The Amazon Rainforest's Devastation Could Speed Up Climate Change Even More

The Amazon Rainforest's Devastation Could Speed Up Climate Change Even More

By: Oliver G. Alvar -

With the Amazon's destruction, we could be entering an environmental vicious circle that will eventually doom us all, according to several studies. But not all is lost. Here's what you can do about it.

The Amazon rainforest has been burning continuously for over three weeks at this point, with nearly 73,000 fires reported just this year—destroying millions upon millions of plant lives on which the entire planet relies to survive. This is terrible news for the entire human civilization. It's not a coincidence that the Amazon rainforest has been named "the lungs of the world," as it produces over 20% of the planet's oxygen in a process that just so happens to also absorb greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, more specifically CO2.

amazon rainforest devastation accelerates climate change

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It's a vicious circle

The high concentrations of CO2 in our atmosphere are the driving force behind climate change, as this particular gas retains heat entering to or produced in our planet, leading to increasingly rising temperatures. The more CO2 there is out there, the worse off we'll all be, breaking natural cycles and making many places on earth uninhabitable. Which is why rainforests as big as the Amazon are key to sustaining life as we know it. 

But now, that whole cycle is being threatened—and it gets worse. If the Amazon rainforest gets destroyed any further, it will not only stop helping us get oxygen and absorbing CO2—it will release 140 billion tons of carbon dioxide that have been naturally stored in the rainforest until now, making the climate crisis even worse. 

We're at the point where we're entering a vicious cycle. Humans destroy the rainforest landscape, which in turn can cause a chain reaction that ends up drying the remaining regions of the Amazon even further, making it easier for them to catch on fire, which will lead to more destruction, which leads to more dryness, and so on. Losing just 20% of Brazil's rainforest could set this vicious cycle off, according to three different British universities.

amazon rainforest devastation accelerates climate change

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An international emergency

This would, of course, be a catastrophe for all humankind. This is not just Brazil. This is not just South America. This affects the entire world. Unfortunately, Brazil's current far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, not only does not care—but keeps implementing policies to accelerate the destruction of the rainforest in order to get more ground for industrial activities. Bolsonaro has gone so far as to mock the situation, saying that "I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame."

If things keep going as they are, the Amazon could soon become a barren savannah, which would end up producing unsustainable amounts of CO2—killing millions of species in the process. This would put even more strain on the trees and plants left around the globe, as increasing temperatures would make it more difficult for them to absorb CO2. A 2000 study found that this could happen as soon as 2050, and subsequent studies consider that estimate too optimistic.

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