The Amazon rainforest is producing more carbon dioxide than it absorbs, recent research has shown.
According to a study, the forest has been emitting more than a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
This means it is now causing faster climate change, whereas before it was tackling it by absorbing emissions, The Guardian has reported.
Fires for production are ‘biggest cause’
Fires set intentionally to make space for the production of beef and soy are the biggest cause of emissions. But higher temperatures and droughts also contribute to the disastrous shift in the role of the rainforest, and deforestation only makes heatwaves worse.
The CO2 levels were measured from up to 4,500m above the forest over the last decade, and showed how the rainforest has been changing.
Luciana Gatti, who led the research at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, said there needs to be an international agreement to save the rainforest, because exports of beef, soy and timber from Brazil are fuelling the problem.
‘From source to sink’
The research was published in the Nature journal and suggested the 1 billion tonnes of CO2 is equivalent to Japan’s yearly emissions – the country being the world’s fifth worst polluter.
Prof Scott Denning, at Colorado State University, said: “In the south-east, the forest is no longer growing faster than it’s dying.
“This is bad – having the most productive carbon absorber on the planet switch from a source to a sink means we have to eliminate fossil fuels faster than we thought.”
Denning said there are two studies which used different methods but both concluded there is a serious carbon dioxide problem in the Amazon, as the forest does not absorb as many emissions as it used to.
Accelerated climate change
Gatti said: “Imagine if we could prohibit fires in the Amazon – it could be a carbon sink.
“But we are doing the opposite – we are accelerating climate change.”
She added: “The worst part is we don’t use science to make decisions,”
“People think that converting more land to agriculture will mean more productivity, but in fact we lose productivity because of the negative impact on rain.”
Mexico’s fire caused by fossil fuels
Earlier this month, a huge fire came out of the ocean to the west of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
A gas leak from an underwater pipeline was identified as the cause of the “eye of fire”.
Writing on Twitter, Greta Thunberg called out world leaders for their ongoing reliance on fossil fuels, saying: “Meanwhile the people in power call themselves “climate leaders” as they open up new oilfields, pipelines and coal power plants – granting new oil licenses exploring future oil drilling sites.
“This is the world they are leaving for us.”
And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat congresswoman, said: “Shout out to all the legislators going out on dinner dates with Exxon lobbyists so they can say a Green New Deal is too expensive.”