ECOSOC Committee Background Statement

The Amount of Deforestation in the Amazon, over the Past Few Years


The clearing of tropical forests across the Earth has been occurring on a large scale for many years. This process, known as deforestation, involves the cutting down, burning, and damaging of forests. If the current rate of deforestation continues, the world's rain forests will vanish soon, causing unknown effects on global climate and eliminating the majority of plant and animal species on the planet. It would also change the water and oxygen levels dramatically, which would increase the global warming. Deforestation is mostly experienced between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn especially in the Brazilian part of the Amazon, which covers 33% of the world's rainforests.

Seventeen to eighteen percent of the Amazon has already been lost. Losing 10 percent of a forest means 10 percent less forest. The outcomes for the Amazon and other ecologically sensitive regions will likely be worse than the 2007 models have predicted. A serious enough blow to the Amazon’s vitality could induce decarburization. They found that 20 percent deforestation turned the northern part of the Mato Grosso into dry savannah. Since forests produce their own rain, as deforestation occurs, there is less rainfall. Their modeling suggested that even after 50 years there would be no recovery. Among the study’s authors are researchers from Japan and Brazil, the University of Exeter, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The study notes that the Amazon contains about 10 percent of the world’s land-based carbon and recycles perhaps half the rain that falls upon it. The tipping points that will push along this process are 2 degrees Celsius and 20 percent deforestation.
Between May 2000 and August 2006, Brazil lost nearly 150,000 square kilometers of forest. Since 1970, over 600,000 square kilometers (232,000 square miles) of Amazon rainforest have been destroyed.

Scientists say that as much as 50 percent of the Amazon could go up in smoke should fires continue. Farmers also have been destroying the rain forest since the 1970s. People ignore the laws that require them to leave 80 percent of their land forested. Twenty percent of the rain forest has been cut down in the past 40 years. More than 40 percent of the Amazon could be gone by the year 2030. Between 60 and 80 percent of all logging in the Brazilian Amazon is being done illegally, and loggers have cut more than 100,000 miles of roads into the rain forest. The 2004 fire burned for more than 2 months, causing widespread deforestation. Deforestation has been a problem in the Amazon rain forest since the 1960s. Some scientists estimate that if deforestation continues at its current rate, the rain forest may survive only another 40 to 50 years. New data shows that 1,250 square miles were cleared over the last five months of 2007. Between July 2005 and July 2006, 14,000 square km of forest disappeared. Already, fully 20 per cent of the Amazon rainforest has been lost to deforestation, experts say.

Deforestation occurs in many ways. Most of the clearing is done for agricultural purposes. These include cattle farming which often replace the rain forest to grow beef for the world market. Farming is another reason for deforestation, this happens when poor farmers chop down a small area and burn the trees in a process called “Slash and Burn.” Deforestation by a farmer is often done to raise crops and is driven by the basic human need for food. In most tropical countries the farmers are very poor; in these countries the farmers do not have the money to buy necessities and must raise crops for food and to sell. Logging is another common form of deforestation, cutting trees for sale as timber. Logging uses heavy machinery, such as bulldozers and road graders, to remove cut trees and build roads, which is just as damaging to a forest overall as the chainsaws are to the individual tree.

First of all, many medicines come from plants. Most of the Amazon's plants have yet to be discovered and catalogued, so we may lose valuable cures or vaccines that could have otherwise been used to fight illnesses such as cancer or AIDS. These plants could save the lives of millions of people all over the world, but are lost as a result of the destruction of the rainforests. Secondly, the Amazon rainforest is sometimes called the "lung of the world" because its production of over 1/4 of the world's oxygen makes it possible for us to breathe. The faster we eliminate forests, the closer we get to our own impending doom. A lot of land in the rainforest is given to landless people by the government. These landless people, together, have managed to clear millions of hectares of rainforest and are still doing so today. As these people farm, the soil becomes infertile, so the landless people have to move elsewhere, clear more land and start again. In this way, large amounts of the rainforest are lost forever.


  • What is your stance on this topic?

  • If the deforestation is stopped, what do you think would happen to the Amazon?

  • How do you think the United Nations should help in the issue?

  • If the United Nations did help, how would it affect the deforestation?

  • What is deforestation?


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SIRS Discoverer
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Vincent, Isabel. “Fire in the Amazon.” Middle Search Plus. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2010. <‌ehost/‌detail?vid=1&hid=7&sid=558d9e2a-22c3-4d6c-bf8d-25ff31818c3e@sessionmgr11&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWNvb2tpZSxpcCx1aWQmc2l0ZT1laG9zdC1saXZl#db=mih&AN=27075401>.