Some rainforests are now giving off more CO2 than they absorb

The following post is based on a recently published essay by Fred Pearce in Yale-360. The main idea of this post is that some rainforests are now giving off more CO2 than they absorb and this is extremely discouraging to many climate scientists.

Pearce says that “New research indicates that parts of the Amazon and other tropical forests are now emitting more CO2 than they absorb.” Some scientists are very concerned that this could put the goals set by the Paris Agreement completely out of reach. They think it makes the goals of the Paris Agreement impossible to reach. “Scientists are extremely concerned that the Amazon is now giving off more CO2 than it absorbs.” This is a real game changer for them. This changes everything for them.

Pearce says that “It is not often you meet a scientist breathless with excitement about their new findings. But it happened to me last September at the National Institute for Space Research in the Brazilian research city of Sao Jose dos Campos. Atmospheric chemist Luciana Gatti was rushing to tell her colleagues the result of her latest analysis of carbon dioxide emissions from the Amazon rainforest, which she had completed that morning.”

Many dead trees are visible in the canopy of the Amazon rainforest, 60 miles southwest of Macapa, Brazil. DANIEL BELTRÁ : GREENPEACE
Many dead trees are visible in the canopy of the Amazon rainforest, 60 miles southwest of Macapa, Brazil. DANIEL BELTRÁ : GREENPEACE

“For a decade, her team had been sampling the air from sensors on aircraft flying over the world’s largest rainforest. Their results showed that, perhaps for the first time in thousands of years, a large part of the Amazon had switched from absorbing CO2 from the air and damping down global warming, to actually being a “source” of the greenhouse gas and thus speeding up warming.”

““We have hit a tipping point,” Gatti almost shouted, caught between elation at her discovery and anguish at the consequences.”

“As she spoke, fires were burning across the Amazon, making headlines around the globe. But her findings were not the short-term result of these fires.” They were based on much longer term measurements. She had previously observed the same thing briefly during drought years. But now it no longer mattered if it was a wet or a dry year, or how many fires there were. Now the rainforest had actually become a source or CO2. The rainforest was no longer something that absorbs CO2 as we had always thought. “Each year it gets worse,” she said. “We have to stop deforestation while we work out what to do.””

Gatti asked Pearce to temporarily keep silent for the time being, while she prepared her data for publication. When Pearce contacted her again, this month, her paper was still being finalized but she said that now Pearce could go ahead and tell the story.

And this new story about the Amazon Rain Forest vividly illustrates the growing dismay among many climate scientists, who are seeing more and more ecosystems around the world going the way of the Amazon.

And this is a very, very bad sign for the future. The fact that some rainforests are now giving off more CO2 than they absorb means that hopes of slowing global warming are now much less optimistic than they once were.

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This post comes from an article by Fred Pearce titled “Why ‘Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks’ Could Drive Temperatures Even Higher” published in Yale-360 on April 28, 2020

The above excerpt is just a small part of this article. Here is a link to the entire article.

Here is a post about another of Fred Pearce’s very scary articles. Fred Pearce is pretty much my favorite science writer. His articles are always very accurate and very prescient.

The deforestation of the Amazon’s rain forest, which we have know about for many years, is one of the most frightening aspects of the situation we now find ourselves in. But the fact that the Amazon is now giving off more CO2 than it absorbs, is more than frightening. I’m not even sure if even terrifying is a strong enough right word. This fact mans that now we no longer have much hope of stopping or even slowing down the disintegration of our environment.

Below are a few images of a more intact part of the natural world. However, some of these images were taken 10 or 20 years ago and I’m beginning to wonder what these spots look like now. I’m thinking I need to go back and look at these spots again and rephotograph them. I’m afraid some of them might look much different.

Blacktail ponds, The Tetons with yellow Arrowroot.  Some rainforests are now giving off more CO2 than they absorb.  This is definitely very bad news for places like this.
Blacktail ponds, The Tetons with yellow Arrowroot.
Grasses, bluebells and Creek in the Tetons.  Some rainforests are now giving off more CO2 than they absorb.  This is definitely very bad news for places like this.
Grasses, bluebells and Creek in the Tetons
Baxter State Park in the north woods of Maine.  Some rainforests are now giving off more CO2 than they absorb.  This is definitely very bad news for places like this.
Baxter State Park in the north woods of Maine. The Amazon is now giving off more CO2 than it absorbs. This is definitely very bad news for places like this.
Cattails on a large lake in the north woods of Maine.  Some rainforests are now giving off more CO2 than they absorb.  This is definitely very bad news for places like this.
Cattails on a large lake in the north woods of Maine.

Post Summary: The Amazon is now giving off more CO2 than it absorbs. This means that the hopes of slowing or eliminating global warming are far less than we thought.

Post summary: Some rainforests are now giving off more CO2 than they absorb. This means that hopes of slowing global warming are now much less optimistic than they once were.

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