Amazon - Brazil, 2011.©Neil Palmer/CIAT

Normally, the Amazon rainforest soaks up carbon dioxide, helping offset human carbon emissions and cool the planet. However, worsening effects of global climate change brought two severe droughts in the past 5 years causing mass tree death and decay in the Amazon. This decay is now emitting dangerous levels of CO2 into an atmosphere that is already overloaded with it.

Frequency of Droughts Shocks Scientists

There are certain extremely severe drought periods that scientists understand to happen only once every 100 years. In 2005, a large area of the Amazon experienced one of these droughts. Let’s do a little math, when would you expect the next to occur?

If you said the year 2105, I wouldn’t fault you for that, and neither would the scientists. However, one important factor in this equation remains missing. If you add the effects of climate change to this process the next once-in-a-100-year drought may arrive in just five years. This is exactly what happened in 2010 when a second of these intense dry spells suffocated this region once more.

These events spurred scientists from the University of Leeds to take a closer look at this alarming trend. What they discovered was yet another variable in this shocking series of events that would increase the unprecedented drought rate even more.

A Dying Forest, A Dying Planet

Apart from its rich biodiversity, the Amazon rainforest plays a crucial role in helping manage the carbon emission output into the atmosphere. Like a sponge, the vast number of trees absorb huge amounts of carbon every year, which helps cool the planet.

Of course, when trees die and start to rot away they release carbon. This is usually not a problem since trees don’t often die in such large numbers. However, when two severe droughts hit in a span of five years the carbon consequences are disastrous.

The University researchers discovered that as a result of the droughts, the Amazon rainforest, which usually absorbs 1.5 billion metric tons of CO2 every year, will actually emit 5 billion metric tons of C02 in the coming years. This is about the same amount emitted from human sources in the U.S. every year.

So instead of a forest of carbon sponges standing tall, the Amazon becomes increasingly strewn with swathes of fallen trees pumping more carbon into the air. With less trees to absorb this carbon, we have an even warmer planet, then more droughts, less trees, more carbon, and the dangerous cycle continues.

What’s More Important, Trees or Oil?

With the effect of such deforestation in fatally clear perspective, it seems a no-brainer that local governments must be doing all they can to prevent the loss of more rainforest. And yet, right now the Ecuadorian government is doing exactly the opposite.

Ecuador is trying to auction off vast areas of the Amazon to interested oil industry executives, leaving nearly 8 million acres of pristine rainforest, and the thousands of indigenous peoples within them, at the whims of destructive oil exploration processes.

In other words, parts of the Amazon rainforest will be destroyed and indigenous peoples displaced in order to exploit a resource that worsens carbon emissions, exacerbates climate change, and ultimately perpetuates a vicious feedback loop of environmental destruction. This is one equation that simply does not add up.

Taking Action For A Planet In Need

Our end of the year campaign here at The Pachamama Alliance focuses on preventing Ecuador from continuing this short-sighted pursuit of economic gain at the expense of the environment and innocent people.

Brave indigenous families are leading passionate and vocal protests against these plans that will destroy their homes, the forest, and have grave repercussions for the entire planet. They are not standing by letting this happen, and nor should you.

Please consider making a donation, no matter how large nor small, to aid our highly impactful campaign in support of these warriors and the health of the world they share with you.

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