Shocking Discovery Reveals the Amazon Rainforest Is Now a Major Carbon Emitter

Feature Image Credit: BBC / REUTERS
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Brazil plunges the planet deeper into the catastrophic jaws of climate change due to its massive deforestation of the Amazon basin.

With climate change being a major cause of concern for many countries, it comes as a great tragedy that scientists have now discovered that the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has released almost 20 percent more carbon dioxide gas (CO2) than it has absorbed over the past decade. This shocking new piece of evidence shows that one of the planet’s most important green lungs has, thanks to relentless human encroachment and destruction, shifted from being a carbon sink to being a net carbon emitter.

Image Credit: Daily Sabah

Results of the research indicate that significant deforestation in the South American continent – especially Brazil’s Amazon basin – have led to the production of approximately 16.6 billion tons of CO2 over the past decade, while it absorbed only 13.9 billion tons.


Published in the Nature Climate Change journal, the research looked at the volume of CO2 absorbed by forest, and then compared it against the amount of CO2 released back into the atmosphere after parts of the forest were eradicated, either through burning or clear-cutting/deforestation.

Image Credit: The Guardian

Just before the pandemic hit, the destruction of the Amazon reached its peak in 2019 when 9.6 million acres of jungle habitat were lost in that year alone. It won’t be lost on many that it was the same year that Jair Bolsonaro took office as Brazil’s president, then proceeded to end the enforcement of many crucial environmental protection policies.

Brazil's Bolsonaro says United States will soon send vaccines to Brazil |  The Star
President Jair Bolsonaro | Image Credit: REUTERS / Adriano Machado

Scientists have also discovered new methods of analysing satellite data that reveal differences between CO2 emissions from degraded forests and outright deforestation. Interestingly, the research shows how degraded forests that suffer from selective cutting, and fires that burn but don’t completely destroy trees, actually release three times as much emissions, compared to forests that have been completely eliminated.

“We half-expected it, but it is the first time that we have figures showing that the Brazilian Amazon has flipped, and is now a net emitter,” said Jean-Pierre Wigneron – a scientist from the National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA), France, and a co-author of the study.

“We don’t know at what point the changeover could become irreversible.”


Science Alert wrote that terrestrial ecosystems worldwide have been a crucial ally as the world struggles to curb CO2 emissions, which topped 40 billion tons in 2019.

Over the last 50 years, plants and soils have consistently absorbed about 30 percent of those emissions, even as they increased by 50 percent within the same period. Earth’s oceans operate as a buffer too, soaking up more than 20 percent of emissions. But increasingly, the world’s natural defenses are unable to keep pace with the sheer magnitude of emissions that human beings are producing.

Image Credit: NPR

The Amazon basin alone, which contains about half of the world’s tropical rainforests, was among the planet’s most effective defense against emissions. About 60 percent of the rainforest is contained within Brazil, while the rest is spread across other South American countries.


Wigneron added, “In other countries with Amazon rainforest, deforestation is on the rise, too, and drought has become more intense.”

With the Amazon now becoming a major emitter of CO2, efforts to tackle climate change will be much harder. Unfortunately, despite these grave warnings, we’re still witnessing wide-scale deforestation around the world being carried out the name of capitalism and industry.

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