4:19pm UK, Wednesday March 11, 2009
The Amazon rainforest will all but disappear by the end of the century if global temperatures continue to rise, scientists fear.Scientists warn that most of the forest will disappear because of climate change
A new computer model run by Met Office scientists at the Hadley Centre shows the forest dying at an alarming rate.
It is one of the most unique habitats on Earth - home to half of the world's plants, animals and insects.
The area is also a key weapon against global warming, absorbing two billion tons of carbon monoxide from the atmosphere every year.
A temperature rise of 1C could see the decline reach a point of no return.
A 2C rise - which we're likely to have reached towards the end of the century - would see between 20 and 40% die, according to the model.
At 3C - also a real possibility by 2100 - 75% of the Amazon could be lost.
The study is supported by other scientists at a climate change conference in Copenhagen.
Climate scientist, Peter Cox from Exeter University, told Sky News Online the Amazon is in a precarious position.
He said: "Potentially what happens is, as you warm up the climate with carbon dioxide and other green house gases, some models predict a big drying, a reduction of rainfall in Amazonia and that means you can't support the rainforest.
"In that model, you lose a lot of the rainforest by the end of the century."
The Hadley Centre's figures do not take into account the vast amount of forest lost through deforestation.
Professor Tim Lenton, from the University of East Anglia, said:"Losing the Amazon would be a tragedy for the planet and biosphere.
"When I was at school we feared we'd end up chopping it down and lose it that way. But now it looks like climate change might deal a killer blow.
"Unless we can restrict the warming and seasonal changes we're already seeing in the tropics, the prospects for the Amazon aren't good."
The messages emerging from the climate conference may seem depressing but scientists say there is still time to avoid the worst case scenarios.
However, we must be prepared to change the way we live and reduce carbon emissions.