No, We Are Not Running Out of Forests

No, We Are Not Running Out of Forests. By Alexander Hammond.

Slightly more than 31 per cent of the [world’s land area] is covered in forest. … The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) … makes it clear that “93 per cent of global forest area, or 3.7 billion hectares in 2015,” was natural forest. … Natural forest loss is declining by 0.059 percent per year and is heading towards zero.

The problem is the media, not deforestation.

The reason why most people labor under a misapprehension about the state of the world’s forests is that news stories often ignore afforestation. In about half of the world, there is net reforestation and, as Matt Ridley puts it, this isn’t happening despite economic development, but because of it.

When countries get rich enough, they grow more forest:

The world’s richest regions, such as North America and Europe, are not only increasing their forest area. They have more forests than they did prior to industrialization. The United Kingdom, for example, has more than tripled its forest area since 1919. The UK will soon reach forest levels equal to those registered in the Domesday Book, almost a thousand years ago.

It is not just rich nations that are experiencing net reforestation. The “Environmental Kuznets curve” is an economic notion that suggests that economic development initially leads to environmental deterioration, but after a period of economic growth that degradation begins to reverse.

Once nations hit, what Ridley dubs the “forest transition,” or approximately $4,500 GDP per capita, forest areas begin to increase. China, Russia, India, Vietnam and Bangladesh are just some of the nations that have hit this forest transition phase and are experiencing net afforestation.

Poor people can’t afford to care about the environment very much, because other priorities — such as survival — are more important. If that means that a rare animal must be killed and eaten, so be it. “The environment is a luxury good,” says Tim Worstall of the Adam Smith Institute, “it’s something we spend more of our income upon, as incomes rise.”

hat-tip Matthew