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SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: April 25, 2019

SNIP: Millions of hectares of pristine tropical rainforest were destroyed in 2018, according to satellite analysis, with beef, chocolate and palm oil among the main causes.

The forests store huge amounts of carbon and are teeming with wildlife, making their protection critical to stopping runaway climate change and halting a sixth mass extinction. But deforestation is still on an upward trend, the researchers said. Although 2018 losses were lower than in 2016 and 2017, when dry conditions led to large fires, last year was the next worst since 2002, when such records began.

Clearcutting of primary forest by loggers and cattle ranchers in Brazil dominated the destruction, including invasions into indigenous lands where uncontacted tribes live. Losses were also high in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Indonesia.

“We are nowhere near winning this battle,” said Frances Seymour from the World Resources Institute, part of the Global Forest Watch (GFW) network, which produced the analysis.

“The world’s forests are now in the emergency room – it is death by a thousand cuts,” she said. “Band-Aid responses are not enough. For every hectare lost, we are one step closer to the scary scenario of runaway climate change.” There are many government and corporate efforts to combat deforestation, but they are not proving to be enough, Seymour said.

Seymour also highlighted the direct human tragedies. “Behind the bars on these charts are heartbreaking losses in real places,” she said. “All too often the loss of an area of forest is also associated with a funeral, because every year hundreds of people are murdered when they try to stop the miners, loggers and ranchers. The moral imperative to act on this story is unquestionable and urgent.”

[And note, millions of animals are killed too, along with the trees.]