2079 – The Amazon Burns to the Ground

Increased global temperatures are likely to destroy some 85% of the Amazon Rainforest. Not only will this cause a huge loss of wildlife, but it will also release a massive amount of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.1

The world is left reeling as aerial footage is released of the Amazon Rainforest burning.2 More than 300 million hectares of forest have already been destroyed, sending over 20,000 species into extinction.3 This includes 210 species of mammals, 190 species of reptiles, 200 species of amphibians and at least 700 species of birds.4 As a result of the fires, gigantic plumes of searing smoke have engulfed the surrounding countries of Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Eastern Peru and Bolivia.5 Over 200 million people have been affected with some two million cases of respiratory tract infections already reported.6 Climatologists explain the soaring temperatures and massively reduced rainfall have left the Amazonian forest exceptionally dry.7 Unfortunately though, unlike the trees found in Australia and Africa, the trees in the Amazon are have not been exposed to forest fires and have therefore developed only limited resistance.8 When this is combined with further temperature rises, scientists state they have little hope that any of the Amazon Rainforest will be with us for much longer.9 Tragically, the full impact of the Amazon's destruction will not be felt for a number of years. Scientists state that this will happen once the massive amounts of carbon dioxide released in the fires have settled into the atmosphere.10 Countries around the world have begun to prepare for the worst with scientists confirming the casualties from climate change will now enter the billions.

Image Source

Image created by SUPER RADICAL LTD. Amazon underlay taken by top10top and reproduced under license from Adobe Stock. Fire overlay taken by norinori303 and reproduced under license from Adobe Stock. Burnt land overlay taken by Vladimir Melnikov and reproduced under license from Adobe Stock.

