Conducted by the Met Office Hadley Centre, Britain’s foremost climate-change research facility, the findings show that even severe cuts in deforestation and carbon emissions will fail to save the Amazon. Up to 85% of the forest could be lost if spiralling greenhouse-gas emissions are not brought under control, the experts said.
Experts had previously predicted that global warming could cause significant “die-back” of the Amazon. The new research — presented at a scientific conference on climate change this week in Copenhagen — is the first to quantify the long-term effect.
Using computer models, the study found that a temperature rise of 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels would still see 20% to 40% of the Amazon die off within 100 years. (The 2° figure is widely considered the best-case global-warming scenario and is the target for ambitious international plans to curb emissions.) A 3° increase would see 75% of the forest destroyed by drought over the following century, while a 4° rise would kill 85%.
Chris Jones, who led the research, termed the loss “irreversible”, while Vicky Pope, head of the Hadley Centre’s climate programme, acknowledged that “the impacts of climate change on the Amazon are much worse than we thought”.
Peter Cox, professor of climate system dynamics at Britain’s University of Exeter, noted that the effects would be felt around the world. “Ecologically it would be a catastrophe,” he said, adding: “The tropics are drivers of the world’s weather systems and killing the Amazon is likely to change them forever.”
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