Connect to share and comment

Tens of millions of people around the world, climate calamity has already arrived. To help understand climate change — and what it means to the people living through it — GlobalPost's award-winning team of correspondents and videographers spent much of 2013 investigating this global phenomenon.

CC Amazon Still
As the Amazon dries, fire spreads into areas once too wet to burn. (Greg Asner/GlobalPost)

Calamity Calling: What if we lost the Amazon?

VIDEO: Climate change is wreaking havoc on the world's largest rainforest. This scientist and his airplane are tracking the destruction.

ABOVE THE AMAZON JUNGLE, Peru — The Amazon rainforest is best known for its vibrant wildlife and endless canopy. But it also plays a key role in the world’s climate.

It generates rainclouds that water some of the world’s most productive farmlands, from Argentina to Texas.

It also helps buffer us from global warming.

As our cars and power plants spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the Amazon’s seemingly boundless plantlife has been soaking up some of that extra carbon.

But the world's largest rainforest is now in trouble.

In 2005, the upper Amazon was struck by the worst drought on record. Another followed in 2010.

Scientists say climate change is leading to less rain and higher temperatures. Meanwhile, logging and clear-cutting for agriculture, mining and other industries are accelerating the effect and further drying out the forest.

Tropical ecologist Greg Asner, with the Carnegie Institution for Science, has pioneered techniques to map changes in the forest from an airplane. His cutting-edge technology has shown dramatic changes in just a few years.

“The worst case is that we could lose almost all of the basin,” Asner says in this GlobalPost video that was filmed in the skies above the Amazon.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/131024/calamity-calling-what-if-we-lost-the-amazon