The Amazon region, once touted as the 'lungs of the Earth' (in truth, the rainforest consumes about as much oxygen as it creates), is now a leading contributor to global warming, due to deforestation and fires. In 2005, a large part of the Amazon Basin was gripped by rare drought and fires swept large areas of rainforest. The NASA satellite image above was taken on September 30, 2005. It shows high levels of harmful carbon monoxide resulting from those fires.
The Amazon drought, which dried up rivers and dessicated forest soils, was cited in a New York Times story yesterday indicating that Brazil, now the world's fourth-largest greenhouse gas emitter, may be reconsidering its position on global warming. Seventy percent of Brazil's emissions are tied to deforestation, but the country has long been leery of international efforts to save the Amazon through compensation. Such efforts are often viewed suspiciously by Brazilians, and seen as a threat to the country's sovereignty.
Now, however, with the stability of the country's regional climate and the future of its powerful agricultural sector at stake, Brazil may be more willing to look at ways to incentivize "avoided deforestation." Let's hope so. And before it's too late.