Amazon rainforest approaches ‘irreversible tipping point’ as expert warns soaring deforestation could release ‘carbon bomb’ into the atmosphere within two years
- Economist warns swathes of rainforest could be replaced by savannah by 2021
- This would release billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere
- Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has vowed to develop the Amazon rainforest
- The report has sparked controversy among climate scientists
The Amazon rainforest is approaching an ‘irreversible tipping point’ and soaring deforestation could soon stop it from sustaining itself.
Within two years, a prominent economist has warned, the immense jungle may no longer produce enough rain to provide for the plants within it.
As swathes of the rainforest are gradually destroyed and replaced by savannah, billions of tonnes of carbon will be released into the atmosphere, which could lead to an acceleration in global warming and weather disruption across South America.
The warning came in a policy brief published this week by Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington DC.
The document notes that Brazil’s space research institute, INPE, reported that deforestation in August was 222% higher than in August 2018.
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest could result in swathes of rainforest being replaced by savannah by 2021, according to a new report
Brazil’s space research institute, INPE, reported that deforestation in August was 222% higher than in August 2018
If deforestation continues at this rate the Amazon will be ‘dangerously close to the estimated tipping point as soon as 2021 … beyond which the rainforest can no longer generate enough rain to sustain itself’, de Bolle wrote.
‘It’s a stock, so like any stock you run it down, run it down – then suddenly you don’t have any more of it,’ she said, according to The Guardian.
The report has angered some climate scientists, who believe the so-called ‘tipping point’ is still 15 to 20 years away.
Carlos Nobre, one of Brazil’s leading climate scientists and a senior researcher at the University of São Paulo’s Institute for Advanced Studies, reportedly said that de Bolle’s calculations seem ‘very improbable’.
‘The projected deforestation increase is more an economic calculation than ecological,’ he said.
However, others say the warning accurately reflects the danger that Brailian President Jair Bolsonaro’s destructive policies and global warming pose to the Amazon’s survival.
The report has angered some climate scientists, who believe the so-called ‘tipping point’ is still 15 to 20 years away
President Bolsonaro has vowed to develop the Amazon, and his government plans to allow mining on protected indigenous reserves.
‘If Bolsonaro is serious about developing the Amazon without paying any attention to sustainability or maintaining the forest’s standing, these rates would happen within his mandate,’ said de Bolle.
MAP REVEALS THE DEVASTATING RATE OF DEFORESTATION AROUND THE GLOBE
Using Landsat imagery and cloud computing, researchers mapped forest cover worldwide as well as forest loss and gain. Over 12 years, 888,000 square miles (2.3 million square kilometers) of forest were lost, and 309,000 square miles (800,000 square kilometers) regrew
The destruction caused by deforestation, wildfires and storms on our planet have been revealed in unprecedented detail.
High-resolution maps released by Google show how global forests experienced an overall loss of 1.5 million sq km during 2000-2012.
For comparison, that’s a loss of forested land equal in size to the entire state of Alaska.
The maps, created by a team involving Nasa, Google and the University of Maryland researchers, used images from the Landsat satellite.
Each pixel in a Landsat image showing an area about the size of a baseball diamond, providing enough data to zoom in on a local region.
Before this, country-to-country comparisons of forestry data were not possible at this level of accuracy.
‘When you put together datasets that employ different methods and definitions, it’s hard to synthesise,’ said Matthew Hansen at the University of Maryland.