Doomsday Report: What Would Happen if Our Forests Disappeared?

The Doomsday Clock is currently at 90 seconds to midnight, signifying the closest we’ve ever been to our own destruction. Invented in 1947, the Doomsday Clock is a metaphor of our own peril, with nuclear weapons and climate change being two key factors in deciding how close we are to the end. 

Under the umbrella of climate change is our forests – specifically how much of it we have left. We all know we need natural landscaped to survive, but how close would the Doomsday Clock get to midnight if all of our trees disappeared? To answer the questions, our team at EcoChoice have done some digging. Here’s what we’ve discovered.

Our Decreasing Forest Land

Every year, we lose around 10 million hectares of forest on our planet. Although that rate has been decreasing over the past few decades, it is still way too high! From paper production to cattle farming (beef is responsible for almost half of all deforestation), our need for more is taking an enormous toll on our forests. If we keep going, one day there may be no forest left at all. 

Would We Be Able to Live in a World Without Trees?

Let us start with the most pressing question of all: would we even survive? The jury is still out on this one, but it is not looking great. The truth is we do not know with 100% certainty whether we could live without our forests, but we may develop technology to help us cope before we get to that point. The best way to work out just how doomed we might be is by looking at the various effects complete deforestation would have. Let us get into that now.

Mass Species Extinction

The first effect to highlight is the loss of species. So many species, including in the animal, fungi and plant kingdoms, rely on trees to survive. Both local to the forests and around the world, we would witness a mass extinction of these vital organisms. The knock-on effects which this would have remain unknown, but they’re not hopeful.

Warmer Local Temperatures

Forests have a notable cooling effect on the surrounding local areas. By providing shade that keeps soil at manageable temperatures and absorbing rather than reflecting the sun’s heat, they do a lot to keep our planet cool. If we lost our forests the places where they now stand would become warmer, as would the surrounding communities. As we all know, a warming planet is not what we want or need!

Less Rain But More Flooding

It is not exactly known just how closely trees are connected to our weather systems, but the world’s climate is actually dependent on our forests. Trees create a stable water cycle by absorbing water from the soil and turning it into liquid vapour that is transferred into the atmosphere. This system helps to create clouds and precipitation, allowing for regular, manageable rainfall. 

Our forests also act as flood barriers. Rather than allowing water to rush into our rivers, they trap it in their roots and soak it up, and their root structures keep the soil firm so it is not washed away in heavy storms.

If we lost the world’s forests, two things would happen. The first is less regular rain. The world would become drier and areas that once held forest would now be prone to droughts. But, when the rain did come, it wouldn’t be a cause for celebration. Because of the lack of trees, places by rivers and streams would easily be flooded, and our barriers to the ocean would disappear. Coastal towns may be submerged in water, and the erosion of soil would have disastrous effects on marine life and coral reefs. 

Increased Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere

We all know that trees absorb carbon dioxide. That means that our forests are huge carbon stores, and removing them would have two effects on CO? levels. The first would be that much of the CO? stored in the trees and soil would be released back into the atmosphere. This would happen fairly quickly, making it impossible for other systems (such as the ocean) to absorb this large volume of carbon emissions. This would then accelerate the butterfly-effect.

The second effect is more long term. Because there would be no trees left to absorb carbon dioxide, levels would slowly rise. For a short time other plants and grass may keep levels manageable, but it would not take long before the amount of CO? in the atmosphere overtook their capacity to absorb it, and greenhouse gases would spiral out of control. The planet would heat up, ice would melt and the lives of all species would be put in catastrophic danger.

Dire Impact on Crops

There are many crops which depend on forests to grow because of the shade they provide. Coffee beans, for example, would struggle to grow in a forest-less world. As temperatures fluctuate and droughts/flooding becomes more common, many more crops that do not rely on shade would also be affected. Soils, too, would be depleted, unable to grow anything without vast quantities of fertiliser. A lot of land which once was rich with food would become barren, and hunger levels would begin to rise.

Large Increases in Poverty

It is not just the planet that would be devastated without forests. Our economy would take a huge hit, too, with many billions of people plunging into poverty. Apart from the collapse of food systems, over 13 million people work in the timber industry alone, and all these would instantly lose their jobs. Food and water prices would rise, and many people simply would not have the funds to pay for them.

Increases in Disease

There are a number of health issues that would put human life at risk: climate change, flooding and a lack of food to name just a few. But one of the most awful which is not commonly considered is a rise in disease. Trees are major players in reducing air pollutants, trapping harmful particles in their leaves so that we do not breathe them in. If our forests were destroyed, there would be a likely significant rise in the number of respiratory related illnesses and fatalities. 

We may also see a rise in rare diseases. There is already a lot of evidence that viruses, for example Ebola and Malaria, are more widely spread in areas of deforestation, with one in three outbreaks of Ebola being linked to changes in the land, such as deforestation. We have seen how Covid, a virus with relatively low fatality rates, affected our world. We do not want to create a planet that allows more deadly diseases to flourish. 

Could This All Actually Happen?

Yes, unfortunately, it could. According to NASA, if we do not change our ways very soon and stop bulldozing our land, all of the world's rainforest will be gone within 100 years. Once the rainforest is gone, it won’t take long for the remaining woodland to become depleted, too. So what can we do to stop this from happening? 

The best way you can make a difference is by being conscious of what you are consuming. Switch to recycled paper, choose bamboo toilet rolls and cut down on beef, chocolate and unsustainable palm oil. Whenever you do use wood-derived products, such as timber for construction, make sure it is from Certified sustainably managed forests.

Source Sustainable Timber With EcoChoice

Timber is an incredibly sustainable building resource, so it may be your go-to when taking on construction projects. But when you know how devastating deforestation can be, what can you do? You do not want to add to the problem, but you want to keep using renewable resources for your projects. This is where EcoChoice comes in.

We source high-quality timber from sustainably managed forests such as Oak, Ipe, Cumaru and Ekki. Verified by third parties, these forests are maintained to avoid depletion, maintain biodiversity and help our planet thrive for many centuries to come. To learn more or enquire about sourcing sustainable wood, get in touch with our team today!

Image: Rich Carey /

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