Amazon basin has seen one of the worst droughts ever in 2023 and new reports showcase that climate change was the primary driver behind it. Researchers also say that climate change will continue to cause more severe droughts shortly. According to a new report by World Weather Attribution, it is revealed that these extreme droughts will come with potentially dire consequences for global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The group assembled an ample team of scientists who assessed whether climate change had an impact on the recent weather events. They published a report on Wednesday that the “exceptional” Amazon drought last year was 30 times more likely to happen because of the climate change impact.
Regina Rodrigues, professor of physical oceanography and climate at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil and a lead author of the new report said “We’ve never seen anything like this before.” “And it was widespread in the whole basin,” she continued. The Amazon Basin extends into parts of nine countries and lies mostly in Brazil. It is the single biggest land-based sink of carbon on the planet which stores up to five times the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. So the survival of the Amazon Basin as an intact ecosystem is trivial in stabilizing Earth’s atmosphere. Excessive temperature and a lack of rain brought in the recent drought which then pushed river levels in some areas to their lowest points on record, triggered forest-destroying fires, and overheated waters that killed around 150 Amazonian river dolphins.
On the other hand, humanity also had to suffer because of the low waters. The effect was mainly on the people who depended on the basin’s river system for transportation as they were trapped. Moreover, the goods that travel along the many rivers in the basin, including the Amazon River, were also unable to reach markets. Simphiwe Stewart of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, based in the Netherlands said, “Small-holder farmers and indigenous river and rural communities were among the most vulnerable and will continue to be.”
Previous reports on the Amazon Basin also showed that parts of the Amazon, especially in the southeast which is a region known as the “arc of deforestation” has lost its position as a carbon sink and instead become a source. This has happened because so much of the rainforest in the region has been felled for grazing lands and soybean fields. Now, the researchers are worried that the latest drought can turn more untouched and vulnerable parts of the Amazon basin into significant carbon sources. Rodrigues explained that northwestern parts of the Amazon are more fragile because they are less impacted by human activity. This means that the region has not adapted to the damage caused by human interference. “Genetically speaking, that is more diverse and resilient, but ecologically speaking, is more vulnerable to physical drought,” Rodrigues said. “This is very problematic for the tipping point … The forest might not be able to cope,” she continued. Even if there is an adequate amount of rain in the future, it will not make much difference.