large international organisations. But he also sees a role for the consumer to get involved and have an influence. “Public opinion is vital for the climate question — not least in influencing politicians, but also commercially. We can see already that several companies have made commitments to protecting tropical forests, through voluntarily pledging to avoid products which are farmed on deforested land. And in large part, that results from the fact that popular opinion is so strong on this issue,” he concludes.

More information on: Carbon dioxide emissions due to tropical deforestation:

For the period 2010-2014, the researchers estimate net emissions of 2.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide due to deforestation associated to the expansion of croplands, pastures and forestry plantations in the tropics. The main commodity groups associated with these emissions were cattle meat (0.9 gigatonnes of CO2) and oilseed products (including both palm oil and soybeans; 0.6 gigatonnes of CO2).

There are large geographic variations in what commodities are associated with deforestation-related emissions. In Latin America, cattle meat is the dominant contributor (0.8 gigatonnes of CO2), mainly attributed to Brazilian production. In Indonesia almost half of the emissions (0.3 gigatonnes of CO2) come from oilseeds (mainly oil palm). In the rest of Asia-Pacific and Africa, a more diverse mix of commodities drives emissions from deforestation.


Florence Pendrill, U. Martin Persson, Javier Godar, Thomas Kastner, Daniel Moran, Sarah Schmidt, Richard Wood. Agricultural and forestry trade drives large share of tropical deforestation emissions. Global Environmental Change, 2019; 56: 1 DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.03.002

Florence Pendrill, Martin Persson, Javier Godar, Thomas Kastner. Deforestation displaced: trade in forest-risk commodities and the prospects for a global forest transition. Environmental Research Letters, 2019; DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab0d41

18 responses to “While Boasting About Cutting CO2, Europe In Fact Driving Up Carbon Dioxide Emissions …Through TROPICAL DEFORESTATION!”

  1. pochas94

    This is one I’m skeptical of. As long as it’s green it’s doing photosynthesis which, a couple of jumps downstream, is good for us. I am concerned about displacing wildlife habitat. We do need to be sure that the species we are displacing have a home.

  2. Graeme No.3

    The rush into ill thought out ‘action’ on Global Warming has been led by the European Union. On Borneo 223,000 square kilometres (or 86,100 square miles) of forest have been switched to oil palm use. The local wildlife esp. the orang-utans cannot live in those trees, so the survivors of the clearing fires have been forced into less habitat.
    There are various well meaning groups appealing for funds to support orphaned baby orang-utans, but they seem to agree that global warming is real.

  3. sasquatch

    Farmers from Iowa bought land in Brazil ages ago to grow soybeans there for profit.

    Fossil fuels provided the opportunity, nothing else. Right or wrong, it is what happened.

    Why can’t some humans understand that humans use fossil fuels to survive no matter where fossil fuels are used?

    It is not rocket science, homo sapiens v. sapiens use any means necessary to make life on Earth just a better world.

    If fossil fuels are used, what does it matter?

    History of Oil

    If Volkswagen can engineer and build an automobile that can obtain 235 mpg, why can’t it be mass produced?

    Bill Hicks

  4. Dr. John Happs


    You said: “As long as it’s green it’s doing photosynthesis ..”

    Trees will only take in and use carbon dioxide during growth. Once they reach maturity they no longer act as carbon dioxide sinks and at night photosynthesis stops and carbon dioxide is released via the larger mass of respiratory cells.

    Dr. Harald Franzen explains:

    “Trees only absorb large quantities of carbon during their growth, so once they are fully grown–in other words, when the reforestation is complete–they will not be able to serve as CO2 sinks.”

    Monitoring of carbon dioxide from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Dioxide Observatory-2 satellite shows how forested areas on Earth liberate copious quantities of carbon dioxide at night via respiration, organic matter decay and (no doubt) land clearing.

    Putz et al. add:
    “Tropical forest deforestation has been identified as a major source of CO2 emissions, though biomass loss due to fragmentation—the creation of additional forest edges—has been largely overlooked as an additional CO2 source.”

    Well-intentioned tree planters believe that the carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere has been taken care of but they ignore the fact that leaves and branches are constantly falling off trees. When this happens they decompose and carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Similarly, when trees die, the stored wood decays with micro-organisms, fungi and termites breaking down the wood, releasing carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.

