Amazon Drought Accelerating Climate Change

World’s Forests Losing Their Green. Billions of tonnes of CO2 Released

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 3, 2011 (IPS)

Last year’s severe drought in the Amazon will pump billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, a new report has found.

Researchers calculate that millions of trees died in 2010, which means the Amazon is soaking up much less CO2 from the atmosphere, and those dead trees will now release all the carbon they’ve accumulated over 300 or more years.

The widespread 2010 drought follows a similar drought in 2005 which itself will put an additional five billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, Simon Lewis of University of Leeds in the UK and colleagues calculate in a study published Thursday in Science. The United States emitted 5.4 billion tonnes of CO2 from fossil fuel use in 2009.

The two droughts will end up adding an estimated 13 billion tonnes of additional CO2 – equivalent to combined emissions in 2009 from China and the U.S. – and likely accelerating global warming.

“New growth in the region will not offset those releases,” Lewis told IPS.

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.

After the 2005 drought, Lewis and Brazilian scientist Paulo Brando from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) led teams of researchers on the ground to assess the impacts. They determined that only a few trees died per hectare, and so while the forest canopy cover looked relatively unchanged, there had been a significant change in the forest’s carbon balance. Continue reading

Runaway Global Economy Decimating Nature — World Bank Offers A Solution

By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 28, 2010 (IPS)

One-fifth of all birds, fish and animals are threatened with extinction – as many as six million unique and irreplaceable forms of life – an authoritative new assessment warned Wednesday.

Deforestation, agricultural expansion, overfishing, invasive alien species and climate change are the specific causes, but the main engine of destruction is an economic system that is blind to the reality that there is no economy or human well-being without nature, experts here say.

“Without global conservation efforts the situation would be massively worse,” noted Simon Stuart, chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission, which launched the study at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal Science, it is the most comprehensive assessment ever done of the world’s vertebrates – mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fishes – Stuart said.

Every year, 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians move one step down a three-step path to extinction, according to the study, which utilised data for 25,000 species from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Southeast Asia has experienced the most dramatic recent losses, largely driven by the planting of export crops like oil palm, commercial hardwood timber operations, agricultural conversion to rice paddies and unsustainable hunting, the study found. Parts of Central America, the tropical Andes of South America, and even Australia have also all experienced marked losses, in particular due to the impact of the deadly chytrid fungus on amphibians.

“The backbone of biodiversity is being eroded,” said the eminent U.S. ecologist and writer Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University.

Is this article of interest? It exists thanks to contributions from readers. Please click here to learn more about Community Supported Journalism.

Continue reading

Food Prices Soar (again) – Governments Starved Ag Research of Funding for Last 20 Years

By Stephen Leahy

[New Article]

MONTPELLIER, France, Apr 14, 2010 (IPS)

How’s this for short-sighted:

A billion people go hungry every day, food prices have climbed 30 to 40 percent, climate change is reducing agricultural production – and for the past two decades, the world has slashed investments in publicly-funded agriculture until it is a pittance in most countries.

“Moral outrage is needed. We must abolish this… It can be done. It must be done,”Ismail Serageldin Website, Egypt and a former World Bank economist, told nearly 700 World Food Prize laureates, ministers, scientists and a few representatives from development and farmer organisations at the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) last month here in southern France.

“This is the launching pad to transform hunger in our time,” Serageldin concluded.

The “rocket” on the launching pad is a major transformation of the 500 million dollars of public funds for international agricultural research carried out by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an alliance comprising some 8,000 researchers in 100 countries.

For the past year, a global consultation process involving over 2,000 stakeholders from 200 countries has produced a draft plan for reform that promises to meet the needs of the world’s 500 million poor small farmers who feed the two billion poorest people.

Called ambitious and far-reaching by proponents, the “Montpellier Road Map” sets the priorities for “linking science and innovation to the needs of farmers and the rural poor”.

Critics say it resembles little more than a passionate shuffling of the status quo. As the French say like to say: “Plus ça change; plus c’est la même chose” (the more things change, the more they stay the same).
Continue reading

The REAL Amazon-gate: On the Brink of Collapse Reveals Million $ Study


By Stephen Leahy

PARIS, Feb 2, 2010 (Tierramérica)

The Amazon jungle “is very close to a tipping point,” and if destruction continues, it could shrink to one third of its original size in just 65 years, warns Thomas Lovejoy, world-renowned tropical biologist.

[UPDATE Sept 6’10: The Amazon River is at its lowest level in 40 years — in 2005 devastating dry spell damaged vast swaths of South American rainforest Amazon May Be Headed For Another Bad Drought]]

Climate change, deforestation and fire are the drivers of this potential Amazonian apocalypse, according to Lovejoy, biodiversity chair at the Washington DC-based Heinz Centre for Science, Economics and the Environment, and chief biodiversity adviser to the president of the World Bank.

Amazonian rainforest, upper Amazon basin, Lore...
Image via Wikipedia

Lovejoy laid out the scenario for participants at the Biodiversity Science Policy Conference in Paris last week, sponsored by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), and marking the beginning of the U.N.’s International Year of Biodiversity.

“The World Bank released a study that finally put the impacts of climate change, deforestation and fires together. The tipping point for the Amazon is 20 percent deforestation,” and that is “a scary result,” Lovejoy told Tierramérica in an interview.

The study, “Assessment of the Risk of Amazon Dieback,” released Jan. 22, drew on the expertise of several international research institutions, including Japan’s Meteorological Research Institute, Britain’s Exeter University, Brazil’s Centre for Weather Forecasting and Climate Change (CPET/INPE), Germany’s Potsdam Institute and Earth3000.

Do you find this article interesting? It exists thanks to contributions from readers. Please click here to learn more about Community Supported Journalism.

The results and analysis were reviewed by an international blue-ribbon panel of scientists. Continue reading

Free Markets Cause Chronic Hunger in Africa — There’s Plenty of Food but No Money

By Stephen Leahy

BROOKLIN, Canada, Oct 20, 2006 (IPS)

[World Bank and International Monetary Fund free-market doctrines responsible for much of Africa’s hunger experts say]


It is a world of paradox and plenty:

852 million people are starving while one billion people are overweight, with 300 million of them considered medically obese.

And the numbers of people whose health are at serious risk due to starvation or from obesity is rising rapidly.

While what the World Health Organisation calls a global epidemic of obesity is a health issue of the modern world, hunger and malnutrition are old and bitterly intractable problems.

More than 50 million Africans currently need food assistance, according to the U.N. World Food Programme. More than 120 million Africans are living permanently on the edge of emergency food aid, says the British charity CARE International.

Why is hunger chronic in Africa?

“There is enough food, but people don’t have enough money to buy it,” says Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute, a U.S.-based policy think tank on social, economic and environmental issues.

“Sixty-three percent of people in Niger live on less than a dollar a day,” Mittal told IPS.

Hunger is mainly the result of poverty.

Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that th

ere is enough food to give everyone in the world more than 2,700 calories a day, she says. Continue reading