Climate models have suggested that global heating – which has on average warmed Earth’s surface 1.1C above preindustrial levels – could by itself push the Amazon past a point of no return into a far drier savannah-like state.

If carbon pollution continues unabated, that scenario could be locked in by mid-century, according to some models.

Besides the Amazon, ice sheets on Greenland and the West Antarctic, Siberian permafrost loaded with CO2 and methane, monsoon rains in South Asia, coral reef ecosystems, and the Atlantic ocean current are all are vulnerable to tipping points that could radically alter the world as we know it.

Deforestation in Brazil has surged since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, hitting a 15-year high last year.

Scientists reported recently that Brazil’s rainforest – 60% of the Amazon basin’s total – has shifted from a “sink” to a “source” of CO2, releasing 20% more of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere over the last decade than it absorbed.

Terrestrial ecosystems worldwide have been a crucial ally as the world struggles to curb CO2 emissions. Vegetation and soil globally have consistently absorbed about 30% of carbon pollution since 1960, even as emissions increased by half.

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