Brazil Amazon Peril

Agents from Ibama measure illegally cut timber from Cachoeira Seca indigenous land in Para state in Brazil's Amazon basin. The Amazon takes in as much as 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year and releases 20 percent of the planet's oxygen, earning it the nickname "the lungs of the planet."

SAO PAULO (AP) — Scientists warn that Brazil’s president-elect could push the Amazon rainforest past its tipping point — with severe consequences for global climate and rainfall.

Jair Bolsonaro, who takes office Jan. 1, claims a mandate to convert land for cattle pastures and soybean farms, calling Brazil’s rainforest protections an economic obstacle.

Brazil contains about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, and scientists are worried.

It’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance of the Amazon rainforest to the planet’s living systems, said Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist at the University of Sao Paulo.

Each tree stores carbon absorbed from the atmosphere. The Amazon takes in as much as 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year and releases 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen, earning it the nickname “the lungs of the planet.”

It’s also a global weather-maker.

Stretching 10 times the size of Texas, the Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest. Billions of trees suck up water through deep roots and bring it up to their leaves, which release water vapor that forms a thick mist over the rainforest canopy.

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