Act locally to save forests globally and help slow climate change.

It’s no secret that we’re having another hot summer in Colorado. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2021 was the fourth hottest year on record, and 2022 is shaping up to be similar.

Ellen Montgomery

Extremely hot summer days make Colorado outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and rock climbing less appealing and safe. But even worse, extreme heat is bad for farms, increases the threat of wildfires, and can cause serious health issues, including respiratory problems and heatstroke.

To turn the tide, we need fewer global warming pollutants in our atmosphere. Colorado can take action: We can reduce tailpipe emissions by switching to public transit and electric cars. We can reduce emissions from power plants by increasing wind and solar power. We can use less energy by switching to energy-efficient appliances and equipment.

But there is another even simpler strategy to accompany these actions: leave our forests standing.

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Forests serve as natural carbon sinks, absorbing and storing carbon for hundreds or even thousands of years. In fact, our planet’s forests absorb enough carbon dioxide to offset 1.5 times the annual emissions of the United States. When forests are removed or degraded, much of the carbon they stored is released into the atmosphere. And we are losing our forests at an alarming rate: in 2020 alone, 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide were added to the atmosphere from the loss of tropical forests. That’s “about two and a half times more than what passenger cars and light trucks emit each year in the United States,” according to the New York Times.

In addition to the climate crisis, we also face a biodiversity crisis, and forests can also contribute to this. It is estimated that 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity is found in forests. Tropical rainforests cover less than 10% of our planet’s land but are home to two-thirds of the world’s biodiversity. Deforestation has brought many other species to the brink of extinction, including the orangutans of Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia, where more than a quarter of the forests disappeared in just 25 years. In Canada, the fragmentation of the boreal forest has contributed to endangering the emblematic herds of woodland caribou.

Preserving forests is a global issue that requires local action. Here in Colorado, as in the rest of the United States, most forest land is managed by federal agencies. Our federal forests, especially the oldest and largest trees, need more protection from logging. That’s why Coloradans should call on the Biden administration to put in place strong and lasting protections for our nation’s federally managed forests.

But a lot of deforestation and forest degradation is happening in other countries. What can the Coloradans do about it?

It turns out that many of the products we consume, including everything from burgers to toilet paper, come from countries that experience rampant deforestation and forest degradation. Consumers here in Colorado can support policies that ensure the products we use are not harvested and produced on deforested and degraded forest lands.

On April 22, Earth Day, Governor Jared Polis took an important step towards protecting the world’s forests. The governor signed an executive order that encourages state agencies and departments to give preference to vendors that have instituted best forest management practices that reduce environmental impacts while maintaining or improving land productivity.

The order further warns against suppliers who “contribute to the degradation or deforestation of intact tropical or boreal forests directly or through the supply chain.”

This is important because the state government purchases thousands of products – whether coffee for the break room, paper for photocopiers, or lumber to construct new buildings – that come from forests or former lands. forests. The state can have a far greater impact on supply chains than any individual consumer.

This type of action is not limited to state governments. Institutions, from universities to places of worship and businesses, can and should adopt similar policies when it comes to purchasing forest products.

By encouraging state agencies to take these important steps, Governor Polis has pushed the state of Colorado to reduce its global carbon footprint. The next step is to make “encouragement” a “directive,” and we hope Colorado policymakers will take this step in the future.

We must strengthen our commitments and reduce our use of problematic forest products to ensure the hope of a livable Colorado and a livable planet.

Ellen Montgomery, of Denver, is the Public Lands Campaign Director for Environment Colorado.

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