More than a quarter of the Amazon basin is now releasing more carbon than it absorbs, according to a comprehensive study.
Brazilian researchers flew an aircraft over the rainforest every two weeks for nine years, taking air samples from just above the canopy all the way up to 4.5km.
They found that the eastern side of the Amazon, which accounts for around 28% of the total area, is losing more carbon as a result of deforestation than is being removed from the atmosphere by the growth of trees.
Some of the carbon is lost through fires, deliberately started to clear the forest for agriculture.
But the knock-on effect of an absence of trees is local climate change, with rising temperatures and reduced rainfall accelerating the decline of surrounding areas of forest. Parts of the Amazon have flipped from being a carbon sink to a carbon source.
Mark Wright, director of science for conservation charity WWF, told Sky News that the research showed the Amazon is at a tipping point, where great swathes of forest could be destroyed by self-perpetuating dieback.
“We’re no longer talking about some dystopian future, this is stuff we can see on the ground, these changes are happening here and now,” he said.
“It’s a warning of what is still come to come.
“We know we are moving towards that inextricable situation where the forest will slowly transform into a more grass-like savannah ecosystem and as a result will push more carbon into the atmosphere.”
The world’s plants have absorbed 25% of fossil fuel emissions since 1960, helping to reduce global warming.
The Amazon rainforest has taken up a significant proportion, storing an estimated 123 billion tonnes in the trees and other vegetation.
But the new research suggests it can’t be relied on in future to mop up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere because human activity is disrupting the delicate ecosystem.
The researchers, led by National Institute for Space Research in Brazil, found that on the lush western side of the Amazon basin slightly more carbon is being absorbed through photosynthesis than is being released by dead trees and human impact on the forest.
But it was a significantly different story on the eastern side, where 27% of the forest has been lost, more than twice the rate in the west.
Results published in the journal Nature show that the area has switched from being a carbon sink to a net source during the nine years of the study, with local climate change destabilising the delicate ecosystem.
The researchers say that in the drier months of August to October the temperature in the eastern Amazon has increased by between 1.9C and 2.5C over 40 years. Rainfall has decreased by between 24% and 34%.
The researchers say there is a direct link between the changing climate and tree loss.
The Amazon receives an average of more than 2m of rain a year, with between a quarter and a third of it resulting from moisture released by trees.
With a shrinking forest in the east the atmosphere is drier, stunting the growth of remaining trees and reducing the amount of carbon they absorb.
Some scientists have predicted that if the Amazon reaches a tipping point it will retreat to cover only a relatively small area in the west, with a devastating impact on biodiversity and atmospheric carbon.
But Mark Wright said: “The future is potentially very, very bleak, but it’s not too late.
“If we follow the science, we can clearly see there is scope to do really good agricultural development in Brazil, in a way that will boost their economy, in a way that does not require further degradation.
“If we can concentrate on restoring those lands there is still hope for preventing that kind of runaway process.
“But we have to act now, we can’t keep pushing this off.”
Sky News has launched the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.
The Daily Climate Show is broadcast at 6.30pm and 9.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.
Hosted by Anna Jones, it follows Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.
The show also highlights solutions to the crisis and how small changes can make a big difference.
Israel-Hamas war: The truce has ended – why have negotiations stalled and what will Israel do now?
Within half an hour of the latest truce ending on Friday, Israeli fighter jets were bombing Gaza, and Hamas was firing salvos of rockets into Israel.
Although the Israel Defence Forces had been preparing for a resumption of their ground offensive if further truces could not be agreed, both sides are motivated to progress the release of hostages.
So why have the negotiations stalled and war resumed?
One of the IDF’s objectives is to liberate hostages, and the truces have proven an effective way to achieve this objective.
However, the IDF also wants to destroy Hamas, and is determined to resume military operations if the hostage negotiations stall.
Hamas knows it is no match militarily for the IDF, but is using the hostages as leverage to ensure its survival through extended ceasefires.
The initial focus was on releasing Israeli women and children, with three Palestinian prisoners released for every hostage liberated.
However, the next category of hostages will include young males and foreign nationals held, and Hamas will place a greater value on these hostages before considering their release.
The IDF soldiers will probably be the most prized hostages held by Hamas, and although Hamas might drip-feed their release, they only need a handful of IDF hostages – plus maybe a couple of foreign nationals – to maintain a credible negotiation capability.
Hamas once held an IDF soldier for five years and only agreed an exchange in return for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners – one of which was Yahya Sinwar, who is now the leader of Hamas in Gaza.
Meanwhile, Israel appears primarily focused on destroying Hamas, and although any truce will be welcome if it liberates hostages, the IDF will not tolerate any prevarication by Hamas.
Although Israel has resumed its combat operations, the military objectives will likely remain unchanged: destroying Hamas and liberating all hostages.
The second phase of its ground offensive appears to be focused on southern Gaza, where the population density is higher.
The IDF admits the casualties will be greater during Phase 2 – for both the IDF and the Palestinian civilians.
Israel claims to have killed 5,000 Hamas fighters in the first phase of the war, but in total more than 15,000 Palestinians have lost their lives since the start of the conflict – and that ignores those bodies yet to be discovered in the rubble.
If Israel’s military objective remains to destroy Hamas and they have killed 20% of the fighters to date, then by extrapolation the next phase of the conflict could result in another 60,000 Palestinian lives lost – not accounting for the increased risk due to the greater population density in the south of Gaza.
