Global Warming & the Amazon
The importance of the Amazon Rainforest
Global Warming and the importance of the Amazon Rainforest.
Did you know that the Amazon rainforest produces about 20 percent of the world’s oxygen? It’s no surprise that its nickname is the “lungs of the world,” but the Amazon is important for many other reasons also. In the dense 2.7 million square miles of Amazonia, scientists discover new species each year and researchers are constantly finding how important the plants, insects, and animals are in modern medicine. We are just beginning to understand the Amazon’s greatest secrets, but the threat of deforestation in the Amazon poses another great danger for the planet: Global warming.
To avoid catastrophic impacts to our global society, scientists have determined that we must keep the temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. A World Bank report reports that 20-30 percent of all species worldwide are at an increased risk of extinction even with a 2-degree rise in temperatures. At the current rate that we are burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we are not on track to stay under two degrees of warming, but the Amazon rainforest is one of the planet’s main defenses against global warming.
How the Amazon Helps Stave off Global Warming.
Forests around the world are one of the best natural remedies for human-produced global warming, and the Amazon is perhaps the best. Known as a “carbon sink,” the rainforest naturally captures carbon dioxide (one of the main greenhouse gases causing global warming) and uses it for photosynthesis. Along with the oceans, the jungles are the planet’s most efficient carbon sinks, absorbing almost 50 percent of carbon dioxide emissions due to human activities. But also like the oceans, the capacity of the rainforest to absorb this carbon dioxide is threatened by human activities like deforestation.
Some scientists are developing ways to create artificial carbon sinks that sequester CO2 underground, but they are not nearly as effective as the natural sinks of the Amazon and the oceans. Although it is one of the planet’s main shields against global warming, an increase in global temperatures just 4 degrees Celsius could mean irreversible destruction of up to 85 percent of the rainforest, which would, in turn, weaken the planet’s natural defense against climate change.
How Climate Change Affects the Amazon.
Unfortunately, it’s a two-way street, and climate change can also wreak havoc on the Amazon. As the recent fires that have swept through Brazil’s jungles more intensely than ever have shown us, the consequences of a changing climate are real: longer, drier droughts, dropping river levels, more extreme temperatures, increasingly frequent and destructive forest fires that threaten the biodiversity, and other major effects of global warming.
What can you do to help save the rainforest?
You don’t even need to leave your house to help save the rainforest – it all starts with your lifestyle. Focus on living a more eco-friendly life by taking small actions like limiting the use of single-use plastics, carpooling or using public transportation when possible, and buying eco-friendly products like those that are locally produced, organic, and fair trade (as these tend to use fewer resources in cultivation and transportation).
You can also spread the word about the importance of protecting these delicate ecosystems among your family and friends and on any social media accounts you have – it could be as simple as sharing information to raise awareness.
Donating to organizations that strive to maintain the rainforest is another option. Here are a few reliable ones:
Practice responsible ecotourism when traveling. You might think that taking international trips is irresponsible because of the natural resources that the travel industry tends to consume, but it can actually be one of the best ways to help stave off the effects of climate change. When you make a commitment to travel to eco-friendly lodges like La Selva, you are not only experiencing the wonders and beauty of the Amazon firsthand, but also contributing to businesses that support action against climate change and offer important backing to the local indigenous communities who are fighting against the destruction of the rainforest.