In 2011, Queensland, Australia suffered a flood disaster of biblical proportions, killing 35 people and affecting over 200,000 people in 70 towns. The world watched as the worst rains in 50 years inundated a vast swath of territory the size of France and Germany combined. The economy was crippled, as industry was stalled and the damage costs are reported to have reached $30 bn. Scientists are now speculating that, though due to a particularly intense La Nina weather phenomenon, the rains would have been bad, but most likely not as bad had not Queensland been so careless with its forest cover since 1970s.
This is not a problem that is unique to Australia, as deforestation has disaffected regions throughout the world, including Brazil, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Pakistan. For centuries it has been believed that native forest cover reduced the risk and severity of catastrophic flooding, yet each year extreme floods kill or displace hundreds of thousands of people and cause billions of dollars in damage to property. The consequences of floods are particularly catastrophic in developing countries generally lacking the infrastructure to deal adequately with above-average water levels. Using data from 56 developing nations in Central/South America, Africa and Asia, scientists correlated information on flood frequency and severity with country-specific forest data. After controlling for differences in rainfall, elevation, soil moisture and degraded areas, flood risk was strongly correlated with increasing deforestation. The models constructed predicted as much as a 28 % increase in flood frequency with only a 10% increase in deforestation.
After amassing some of the highest rates of forest loss in the world, a recent report on a 20-year study commissioned by the Queensland government has revealed that 91% of all tree clearing has been done for livestock grazing. Australia is the world's leading supplier of live cattle, sheep and goats to countries around the world, in particular the Middle East and Asia. Therefore, it is clear that the practice of animal agriculture has proven to be deleterious and exacerbated the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of flood victims in Australia and throughout the world. . X