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Global leaders grow concerned over extreme drought unfolding in Amazon Rainforest: 'That can be the straw that breaks the camel's back'

"[It's] affecting the transport and access to essential goods and disrupting local economies."

"[It's] affecting the transport and access to essential goods and disrupting local economies."

Photo Credit: iStock

The Amazon basin is up against a severe drought because of a lack of precipitation, heat waves, and warmer-than-average temperatures.

What's happening?

The western Amazon basin is suffering from an extreme drought, driven by a dearth of rainfall since July 2023, according to a November report from the Global Drought Observatory.

From July-September 2023, all Amazon basin countries recorded their lowest rainfall in over 40 years. This led to drought in Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru.

Several extreme heat waves across the region have exacerbated this lack of precipitation. Brazil was especially affected — São Paulo hit a scorching 36.5 degrees Celsius (98 Fahrenheit) during the city's warmest winter in more than 60 years.

Why is the drought concerning?

The drought has led to low river flows, dry soil, and increased fire danger across the Amazon basin. Low river flows have also restricted navigation, endangering trade.

"Large boats struggle to navigate, challenging the mobility in riverside communities, affecting the transport and access to essential goods and disrupting local economies," according to the EU Science Hub.

Since October, all 62 municipalities in Brazil's Amazonas state have been under a state of emergency because of the severe impacts of the drought, affecting around 590,000 people. The nearby state of Pará declared 20 of its 144 municipalities in emergency status later that month. Drought is also affecting citizens of other Amazon countries like Peru, Bolivia, and Venezuela.

This historic drought is part of a larger trend — according to a recent report, nearly a quarter of people around the world lived under drought conditions in the past two years. These dry conditions are having significant impacts on agricultural production, food security, and availability of drinking water.

Drought also threatens ecosystems. As fire risk increases in the Amazon, so does the possibility of losing the forest's carbon-storing trees, which also provide habitat to a number of species.

"If that goes into [the] atmosphere as greenhouse gases, that can be the straw that breaks the camel's back for the global climate," Philip Fearnside, a biologist at the Institute for Amazonian Research in Manaus, Brazil, told the New York Times. "Not just the Amazon."

What can I do to help? 

You can pitch in to help curb the overheating of our planet by putting pressure on elected officials. The United Nations Environment Programme gives tips on how to urge politicians, your employer, bank, and city to move toward net-zero pollution.

You can also help out by living a more sustainable lifestyle. Some things you can do include avoiding single-use plastic, using clean energy at home, replacing old appliances with new energy-efficient models, and taking public transit or riding a bikeinstead of driving.

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