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FEATURE STORY

Global Warming: Brazil Acts Now to Protect the Amazon Forest from Droughts, Storms and Fire

February 15, 2013

Climate change consequences are expected to be even more severe in Brazilian states worst hit by deforestation, such as Pará.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Consequences of global warming for the Amazon include more intense droughts, rain storms, forest fires and an increased risk for the region’s biodiversity.
  • Present greenhouse gas emission trends would make the world 4°C warmer within this century, according to a World Bank study.
  • Brazil has already started taking action curbing deforestation and reducing carbon emissions by 36-39% by 2020.

When an unusual drought afflicted the Brazilian Amazon in 2005, river levels dropped in several tributaries of the Amazon Basin. At least 20 municipalities declared a state of emergency.

Seventy million hectares of trees were affected – and what’s worse, they were not yet recovered when a second, more severe dry spell struck the world’s largest rain forest in 2010.

Droughts, as well as rain storms in the Amazon, can increase in frequency and intensity over this century, according to the report Turn Down the Heat – Why a 4ºC Warmer World Must be Avoided.

The World Bank study warns that the planet is already 0.8°C warmer than in pre-industrial times, and that present greenhouse gas emission trends put it on a path toward 4°C warming.

Huge impact

The consequences of such a warming include extreme temperatures in several regions and a rise on the sea level, among others.

“The impact on the Amazon would be huge,” says author Erick Fernandes, World Bank Adviser for Climate Change and Natural Resources Management. “The 2005 and 2010 droughts prove that it doesn’t easily recover from shocks,” he adds.

Forest fires, for example, could double by 2050 with a warming of approximately 1.5°C to 2°C above preindustrial levels.

Changes would be expected to be even more severe in a 4°C warmer world – particularly in the states worst hit by deforestation, such as Pará, Rondônia, and Mato Grosso.

“If forest fires become more frequent with climate changes, the biodiversity of this region will be threatened in the long run,” says Fernandes.

Worldwide, around 20% to 30% of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction, if the global average temperature rises by 2ºC–3°C.

Open Quotes

An intact forest is more resistant to climate change and able to recover from diseases and fire. Close Quotes

Erick Fernandes
World Bank Adviser for Climate Change and Natural Resources Management

Brazilian goals

Global warming, however, can be held below 2°C if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and more action is taken to preserve ecosystems such as the Amazon.

At 4°C warming above pre-industrial levels, the land extent of humid tropical forest is expected to contract to approximately 25% of its original size, while at 2°C warming, more than 75% percent of the original land can likely be preserved, according to the report.

In Brazil, initiatives such as the Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rainforest (PPG7) and the Amazon Region Protected Areas Program (ARPA) play an important role in maintaining local ecosystems.

“An intact forest is more resistant to climate change and able to recover from diseases and fire,” says Fernandes. Current policy seeks to reduce deforestation by 70% by 2017.

Additionally, Brazil aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions of the overall economy by 36% – 39% percent by 2020 – with Rio de Janeiro taking the lead.

This is another relevant goal, according to the World Bank adviser: “The more we can do to reduce emissions, the better.” He adds: “The consequences of a 2ºC warmer planet are dramatic enough; we must act now.”