Amazon Forest Could Cook the Planet


By Stephen Leahy

Dec 7 (IPS) – A two-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures could flip the Amazon forest from being the Earth’s vital air conditioner to a flamethrower that cooks the planet, warns a new report released at the climate talks in Bali, Indonesia Friday.

And we’re already past 0.6 degrees C., climate experts say.

Paradoxically, a two-degree C. rise in global temperatures cannot be prevented without a largely intact Amazon rainforest, says Dan Nepstad, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Centre in the U.S. state of Massachusetts and author of the report “The Amazon’s Vicious Cycles: Drought and Fire in the Greenhouse”, issued by WWF, the global conservation organisation.

“The importance of the Amazon forest for the globe’s climate cannot be underplayed,” said Nepstad at a press conference from Nusa Dua on the island of Bali, the site of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference running until Dec. 14.

The trees of the Amazon contain at least 100 billion tonnes of carbon — 15 years worth of global emissions from all sources, he said. “It’s not only essential for cooling the world’s temperature but also such a large source of freshwater that it may be enough to influence some of the great ocean currents.”

It is in everyone’s interest to keep the Amazon intact, but deforestation continues apace, driven by expanding cattle ranching, soy farming, conversion into sugar cane for biofuel and logging.

This assault is drying out the forest, making it more vulnerable to burning. Rising global temperatures are also increasing evaporation rates, drying the forest further.

“There’s a perfect storm building for massive forest loss in the Amazon,” Nepstad warned.

But the vicious cycle that’s drying out the forest can be broken, said Hans Verolme, director of WWF’s Global Climate Change Programme.

One of the essential steps is for industrialised countries to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases by 33 percent from 1990 levels over the next 12 years, Verolme said from Nusa Dua.

Forests can also be restored and protected from fire and become a source of jobs and income for local people, said Nepstad.

While nearly everyone wants to protect forests, 13 million hectares are lost every year, resulting in at least 25 percent of global carbon emissions. Chopping down forests is like throwing bilge pumps overboard when a ship has sprung a leak.

“Forests are the biggest issue here in Bali,” said Claude Gascon, a vice president of Conservation International.

“We’re hoping there will be official recognition of the value of standing forests as part of the solution to climate change,” Gascon told IPS from Nusa Dua.

The UNFCCC Bali conference, sometimes called Kyoto II or Kyoto Plus, is the beginning of a two-year negotiating process that will lead to a new pact to deepen curbs on greenhouse gases beyond 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol’s current pledges expire. Kyoto did not include existing forests, in part because of objections by international environmental groups and Brazil.

This time around, most expect provisions for “avoided deforestation credits” to be included in any new agreement.

Some environmental groups continue to bitterly oppose rich countries and companies buying avoided deforestation credits from tropical countries in exchange for protecting forests to offset their carbon emissions. The main objection is the obvious inequity of allowing rich countries, which are by far the most responsible for climate change, to continue polluting simply because they have enough money to pay for the privilege.

“Governments are here to stop climate change, not promote carbon commercialisation. They should keep forests out of carbon markets, [and] stop subsidising agrofuels,” said Miguel Lovera, chair of the of the Global Forest Coalition.

For full article see Forests Could Cool or Cook the Planet

Related stories:

Kill Kyoto or Kyoto II Our Only Hope?

Climate Change Experts Warn World

Forests, the Great Green Hope?

17 thoughts on “Amazon Forest Could Cook the Planet

  1. By the way, if you had watched the news tonight, they are now saying the ethonol from corn produces twice the carbond Dixoide that patrolium does.

    So much for Corn Crops, maybe the price of corn will start to drop again.

    The Sun Also Sets
    Climate Change: Not every scientist is part of Al Gore’s mythical “consensus.” Scientists worried about a new ice age seek funding to better observe something bigger than your SUV — the sun.

    Back in 1991, before Al Gore first shouted that the Earth was in the balance, the Danish Meteorological Institute released a study using data that went back centuries that showed that global temperatures closely tracked solar cycles.

    To many, those data were convincing. Now, Canadian scientists are seeking additional funding for more and better “eyes” with which to observe our sun, which has a bigger impact on Earth’s climate than all the tailpipes and smokestacks on our planet combined.

    And they’re worried about global cooling, not warming.

    Kenneth Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada’s National Research Council, is among those looking at the sun for evidence of an increase in sunspot activity.

    Solar activity fluctuates in an 11-year cycle. But so far in this cycle, the sun has been disturbingly quiet. The lack of increased activity could signal the beginning of what is known as a Maunder Minimum, an event which occurs every couple of centuries and can last as long as a century.

    Such an event occurred in the 17th century. The observation of sunspots showed extraordinarily low levels of magnetism on the sun, with little or no 11-year cycle.

    This solar hibernation corresponded with a period of bitter cold that began around 1650 and lasted, with intermittent spikes of warming, until 1715. Frigid winters and cold summers during that period led to massive crop failures, famine and death in Northern Europe.

    Tapping reports no change in the sun’s magnetic field so far this cycle and warns that if the sun remains quiet for another year or two, it may indicate a repeat of that period of drastic cooling of the Earth, bringing massive snowfall and severe weather to the Northern Hemisphere.

    Tapping oversees the operation of a 60-year-old radio telescope that he calls a “stethoscope for the sun.” But he and his colleagues need better equipment.

