Amazon at Climate Caused Desert Tipping Point

Amazon burningNew research by the highly respected Woods Hole Research Centre reported upon in the UK's Independent has concluded that the vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of becoming a desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate. They predict the Amazon rainforest (search) cannot withstand more than two consecutive years of drought without “mega-fires” sweeping across the drying jungle, destroying healthy rainforest ecosystems, and resultant denuded soil baking in the sun ultimately becoming a desert. The Amazon is now entering its second successive year of climate change intensified drought, making it likely that widespread forest die-back will start soon. The Amazon rainforests contain 90 billion tons of carbon, enough to increase the rate of global warming by 50 percent.

Long predicted climate change impacts such as intensified hurricanes, heatwaves and extreme droughts are already evident. This scenario of climate change destroying already human-diminished Amazonian ecosystems is a long feared positive feedback nightmare that would cause even further warming and drought. This positive feedback along with others such as melting permafrost and release of ocean methane may dramatically intensify climate changes leading to abrupt, run-away atmospheric collapse that makes much of the Earth uninhabitable and destroys civilization as we know it.

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16 Responses

  1. Kate says:

    I saw on BBC T.V last week about the Amazon jungles – shocking!
    The reporter climbed a makeshift tower to give us an ariel view of the deforestion. Sad people carrying their own water, a lot of people have already left the jungle due to no rain.
    Can you, any of you imagine a rain forest with no rain? becuase thats what is happening right under your nose and we need to do something about that – NOW!
    I never realised till now just how important the rain forests are to our lives.
    The Amazon Rainforest has been described as the “Lungs of our Planet” because it provides the essential environmental world service of continuously recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. More than 20 percent of the world oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest.
    More than half of the world's estimated 10 million species of plants, animals and insects live in the tropical rainforests. One-fifth of the world's fresh water is in the Amazon Basin.
    Absolutly amazing!

  2. John B Davies says:

    This looks very serious. However it does need to be reassessed at the end of the dry season in September.
    John B Davies Islington Friends of the Earth

  3. Kate says:

    Hello John,
    Are you talking about when the rain finally comes to the Amazon in september, or:
    When the burning season strikes, life and health in the Amazon falter, and color drains out of the riotous green landscape as great swaths of majestic trees, creeping vines, delicate bromeliads and hardy ferns are reduced to blackened stubble.
    Seems the Amazon has more than the lack of rain to worry about, just as Malaysia does with the illegal loggers reducing deforestation even worse.
    Read what Yayasan Sabah Foundation intend to do:
    Biodiversity gift to the world may be plundered Two Sabah forest reserves, to be bequeathed as Malaysia’s biodiversity gift to the world by the end of 2007, are set to be logged in a month or two

  4. Daniel says:

    What are the politcians going to do about the crisis?
    Bush: praying and “we will do nothing tht would hurt our burger economy”
    Blair: babbling
    Merkel (germany): “free trade is essential for our economy”
    Chirac: nothing that could harm French farmers
    Prodi (Italy): does he even know the amazon?
    Putin: “Is there oil?”
    Lula (Brazil): ???
    We should better say good bye to this great wilderness formerly known as amazon rainforest!

  5. Marc Sommer says:

    Very appalling 'news' that concerns us all.
    I makes one feel very sad.
    I angers one very much.
    But what can we do against all the ignorant , dormant greedy masses????
    I think dictatorship by biologists is a must.
    Please biologists, doctors of the earth , stand up and take over the power.Let ecological and not econmical powers prevail.

  6. John Monro says:

    Certainly a highly worrying scenario. Yet this alarming news is predicated only on one rather small item of research. It seems to me likely that the Amazon has previously faced droughts in the millennia of its existence, and survived. What we can't know of course is how it might respond in this new situation of global warming, deforestation and other interference by man. However the unprecidented dryness does seem to be more than just coincidental to global warming. If we are going to know the truth or not of Dr Nepstead's predictions within the next couple of years, then one, there's not much we can do about it, two, we should hope for the best and three, get a move on with ameliorating the problem.
    Global warming is the most serious issue facing mankind, if the Amazon were to go up in flames, it would make even the sceptics take note, but then I would be truly frightened, and begin to think that James Lovelock is right. In which case, get your kayak out and paddle north (or south, if you live like me in New Zealand)

  7. zephyr says:

    Re: Post by “Daniel” July 24:
    …..biologists, doctors of the earth…..
    How beautiful.
    I like that very much.
    Thank you.

