IN Photos: The Deforestation of the Amazon
Climate change could speed up the large-scale destruction of the Amazon rainforest and bring the "point of no return" much closer than previously thought, conservationists warned today.
Almost 60% of the region's forests could be wiped out or severely damaged by 2030, as a result of climate change and deforestation, according to a report published today by WWF.
The damage could release somewhere between 55.5bn-96.9bn tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the Amazon's forests and speed up global warming, according to the report, Amazon's Vicious Cycles: Drought and Fire.
Trends in agriculture and livestock expansion, fire, drought and logging could severely damage 55% of the Amazon rainforest by 2030, the report says. And, in turn, climate change could speed up the process of destruction by reducing rainfall by as much as 10% by 2030, damaging an extra 4% of the forests during that time.
By the end of the century, global warming is likely to reduce rainfall by 20% in eastern Amazonia, pushing up temperatures by more than 2C and causing forest fires, the report said.
Destroying almost 60% of tropical rainforest by 2030 would do away with one of the key stabilisers of the global climate system, it warned.
Such damage could have a knock-on effect on rainfall in places such as central America and India, and would also destroy livelihoods for indigenous people and some 80% of habitats for animal species in the region.
The "point of no return", in which extensive degradation of the rainforest occurs and conservation prospects are greatly reduced, is just 15-25 years away - much sooner than some models suggest, the report warns.