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19th Jul 2021

Amazon rainforest emitting more CO2 than it absorbs for first time

Sarah McKenna Barry

Researchers say that deforestation is largely to blame.

Scientists have confirmed that the Amazon rainforest is now emitting more carbon dioxide that it absorbs for the first time ever.

Most of the carbon dioxide emissions are the result of fires, many of which are set deliberately to clear land for the production of beef and soy.

Additionally, hotter temperatures and droughts have made the Amazon rainforest a source of carbon dioxide.

Previously, the massive rainforest acted as a CO2 sink, and absorbed emissions produced by the climate crisis. Unfortunately, experts now say that the Amazon’s C02 emissions are contributing the the crisis rather than helping it.

Climate advocates have criticised the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, for his role in encouraging additional deforestation during his term. Deforestation of the Amazon has surged to a 12 year high. Last month, forest fires in the Amazon hit their highest level since 2007.

The research surrounding carbon levels in the Amazon was carried out by the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil.

Luciana Gatti, the project’s leader, 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%.

Ms Gatti said that with fewer trees, there is less rain and higher temperatures.

She said: “We have a very negative loop that makes the forest more susceptible to uncontrolled fires.”

The researcher said that a “global agreement” is needed in order to save the Amazon.

Professor Simon Lewis from University College London said that the study illustrates what “scientists have feared would happen.”

“Now we have good evidence this is happening,” he said. “The south-east Amazon sink-to-source story is yet another stark warning that climate impacts are accelerating.”