    Dr. John Caspersen from Princeton University sums up:

    “Trees only absorb large quantities of carbon during their growth, so once they are fully grown–in other words, when the reforestation is complete–they will not be able to serve as CO2 sinks. It’s important to realize that when the forests have recovered, we have only gotten back to ground zero in terms of the carbon balance in the atmosphere.”

    Professor of atmospheric chemistry at Yale University Dr. Nadine Unger is author of: “To Save the Planet, Don’t Plant Trees.” For all the reasons already stated, she concludes:

    “More funding for forestry might seem like a tempting easy win for the world leaders at the United Nations, but it’s a bad bet.”

    As an aside, termites produce far more carbon dioxide than the sum total of human activities.


    1. Yonason

      Just a couple of preliminary remarks.

      Increased absorption of CO2 by the biosphere as a result of increased CO2…

      Also, re – trees stop growing. Some years ago at my wife’s 5th reunion, I noticed a couple of trees straddling the entrance to the building we were entering. The diameters were roughly an impressive 3 ft, and I wondered what noble species they were. When I looked up at the leaves I was even more amazed. They were Ginkos that must have been planted there a very very very long time ago. And every bit of the bulk of their trunks was built with CO2. Trees may stop growing up, but they do not stop growing out. (Yes, that’s an anecdote, but I hope it’s also an antidote to “trees stop growing.” No, they do not.)

      I find the Mauna Loa CO2 monitoring interesting, as the only time it goes down is from mid May to mid September, with no break when trees “stop growing.”
      I would say that makes the case for trees not measurably affecting [CO2] at all. (I’ve read elsewhere that ocean seaweed absorbs a massive amount more of CO2 than the plant biosphere of earth. I’ll have to look for a reference when time premits.)

      Various evergreens grow all summer long (April to August).

      Also, it’s a fact that the more CO2, the more plants grow.

      So, to me it looks like you are just looking at the “glass half empty” side of the equation. And I say “Plant more trees anyway!”, but that’s just because I like trees.


      1. tom0mason

        The key to plant growth both in the ground and in the sea is the reaction bacteria has to CO2 levels. Bacteria are the key to fixing nitrogen, CO2 and other minerals, making them available to plants.
        In the main Cyanobacteria are the good guys by fixing bio-active nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, CO2 or mixture of them. In all studies I’ve encountered show that increasing CO2 level (whether in the oceans or on land) enhances their action.
        A good place for a first look at these bacteria is at http://www.co2science.org/subject/o/summaries/acidificationcyano.php but there is plenty of other research available.

        1. Yonason

          Once again, the elephant in the climate room is . . . the ocean.

        2. Yonason


          Something I wanted to add to my above comment to Doc Franzen.

          Note that in the Mauna Loa CO2 curve the descent begins in May, and proceeds continuously through July, but from Aug to Sept (AFTER trees “stop growing”) the descent appears to increase.

          What’s that all about? If anything.

  5. tom0mason

    The studies indicate that, although there is a big variation between different EU countries, on average a sixth of the emissions from a typical EU diet can be directly traced back to deforestation in the tropics.
    “Trees only absorb large quantities of carbon during their growth, so once they are fully grown–in other words, when the reforestation is complete–they will not be able to serve as CO2 sinks. It’s important to realize that when the forests have recovered, we have only gotten back to ground zero in terms of the carbon balance in the atmosphere.”

    Nature does what nature is good at and if means that CO2 levels should be higher then it will be higher, regardless of what humans believe.

    As always many of these ‘scientist’ seem to believe forest are only about CO2 sequestering. Over time natural forests die back and expand. Natural forests contract or expand as the natural environmental resources about them allow. Yes trees may only consume lots of CO2 during their initial growth but beyond that the forest’s environment changes over time, the under canopy plants will also be growing and maturing, insects and animals move in taking advantage of the abundance of food types now available. Through this method the forest natural system attempts, and to a reasonable degree are successful at retaining the natural resource about them with this recycling. This may be why human planted forests of largely mono-cultures of tree species do not support so much variation of life compared to natural forests. And if this natural recycling method ensures CO2 level varies only a little in the forest, or even increases within the heart of the forest, then that is how it should be!
    When humans degrade natural forests it is not just the trees that are affected but the whole environment, to just focus on profit from logging, or profits from growing crops for fuel, or small changes in CO2 levels is to undervalue the total worth of these natural tropical forests as a whole ecosystem within nature. Surely the whole diversity of life within tropical forest is of some (greater) value? Or is it that growing vast acreages of plant mono-cultures is all humans want from land?

