On February 14th, 2023, the Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA) presented at the G-STIC Rio Conference. In line with G-STIC’s theme of accelerating breakthrough technological solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a focus on climate, SPA authors Carlos Nobre, Luciana Gatti, Paulette Bynoe, Jose Marengo, and Carlos Young – with moderation from journalist Daniela Chiaretti – presented the importance of the Amazon to the region and to the world, the current context and landscape, and possible solutions to inform decision-making, including on bioeconomy and forest restoration.
The session began with an introduction from SPA Co-Chair Carlos Nobre on the urgency of the SPA’s key recommendations, their latest policy briefs, and a plea to the international community to support the SPA’s key recommendations and to invest in science and technology in the region. Luciana Gatti then presented the observed warming of the Amazon and details on how much of the Amazon is a carbon sink and why this ability is decreasing. She explored temperature and precipitation changes in the region, and changes in photosynthesis rates, and ended her presentation by arguing that protecting the Amazon could be our best protection against climate change.
Paulette Bynoe then explored the topics of deforestation and degradation and their drivers, while highlighting the solutions for these problems. She presented how deforestation has varied over time and how this, together with fires and drought has led to forest degradation. She explained that understanding the drivers of these issues is the best way to find solutions. The presentation ended with her discussing solutions such as enforcing existing laws and land speculation, closing down illegal markets, promoting and developing integrated monitoring systems, developing large-scale emergency systems, and restricting logging concessions to companies employing reduced-impact logging techniques.
Jose Marengo then presented how anthropogenic changes are affecting the Amazon’s climate, how land use changes have affected the wet and dry seasons, and the hydrology impacts, specifically using the water levels of Rio Negro as an example. He presented the science behind the tipping points that the Amazon is facing and why exceeding these points could be catastrophic- presenting 3 possible trajectories for the forest. He ended by discussing a recent paper published in Science, led by SPA author David Lapola, on the drivers of degradation in the Amazon, and how they amplify the impacts of climate change.
Carlos Young ended by exploring bioeconomy in the Amazon and the many bioeconomy opportunities to support sustainable investments in the region. He reiterated a SPA key message of the importance of integrating Indigenous and local knowledge to support climate efforts in the region. He explored how bioeconomy is much more than an economy, but also a set of ethical-normative values on the relationship between society and nature and their consequences. He ended by emphasizing how we should think internationally and consider the Amazon a global concern. He argued that it’s “not what we do but how we do it”, giving examples of how to turn logging and fishing into sustainable activities. He concluded, repeating what Luciana Gatti stated, that “the Amazon is too big and too important to make mistakes” regarding the region.
During the Q&A, Carlos Nobre spoke about the challenges of Brazil’s new government’s goal of zero deforestation, expanding on the impact of illegal activity in the Amazon. Luciana Gatti then addressed a question about the frequency of her team’s measurements and how it helps to track emission changes. She spoke on how the measurements in the Southeast Amazon have concerned her most because it can turn this area into a carbon source, instead of a carbon sink. Paulette Bynoe then spoke on transboundary actions and the importance of sharing data, regional programs at universities, interregional research, and the importance of promoting policies driven by science. She also highlighted the importance of regional monitoring and spoke on programs in Guyana that other Amazonian countries can learn from. Jose Marengo then spoke on social inclusion in the Amazon and the importance of improved communication and integrated education with Indigenous communities. Carlos Young then ended the Q&A by repeating that it’s not what we are doing but how we are doing it. The solutions that already exist in the Amazon need to be supported by the government and investments, saying “we need to provide correct incentives to the correct activities”. Carlos Nobre gave final remarks speaking on deforestation and the impact of cattle ranching, comparing the GDP possibilities of the untapped potential products in the Amazon. “Let’s use our products to help people’s health and use the diversity of the Amazon to grow and access the rest of the world. That is our challenge as Science Panel for the Amazon.”
Rewatch the event on the SPA Youtube page.