Burning the Forests

Climate change is being caused by a combination of factors, but the most important is the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and especially carbon dioxide. Most of this extra carbon dioxide is being released by burning carbon-rich fuels. This is the same process that turns sugar into energy in our bodies, but it is more violent, releasing the energy as searing heat. The most basic of all fuels is wood, which people have been burning for thousands of years to keep warm and to cook their food. Huge increases in human populations have greatly increased the amount of wood that is burned like this each year. At the same time, vast forests are being cut down and burned to clear land for farming, ranching, and road building, especially in the tropics. This is also contributing to climate change by releasing all the carbon that the forest trees have absorbed over their lifetimes.


As a tree grows, it absorbs carbon dioxide and converts it into sugar, plant fiber, and wood. The wood stores carbon, but when the tree dies and decays, the carbon is released. In mature forests, dead trees are decaying as fast as live trees are growing. So although such forests act as carbon stores, they release as much carbon dioxide as they absorb.

Firestick used to burn forest


When trees catch fire, the carbon in their timber combines with oxygen to release energy and carbon dioxide. Wildfires are part of the natural carbon cycle, and the carbon dioxide they release is soon absorbed by young trees. But if a forest is cut down, burned, and not allowed to regrow, all its carbon is turned into carbon dioxide that increases the greenhouse effect.


If a burned forest is able to regrow, the new trees eventually soak up the carbon dioxide released by the fire. But this may take a century or more, because young trees do not absorb as much carbon dioxide as big, mature trees. If the land is planted with crops like these, or becomes grassland, the small plants absorb even less carbon dioxide—and when they are harvested or grazed by animals, the carbon they contain is released again.


Huge areas of tropical forest are being destroyed. Brazil has lost more than 163,000 sq miles (423,000 sq km) of forest since 1990—enough to cover California—and Indonesia has lost nearly 116,000 sq miles (300,000 sq km). In the Caribbean state of Haiti, more than 95 percent of the forests have been cut down, devastating the landscape. This photograph shows the border between Haiti, on the left, and the neighboring Dominican Republic which still has large tracts of forest.

Greenhouse Gas From Trees BurningGasses Forest


When forests are cut down, the bare ground often reflects more sunlight than the trees that have been removed, causing cooling. But meanwhile the exposed soils start releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. In Indonesia, the soils of swampy lowland forests contain a lot of waterlogged peat. If the forest is cut down, the peat can dry out and decay. As shown in this photograph, the peat sometimes burns, releasing more carbon dioxide. Altogether, the greenhouse gases released by deforestation far outweigh the cooling effect of the bare ground.

Huge smoke cloud hangs over Borneo

Huge smoke cloud hangs over Borneo

Background Abstrak


Forest fires generated the smoke seen here in the atmosphere above Borneo in 2002. The smoke is made up of gases and soot that combine with water vapor to form clouds of airborne particles called aerosols. These can absorb and reflect sunlight, causing cooling. But carbon dioxide released at the same time persists for much longer, adding to the greenhouse effect.

SUSTAINABLE FUEL Wood can be used as a"carbon-neutral"fuel if more wood is grown to replace it. An old technique called coppicing involves cutting wood from a living tree and allowing new shoots to sprout from the trunk. When the firewood is burned it releases its carbon as carbon dioxide, but this is soaked up by the regrowing timber.

Fossil fern coal

Continue reading here: Fossil Fuels

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  • piia-noora pokka
    Does burning wood contribute to climate change?
    19 days ago
  • Fethawi
    Does forest fires burning trees cause global warming?
    21 days ago
  • mario
    Why are forests burnt down?
    21 days ago
  • Dirk
    How burning of trees leads to an increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere?
    1 month ago
  • ferdinand
    Does burning leaves cause global warming?
    2 months ago
  • Olavi
    How bush burning result in green house gases emission that lead to global warning?
    2 months ago
  • catherine
    How much co2 do forest fires emit?
    2 months ago
  • Lionel
    Why is Greenhouse effect is reduced by burning of wood and fossil fuel?
    2 months ago
  • temesgen
    How cutting down trees affects climate change?
    2 months ago
  • jarno
    Why do forests burn yearly?
    3 months ago
  • michal
    Do wildfires contribute to green house gases?
    3 months ago
  • forbes
    How does burning of forest cause climate change?
    3 months ago
  • Napoleon
    Does burning wood cause climate change?
    4 months ago
  • mebrahtu
    Does vegetation burning emit carbon dioxide?
    6 months ago
    How do forest fires release green house gases?
    7 months ago
  • petteri
    How does burning forest impact the atmosphere?
    9 months ago
    Which gas is released when forests are burned?
    10 months ago
  • Linda
    How does burning forests impact the atmosphere?
    10 months ago
  • dean
    What gets released burning forests?
    10 months ago
  • amie
    How does burning trees increase co2?
    11 months ago
  • antje ehrlichmann
    How does burning trees to clear land cause the greenhouse effect?
    11 months ago
  • Sebhat
    Why would a green forest burn?
    1 year ago
  • Petros
    How does burning forests to clear land for cultivation affect the atmosphere?
    2 years ago
  • sophie
    How open burning release green house?
    2 years ago
  • Julia
    Is the amazon forest burnt from greenhouse gases?
    2 years ago
  • segan iggi
    What gas does burning firests relaeasse?
    2 years ago
  • donald
    How to burn less greenhouse gases?
    2 years ago
    How does burning natural gases increase greenhouse gases?
    2 years ago
  • stephen
    Does burning wood release greenhouse gases?
    2 years ago
  • riikka rautakorpi
    Is smoke a greenhouse gas?
    2 years ago
  • nellie flores
    How is carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through bush burning?
    2 years ago
  • Eliano
    How does forestry cause green house gases?
    2 years ago
  • haben
    How does burning trees add to the greenhouse affect?
    2 years ago
    How does burning of forests causes climate change?
    2 years ago
  • Halle
    What gas does a burning forest produce?
    2 years ago
  • michael
    What greenhouse gases do peat fires create?
    2 years ago
  • Camilla
    How fire wood promotes green house effect?
    2 years ago
  • semret
    How burning of forest contribute to global warming?
    3 years ago
  • jane
    When peat decays or burns, what greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere?
    3 years ago
  • Oran Gordon
    How to use gases released in burning of wood?
    3 years ago
  • jackson
    Does burning of trees cause green house effect?
    3 years ago
  • Terhi
    How the burning of forest cause greenhouse gases?
    3 years ago