Amazon drought: deforestation and climate change to blame

The devastating drought affecting the Amazon rainforest is part of a vicious cycle created by the combined effects of global warming and deforestation, according to scientists from Greenpeace and the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia.

The findings have been backed up this week by evidence from a joint US and Brazilian team which used satellite images to show that deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has been underestimated by at least 60%.

The worsening drought has forced the Brazilian government to extend emergency warnings across the Amazonas state. The military has been called in to distribute supplies and medicine to tens of thousands of people. The drought is now also affecting towns and cities further downstream.

Large areas of sand and mud have been exposed as rivers and lakes have dried up in the worst conditions for 40 years.

“Brazil is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change because of its invaluable biodiversity. If the Amazon loses more than 40% of its forest cover, we will reach a turning point from where we cannot reverse the savannization process of the world’s largest forest,” said Carlos Nobre, from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research and President of the International Geosphere Biosphere Program.

According to the INPE around 17% of the Amazon has been completely wiped out over the past 30 years and even more has been damaged by illegal logging and other human activities.

Deforestation and forest fires account for more than 75% of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions and place it among the four top contributors to global climate change.

“The Amazon is caught between two destructive forces and their combined effects threaten to flip its ecosystems from forest to savannah if measures are not taken to stop deforestation and combat climate change,” said Carlos Rittl, Greenpeace Brazil’s climate campaigner.

Greenpeace is now calling on governments to take urgent action to stop deforestation and commit to the massive CO2 reductions needed to protect the Earth’s biodiversity.

David Hopkins

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