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Photos: Glasgow conference to address rainforests, climate change

This Sunday, delegates from more than 200 nations meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for the United Nations climate summit known as COP26.

“We can either save our world or condemn humanity to a hellish future,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a tweet to COP26 delegates.

Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco has documented the destruction of rainforests in Brazil and Indonesia. These two countries accounted for more than a third of tropical tree cover in 2000, and represented nearly half of all tropical tree cover loss between 2001 and 2014.

Logs are harvested from a clear-cut area on the banks of the Kampar River near Teluk Meranti, Indonesia. The equatorial nation is destroying its forests at a faster pace than any other country, a rate of destruction that has established the archipelago as the world’s third-largest greenhouse polluter behind the United States and China, experts say.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The Brazilian rainforest has long been one of the world’s most important carbon sinks, but it is losing that ability as trees are cleared. Deforested parts of the Amazon now emit more carbon than they absorb.

Since the 1980s, the amount of forest land in Sumatra, Indonesia — the world’s sixth-largest island, which once contained more animal species than the Amazon — has been slashed more than 70%.

Studies show that the carbon released by logging in Brazil and Indonesia exceeds that of all the buses, planes and cars on the planet. Brazil contributes more carbon, but Indonesia is clearing its forest at the fastest rate on Earth.

A plantation worker carries palm seedlings

A plantation worker carries palm seedlings to be planted on a cleared and burned swath of peatland rainforest in Riau province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Scientific studies indicate that Indonesia’s carbon emissions are likely to increase, as most future forest clearance will be conducted in areas with deep peat, which releases greenhouse gases when it decomposes or burns, thus accelerating global warming.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

An Indonesian park ranger surveys the destruction of a section of forest

An Indonesian park ranger surveys the destruction of an illegally-logged portion of Tesso Nilo National Park in Central Sumatra. In the last 20 years, illegal logging and large-scale farming have resulted in the loss of about 60% of animal habitat. Only about 10% of the remaining forests are suitable for wild elephants.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A logging truck

A logging truck rolls through a town in Central Sumatra, Indonesia, where tropical rainforests are being cleared at an alarming rate to make way for vast industrial plantations devoted to pulp wood and palm oil production.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A deckhand coils the mooring lines of a riverboat

A deckhand coils the mooring lines of a riverboat on the Kampar River in Teluk Meranti, Indonesia. The village is located in Riau province, often called ground zero of the war on global warming. Greenpeace studies show that Riau’s peatlands contain the highest concentration of carbon per acre in the world. When companies burn the forest to sow new wood pulp and palm oil plantations, that carbon is released into the atmosphere. Studies show that the carbon released by logging in Brazil and Indonesia amounts to more than the sum of all the buses, planes and cars on the planet.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A plume of smoke rises from a fire in the jungle

A plume of smoke rises from a fire in the jungle along the banks of the Rio Negro near Tumbira, Brazil. Patches of the Amazon rainforest are burned and cleared every day. In 2008, the government turned hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest surrounding Tumbira into a “sustainable development reserve.” However, the COVID-19 pandemic greatly slowed the flow of tourists to the area.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Residents of Tumbira, Brazil, play soccer as the sun sets

Residents of Tumbira, Brazil, play soccer as the sun sets on a playfield in the middle of town.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A child plays video games while swinging in a hammock

A child plays video games while swinging in a hammock in a home along the banks of the Rio Negro in Tumbira, Brazil.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A bird perches on a tree as the sun rises

A bird perches on a tree as the sun rises along the banks of the Rio Negro in Tumbira, Brazil.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)



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