05/29/2009 05:06 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Straight Line Between Leather, the Amazon, and Climate Change

When it comes to global climate change, all of our choices matter, right down to what we put on our feet. A three-year undercover investigation by Greenpeace into Brazil's booming cattle industry, the single largest source of deforestation in the world and Brazil's main source of CO2 emissions, has found that top name brands like Nike, Adidas, and Timberland are driving the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

The report tracks beef, leather, and other cattle products from ranches involved in illegal deforestation in the heart of the Amazon. The story exposes the laundering of leather and beef into supply chains of top brands such as Adidas, Reebok, Nike, Clarks, Timberland, Geox, Gucci, IKEA, Kraft, and Wal-Mart.

Incredibly, forest destruction accounts for almost 20 percent of global warming causing emissions, which is more climate pollution than all the world's cars, trucks, trains, planes, and ships combined.

Brazil's cattle industry is undermining the country's climate goals. At the 2008 international climate summit in Poznàn, the Brazilian government announced its National Climate Change Plan, including a pledge to pursue 72 percent cuts in the rate of deforestation by 2018. These cuts, which it claims will prevent the emission of 4.8 Gt CO2, are to be achieved largely by tackling illegal deforestation.

But Brazil is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world in large part because of deforestation-related emissions. We want Nike, Adidas, Timberland and other brands to become true climate leaders by helping to protect the Amazon and our climate by refusing to buy leather from deforestation. After all, in the fight against climate change, every step counts.

What can you do? You can tell the heads of these companies that you don;t want your shoes coming from forest destruction. You can also vote with your dollars and support sustainably made and environmentally friendly alternatives.