The loss of forests has a profound effect on the global carbon cycle. From 1850 to 1990, deforestation worldwide (including the United States) released 122 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere, with the current rate being approximately 1.6 billion metric tons per year. In comparison, fossil fuel burning (coal, oil, and gas) releases about 6 billion metric tons per year, so it is clear that deforestation makes a significant contribution to the increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. Releasing CO2 into the atmosphere enhances the greenhouse effect, and could contribute to an increase in global temperatures.
Tropical deforestation also affects the local climate of an area by reducing the evaporative cooling that takes place from both soil and plant life. As trees and plants are cleared away, the moist canopy of the tropical rain forest quickly diminishes. Recent research suggests that about half of the precipitation that falls in a tropical rainforest is a result of its moist, green canopy. Evaporation and evapotranspiration processes from the trees and plants return large quantities of water to the local atmosphere, promoting the formation of clouds and precipitation. Less evaporation means that more of the Sun's energy is able to warm the surface and, consequently, the air above, leading to a rise in temperatures.
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