The Human Impact on the World’s Forests
View a high resolution version of this graphic.
Source: Global forest Watch
Snapshot of the World’s Forests
View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.
Forests cover over 30% of the world’s land, but human activity is chipping away at the tree line.
At the outset of the 20th century, there was approximately 31 million square miles (50 million square km) of forest around the world. Today, that number has shrunk to less than 25 million square miles (40 million square km). Much of this decline can be attributed to expanding agricultural land use and increasing demand for wood and paper products.
Source: World Bank
The growth and decline of forest cover is hardly uniform. Deserts, farmland, and urban areas ebb and flow around the world, and while some countries are rapidly removing trees from their ecosystem, others are seeing increases in their forest cover.
Receding Leaf Line
Since 1990, global forested area has shrunk by 2 million square miles (3.1 million square km), with many of those losses occurring in South America and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Amazon Rainforest, one of the most important carbon sinks on the planet, has faced intense pressure from human activity over the last few decades. Brazil’s expanding network of roads has been critical for economic development, but the landscape often pays the price as the country increases its GDP per capita.
Rainforest turns to farmland in Brazil’s Rondônia state: 1984–2016
Across the Atlantic Ocean, Africa is grappling with deforestation.
West Africa, for example, has lost a shocking 90% of its forest cover over the last century – in a number of countries, all of the forest outside of protected areas has been logged, while illegal logging threatens parks and reserves.
If nothing is done, we may lose everything.
– Abraham Baffoe, Africa regional director at Proforest
Images of slash-and-burn land clearing and denuded hillsides grab the headlines, however, there are a few places in the world where forests are expanding.
Europe, in particular, has seen widespread regeneration of forests over the past century.
China is another, perhaps surprising, place where there have been big increases in forested areas.
Each year, dust storms blowing in from the expanding Gobi Desert displace as much as 800 square miles (2,000 square km) of topsoil and damage crops adjacent to the expanding desert. In response, the government created the Three-North Shelterbelt Program, which they hope will halt desertification. Thousands of miles of newly-planted vegetation will act like a wall, containing the spread of the Gobi Desert.
The Big Picture
Activities that lead to deforestation differ from region to region, but they’re always economic in nature. Palm oil, logging, raising cattle, and even charcoal production are all ways people can pull themselves out of poverty in developing countries.
The good news is that as per capita incomes in developing countries continue to rise, pressure on forests should lessen.
This theory is best visualized by Kuznets Curve, which demonstrates a link between economic development and environmental degradation.
Click here to view the full sized version.
In regions with lax enforcement, corruption, and a large population of people living below the poverty line, deforestation could remain a problem until economic conditions improve. Thankfully, the five countries with the most forest cover – Russia, Brazil, Canada, U.S., and China – are on or are moving towards a more favorable side of the curve.
Another bright spot in this story is that governments are increasingly protecting habitat in the form of nature reserves and national parks. Since 1990, the amount of nationally protected land in the world has nearly doubled.
The Carbon Emissions of Gold Mining
Gold has a long history as a precious metal, but just how many carbon emissions does mining it contribute to?
The Carbon Emissions of Gold Mining
As companies progress towards net-zero goals, decarbonizing all sectors, including mining, has become a vital need.
Gold has a long history as a valuable metal due to its rarity, durability, and universal acceptance as a store of value. However, traditional gold mining is a process that is taxing on the environment and a major contributor to the increasing carbon emissions in our atmosphere.
The above infographic from our sponsor Nature’s Vault provides an overview of the global carbon footprint of gold mining.
The Price of Gold
To understand more about the carbon emissions that gold mining contributes to, we need to understand the different scopes that all emissions fall under.
In the mining industry, these are divided into three scopes.
- Scope 1: These include direct emissions from operations.
- Scope 2: These are indirect emissions from power generation.
- Scope 3: These cover all other indirect emissions.
With this in mind, let’s break down annual emissions in CO2e tonnes using data from the World Gold Council as of 2019. Note that total emissions are rounded to the nearest 1,000.
|1||Mining, milling, concentrating and smelting||45,490,000|
|3||Suppliers, goods, and services||25,118,000|
Total annual emissions reach around 126,359,000 CO2e tonnes. To put this in perspective, that means that one year’s worth of gold mining is equivalent to burning nearly 300 million barrels of oil.
Gold in Nature’s Vault
A significant portion of gold’s downstream use is either for private investment or placed in banks. In other words, a large amount of gold is mined, milled, smelted, and transported only to be locked away again in a vault.
Nature’s Vault is decarbonizing the gold mining sector for both gold and impact investors by eliminating the most emission-intensive part of the mining process—mining itself.
By creating digital assets like the NaturesGold Token and the Pistol Lake NFT that monetize the preservation of gold in the ground, emissions and the environmental damage associated with gold mining are avoided.
How Does it Work?
Through the same forms of validation used in traditional mining by Canada’s National Instrument NI 43-101 and Australia’s Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC), Nature’s Vault first determines that there is gold in an ore body.
Then, using blockchain and asset fractionalization, the mineral rights and quantified in-ground gold associated with these mineral rights are tokenized.
This way, gold for investment can still be used without the emission-intensive process that goes into mining it. Therefore, these digital assets are an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional gold investments.
Click here to learn more about gold in Nature’s Vault.
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