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Every year World Resources Institute analyses the latest data on how much of the world's tree cover has been lost in the previous calendar year. This year, the figures for 2020 make grim reading. Although there are some bright spots, the overall picture is going in the wrong direction, and there is evidence that a negative feedback loop is emerging between climate change and forest loss.

In Brazil, there is evidence that even humid wetlands are drying out, leading to fires that destroy the tree cover. Commercial farming and other pressures also play a role, as they do in Brazil’s South American neighbours, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. In the Congo basin the main cause of deforestation is small farmers, itself an intractable problem. But in Indonesia there is some cause for optimism that measures taken by governments, consumers, companies and NGOs are beginning to protect some of the country’s vulnerable tropical forests. To find out more go to: Forest Pulse.

Highlights from the episode


Frances Seymour

Frances Seymour, Distinguished Senior Fellow

“These numbers are a climate emergency, given the amount of carbon that tree cover loss releases into the atmosphere. It’s a biodiversity crisis, because so much of the world’s biodiversity is in tropical forests. And it’s a humanitarian disaster, both due to the direct impact on the communities in the forest, but also all the communities that depend on the climate regulation that forests provide. We ring the alarm bell every year, but we’re still losing forests at a rapid clip.”


Mikaela Weisse, Project Manager, Global Forest Watch

“The work that you do in the first neighborhood is evidence that it works for the community. Once that is shown then it goes like wildfire, it works for the others. Because no poor person is ready to experiment without evidence. So just somebody saying ‘this is good for you’ is not acceptable. They have to see it, they have to feel it, they have to touch it. They need the testimonial.”

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