Deforestation and forest degradation have been occurring for thousands of years. But why? And what are the causes of these changes—the “drivers” of deforestation? In this report, the Union of Concerned Scientists explains these drivers and shows that they have changed fundamentally in the twenty-first century.
For many years, tropical deforestation was attributed to expanding populations of subsistence farmers cutting down the forest for small-scale agriculture and firewood. But many recent scientific studies show that large, commercial agriculture and timber enterprises are the principal agents of tropical deforestation, which is responsible for about 15 percent of global warming pollution worldwide. The drivers of deforestation differ by region: soy and cattle are key in South America while timber, paper, and palm oil are more important in Southeast Asia.
The demand for these products is global and originates primarily in urban areas. Recent actions to deal with some of the drivers of deforestation, such as pressure to change the soybean industry in Brazil, have proven successful, showing how deforestation can be slowed — and even stopped — in the next few decades.
Read more here.