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Brazil's Amazon rainforest has now been found to be emitting more carbon pollution than it sucks in.
Many people around the world were shocked last year when parts of the iconic landscape were going up in flames and expressed their sadness that the 'earth's lungs were on fire'.
However, it appears those lungs aren't keeping up with the rate of carbon pollution.
According to the Independent, a new study has revealed that between 2010 and 2019, the Amazon released 16.6 billion tonnes of CO2, however it only managed to suck up 13.9 billion tonnes in return.
This marks a worrying shift in the planet's ability to heal itself and keep up with human impacts.
The carbon emissions are being blamed on forest fires, both deliberate and accidental, as well as land clearing.
Because the trees breathe in the carbon dioxide that is in the air, the pollutants get released when those trees are eventually destroyed.
The study has been published in the research journal Nature Climate Change, and has caused concern amongst experts.
The study's co-author, Jean-Pierre Wigneron, who is a scientist at France's National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA), told AFP: "We half-expected it, but it is the first time that we have figures showing that the Brazilian Amazon has flipped, and is now a net emitter. We don't know at what point the changeover could become irreversible."
The INRA is concerned the current Brazilian government will only worsen the situation.
Jair Bolsonaro came into power at the beginning of 2019 and has since downplayed the significance of the fires in the Amazon and even called the number of blazes a lie.
Deforestation in the Amazon increased by four times in 2019 compared with 2017 and 2018. There was a whopping 9.8 million acres of land cleared, which, according to USA Today, is roughly the size of New Jersey and Connecticut combined.
"Brazil saw a sharp decline in the application of environmental protection policies after the change of government in 2019," the INRA said in a statement.
Ecosystems that help suck up the world's carbon emissions have been facing an uphill battle, with 40 billion tonnes of CO2 being emitted in 2019. Plants and soils have been able to suck up around 30 per cent of those emissions and oceans have picked up 20 per cent.
However, the battle against climate change will become much harder if key areas that have breathed in carbon pollution for centuries is too damaged to work.
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