Article Endnotes

  1. Based on projections from The Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Science and Services. Sourced from Adam, David – 'Amazon Could Shrink by 85% Due to Climate Change, Scientists Say' – www.theguardian.com.
  2. Based on projections that a 4°C rise in average global temperatures above pre-industrial levels would destroy some 85% of the Amazon and average global temperatures likely rising by 3.7°C above pre-industrial levels come 2080 if human-made greenhouse gas emissions increase at the current rate until 2060 and stop by 2070. Projection assumes human-made emissions result in the terrestrial biosphere and thawing permafrost soil releasing a further 351 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere by 2100. Destruction to the Amazon based on projections from the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Science and Services Sourced from Adam, David – 'Amazon Could Shrink by 85% Due to Climate Change, Scientists Say' – www.theguardian.com. Projected temperature rise based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – 'Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report' – Pages 10 to 11. Terrestrial biosphere emissions sourced from Cox et al. – 'Acceleration of Global Warming Due to Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks in a Coupled Climate Model' – Pages 184 to 187. Thawing permafrost emissions based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from MacDougall et al. – 'Significant Contribution to Climate Warming from the Permafrost Carbon Feedback' – Pages 719 to 721.
  3. Area a loose estimate based on the Amazon covering an area of 600 million hectares, some 85% of the Amazon likely being destroyed if average global temperatures rise of 4°C above pre-industrial levels and average global temperatures likely rising by 3.7°C above pre-industrial levels come 2080 if human-made greenhouse gas emissions increase at the current rate until 2060 and stop by 2070. Projection assumes human-made emissions result in the terrestrial biosphere and thawing permafrost soil releasing a further 351 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere by 2100. Area covered by the Amazon sourced from Encyclopaedia Britannica – 'Amazon Rainforest' – www.britannica.com. Losses to the Amazon based on projections from The Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Science and Services and sourced from Adam, David – 'Amazon Could Shrink by 85% Due to Climate Change, Scientists Say' – www.theguardian.com. Projected temperature rise based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – 'Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report' – Pages 10 to 11. Terrestrial biosphere emissions sourced from Cox et al. – 'Acceleration of Global Warming Due to Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks in a Coupled Climate Model' – Pages 184 to 187. Thawing permafrost emissions based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from MacDougall et al. – 'Significant Contribution to Climate Warming from the Permafrost Carbon Feedback' – Pages 719 to 721. Number of species affected a loose estimate based on there being around 45,500 species in the Amazon and 50% of those species becoming extinct as a result of partial destruction of the Amazon. Number of species within the Amazon sourced from Da Silva et al. – 'The Fate of the Amazonian Areas of Endemism' – Pages 689 to 694. It should be noted, the number of species stated does not include numerous smaller life forms that inhabit the Amazon. Incredibly, some 100,000 invertebrate species have been documented in Brazil alone. Number of invertebrate species documented in Brazil sourced from Lewinsohn, Thomas, and Prado, Paulo Inacio – 'How Many Species Are There in Brazil?' – Page 622.
  4. Loose estimate based on there being 427 types of mammals, 378 types of reptiles, 400 types of amphibians and at least 1,300 types of birds in the Amazon in addition to 50% of these species becoming extinct as a result of the partial destruction of the Amazon. Number of species sourced pages 689 to 694 of Da Silva et al. – 'The Fate of the Amazonian Areas of Endemism' – Pages 689 to 694.
  5. Based on the smoke from the 1997 to 1998 forest fires that occurred in Indonesia covering both much of country and its neighbouring countries despite the fact the fires only affected an area no greater than two million hectares. Sourced from Byron, Neil and Shepherd, Gill – 'Indonesia and the 1997-98 El Nino: Fire Problems and Long-Term Solutions' – Page 2.
  6. Loose estimate based on 500,000 people reporting respiratory tract infection as a result of the 2015 forest fires experienced by Indonesia, 43 million people being affected as a result of the 2015 forest fires experienced by Indonesia, the population of Indonesia being 322 million, the combined population of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French guinea, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela being 416 million, the 2015 forest fires experienced by Indonesia covering an area of around 2.1 million hectares and the forest fires in Amazon likely covering an area of around 5.1 million hectares each year. Respiratory tract infections and number of people affected sourced from Lamb, Kate – 'Indonesia's Fires Labelled a 'Crime Against Humanity' as 500,000 Suffer' – www.theguardian.com. Population data sourced from United Nations – 'World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables' – Pages 18 to 22. Area damaged by the 2015 forest fires experienced by Indonesia sourced from Jatmiko, Andi, and Karmini, Niniek – 'Vast Forest Fires in Indonesia Spawn Ecological Disaster' – phys.org. Estimated annual damage to the Amazon as a result of forest fires calculated based on there being 600 million hectares of forest and 85% of that forest likely being lost over a period of 100 years. Area covered by the Amazon sourced from Encyclopaedia Britannica – 'Amazon Rainforest' – www.britannica.com. Losses to the Amazon based on projections from The Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Science and Services and sourced from Adam, David – 'Amazon Could Shrink by 85% Due to Climate Change, Scientists Say' – www.theguardian.com.
  7. Based on projected changes to the climate within the Amazon by The Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Science and Services if average global temperatures rise by 4°C above pre-industrial levels and average global temperatures likely rising by 3.7°C above pre-industrial levels come 2080 if human-made greenhouse gas emissions increase at the current rate until 2060 and stop by 2070. Projection assumes human-made emissions result in the terrestrial biosphere and thawing permafrost soil releasing a further 351 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere by 2100. Losses to the Amazon sourced from Adam, David – 'Amazon Could Shrink by 85% Due to Climate Change, Scientists Say' – www.theguardian.com. Projected temperature rise based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – 'Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report' – Pages 10 to 11. Terrestrial biosphere emissions sourced from Cox et al. – 'Acceleration of Global Warming Due to Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks in a Coupled Climate Model' – Pages 184 to 187. Thawing permafrost emissions based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from MacDougall et al. – 'Significant Contribution to Climate Warming from the Permafrost Carbon Feedback' – Pages 719 to 721.
  8. Based on an examination of bark tissues and simulated fires within the Amazon revealing that only a small percentage of the standing vegetation would likely survive even a low-intensity surface fire. Sourced from Uhl, Christopher and Boone Kauffman, J. – 'Deforestation, Fire Susceptibility, and Potential Tree Responses to Fire in the Eastern Amazon' – Pages 437 to 449.
  9. Based on projections from The Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Science and Services that a 4°C rise in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels would likely destroy 85% of the Amazon and average global temperatures likely rising 4°C above pre-industrial levels come 2100 if human-made greenhouse gas emissions increase at the current rate until 2060 and stop by 2070. Projection assumes human-made emissions result in the terrestrial biosphere and thawing permafrost soil releasing a further 351 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere by 2100. Losses to the Amazon sourced from Adam, David – 'Amazon Could Shrink by 85% Due to Climate Change, Scientists Say' – www.theguardian.com. Projected temperature rise based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – 'Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report' – Page 22. Terrestrial biosphere emissions sourced from Cox et al. – 'Acceleration of Global Warming Due to Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks in a Coupled Climate Model' – Pages 184 to 187. Thawing permafrost emissions based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from MacDougall et al. – 'Significant Contribution to Climate Warming from the Permafrost Carbon Feedback' – Pages 719 to 721.
  10. Based on an estimated 377 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere as a result of the destruction of the Amazon. Figure based on an estimated 171 tonnes of carbon being stored in each hectare of forest land, the Amazon having over 600 million hectares of forestland and the weight of carbon dioxide relative to carbon being 3.67. Amount of carbon released per hectare based on typical carbon quantities contained within the above-ground living biomass of a tropical wet forest. Data sourced from Keith et al. – 'Re-evaluation of Forest Biomass Carbon Stocks and Lessons from the World's Most Carbon-dense Forests' – Pages 11,635 to 11,640. Extent of Amazon Rainforest sourced from Encyclopaedia Britannica – 'Amazon Rainforest' – www.britannica.com. Weight relationship between carbon and carbon dioxide sourced from Romm, Joseph – 'The Biggest Source of Mistakes: Carbon vs Carbon Dioxide, A Factor of 3.67 Makes a Big Difference When Discussing Climate' – grist.org. Please note, we have been unable to source the proportion of carbon stored in the above-ground forest that is released into the atmosphere due to a forest fire. As a result, the projected carbon releases into the atmosphere may have been overestimated. Please also note, we have been unable to establish how much below-ground carbon is released into the atmosphere due to a forest fire. As a result, we have discounted all below-ground carbon from our calculations. This means the projected carbon releases into the atmosphere may also have been underestimated.

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5 Comments

  1. David
    19 Nov 2019 @ 7:30 PM

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    19 Nov 2019 @ 7:31 PM

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    19 Nov 2019 @ 7:32 PM

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    • Anonymous
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      23 Nov 2019 @ 4:32 PM

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