    History shows these type of radical changes in land use will have greater costs further down the line. We may well change things in the short term but long term nature will win out and so often it’s not to our benefit.

  6. dennisambler

    Professor Philip Stott, Emeritus Professor of BioGeography at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, wrote this in 2003:

    “At the end of the last ice age, only some 12-18000 years ago, the tropics were covered by seasonal savannah grasslands, cooler and much drier than now. There were no rain forests in the Malay Peninsula and much of Amazonia, and, despite the increasing human development of forested space, there are still more rain forests persisting than existed then.

    As in Europe and North America, the forests came and went as climate changed; there is no Clementsian “long period of control” under one climate. Beneath many rain forests, there are sheets of ash, a testimony in the soil to past fires and non-forested landscapes.”

    “Brazil: Ancient Amazon Actually Highly Urbanized” August 31st 2008

    “The report in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, describes clusters of towns and smaller villages that were connected by complex road networks and were arranged around large central plazas. Researches also discovered signs of farming, wetland management and fish farms in the ancient settlements that are now almost completely covered by rainforest.”


    “Stone age etchings found in Amazon basin as river levels fall”: 10 November 2010 Guardian

    “Archaeologists who have studied the photographs believe the art – which features images of faces and snakes – is another indication that thousands of years ago the Amazon was already home to large civilisations.

    “Eduardo Neves, president of the Brazilian Society of Archaeology and a leading Amazon scholar, said the etchings appeared to have been made between 3,000 and 7,000 years ago when water levels in the region were lower. The etchings were “further, undeniable evidence” that the region had been occupied by a significant number of ancient settlements and people.””


    SOUTH AMERICA DURING THE LAST 150,000 YEARS – Jonathan Adams, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    “In general, it would seem that 150-130,000 y.a. the continent showed the general glacial-age pattern of colder and more arid conditions. After about 130,000 y.a., climate warmed and moistened and the forests reached a similar area to the present. After 115,000 y.a., cold and aridity began to influence the vegetation, to an arid, cool maximum around 70,000 y.a., followed by erratic but generally fairly cool and drier-than-present conditions throughout the continent. A second cold, arid maximum began around 22,000 years ago and lasted until about 14,000 14C y.a., after which rainfall and temperatures increased and the forests returned over several thousand years.”


  7. tom0mason

    The oceans take-up CO2, https://phys.org/news/2015-09-revived-oceanic-co2-uptake.html .

    Breathe in, breathe out, in, out… Like a giant lung, the Southern Ocean seasonally absorbs vast amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and releases it back later in the year. But on an annual average the seas surrounding Antarctica absorb significantly more CO2 than they release…

    …Although the Southern Ocean represents no more than a quarter of the total surface of the world’s oceans, it accounts for 40 percent of the global oceanic uptake of that man-made CO2.

    And …

    Since the turn of the millennium, upwelling has generally subsided in all sectors apart from the Pacific, halting this anomalous release of stored CO2 into the atmosphere.

    In the Atlantic sector, on the other hand, changes in the wind-driven circulation patterns are likely responsible for the higher oceanic uptake of atmospheric CO2. Normally, this sector of the Southern Ocean is characterised by a significant upwelling of deeper waters, which increases the amount of dissolved inorganic carbon in the surface layer, thus counteracting the uptake from the atmosphere. The weakening of this upwelling system in recent years now enables the upper ocean to absorb more CO2.

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  13. MACtheKNIFE

    So many smart people commenting here, how could you ALL miss the pertinent data?

    New Source of Global Nitrogen Discovered

    Forests growing on soils that have excess nitrogen sequester CO2, boreal forests, and this appears to be the cause of historical reversals of runaway CO2 increase.

    1. Yonason


      Did those guys do a literature search before claiming: “These results are going to require rewriting the textbooks,…?”

      This is from 1959

      Abstract: – From one-fourth to one-half of the nitrogen in some granite rocks, and up to two-thirds of that in some paleozoic shales, occurred as ammonium ions held within the lattice structure of silicate minerals. The results provide greater insight into the origin of the earth’s atmosphere.

      Another reference to work done 60 years ago.

      Anyway, basically what they are saying is feed plants more => they grow more => they use more CO2. There is one sentence in the article that does dampen one’s enthusiasm, though, and this is it. “The researchers say the work does not hold immediate implications for farmers and gardeners,”

      I guess for now I’ll just have to keep feeding my plants with fish emulsion and blood meal, if I want them to get the nitrogen they need.

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