Any such dramatic increase in the levels of civilian casualties or escalation of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza will be of grave concern to the international community.
Even the US – Israel’s closest ally – is using increasingly cautionary language and urging restraint. It will be very difficult for Israel to maintain international support for a prolonged offensive in pursuit of its military objectives.
Regardless, Israel is clearly not prepared to let Hamas seize the initiative.
Israel supports an extension to the truce in exchange for hostages, leaving Hamas to choose between negotiation or war.
Qatari mediators are continuing their efforts to negotiate a fresh agreement, and we should expect periodic pauses in the hostilities as fresh agreements are reached and more hostages are released.
However, these are increasingly frustrating times for Israel who, despite overwhelming military superiority and securing the release of more than 100 hostages, are fast losing the initiative in this conflict.
Despite mounting a determined and aggressive ground offensive into Gaza, Israel has not destroyed Hamas, has yet to free all hostages, and is facing increasing calls to end the war.
Despite the devastation, the conflict has done little to resolve the underlying issues that polarise opinions in the region.
However, from the horrors of war, the opportunities for a lasting peace emerge, but only with international commitment and leadership will lasting progress be made.
The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is over, and now Gazans have to flee once more for safety
Plumes of smoke rise once again into the clear skies over Gaza.
Artillery boomed and jets screamed through the skies above us as the skyline to the north of the strip filled with smoke as buildings and Hamas targets were pounded by the Israeli military.
Loudspeakers blared out warnings of incoming Hamas rockets.
We hit the ground as Iron Dome interceptors halted their path – explosions reverberated around the near-deserted streets of the Israeli town of Sderot.
The war has started again. It was always a matter of when not if.
Israel says the ceasefire was broken by Hamas firing the first rockets, while Hamas says Israel kept saying no to the offers they were making during negotiations to extend the ceasefire.
Either way, the war has resumed. And for civilians caught up in it, who started it again is probably of little consequence.
53-year-old Gaza resident Yousif Ligi thought the truce would hold. And then woke up to the bombs in his neighbourhood.
“There is no safe place, we do not know where to go. Wherever we go they bomb it. How long will this bombing continue? Find us a solution with whatever means,” he said, looking dazed.
Sky News teams filming in the north and south of the Gaza Strip sent messages saying the intensity of the bombing is as bad as it’s ever been.
Soon they began to send us pictures from inside Gaza.
It’s a familiar scene now.
Streets filled with smoke and dust as bombs begin to fall, people rushing to search for loved ones and neighbours trapped in the rubble, desperately scrabbling by hand.
Houses and apartment blocks smashed to pieces.
The bodies of the dead, shrouded in white, laid together.
In one scene a woman gently strokes the body of a relative, watched on by a little girl.
We don’t know who they are.
Inside the hospitals the staff struggle to deal with a new influx of injured from the bombardment. Gurney after gurney rushed into the emergency rooms.
The medical centres in Gaza are already stretched to breaking point.
With negotiations around extending the ceasefire deadlocked, in many ways it was inevitable hostilities would resume.
The question now though is what happens to the hundreds of thousands of people in the south.
This is the greatest concern for the international community.
Already there is a mass exodus further to the south.
Our team in Gaza filmed as people left the city of Khan Younis, many of them had already been forced from their homes by the fighting in the north at the start of the war.
Some left by horse and cart, others in cars packed full carrying entire families – and any possessions that can cram on board.
Others reduced to escaping by foot.
One displaced Gaza resident, Sana Abdulkarim, walking with her sons and daughters, told us they feel “lost”, and don’t know where to find safety.
“We are scared that what they have done in the north, they will do in the south as well,” she said.
The family plans to go to Rafah, on the border with Egypt.
“We can’t find shelter anywhere else, where shall we go? We don’t know where to go. We will go to the first school, we don’t have to be inside, we can sit in the playground, what else can we do? What else can we do?”
In conflicts like this, the importance of schools as safe zones is inestimable.
The IDF has been dropping leaflets with a QR code that links to an interactive map that has Gaza divided into block numbers.
They say the map will help residents navigate the war zone and evacuate safely.
But thousands remain in the north.
And at one school in the Jabalia refugee camp near Gaza City, our cameras filmed a fire caused by an Israeli airstrike.
It was next to classrooms now full of people seeking shelter and is far from the relative safety of the south.
As the fighting intensifies, it’s hard to imagine how people like this could possibly even move.
Israel accuses Hamas of violating truce deal – military operations set to resume
Israel’s military has resumed combat in Gaza after accusing Hamas of violating the seven-day truce.
A spokesperson for Israel Defence Forces said: “Hamas violated the operational pause and in addition fired toward Israeli territory.”
Around 30 minutes after the ceasefire was due to end, the Israeli military said its fighter jets were striking Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
Images on social media showed large plumes of dark smoke rising over the densely built-up Jabalia refugee camp.
IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said multiple rockets had been launched from Gaza towards Israel.
The ceasefire was due to expire at 7am local time (5am UK) on Friday – with the IDF claiming it was “ready” and willing to continue military operations.
A total of 79 Israeli hostages have been released by Hamas over seven consecutive days, with hundreds of Palestinians freed from prisons in exchange.
About 140 hostages remain in Gaza.
Reaching agreements on hostage releases appeared to be getting harder as most women and children had already been released.
International mediators – including diplomats from Qatar, Egypt and the US – had been working to extend the temporary truce.
This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.
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