New Study: Sections of the Amazon Now Emit More Carbon than they Absorb

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As the world grapples with the effects of climate change, a recently published study has revealed that sections of the Amazon rainforest are emitting more carbon than they absorb. Known as a carbon sink, the rainforest has absorbed carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere to create a cooling effect for decades. The BBC reports that “since the 1960s, these [carbon] sinks have taken in around 25% of carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels.” However, with a marked increase in global warming, deforestation, and forest fires in recent decades, sections of the Amazon rainforest are beginning to lose this capability.

A study published in the scientific journal Nature on July 14th  found that “this carbon sink seems to be in decline […] as a result of factors such as deforestation and climate change.” Another study published in Nature in 2019 found that during a decade-long period from 2010 to 2019, the Brazilian Amazon emitted more than 0.65 billion metric tons of carbon than it absorbed. What caused this? Scientists in the study pointed towards the “loosening of forest protection policies” as a significant factor. In a statement released earlier this year, INRA, a French research institute that was part of the study claimed that, “A change of government in Brazil in 2019 brought a sharp decline in the country’s environmental protection policies.” Specifically, this is referring to the election of President Jair Bolsanoro in January 2019. There has been extensive reporting about how Bolsonaro’s policies have proven to be extremely harmful to the environment. Human Rights Watch (HRW), for example, has claimed that his administration “has sabotaged environmental law enforcement agencies, falsely accused civil society organizations of environmental crimes, and undermined Indigenous rights.” The Guardian recently reported that some European nations are even willing to block a trade deal with Brazil “unless Bolsonaro agrees to do more to tackle Amazonian destruction.”

As a result, pressure has been mounting upon the U.S. and the Biden administration to limit its trade relations with Brazil and block the import of goods linked to the degradation of the Amazon. In April 2021, dozens of celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry among others signed a letter“[urging President Joe Biden to not sign any environmental deal with Brazil” owing to Brazil’s role in the deforestation of the Amazon. Additionally, a report prepared by academics from U.S. and Brazilian universities also called for a “U.S. policy to block goods linked to forest destruction.”

A large chunk of the Earth’s biodiversity and carbon percentage is concentrated in the Amazon rainforest. Thus, any harm to it will negatively affect the lives of not just Brazilians but of the entire world. It is yet to be seen whether world leaders will recognize their collective responsibility on this issue and keep their promises to protect the Amazon rainforest and preserve the Earth for future generations.

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