Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Clear more forest; cause more climate change

Deforestation in Ghana has undoubtedly had an effect on greenhouse gas emission contributions from Ghana. The cumulative effect of the volume of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere annually from clearing and burning of forests in Ghana over the last century has surely had devastating effects on the world's climate. when forest are burnt, the carbon stored in trees are released into the atmosphere via carbon dioxide gas coming from the burning of biomass.

When our forest are allowed to stand, carbon is removed from the atmosphere and absorbed in wood, leaves and soil. Due to the ability of forests to absorb and store carbon over an extended period of time, they serve as “carbon sinks”. In effect, when forests are removed, this unique role that they play to keep carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere at normal levels is lost and rather the carbon stored in them is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide gas, upon burning. Overall, the world’s forest ecosystems are estimated to store more carbon than the entire atmosphere (Greenfacts, 2007).

From 1990 to 2000 and to 2004, carbon dioxide emissions in Ghana have increased steadily from 0.2419 to 0.3075 and to 0.326 metric tonnes per capita, respectively (UNEP, 2008). This is not surprising considering the deforestation rate and how “slash and burn” method of farmland preparation is widely practised all over Ghana. Unfortunately, as we contribute to climate change through deforestation, Climate change will in turn affect the remaining forests profoundly through increasing damage to forest health through proliferation of forest fires, pests and diseases (FAO, 2007).

Unfortunately, both the “1948 Forest Policy” and the “1994 Forest and Wildlife Policy” had no real policy direction on climate change. Let's assume that at the time these policies were developed. climate change was not a 'major issue'. This means at it stands now these policies can not help in mitigation and/or adaptation to climate change which is a major environmental issue. At this juncture, I think a review of Ghana's forest and wildlife policy is long overdue.