The lungs of the planet – the Amazon – could be wiped out within half a century as a result of too much clean air, writes Roger Highfield.
The vast rainforest, so crucial to the Earth’s climate, is coming under threat from attempts to curb the pollution that causes acid rain, warn UK and Brazilian climate scientists.
Their new study in Nature reports a link between reducing sulphur dioxide emissions from burning coal and increasing sea surface temperatures in the tropical north Atlantic, resulting in a heightened risk of drought in the Amazon rainforest.
The link was found by a team from the University of Exeter, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Met Office Hadley Centre and Brazilian National Institute for Space Studies.
A 2005 drought caused widespread devastation across the Amazon basin and the team estimates that by 2025 a drought on this scale could happen every other year and by 2060 a drought could occur in nine out of every ten years.