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Amazon and climate change

The world’s climate depends on the Amazon’s rainforests. As well as storing vast amounts of carbon, these huge forests regulate global rainfall patterns. But now climate change is affecting the Amazon - and that could mean more disastrous changes around the world.

Burning trees, Peru

Why we’re involved

More than half of the Amazon rainforest could be lost or severely damaged as early as 2030 if current trends in deforestation, droughts, forest fires and global greenhouse gas emissions continue.

Global warming is already affecting the Amazon. If we don’t take action to tackle climate change, Amazon rainforests could dry up and die over the course of this century. That will have further catastrophic effects on the climate - creating a vicious cycle, a dangerous ‘feedback loop’.

The Amazon is a huge store of locked-up carbon. When the forest is cut and burnt or left to rot, carbon is released, contributing to climate change. Deforestation globally is responsible for up to 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Regional rainfall will be affected too. Rainforests transform the sun’s energy into water vapour and generate clouds and rain. When Amazon rainforests are lost, less water is released into the atmosphere, and fewer clouds form. That could lead to droughts and crop failures - and not just in the Amazon.

Scientists have come up with climate models to study the possible effects. They suggest Amazon deforestation could affect the grain belts of South America and North America and possibly other agricultural regions as far away as Europe.

The severe 2005 and 2010 Amazon droughts show how bad things could become.

Hundreds of communities who live on the Amazon were isolated by low water levels, unable to get to markets, hospitals and schools. Dead fish contaminated river water supplies and crops failed.

Forest clearance, Peru

How we’re helping

We’re working on many levels to tackle global greenhouse gas emissions - including lobbying for ambitious emissions cuts in the UK, EU and internationally, as well as helping people make the transition to low-carbon lifestyles.

One key policy area is an international scheme called REDD+ (it stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation). Under the scheme, developing countries get financial incentives to conserve or manage forests responsibly.

In the Amazon itself, we’re supporting the development of REDD+ in countries including Brazil and Colombia, to help make it fair and effective. We want to make sure local people benefit from REDD+, and that wildlife and natural resources are conserved while carbon emissions are cut.

Related links

Downloads

The Amazon's Vicious Cycles: Drought and Fire in the Greenhouse