WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- A Washington-based think tank is urging action on climate change.
In a new study, researchers at the Center for Global Development predict 714 million acres of tropical forest -- enough to cover all of India -- will be felled by 2015.
Such losses would be devastating for flora and fauna in some of the planet's most biodiverse regions, but it would also further accelerate climate change.
If leaders don't take steps to protect the tropical forests of Africa, Asia and South America, scientists at CGD warn that deforestation will release another 169 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Making matters worse, a significant portion of Earth's most effective carbon sink will be gone.
The predictions are based on the analysis of environmental economists at CGD, armed with data and satellite imagery collected from more than 100 countries. Using the imagery, scientists measured rates of deforestation and extrapolated future trends.
The report's authors say it's not too late to act. Earth's political and economic leaders can protect the planet's tropical forests by placing a price on carbon -- either through taxes or emissions reduction payments.
One possible solution, researchers say, is for wealthier nations to pay developing countries to stop cutting down trees.
"Conserving tropical forests is a bargain," report author Jonah Busch, CGD research fellow and environmental economist, said in a press release. "Reducing emissions from tropical deforestation costs about a fifth as much as reducing emissions in the European Union."
"The Paris climate agreement needs to provide funding and other resources to stop tropical deforestation," research associate Jens Engelmann added. "A climate agreement without robust action on forests will simply not be enough."