The Amazon Rainforest is vital to Climate Change
The Amazon Rainforest, called the 'lungs of the Earth' is the worlds largest carbon sink. The Amazon River Basin (known as "Amazonia") is roughly the size of the forty-eight contiguous United States and includes parts of eight South American countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname. The basin is drained by the Amazon River, the world's largest river.
The Amazon is home to more species of plants and animals than any other ecosystem on the planet. The Amazon also supports large populations of tribal people. Today these people, sometimes called Amerindians, have been impacted by the modern world. While they still use the forest for traditional hunting and gathering, most Amerindians grow crops (like bananas, manioc, and rice), use western goods (like metal pots, pans, and utensils), and make regular trips to towns and cities to bring foods and wares to market.
Nearly 20 percent of the Amazon has been destroyed over the past 40 years. Most forest clearing has been to establish pasture for cattle ranching, but logging, subsistence farming, large-scale (industrial) agriculture, and forest fires also cause deforestation.
"Fires burn the Amazon rainforest to clear the ground for cattle or crop farming in Sao Felix Do Xingu municipality, in Para State, Brazil." by tanko6719, flickr
Slash and burn fires used to clear the rainforest for ranching and farming create massive emissions of Black Carbon, which is second only to CO2 as potent greenhouse gas. This Black Carbon (soot) is carried by wind currents to areas as far away as the Arctic where it lands on ice sheets and glaciers creating a dark cover called the albedo effect (pdf) which is efficient at absorbing sunlight to create more rapid melting of ice sheets and glaciers. Furthermore, Black Carbon is responsible for about 30% of Arctic melting.
According to Greenpeace, around 80% of the area deforested in Brazil is now cattle pasture.... Friends of the Earth Brazil estimate that cattle farming in Brazil has been responsible for 9bn-12bn tonnes of CO² emissions in the past decade, almost equivalent to two years worth from the US.
"Cattle ranching in Amazon largest driver of deforestation by Greenpeace International, on Flickr"
The Amazon rainforest is vitally important to Climate Change in two diametrically opposing ways. First as the world's greatest carbon sink it is vital as a storage for dangerous carbon which if released would bring atmospheric greenhouse gas levels to uncontrollable heights. Secondly, it's destruction is making it one of the major contributors to increased greenhouse gases and to Climate Change.
Destruction of Amazon makes it the fourth largest source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. 80% of Amazon deforestation is due to the livestock industry for grazing land and for space to grow crops for animal feed. More than 70 Million cattle are living in the Amazon right now. The cattle industry in the Amazon is the single largest source of deforestation on the planet.
And now satellite tracking images are showing that deforestation in the Amazon is increasing after revisions to the countries forest code which environmentalists warned could lead to an increase on forest conversion for cattle pasture and farms..
My other diaries on Amazon deforestation are here, here and here