Relentless Amazon deforestation and gross mishandling of the region by Brazilian authorities and agricultural advocates are pushing the world’s largest tropical rainforest closer to the brink of catastrophic ecological collapse. Even more alarming, once that tipping point is reached, there will be no way to reverse it. Estimates reveal that if mass environmental mismanagement persists, within two years’ time, the forest will collapse and will be unable to generate enough rain to sustain itself.

The news was shared in a policy brief put forth by Monica de Bolle, a Peterson Institute for International Economics senior fellow in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the report only sparked controversy, with some climatologists and researchers arguing that the tipping point is still 15 to 25 years away.

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The Amazon is currently experiencing excessive deforestation, 75 percent of which is attributed to two ‘forest-risk commodities’: soybeans and beef — Brazil’s main exports. Widespread deforestation and land clearing diminish regional rainfall, exacerbating the risks of fire, drought and heat stress. These environmental stressors leave the trees and ecosystem vulnerable to parasites and pathogens, further predisposing the flora to far-reaching forest dry-up and ecological decline. Sadly, an unhealthy Amazon rainforest can no longer produce enough rain to sustain itself.

The mortality of the rainforest’s trees would release billions of tons of carbon, intensifying greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Dire consequences include biodiversity loss, rampant ecosystem failure and climate repercussions.

Carlos Nobre, a leading climate scientist in Brazil, is one of de Bolle’s detractors. “The Amazon is already 17 percent deforested, so when you calculate at the current rate of deforestation, this 20 percent to 25 percent is reached in 15 to 20 years,” Nobre said. “I hope she is wrong. If she is right, it is the end of the world.”

No matter whether the tipping point is reached by 2021 or later, what’s clear is that if things continue unabated in the Amazon, the once-treasured World Heritage site will collapse, and the entire world will suffer.

Via The Guardian

Image via NASA