How Amazon ‘dieback’ is turning the world’s largest rainforest into a savannah

Why are we losing the Amazon rainforest?

Listen | 21:31

Last week, new research revealed that conditions in the Amazon rainforest are reaching a critical threshold. Scientists have warned the world’s largest rainforest may be nearing a tipping point of “dieback”, the point where it dries out, turns to savannah and loses its ability to heal itself.

Dr Chris Boulton from the University of Exeter, who led the team of scientists examining changes in the Amazon, explains on today’s podcast why this latest data proves that deforestation and climate change are pushing the rainforest towards this dangerous threshold.

Irish Times South America correspondent Tom Hennigan also explains how Brazil – once considered a global climate leader – is now considered one of the worst environmental offenders on the planet and how president Jair Bolsonaro's policy on deforestation is leading the country down a path of no return.

Bolsonaro is a “noted climate change denier” and “a lot of his intimate circle, including his own sons, they’ve always downplayed the problem and portray it as an attempt by rich Northern countries to try and stymie Brazil’s growth”, Hennigan told the podcast.


“I think there is a genuine belief when they say that climate change isn’t happening. . . that the Amazon really, as Brazilian nationalists like Bolsonaro would see it, needs to be occupied and turned productive.”

Today we ask, what is happening inside the Amazon rainforest and will Brazil’s president do anything to save it?

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast