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Experts Say Illegal Logging Contributes Significantly to Climate Change


Environmental experts at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali say illegal logging is decimating tropical forests and contributing to rising global temperatures. Chad Bouchard reports from the conference.

United Nations officials estimate the world loses an estimated 13 million hectares of forest every year.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference has drawn thousands of scientists, government officials and development activists to Bali to discuss climate change. Most environmental scientists think human activities, such as excessive greenhouse gas emissions, contribute to global warming.

Climate scientists say deforestation contributes to more than 17 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, nearly as much as the entire transportation sector worldwide.

And experts say most of the tropical forests being lost are illegally logged.

The Indonesian government estimates that it loses up to $5.5 billion a year from illegal logging - 80 percent of its forest losses.

Jago Wadley, who works in the Indonesian province of Papua with the Environmental Investigation Agency, an independent organization, says developed nations should ban illegal timber imports.

"After 10 years of discussions on the illegal timber trade, and very high level commitments and pledges from Western and other leaders to address the impacts their market have on deforestation and illegal logging around the world, nothing has yet happened, and no country on earth has, as of yet, banned illegal timber," said Wadley.

But Mauro Armaelin with the WWF conservation group says a ban on illegal logging would not be enough to curb the hunger for high-priced timber.

"To solve this problem is not, we don't have one, only one solution. It doesn't exist, a magic solution for this. If we work with the market, we solve part of the problem," said Armaelin.

Armaelin says wealthy countries need to help the developing world to manage and secure forests to prevent illegal and legal loggers from damaging the environment.

Environmental experts say deforestation contributes to greenhouse gas buildups in two ways: First, the trees are no long there to absorb gases from other sources, and second, the soil exposed by logging can begin to oxidize and emit gases. In addition, deforestation can ruin farmland, contribute to soil erosion and flooding, and destroy wildlife habitats.

Among other ideas being discussed at the conference are proposals to have rich countries pay poor countries to maintain their forests.

Wulf Killmann, the director of the Forest Products and Industries Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization's Forestry Department, says illegal loggers damage the forests, though it is difficult to measure the overall effect.

"But unfortunately, it's difficult to have figures on illegality. There are unfortunately not yet statistics," said Killmann. "Since you do not have figures you can not put a figure to the forest degradation and so the greenhouse gas emissions side of illegal logging."

Climate scientists say Indonesia and Brazil are the third and fourth largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world largely due to deforestation. China and the United States are the leading emitters, largely from burning carbon-based fuels such as coal and oil.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference is continues through the end of next week.

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