Rain forests May Be Losing Their Ability to Absorb Carbon

Updated: Mar 6

Climate Change is Accelerating Faster Than We Thought

As one of the main carbon sinks of the world, rain forests act as the lungs of our planet. Forests and oceans absorb carbon in the atmosphere, creating breathable oxygen for life to continue on Earth.

However, a recent study surveying the carbon-absorbing abilities of tropical forests in the Amazon and in Africa has revealed that a large portion of these forests are decreasing the amount of carbon they absorb each year.

The study predicts that within the next decade or so, many tropical forests may reverse their ability to absorb carbon dioxide in the air and may soon add more carbon to the atmosphere.

The reversal is likely due to damage done to the forests by logging companies and local farmers, combined with the disastrous effects of rising temperatures due to climate change.

The breakdown of the carbon-absorbing powers of rain forests is dozens of years ahead of climate change models and has many top climate researchers pessimistic about humanity’s ability to reverse the trend.

This latest study analyzed data from 100 different institutions over the course of 30 years and has concluded that tropical forests have been slowly decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide that they absorb. Forests in the Amazon and Africa now take up less than 30% of what they did in the 1990s, a frightening low number when considering that the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has almost doubled since then.

The reversal of tropical forest’s ability to absorb carbon is one the world’s crucial ‘tipping points’, which are elements of climate change that when reached have no undoing. Once these forests stop absorbing carbon, they will begin releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change by years ahead of what researchers have predicted.

At this year’s UN Climate Talks in November (known as COP26), many top government officials from across the world are expected to meet and discuss plans to become carbon neutral by 2050. However, many top scientists predict that if the current towards irreversible tipping points continues, this mid-century goal may not be enough.

What Can You Do?

As an individual, you have more power to fight climate change than you might think. Supporting companies which utilize climate friendly practices and foregoing those that don’t, is a great way to ‘vote with your dollar.’ Voting in elections for candidates in your country who support green initiatives and climate change prevention is another crucial element to stopping this disastrous global trend.


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Earthen Futures is a sustainability blog dedicated to keeping global citizens informed on ways to fight climate change and reduce their carbon footprint. We overview the latest environmental studies and research to provide you with the best available information on ways you can help the environment and make the world a better place.