In a stark reminder of the escalating impacts of climate change, the Amazon rainforest, often hailed as the Earth’s “lungs,” is facing its worst drought in over fifty years. A recent study attributes this alarming phenomenon primarily to climate-induced changes, highlighting a grim reality where the natural world’s resilience is severely tested. This situation underscores climate change causes record drought in the Amazon, a critical issue that demands immediate global attention and action.
The Amazon is crucial in mitigating global warming by absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide. However, the relentless pace of deforestation has made it increasingly susceptible to extreme weather events. Climate change causes record drought in Amazon: the drought of the past year has been labelled “exceptional” by researchers, with the Rio Negro River near Manaus, Brazil, recording its lowest levels in more than a century.
This environmental crisis disrupts the rich biodiversity within the Amazon, home to approximately 10% of the world’s known species. It adversely affects millions of people dependent on the river for their livelihoods. The primary culprits identified are the natural El Niño weather pattern and, more significantly, human-induced climate changes that have reduced rainfall and increased evaporation rates in the region.
The study, conducted by the World Weather Attribution group, utilized weather data and computer models to simulate drought under two scenarios: one with the current human-induced warming and one without. The findings suggest that severe droughts, driven by reduced rainfall and higher evaporation, would have been exceedingly rare in a pre-industrial climate, occurring once every 1,500 years. However, climate change has increased the likelihood of such events, with expectations of them occurring every 50 years under current conditions.
Dr Ben Clarke from the World Weather Attribution group described the situation as “quite exceptional,” noting the widespread and intense nature of the drought across the Amazon basin. The study warns that if global warming continues unabated, these extreme droughts could become more frequent, occurring as often as once every 13 years if the planet reaches 2°C.
The resilience of the Amazon is further compromised by deforestation, which has stripped away about one-fifth of the rainforest over the last five decades. Trees play a vital role in maintaining the rainforest’s microclimate, and their loss exacerbates the effects of drought.
Despite these challenges, there is a glimmer of hope. Recent data indicates a decrease in the rate of deforestation in 2023, with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva committing to end deforestation by 2030. This, combined with global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, could safeguard Amazon’s future.
The situation underscores the urgent need for global climate stabilization, as every fraction of a degree of warming increases the risk to the Amazon and, by extension, the planet’s health. The fight to preserve the Amazon is not just about saving a rainforest but about maintaining a critical ally in our battle against climate change.