  8. marta caputo says:

    As a Brazilian citizen, writting from my cottage in South East Brasil, during our winter time, with temperatures of middle summertime, I'll tell you: consumerism society is leading us all to this cathastrofic situation. Many multinationals are devasting the Amazon rainforest, in order to grow cattle there. Including MacDonald's! Others have some obscure business in the region, but many say they are looking for oil…
    While big and “modern” cars are the wish objects of many in the planet, people don't realize the air they breath is vanishing away… with the water the whole planet needs to survive.
    You can consume whatever you want:P from cars, to coca-cola (which confiscated water sources in India, killed workers leaders in Colombia, etc), to ALTRIA products (which donated huge sums of money to elect and reelect G.Bush to the White House… yes… you can consume whatever you want… better to learn how to go shopping without breathing… Fresh air doesn't belong to you anymore…
    More information:

  9. Patrick says:

    An issue we simply cannot ignore any longer.
    We must educate the people that using small steps is the best answer as people easily get overwhelmed.

  10. Glenn D... says:

    We are facing a dire situation,everything that is occuring was predicted year's ago. Check Dr Barrie's earlier post's, it read's like a time machine. He's one hell of a guesser, if you believe that. Yet nay sayer's still exist, scarry !

  11. Azitz says:

    Latest numbers are showing the dramatic loss of 11 km2 (eleven
    square km !!!) of the brazilian Amazon Rainforest – only in 2005.
    There are no oficial numbers in other specific areas like the semi-arid
    “Caatinga”, the “Cerrado” (= Savanah) or the Costal Rainforest (= Mata
    Atlantica). But the fatal invasion by cattle and crop-farming is well known.

  12. makisr says:

    I believe most of you are missing the point here.
    1. global warming. it is happening indeed, 0.6 deg C during the last decade according to EU and the States' env agencies. But who to blame? human activities? or nature itself? Unfortunately there are not bulletproof scenarios yet targeting the one responsible for that.
    2. The amazon issue. Read your story straight. deforestation and higher precipitation cause greater floodings in the area, and change the salinity and temperature of the atlantic. read what happens after a crit point..
    3. Governments do nothing and will do nothing more than 1% of their true potential..the rest 99% will be taken in cash into their graves.. thats who we are. we need money and we want it now. we dont care about the next generations..
    4. im an environmental engineer, (working right now) and im thinking of one thing only..
    What if…????!!!
    what i want to say, its not an issue of global warming due to emissions, or deforestation in the amazon, or not financing env programs, or protecting the antartict ice, etc…
    An example… If all 6 billion people on the planet, did separate their garbadge to paper/plastic/glass/and bio,there would be an about 20% reduction in energy usage, that is electricity>coal>emissions redusction and so on… that is a 0,13 reduction in temp growing.. just how simple is that?
    Its our mentality that has to change when it comes to environment. The new ice age will come. Its a shame that some people cannot see that. if we dont protect it, it will be protect itself 😉

  13. SID JENNINGS says:

    Global warming is a serious threat to mankind and the planet. We need to get serious before we have no time.

  14. Beth says:

    we should have gotten serious years ago. i know its to late to say that but i seriously wonder what made us think we could get away with doing these things and i can't think of how we'll benefit minus a rain forest, or even how they are getting away with it!

  15. Tara says:

    I think people tend to forget that everything living does eventually die wake up people this also includes our mother earth and as each person that would smoke drink eat badly causes you to a shorter life, the same applies to Mother Earth, to prolong her life and ours we need to make it cleaner.I agree with some of the other coments it should have been taken more seriously years ago but as everything people tend to leave things till the last minute or even when its already to late.
    It doesnt take alot to change some of the things we are doing wrong a few cents more to have a cleaner enviroment,and if everyone did it, i think we may be able to turn things around a little.
    Please pull together and lets rebuild Mother Earth make her proud of us,for the beauty she has given to us.

  16. Cassandra Pettigrew says:

    thank you for putting this here now i dont have to look everywhere to get knowledge for my homework i am not steeling this dont worry.

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