Costa Rica has doubled its forest cover in the last 30 years

May 24, 2019, 8:26 a.m.
rainforest in Costa Rica
Photo: Anna Om/Shutterstock

Long committed to the environment, Costa Rica has often been praised for making inroads on sustainability, biodiversity and other protections. The most recent headline is that Costa Rica plans to get rid of fossil fuels by 2050.

In an interview with The New York Times, the country's first lady, urban planner Claudia Dobles, says that achieving that goal would combat a “sense of negativity and chaos” in the face of global warming. "We need to start providing answers."

Although the goal seems like a big one, the tiny country lush with rainforests has already made some impressive inroads. Notably, after decades of deforestation, Costa Rica has doubled its tree cover in the last 30 years. Now, half of the country's land surface is covered with trees. That forest cover is able to absorb a huge amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Although the story of Costa Rica's tree cover is a bit of a roller coaster, it's definitely on a positive climb now. In the 1940s, more than three-quarters of the country was covered in mostly tropical rainforests and other indigenous woodland, according to United Nations University. But extensive, uncontrolled logging led to severe deforestation. By 1983, only 26% of the country had forest cover. But through a continued environmental focus by policymakers, today forest cover has increased to 52%, which is double 1983 levels.

Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado has called the climate crisis "the greatest task of our generation." He and other Costa Rican leaders hope they can spur other nations to follow their example.

Says Robert Blasiak, a research fellow at the University of Tokyo, "Taking a closer look at what Costa Rica has accomplished in the past 30 years may be just the impetus needed to spur real change on a global scale."