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Role Amazon Plays in Regulating World’s Climate

Fires across the Brazilian Amazon have sparked an international outcry for preservation of the world's largest rainforest

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Amazon, World, Climate
An ant is pictured as a fire burns a tract of Amazon jungle as it is cleared by loggers and farmers near Porto Velho, Brazil, Aug. 27, 2019. VOA

Fires across the Brazilian Amazon have sparked an international outcry for preservation of the world’s largest rainforest. Here’s a look at the role the Amazon plays in regulating the world’s climate:

Is the World’s Oxygen Supply at Risk?

No. While it’s commonly said that the Amazon produces 20% of the world’s oxygen, climate scientists say that figure is wrong and the oxygen supply is not directly at risk in any case. That’s because forests, including the Amazon, absorb roughly the same amount of oxygen they produce. Plants do produce oxygen through photosynthesis, but they also absorb it to grow, as do animals and microbes.

That doesn’t mean the fires aren’t a problem for the planet. The Amazon is a critical absorber of carbon of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas produced by burning fossil fuels, like oil and coal.

Amazon, World, Climate
A burned tract of Amazon jungle is pictured as it is cleared by loggers and farmers near Porto Velho, Brazil, Aug. 27, 2019. VOA

Is the Amazon ‘the Lungs of the Planet?’

The Amazon rainforest is frequently referred to as the “lungs of the planet,” but it may not be the most accurate analogy for the forest’s role.

Carlos Nobre, a University of Sao Paulo climate scientist, says a better way to picture the Amazon’s role is as a sink, draining heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Currently, the world is emitting around 40 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. The Amazon absorbs 2 billion tons of CO2 per year (or 5% of annual emissions), making it a vital part of preventing climate change.

What Do the Fires in the Amazon Mean for the World’s Climate?

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Fires in the Amazon not only mean the carbon-absorbing forest is disappearing, but the flames themselves are emitting millions of tons of carbon every day. Nobre says we’re close to a “tipping point” that would turn the thick jungle into a tropical savannah.

The rainforest recycles its own water to produce a portion of the region’s rain, so deforestation makes rains less frequent, extending the dry season. Nobre estimates that if 20% to 25% of the forest is destroyed, the dry season will expand enough that it will no longer be a forest, but a savannah.

“Unfortunately, we are already seeing signs of the Amazon turning into a savannah,” he said, citing the increasingly long dry seasons. “It’s not just theoretical anymore, it’s happening already.”

What is Causing the Fires?

Amazon, World, Climate
An aerial view shows smoke rising over a deforested plot of the Amazon jungle in Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, Aug. 27, 2019. VOA

The current fires in the Amazon are not wildfires. They are manmade and are mostly set illegally by landgrabbers who are clearing the forest for cattle ranching and crops.

Deforesting the Amazon is a long, slow process. People clear the land by cutting down the vegetation during the rainy season, letting the trees dry out and burning them during the dry season. Fully clearing the dense forest for agricultural use can take several years of slashing and burning.

“When I’m talking about 21st century deforestation, I don’t mean a family headed into the woods with a chainsaw,” said NASA researcher Doug Morton. “I mean tractors connected by large chains. They’re pulling trees out by their roots.”

He said researchers could see piles of trees months ago in satellite images. “They’re burning an enormous bonfire of Amazon logs that have been piled, drying in the sun for several months.”

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“What has changed is the political discourse,” Nobre said. President Jair Bolsonaro has decreased the power and autonomy of forest protection agencies, which he says get in the way of licensing for developing land and accuses of being “fines industries.”

“The number of fires increasing is because people think law enforcement won’t punish them,” Nobre said. (VOA)

Next Story

Amazon Acquires Turkish Data Processing Startup Company “DataRow”

Amazon started its retail operations in Turkey in 2018, and has a seven-year plan for large-scale logistics investment in the country

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Amazon
Amazon started its retail operations in Turkey in 2018, and has a seven-year plan for large-scale logistics investment in the country. Wikimedia Commons

 E-commerce giant Amazon has completed the acquisition of Turkish data processing startup company DataRow.

Eren Baydemir, who founded the company with Can Abacigil in 2017, tweeted to confirm the acquisition.

“A new chapter begins for DataRow today. Our team is very excited to join AWS, and we can’t wait to see what lies ahead in terms of data analytics,” Baydemir tweeted.

The company’s website also announced the move.

“We are proud to have created an innovative tool that facilitates data exploration and visualization for data analysts in Amazon Redshift, providing users with an easy to use interface to create tables, load data, author queries, perform visual analysis, and collaborate with others to share SQL code, analysis, and results. Together with AWS, we look forward to taking our tool to the next level for customers,” the announcement read.

Amazon
E-commerce giant Amazon has completed the acquisition of Turkish data processing startup company DataRow. Wikimedia Commons

Amazon started its retail operations in Turkey in 2018, and has a seven-year plan for large-scale logistics investment in the country.

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Last year, Vice President of Amazon Europe Xavier Garambois said that the company already has a team in Istanbul for cloud computing, but not a data centre. (IANS)