The relationship between forests and climate

Forests are much more than stores of carbon; they produce the air we breathe and water we drink, provide habitat for 80% of terrestrial species, and offer vast opportunities for cultural, religious and recreational uses. Forests can also provide a steady stream of building products and jobs that support rural economies.

When it comes to climate change, however, forests can be sinks (storage) or sources (release) of carbon dioxide emissions.

After oceans, forests are the world’s largest store of carbon; they absorb and store almost 30% of total current carbon emissions from fossil fuels and industry, with the potential to store much more. It is estimated that the world’s forests store more than 850 Gt of carbon, which is equivalent to 24 years of global emissions at 2018 levels (of 36.2 Gt). Since 1750, forests have been responsible for about half of the carbon emissions naturally sequestered from the atmosphere; the rest has been absorbed by the oceans.

For more information about the relationship between forests and climate change, and how the style of forest management endorsed by the Forest Stewardship Council fits into the picture, download this overview document.