For sustainable society


Tropical forests are less effective as carbon absorption source

The blaze in the Amazon tropical rainforest occurred in 2019 is still fresh in our minds and was a painful experience for us. In addition to the painful forest blaze, a more shocking announcement was made in the academic journal Nature in March 2020. It said that Amazon rainforests are rapidly losing their ability to absorb carbon dioxide and could become a generation source of carbon near future.

According to Simon Lewis, professor at Leeds University, who published the thesis, “Further temperature rises and deforestation will make carbon dioxide absorption continue to decrease, and tropical forests may become a carbon source by the 2060s.” He also pointed out, “Climate change will be in more severe situation if tropical forests become a carbon source.”

Researchers collected data in Africa and the Amazon, measured the diameter and height of 565 trees in these two areas every two years, and measured the amount of carbon in living and dead trees. As a result, it was found that the carbon absorption of trees in the Amazon was reduced faster than those in Africa. In addition, it was found that trees in Africa are also rapidly reducing their absorption. It is believed that the reason why the carbon absorption of trees in the Amazon was reduced faster was because they were subject to higher temperatures, rapid rises in temperature, and frequent and severe droughts.

Researchers predict that the Amazon rainforest will become a source of carbon dioxide from the middle of 2030, based on observations and statistical models. According to their projections, it is expected that the ability to absorb carbon of the forests in Africa that were subject to this time investigation would fall by 14% by 2030 and those in Amazon would be zero by 2035.

At the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), scheduled to be held in Glasgow, UK in November 2020, a discussion will be held on the “Net Zero Emission” plan to equalize the emissions and absorption of artificial greenhouse gases by middle of this century. Some wealthy countries and many companies are planning ways to offset emissions and absorptions by growing new forests. However, the results of this study by Professor Simon Lewis indicate that a huge emission cannot be offset by relying on tropical forests.

Many scientists are afraid that the climate system has tipping points. Once hitting the points, it will show no sign of touching bottom in ice melting. There seems to be little time left for us to reach the tipping points. At COP26, it is expected that discussions will be made on radical solutions instead of on motivations to continue doing business as usual with the method of increasing forests.


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