While we’re all ready for some good news on climate, there is nearly always a “but” in science. Our new research has identified a major overlooked issue. Is it significant? Unfortunately, yes.
How much will the world warm with ongoing fossil-fuel carbon emissions? It’s a big question that preoccupies policymakers and activists, with important discussions about when the world will hit two degrees, are we really on a path to four degrees of warming with current Paris commitments, and so on.
Our new research, published in the journal Science, shows that tropical forests can resist small increases in temperature – but only up to a point.
The fires in the rainforest have finally been extinguished by the arrival of the rainy season, but threats and violence continue unabated against forest defenders. They need international support if the Amazon is to be at the centre of climate action rather than just another distant frontline in the war against nature.
What the Keeling Curve shows, then, are two separate but connected rifts in Earth’s metabolism. First, an increase in total CO2 that breaks with at least 800,000 years of history. Second, increased CO2 is changing the way that plants absorb and emit CO2, and that in turn is altering a seasonal cycle that has likely been unchanged for hundreds of millions of years.
The declining health of trees globally is starting to have profound effects on Earth’s carbon cycle. The rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide has been picking up speed over the past few years, even though human CO2 emissions have flattened. The net effect: Climate change is starting to accelerate.
Tropical forests now emit more carbon than they are able to absorb from the atmosphere as a result of the dual effects of deforestation and land degradation, a new study says. The research challenges the long-held belief that forests act as “carbon sinks” by storing more carbon than they emit due to natural processes and human activity.
Peatlands are the superheroes of ecosystems: purifying water, sometimes mitigating flooding and providing a home for rare species. And they beat nearly every system when it comes to carbon storage. Known peatlands only cover about 3 percent of the world’s land surface, but store at least twice as much carbon as all of Earth’s standing forests. And at least one-third of the world’s organic soil carbon, which plays a vital role in mitigating climate change and stabilizing the carbon cycle, is in peatlands.
The main reason soaring greenhouse gas emissions have not caused air temperatures to rise more rapidly is that oceans have soaked up much of the heat. But new evidence suggests the oceans’ heat-buffering ability may be weakening.
In other words, if the world’s first lung is represented by all of the tropical forests combined, the second (and perhaps larger) lung is definitely the boreal forest.
The Amazon rainforest, for so long one of the vital “green lungs” of the planet, is losing its capacity to absorb carbon from the atmosphere, according to new research.