What if you found out that just four commodities—commodities so pervasive in modern life that we encounter them daily—are responsible for more than half of the world’s tropical deforestation? What if you learned that many of the other commonly cited causes of deforestation, such as cocoa, sugar, and coffee, are now only marginal parts of the global problem?
Surprisingly, all of this is true. Just four commodities—beef, soy, palm oil, and wood products—drive the majority of tropical deforestation.
Why does deforestation matter? Forests—especially tropical forests—store enormous amounts of carbon. When forests are destroyed, that carbon is released to the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. Deforestation accounts for around 10% of total heat-trapping emissions—roughly the same as the yearly emissions from 600 million cars.