A Climate Bomb in the Amazon

Why It Matters


We read about fires in the amazon frequently. So how are they started. Are they sorta like the california wildfires or is it something completely different so actually quite different from wildfires in other parts of the world because the rain is wet. This is dr. Tom lovejoy a senior fellow at the united nations foundation and a professor at george mason university in virginia. He's worked in the amazon. Since nineteen sixty five focusing on scientific research conservation and policy whitening strikes. Don't start fires. In the amazon people start fires and to give you a sense once. Somebody is cut down some forest. They have to wait for five days without a drop of rain before it is dry enough to set fire to get rid of all the stuff that's between the firebrand and turning it into some kind of agricultural project. Nine countries share the amazon but roughly sixty percent of it is within brazil's borders which means they have a lot of control over its fate and today across this vast territory. Small groups of people are intentionally setting fires in order to dry out the land for logging and to clear it for agriculture way of clearing land for whatever activity you want to do is very damaging to the soil. So what happens is that if later you want to reforest that particular patch of land it becomes very hard to do because the soil changes as soon as you clear it out because it's now sustaining a different kind of environment which is not rainforest like and then you can't really grow a rainforest back in that sort of setting. This is monica to bowl. A senior fellow at the peterson institute for international economics and a professor at the school of advanced international studies at johns hopkins university. People refer to amazon a lot as the lungs of the world. But that's not really what the ham was on is what the amazon does is that it keeps a lot of greenhouse gases from getting into the atmosphere. So it's not bad. The forest breathes for the world. It's that once. The forest is standing all of those greenhouse gases which are in the soil there kept. They're they're not released into the atmosphere and as soon as you start cutting down the forest. Those greenhouse gases start to go into the atmosphere started to be released. It's sort of like a climate bomb. And as soon as you start cutting down the rain forest. Bob bob is released. So how big is that. Carbon bomb really big. Scientists estimate that the amazon stores sixty to eighty billion tons of carbon or roughly twice the total amount released from fossil fuels in twenty eighteen worldwide. Losing the amazon would accelerate warming with harmful impacts felt around the world. The other issue is these hydrological patterns so when we say that we're referring to the rain cycles and it's not just local. Because given the size of the amazon again it creates a micro micro-climate but a sort of macro climate within the whole of the south american region even affecting a bit of central america as well given that the amazon is so far north. And so what happens. Is that the rain cycle patterns as you cut down the forest. They change and sometimes they change really dramatically to the point where you destroy people's lives because they can no longer grow the crops that they used to grow because the rain cycles are completely different. That has already happened. In many parts of south america that have felt this direct impact and this is only going to get worse if deforestation continues. Hydrology is the study of the movement and distribution of water because the amazon is so large and so wet. It's hydrology has a huge effect. It supplies water to almost every country. In south america and in fact according to nasa deforestation has already been linked to reduce rainfall in the region and then on top of all that you have the issue of amazon tipping point. So you get to a point. Where if you go beyond that point in terms of deforestation. The rainforest is no longer self sustaining. It's going to turn into savannah. Simply because of the ecological dynamics of how rainforests behave and there's a lot of concern that where the amazon is right now is dangerously close to this tipping point

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