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Amazon Fires Part Of ‘Doomsday Scenario’ That Could Speed Up Climate Change

by : Emily Brown on : 22 Aug 2019 17:26
Amazon Fires Part Of 'Doomsday Scenario' That Could Speed Up Climate ChangeAmazon Fires Part Of 'Doomsday Scenario' That Could Speed Up Climate ChangeShutterstock

Fires tearing through the Amazon could contribute to a doomsday ‘dieback’ scenario in which the rainforest releases carbon into the atmosphere and speeds up climate change even more.

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Smoke has been billowing from the Amazon in the last few weeks as the landscape has burned, with an impact so huge it even blocked out the sun and plunged Brazil’s Sao Paulo into darkness.

Officials say the rainforest, which covers northwestern Brazil and extends into Colombia, Peru and other South American countries, is burning at a record rate.

Earlier this month, Brazil declared a state of emergency over the rising number of fires in the region, with over 73,000 fires having been detected by Brazil’s space research centre, INPE, in 2019 alone. The figure marks an 83 per cent increase from 2018.

The Amazon rainforest provides the world with oxygen, however if it continues to be destroyed not only would it stop producing oxygen and supporting wildlife but it could create a series of ‘feedback loops’, known as a dieback, which worsens climate change, Business Insider report.

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Approximately 20 per cent of the Amazon has been cut down in the past 50 years and losing another 20 per cent could trigger a ‘doomsday “dieback” scenario’.

According to The Conversation, the dieback would result in dry leaves which are unable to absorb as much carbon, as well as being much more flammable and likely to spread fires.

The tipping point would lead the Amazon to turn into a savannah-like environment which not only fails to produce oxygen but could cause the release of the 140 billion tonnes of carbon stored in the rainforest into the atmosphere, the Rainforest Trust writes.

As a result, global temperatures could rise further.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) explain there are some who argue the dieback scenario is improbable, however, it would be premature to rule out.

According to the WWF, some climate-simulation vegetation models predict a dieback could occur by the end of this century.

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Though wildfires have always occurred in the rainforest, hot, dry conditions would only serve to worsen the impacts. According to The Conversation, wildfires are caused by a combination of droughts and human activities.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has advocated for industrial development in the Amazon and Reuters report last month he dismissed data about deforestation in Brazil as a ‘lie’.

INPE published preliminary satellite data showing deforestation in the rainforest had accelerated in the first half of July to more than 1,000 square kilometers (400 square miles), a jump of 68 per cent compared to the entire month of July 2018.

Bolsonaro responded:

I am convinced that the data is a lie.

Environmental organisations and researchers suspect the fires currently sweeping through the forest were set by cattle ranchers and loggers who wanted to clear and utilise the land.

CNN report Christian Poirier, the program director of non-profit organisation Amazon Watch, explained the Amazon does not catch on fire easily, adding ‘the vast majority of these fires are human-lit’.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: News, Amazon, Climate Change, Environment, rainforest, wildfire

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