Scientists Call This a 'Moment of Destiny' on the Amazon

Deforestation threatens to worsen the effects of climate change, they say
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2019 3:41 PM CST
Scientists Call This a 'Moment of Destiny' on the Amazon
A cut tree stands in a burned area in Prainha, Brazil, last month.   (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Two scientists have assessed the present and future of the Amazon and raised the alarm about the future of the rainforest—and the Earth's climate. Waiting to act could be disastrous, said the scientists, one American and one Brazilian. "Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny: The tipping point is here, it is now," they wrote in an editorial in the journal Science Advances. Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University and Carlos Nobre of the University of Sao Paulo are worried about the effects of wildfires, rising temperatures, and the clearing of land for cattle ranching and crops, the Washington Post reports. That combination has lengthened dry seasons and killed water-sensitive vegetation, making conditions favorable for fires, they wrote.

The pace of deforestation has surpassed expectations, like the melting of the ice sheet in Greenland and other changes. "We cannot really capture them well in our models," a German analyst said, per the Post. Last month, Brazil reported Amazon deforestation is at an 11-year high. Parts of the rainforest are on their way to becoming a savanna, the scientists wrote. Rainfall patterns in much of South America could change, and several hundred billion tons of carbon dioxide could be released into the atmosphere. That could worsen the effects of climate change. And it would be difficult to undo. "The precious Amazon is teetering on the edge of functional destruction and, with it, so are we," Lovejoy and Nobre warned. (The Amazon fires this year were catastrophic.)

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