Deforestation in Argentina is devastating the environment. Photo via infogr.am

Contrary to common belief, the world is greener than 33 years ago, according to a recent study by Boston University. Some 36 million square kilometers of land — 10 times the size of Argentina with its Antartica territories included — has become green again since 1982. But before you call Leo to hitch a lift on his private jet to a conference on climate change, you may want to know that unfortunately, Argentina is within a small minority of areas in the world where green space hasn’t expanded but actually receded.

According to Ranga Myneni, a biologist who contributed to the study which was published recently by the scientific magazine Nature Climate Change: “There are more green leaves, trees and plants than before. Both in areas that were already green and areas that were not.” Overall, according to the research, which took 30 years and three satellites to gather information, some 40 percent of the world’s land has seen a growth in vegetation. However 4 percent, which includes Argentina, has experienced the opposite.

Pedro Friedrich, the director of the foundation Banco de Bosques (Forest Bank), told Clarin he blames “the system of agro-industry in Argentina,” which he says, “is more like mining than farming.” In Argentina, “deforestation is unstoppable. The woods in Patagonia, the jungle in Misiones and in the last few years, the hills in Chaco, have all been destroyed to make way for temporary crops, or sometimes even single-crop farming, which is inappropriate to the place: like cotton, soy or beans,” explained Friedrich.

Single crop-farming leaves a large portion of the soil bare and subsequently exposed to the sun’s rays every year, which damages the fertility of the soil and makes in impossible for new vegetation to grow. “We lose areas of biodiversity that could allow carbon to set and subsequently change the land to green,” the director concluded.

Photo via Greenpeace.
Photo via Greenpeace.

The reason for the overall expansion of green space in the world is due to the rising levels of carbon dioxide — one of the greenhouse gases needed to fertilize plants and trees. Researchers say that this accounts for 70 percent of what they call the “greening” of the planet. However, the cause of this increase is from burning fossil fuels and is not sustainable, according to Myneni. “A portion of the carbon dioxide we are emitting is temporarily stored in plants and trees, but studies show that this fertilization will not last,” explained Myeni. “Another important factor, which limits the level of the world’s ‘greening’ is water; a resource that is becoming more scarce.”

Defending Argentina’s enormous carbon footprint was Diego Moreno, Secretary of Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, who told Clarin that new funds were being directed towards addressing the issue. “Until now, the forest law had a fund of AR $240 million,” he explained. “We have now extended this to AR $390 million to finance preservation projects.”

“In areas where deforestation is still allowed, one of the initiatives is for international agencies to finance livestock to live within the cleared zones, as an alternative agricultural model. As a result, deforestation is reduced,” he added.

According to a study by the United Nation’s last year, Argentina demolishes some 297,000 hectares a year, which puts it within one of the top 10 worst countries in the world in terms of deforestation. In 1990, Argentina had 37.4 million hectares of natural forests, but 25 years later, this figure had fallen to 27.11 million. This represents a 22 percent loss of the country’s forests in a quarter of a century. Moreover, glaciers in Patagonia are melting at a rate faster than any in the past 350 years, and the amount of ice lost is more than the entire content of Lake Erie in North America.

The country has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 15 percent by 2030 and is implementing a number of initiatives to help do this. On May 18, President Mauricio Macri announced the launch of RenovAR, an energy program designed to increase renewable energy generation for the country’s electricity supply, which will see companies offer the government their services in exchange of a contract.

Meanwhile, if you are keen to do your bit for the environment, check out The Bubble’s guide to going green.