The first trees emerged about 400 million years ago. Humanity needs only about 18,000 years more to destroy them completely. This estimate is overly simplistic and assumes a “no change” scenario from current deforestation trends — an annual average loss of −0.13% — but it forces us to examine the data from a "what if" perspective, keeping in mind that forests are one of the most important natural filters and producers of oxygen.

  • One person needs six to nine trees to maintain life, assuming that a single tree produces 100 kg of oxygen per year on average and humans require 740 kg of oxygen per year on average.
  • Humans, of course, are not alone in requiring oxygen to sustain life. Other animal species rely on forests as well, both for oxygen generation and for habitat, and the decline in total forested area contributes to the extinction of animal and bird species. Since 1998, the number of threatened species of plants and animals has increased by more than 239%, from 10,533 to 35,765 species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit was viewed as the turning point for global environmental policy, seeking to overturn disruptive ecological and environmental trends compounded by the industrial revolution and to spur development of national-level environmental policies to address emerging issues. However, the persistence of deforestation and the continued popularity of wood in building and manufacturing despite the critical volume of forest coverage needed for sustainability is (disturbingly) evident in the data.

  • According to statistics from United Nations Statistics Division, a slightly greater share of countries reported a decrease in total forested area from 1990 through 2020 than reported an increase, yielding a net loss of 1.8 million square kilometers of forest area. Ninety-seven countries (40.6%) reported a total decrease in forested area during the 30-year period, whereas 90 countries (37.7%) reported a gain and 47 countries (19.7%) reported no change.
  • Trends in forestry production indicate that production of roundwood increased 12.1% from 2010 to 2020, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization
  • Deforestation also impedes global efforts to halt the growth of total carbon dioxide emissions. When trees are felled, stored carbon dioxide in the trees is released into the atmosphere, where the CO mingles with greenhouse gases from other sources and contributes to global warming.

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