Pulling Rainforests Back from the Edge

The concept of planetary tipping points is not new. It was first introduced 20 years ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). At that time, scientists believed global warming needed to reach 5°C for the worst to happen, and that solutions could be found in time. But the planet lives out its own truths. This February, the IPCC declared that climate breakdown is accelerating even faster than predicted and at “only” 1°C to 2°C warming. The dreaded tipping points are moving closer, faster.

A tipping point is exactly what it sounds like, except, unlike a see-saw that goes up and down, when planetary disruptions assume critical mass, entire biophysical systems teeter at the edge of a global cliff. It’s a long way down and the fall is irreversible. Have we reached that point yet? Not even the world’s top climate scientists know for sure, but alarm bells are ringing louder each year in the scientific community.

The health of the Amazon rainforest—an area as large as the contiguous United States—represents one of our planet’s most important climate tipping points. A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change in March found that over the past 20 years, more than three-quarters of the Amazon rainforest has already lost some of its ability to bounce back from disruptions like drought and fire. In fact, world renowned scientists the late Dr. Thomas Lovejoy (Rainforest Trust board member) and his colleague Dr. Carlos Nobre announced in 2019 that they believed the Amazon tipping point might have already been reached.

At the current rate of deforestation— from logging, ranching, mining, agriculture and fires—27% of the Amazon’s tree cover could be lost by 2030. That’s an area twice the size of Texas, and would release unprecedented amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Even now, the Amazon is emitting more CO2 than it absorbs, and still deforestation continues at an alarming rate.

Save Rainforests, Save the Planet

Rainforest Trust has been dedicated to saving rainforests for over 30 years because we recognize their importance for preserving biodiversity and stabilizing the climate. Your support has enabled us to work every day with partners in tropical and subtropical landscapes to identify habitats with the greatest biodiversity and the most urgent threats. Now, after protecting over 39 million acres of fragile ecosystems, we must move faster and do more. Protecting these vibrant, functioning ecosystems is our only hope in addressing climate tipping points.

The alternative is unthinkable.
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