The latest report unveiled the impact of global warming on a historic and devastating drought in the Amazon, the world’s largest land-based carbon sink. According to researchers, the primary cause of the massive drought in the Amazon basin in 2023 is climate change. This is expected to cause further extreme droughts and hamper the global efforts being made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The drought reached unprecedented levels in numerous locations, registering as the most severe on the scientific scale. According to the analysis, the impact of the drought would have been significantly less severe if not for the planet-warming emissions resulting from the combustion of oil, gas, and coal.

The study also indicated that drought was 30 times more likely to happen by global heating. While the return of the natural El Niño climate phenomenon is linked to drier conditions, it was deemed to have played a minor role in the drought, according to the scientists.

Though the climate crisis is rapidly changing the weather conditions across the planet, the Amazon drought is a stark and worrying example as the rainforest is already nearing a tipping point into a drier state. The consequence of such a scenario would be a widespread loss of trees in the world’s crucial carbon reservoir on land, leading to the release of substantial amounts of CO2 and further elevating global temperatures.

“The Amazon could make or break our fight against climate change,” said Regina Rodrigues, a professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil, and part of the World Weather Attribution team that did the analysis. “If we protect the forest, it will continue to act as the world’s largest land-based carbon sink,” she said. “But if we allow human-induced emissions and deforestation to push it through the tipping point, it will release large amounts of CO2. We need to protect the rainforest and move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible.”

The analysis estimates that the extreme drought of 2023 is expected once every 50 years in today’s climate. However, if the global heating reaches 2C, this would come down to every 13 years.