Global environmental challenges
How green is the Amazon?
Not as green as it used to be, as shown in an analysis of satellite images made during last year’s record-breaking drought.
Because greenness is an indication of health in the Amazon, a decline in this measurement means this vast area is getting less healthy — bad news for biodiversity and some native peoples in the region.
What does a drop in the greenness index look like? It looks gold, orange and red in a graphic accompanying an article to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters:
Gray areas are the norm, based on a decade of satellite observations that cover every acre (actually every square kilometer) on the planet. Dots that are gold, orange or deep red show areas with a decrease in greenness. Scientists call this the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI on this chart) or the greenness index.
Indonesia’s Sinar Mas came under heavy fire last week from non-government organization Greenpeace as a report named and shamed some of its biggest clients for their role in the destruction of rainforest and peatlands.
Following is a breakdown of the companies that made headlines July 3 to 16 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity, led by Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas.
It sounds almost too good to be true: new technology that would be better than carbon neutral — it would be carbon negative, taking more climate-warming carbon dioxide out of the air than factories and vehicles put in. It’s called air capture technology, and Reuters took a look at some promising versions of it on October 1.
This technology is expected to help some of the world’s poorest countries capitalize on any global carbon market, which would put a price on carbon emissions and let rich companies that spew lots of carbon buy carbon credits from poor companies and countries that emit less. The least developed countries emit very little carbon now. But the way the carbon market is set up under the Kyoto Protocol, this puts them at a disadvantage. If you don’t emit a lot it’s tough to get access to financing and clean technology under the current rules.
The Amazon rainforest lost trees and plants in a 2005 drought – shedding carbon equivalent to the weight of 140,000 Eiffel Towers or almost 200 Great Pyramids of Giza.
The drought, one of the worst in the past century, revealed the forest’s unexpected vulnerability to shifting rainfall and a huge role in releasing greenhouse gases – compounding problems such as logging and land clearance to create farmland.