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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Amazon Rainforest Is Now Emitting More Carbon Than What It Absorbs

The world's largest tropical rainforest had previously been a carbon sink, absorbing the emissions driving the climate crisis, but is now causing its acceleration

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Divya Dhadd
Divya Dhadd
Journalist

BRAZIL: The Amazon rainforest is emitting more carbon dioxide than its capacity to absorb, a new study says.

The rainforest was once called a carbon sink — absorbing carbon emissions driving the climate crisis, more than what is released. But the emissions now amount to more than 1 billion metric tons of emissions every year. 

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The emissions are mainly caused by fires, many deliberately set to clear land for beef and soy production. Much of the timber, beef and soy from the Amazon is exported from Brazil.

But even without fires, hotter temperatures and droughts mean the south-eastern Amazon has become a source of CO2, rather than a sink. 

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Also Read: Amazonian Wildfires Rage Across Three Countries During Historic Drought

The nine-year research project, published on Wednesday, was led by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research in partnership with scientists from several countries, including the U.S., the Netherlands and New Zealand.

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Luciana Gatti, who led the research said: “The first very bad news is that forest burning produces around three times more CO2 than the forest absorbs. The second bad news is that the places where deforestation is 30% or more show carbon emissions 10 times higher than where deforestation is lower than 20%.”

Gatti added that fewer trees meant less rain and higher temperatures, making the dry season even worse for the remaining forest.

Drones in four locations across the Amazon collected samples to measure carbon levels, with the study’s long timeframe allowing the researchers to account for year-to-year variations in the forest’s carbon levels, CNBC reported.

Burning as the biggest source of carbon emissions from the giant forest accounts for 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon emissions. This means if there were no fires or deforestation, the Amazon would remove almost 0.5 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere.

“Imagine if we could prohibit fires in the Amazon – it could be a carbon sink. But we are doing the opposite – we are accelerating climate change,” said Gatti.

“The worst part is we don’t use science to make decisions,” she said. “People think that converting more land to agriculture will mean more productivity, but in fact, we lose productivity because of the negative impact on rain.”

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