Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Amazon Smoke Forest?

Oh, the irony.

Far from cleaning up the atmosphere, the Amazon is now a major source for pollution. Rampant burning and deforestation, mostly at the hands of illegal loggers and of ranchers, release hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the skies each year.
Brazil now ranks as one of the world's leading producers of greenhouse gases, thanks in large part to the Amazon, the source for up to two-thirds of the country's emissions.

Well, you may ask, what is being done to stop this destruction and burning? What is being done to stop these illegal loggers and ranchers?

Not much.

Such encroachment on virgin land is theoretically illegal or subject to tough regulation, but the government here lacks the resources — some say the will — to enforce environmental protection laws.

Thank goodness for the Kyoto Agreement and the forward thinking countries that signed it. That will surely save us, right? Uh, uh, uh. Not so fast.

However, under the international environmental treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol, Brazil and other poor countries are not required to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. Nor does the accord contain financial incentives to encourage nations such as Brazil and Indonesia to rein in the destruction of their tropical forests.

Ok, so if we stop this destruction, then everything will be perfect. Well, not quite.

Even without the massive burning, the popular conception of the Amazon as a giant oxygen factory for the rest of the planet is misguided, scientists say. Left unmolested, the forest does generate enormous amounts of oxygen through photosynthesis, but it consumes most of it itself in the decomposition of organic matter.

Ironic, ain't it.