Tropical Rainforests Losing Ability to Absorb Carbon, That’s a Blow to Trump’s “1 Trillion Trees”

According to a new study published in the journal Nature, tropical forests are losing their ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the air and serve as “carbon sinks.” As The Guardian explained,

The Amazon could turn into a source of carbon in the atmosphere, instead of one of the biggest absorbers of the gas, as soon as the next decade, owing to the damage caused by loggers and farming interests and the impacts of the climate crisis, new research has found.

  • If that happens, climate breakdown is likely to become much more severe in its impacts, and the world will have to cut down much faster on carbon-producing activities to counteract the loss of the carbon sinks.

What’s Happening: Scientists have observed for a while that tropical rainforests have been storing less carbon but this new study highlights the rapid decline of their carbon sequestration capacity.

Rainforests like the Amazon have been viewed by the international community as an important natural tool in fighting climate change, but we’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that forests can only clean up so much of our mess.

As the Guardian went on to explain,

The uptake of carbon from the atmosphere by tropical forests peaked in the 1990s when about 46bn tonnes were removed from the air, equivalent to about 17% of carbon dioxide emissions from human activities. By the last decade, that amount had sunk to about 25bn tonnes or just 6% of global emissions.”

This loss in sequestration is occurring largely due to trees dying. 

Why This Matters: We’re pushing our tropical forests to the brink, as we saw with the devastating Amazon Rainforest fires last year, human activity is an urgent threat to these important and delicate ecosystems. What’s really worth noting here is that governments, like the United States, that are lead by conservative leaders with tendencies to be climate laggards are proposing massive initiatives to plant trees as the basis of their climate strategies. These tree-planting initiatives also come without a significant goal to transition away from fossil fuels or much of the activity that’s contributed to the current state of the climate crisis. This new study shows that trees aren’t going to be effective carbon sinks unless we stop emitting greenhouse gases in the first place. 

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