    In Canada, where radio-telescopic monitoring of the sun has been conducted since the end of World War II, a new instrument, the next-generation solar flux monitor, could measure the sun’s emissions more rapidly and accurately.

    As we have noted many times, perhaps the biggest impact on the Earth’s climate over time has been the sun.

    For instance, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar Research in Germany report the sun has been burning more brightly over the last 60 years, accounting for the 1 degree Celsius increase in Earth’s temperature over the last 100 years.

    R. Timothy Patterson, professor of geology and director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Center of Canada’s Carleton University, says that “CO2 variations show little correlation with our planet’s climate on long, medium and even short time scales.”

    Rather, he says, “I and the first-class scientists I work with are consistently finding excellent correlations between the regular fluctuations of the sun and earthly climate. This is not surprising. The sun and the stars are the ultimate source of energy on this planet.”

    Patterson, sharing Tapping’s concern, says: “Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth.”

    “Solar activity has overpowered any effect that CO2 has had before, and it most likely will again,” Patterson says. “If we were to have even a medium-sized solar minimum, we could be looking at a lot more bad effects than ‘global warming’ would have had.”

    In 2005, Russian astronomer Khabibullo Abdusamatov made some waves — and not a few enemies in the global warming “community” — by predicting that the sun would reach a peak of activity about three years from now, to be accompanied by “dramatic changes” in temperatures.

    A Hoover Institution Study a few years back examined historical data and came to a similar conclusion.

    “The effects of solar activity and volcanoes are impossible to miss. Temperatures fluctuated exactly as expected, and the pattern was so clear that, statistically, the odds of the correlation existing by chance were one in 100,” according to Hoover fellow Bruce Berkowitz.

    The study says that “try as we might, we simply could not find any relationship between industrial activity, energy consumption and changes in global temperatures.”

    The study concludes that if you shut down all the world’s power plants and factories, “there would not be much effect on temperatures.”

    But if the sun shuts down, we’ve got a problem. It is the sun, not the Earth, that’s hanging in the balance

  2. Mark, I did write about the ethanol problem here: Ethanol Worse Than Gasoline. And it bears repeating that those driving the biofuel boom are the big grain corporations like ADM, Cargill and seed companies like Monsanto. Follow the money, right? Who profits most from high corn prices? (ps it’s not the farmers)

    Sunspots/solar activity: obviously these do play a role in climate which scientists have studied for decades. However thousands of them from around the world now agree that CO2 from burning fossil fuels is responsible for most of the warming. Patterson — a geologist not an atmospheric physicist — is wrong. And so is Berkowitz, a defense policy expert who used to work for the CIA.

  3. Mark, Patterson gets the role of CO2 wrong – it has been a major factor when the climate was much warmer millions of years ago. Solar activity plays role too but dozens of experts have looked at this and concluded this time around CO2 from fossil fuel burning is the primary cause of current warming.

    The INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY story you posted is an editorial, not a science article and it is dishonest. ie The Max Planck Institute for Solar Research concluded that the sun is NOT playing a significant role in the current warming, see for yourself here:

    There is great deal of misinformation on this subject, you need to check the sources carefully.

  4. and we need to establish phytoplankton farms to get control over CO-2 to adjust the levels of CO-2 by both having more or less phytoplankton growth in these farms and a meteor could hit to change our orbit around the sun so were in a trajectory to burn up in jupiter or so say the grim reaper and so we need to get control of CO-2 by some means–peace

  5. and the reason I suggest farming phytoplankton is they produce half the amount of oxygen as plants and with the Amazon River flowing into the ocean there might even be phytoplankton there or at least the ocean it flows into and one of my sources is:

    So I’d suggest scientific trials need to tested for this hypothesis to see if it works.

    and a meteor hitting earth was in jest but wrong forum–sorry

  6. Scratch the Phytoplankton farms idea for now and I just found out about Planktos Corp. (PLKT.PK) at , thanks to your link, but I was thinking about controlled indoor or semi-indoor Phytoplankton farms that are used as a last resort should we ever need to control CO-2 levels and these farms I hope would exist only to find out whether a non-Ocean CO-2 sequestering solution was possible.

    And there is too much attention with trying to eliminate fossil fuels from our dependence on foreign oil we need to fix that first.

  7. a non-Ocean CO-2 sequestering solution near some heavy CO-2 production facility–Coal Plant or cement factory, e.t.c. for the farm/s. And how much CO-2 can our Oceans take in before it is too much?

  8. Mark. There are test sites where C02 from coal power plants and gasification are pumped deep underground or under the ocean floor. Its very expensive however. see this posting for more: Capturing Carbon Crucial to Preventing Climate Catastrophe

    I don’t know what the ocean’s limit of CO2 absorption might be. Parts of the Pacific are absorbing less in recent years.
    Ocean No Longer Taking As Much CO2 (and why that’s bad news)

    And keep in mind that oceans become more acidic as they absorb CO2
    Acid Oceans to ‘Dissolve’ Coral Reefs in 30 years

  9. The reason I suggest Phytoplankton is they seem easier and faster to “grow” then trees and possibly cheaper–those are my reasons after reading your links and thank you because we and future mankind depends on some control. And hopefully we can get control of it somehow!

  10. I stress the word “seem” because I’ve never tried or heard of anyone trying to grow phytoplankton on land based farms!

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