Tropical forest destruction increased in 2020, with the felling of old-growth forests that play a critical role in carbon storage and biodiversity up 12% from 2019, according to a new report from the World Resources Institute. An area of forests approximately the size of Switzerland was cut down in 2020, releasing more than 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere — roughly double the carbon pollution caused by cars in the United States. In many cases, developing countries with high debt levels can be driven to unsustainably exploit their forest resources.

“Unless we offer alternatives, it is likely that governments will try to recover on the back of forest loss, [particularly] governments facing high levels of debt,” Frances Seymour, a distinguished senior fellow at WRI, told the Guardian. “The longer we wait to tackle deforestation, the more likely it is that these carbon sinks will go up in smoke.” (New York Times $, The Guardian, Washington Post $, Thomson Reuters Foundation, AFP, Grist, Mashable)