The Challenge

  • Though the most rapid rate of deforestation has slowed over the past decade, more than 32 million acres of forests are converted each year for development or other uses, or lost to natural causes like fire and disease.
  • Changes in climate have altered the habitats of many species.
  • Warmer temperatures, changes in precipitation, and increased droughts have made forests more susceptible to insect infestation and disease.
  • With excessive carbon in the atmosphere contributing to climate change, there is a growing need to enhance forests’ capacity for sequestering and storing carbon.

Why We Care

Cuyamaca Reforestation 2011

Climate change is arguably the toughest environmental challenge of the 21st century. When kept healthy, forests play a key role in our national climate change strategy. However, loss of forests’ ability to mitigate the effects of climate change will mean losing many important ecosystem benefits.

Forests and climate change are inherently linked. As greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, they trap heat. This increased heat leads to changes in climate patterns, which affect everything on the planet, including forests. One of the biggest contributors to climate change is carbon dioxide, of which the human race has produced increasing amounts since the industrial age. Trees decrease the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by absorbing it from the air and converting it into clean oxygen, which they release, and carbon, which they store. Because of this natural process, healthy forests are our most efficient, inexpensive, and natural system to combat climate change.

Managing forests to help them retain and increase their carbon storage potential can maximize their ability to mitigate climate change. It is essential that we recognize the value of this benefit by avoiding deforestation, restoring damaged forests, and maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Our Strategy

We have worked with partners to help create coalitions of conservation organizations across the country. One such group, the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC), is comprised of western rural and local, regional, and national organizations working together to promote balanced conservation-based approaches. The RVCC’s Climate Change Working Group has developed materials to inform policy-making about climate change and the impacts it has on our forests and communities.

American Forests has long advocated that decision makers in the US Forest Service, the Department of the Interior, and Congress address climate change issues by developing strategic plans and policies. We also engage with other national conservation organizations in collaborative efforts, such as the Forest Climate Working Group, to develop agreement on recommendations regarding key forest components of a federal plan to address climate change.

What You Can Do

  • Use our carbon calculator to see how much you personally contribute to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and how you can offset your emissions.
  • Write to your elected representatives to encourage them to address climate change issues in a comprehensive way.
  • Share climate change information with your family and friends to educate them on the environmental issues at hand.
  • Donate to American Forests to fund climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies within the US Forests System.