Amazon Rainforest Now Emits More CO2 Than it Absorbs

According to a recent study, regions of one of the world's biggest carbon sinks, the Amazon rainforest, have officially become sources of carbon because of human intervention. It is emitting an estimated billion tons of CO2 a year, mainly due to fires and deforestation. 

Fires, many of them set to clear the forest for agriculture, release CO2 into the atmosphere that was previously stored in trees. Trees generate a large amount of rain in the forest, so deforestation can lead to drought and heatwaves in the environment, which in turn increase tree mortality and fires.

The study, published in the journal Nature, used small planes to measure CO2 levels above four locations in the forest from 2010 to 2018. The data revealed that fires produced approximately 1.5 billion tons of CO2 a year, but new forest growth only removed 0.5 billion tons. This left 1 billion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is equivalent to the annual carbon emissions produced by Japan, the world's fifth largest polluter.

A separate study that used satellite data reported that the Amazon rainforest released 20% more CO2 than it absorbed over the past decade. Scientists are pushing for the elimination of fossil fuels as one of the world’s biggest carbon sinks turns into a source.