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Priscilla Peixoto – from Cenarium

MANAUS – A study conducted by experts to analyze the impacts of deforestation and climate change on human health, until the year 2100, shows that more than 11 million people living in the Northern region of Brazil will be exposed to the risk of “extreme heat stress” due to high temperatures. The research was published this Friday, 1st, by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz).

According to the study, entitled Deforestation and climate change project an increased risk of heat stress in the Brazilian Amazon, the “savannization” of the Amazon can bring serious consequences to humans, even influencing the difficulty of man to maintain body temperature in certain environmental conditions.

One of the co-authors of the research and an expert on global warming and climate change, Carlos Nobre, said that the weakening of ecosystems in the Amazon brings along with global warming a much greater risk to human health.

“The human body cannot dissipate the heat generated by organic metabolism. Never, in millions of years, has the climate exceeded these limits. But, with global warming and the risk of a large part of the Amazon rainforest becoming a degraded savanna, this changes the climate and we will reach the end of the century with 50% of the days, at some point, warmer and we will exceed a limit in which the body cannot resist”, points out Nobre.

Temperature and damage to health

The scholar explains that the human body has a temperature and humidity limit. “The limit is 35ºC of air temperature with saturated air and water vapor. It can also be 40ºC with a relative humidity of 70%, or 45ºC with 50% relative humidity, but this limit cannot be exceeded”, he explains.

Among the harm to health caused by bad environmental conditions, Nobre mentions dehydration, the weakening of the body’s cooling leading to body enlargement, exhaustion, reduced physical and psychological conditioning, respiratory, heart and kidney diseases, and even death.

Photographic record shows burning in forest area

Data from the study

Of the 5,565 Brazilian municipalities, 16% of them, corresponding to 30 million people, will suffer the thermal consequences with the ‘savannization’ of the Amazon Rainforest. The municipalities in the North region comprise 42% of the impacted population with low resilience potential and high social vulnerability.

With the changes, damage to health due to the difficulty of adaptation and thermal conditions, the inhabitants of the Northern region of the Brazilian map may trigger a mass migration to other regions of Brazil. The specialists also inform that the precarious conditions and thermal stress can result negatively in labor productivity; consequently, impacting the economy.

By 2030, for example, the study shows that there will be a 1.5°C increase in the global average temperature. “It could represent 0.84% of lost working hours, equivalent to 850,000 full-time jobs, mainly in the agricultural and construction sectors – in agriculture, the high risk associated with intense work and thermal overload has already been observed among sugarcane cutters”, the text states.

It is worth pointing out that the research did not take into consideration population growth, changes in demographic structure, and life expectancy. The study results are isolated reflections of climate change and ‘savannization’ and serve to represent the effects observed if the current population were exposed to the projected heat stress distributions.

Sustainability modifications and strategies

According to Nobre, land use and deforestation policies need to be urgently modified. In addition, it is necessary to invest in the process of accelerating reforestation, especially in the southern Amazon, an intensely degraded region. “It is becoming urgent to modify the policies that have dominated the Amazon scenario for many decades. We must seek to zero deforestation, forest degradation and fires in a few years. At the same time, large-scale programs of forest restoration must be accelerated, especially in the southern Amazon, the region of greatest deforestation and forest degradation”, says the researcher.

The specialist emphasizes the biodiversity of the Amazon and pays attention to the new bio-economy, classifying it as superior to the main ones responsible for the destruction of the forest and pollution of the ecosystems. “The great potential of the Amazon in all senses is in its rich sociobiodiversity and we must seek sustainable trajectories, uniting traditional knowledge with scientific and technological knowledge, to create an innovative bioeconomy of standing forest and healthy rivers. The economic potential of this new bioeconomy is far superior to the most common practices of agriculture, livestock and mining, the main vectors of forest destruction and pollution of aquatic ecosystems”, he concludes.

Besides Carlos Nobre, also participating in the study were researchers Beatriz Alves de Oliveira, from Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, in Piauí (Fiocruz PI); Marcus Bottino and Paulo Nobre, from the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe).