A recent study revealed that the severe drought in the Amazon is a direct consequence of the climate crisis.
A study has discovered that the climate emergency transformed the 2023 drought in the Amazon rainforest into a catastrophic occurrence.
The drought in various areas was the most severe on record and reached the highest level of “exceptional” on the scientific scale. According to the analysis, if there were no emissions from burning fossil fuels, the drought would have been significantly less extreme.
The study revealed that global warming increased the likelihood of the drought by 30 times. While the return of El Niño, a natural climate phenomenon, is linked to dryer weather, it had a minimal impact, according to the researchers.
The climate crisis is supercharging extreme weather across the planet, but the extreme Amazon drought is a stark and worrying example because the rainforest is already thought to be close to a tipping point into a drier state. This would result in a mass die-off of trees in the world’s most important store of carbon on land, releasing large amounts of CO2
This is causing a further increase in global temperatures.
The drought in the Amazon has impacted millions of individuals, causing rivers to reach their lowest levels in over 100 years. This has resulted in shortages of drinking water, failed crops, and power outages due to the depletion of hydroelectric plants. The dry conditions have also exacerbated wildfires and led to a significant decline in river life, including the death of over 150 endangered pink river dolphins within a week.
According to Regina Rodrigues, a professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil, and member of the World Weather Attribution team, the fate of our fight against climate change rests on the Amazon.
She stated that by preserving the forest, it will remain a crucial carbon sink on land. However, if we neglect human-caused emissions and deforestation, it will reach a point of no return and release high levels of CO2.2
We must safeguard the rainforest and swiftly transition away from fossil fuels.
According to Simphiwe Stewart, a member of the team and a researcher at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in the Netherlands, the recent drought in the Amazon has been unprecedented for many communities. These communities have had to travel long distances and even drag boats over dried up areas of the river in order to obtain necessary resources such as food and medicine. In response, it is crucial for government interventions to focus on helping these communities prepare for increasingly severe droughts due to climate change.
The researchers utilized approved techniques to examine the differences between droughts in the current 1.2C warmer climate and those that would have taken place in a colder, pre-industrial climate. They focused specifically on “agricultural drought”, which encompasses both reduced rainfall and increased loss of water from soils and plants due to higher temperatures.
Researchers discovered that the rise in global temperatures is resulting in decreased rainfall and heightened heat levels in the Amazon region. As a result, the likelihood of a severe drought from June to November 2023 has increased by approximately 30 times. While El Niño played a role in the reduced rainfall, it was determined that climate change was the main contributor to the high temperatures, making it the leading factor behind the drought.
According to the analysis, the severe drought of 2023, which would typically occur once every 50 years in current climate conditions, is predicted to happen every 13 years if global warming reaches 2C.
The researchers stated that the extensive devastation of the rainforest for the purpose of beef and soy farming in recent years has contributed to the severity of droughts. This is due to the fact that removing vegetation results in reduced water retention in the land.
New information indicates that the Amazon rainforest is getting closer to a critical threshold, at which point the rainforest would disappear, resulting in significant consequences for the Earth’s climate and diversity. According to the research, over 75% of the undisturbed forest has become unstable since the early 2000s, causing longer recovery periods after periods of drought and wildfires.
Gareth Redmond-King, from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit in the United Kingdom, stated: “The Amazon rainforest plays a crucial role in regulating the global climate, but it is also of utmost importance to the UK in a more immediate manner.”
Approximately 50% of our imported food is from regions heavily impacted by climate change, such as Peru, Colombia, and Brazil. These countries are our primary sources for bananas, avocados, melons, and other fruits, as well as soya beans used to feed British livestock. The damaging effects of climate change on South American farmers in the past year could potentially lead to shortages and increased costs for our food in supermarkets.