While most scientists say that global warming is a byproduct of human activity, particularly in the industrial age, new research has found trees, which are meant to be saving us from doom, are actually contributing to our downfall.
Trees are known to absorb CO2 and produce oxygen.
However, research from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, has found little carbon dioxide is being absorbed by Earth’s biggest tropical forests which is causing them to die off.
As the trees in the forests die, they rot and release large amounts of CO2 contributing to global warming.
But as more trees die, more CO2 is produced, leading to the death of more trees in what is a slippery downward spiral for the planet.
One of the main contributing factors to this has been an increase in the strength of El Nino – warm ocean temperatures – over the last few decades.
Lead author of the study, Junjie Liu, said the biggest damage is being done in the forests of South America, Africa and Indonesia which were responsible for the largest spike in CO2 on record.
She said: “These three tropical regions released 2.5 gigatons [one gigaton is a billion tons] more carbon into the atmosphere than they did in 2011.
“Our analysis shows this extra carbon dioxide explains the difference in atmospheric carbon dioxide growth rates between 2011 and the peak years of 2015-16.
“OCO-2 data allowed us to quantify how the net exchange of carbon between land and atmosphere in individual regions is affected during El Nino years.”
Project Scientist Annmarie Eldering of JPL added the research will allow them to tackle global warming produced by nature.
She said: “Understanding how the carbon cycle in these regions responded to El Nino will enable scientists to improve carbon cycle models, which should lead to improved predictions of how our planet may respond to similar conditions in the future.
“The team’s findings imply that if future climate brings more or longer droughts, as the last El Nino did, more carbon dioxide may remain in the atmosphere, leading to a tendency to further warm Earth.”
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