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Fires intensified by global warming may destroy 16% of the Amazon


In a recent study led by the University of California and the Environmental Research Institute of the Amazon (Ipam), a group of scientists pointed out that in the face of worsening global warming, forest fires could suppress up to 16% of the southern Amazon by 2050, releasing up to 17 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.


If the Amazon obtained, in August last year, the highest number of fires since 2010, even with a relatively humid season. At this juncture, the forest, which today acts as a kind of carbon store, may become a major emitter of the main gas responsible for global warming, which in turn may intensify the destruction of the forest, in a process of feedback.


The research, carried out by scientists in Brazil and the United States, considered mathematical modelling to estimate how the increase in temperatures and drought, caused by climate change, can make vegetation fires in the southern portion of the Amazon more prone and how all this can be related to deforestation. The work indicates that forest fires should continue to intensify in southeastern Amazonia in scenarios of climate change, even if there are no new deforestations. Compared with data from the 2000s, simulated fire for the next decades would burn larger areas, releasing more energy and emitting more CO2 into the atmosphere.


It is estimated that the area of forest at risk of drought will double by 2050 compared to the years 2010. If more deforestation is added in these conditions, this whole picture will worsen. The area burned would reach 22.3 million hectares, with gross emissions of 17 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Brazil today, as a whole, emits about 1.9 billion tons of CO2 per year.


Throughout last year, the Amazon biome had 89,178 outbreaks of fires, 30% higher than in 2018, which registered 68,345 outbreaks. The hottest month was August, with about 1/3 of the fires of the year - at the time 30,901 outbreaks were recorded, the highest volume of fire since 2010 and three times that of August 2018.

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