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Last Updated: Friday, 16 July, 2004, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Amazon fires raise CO2 threat
Yanomami Indian family in forest devastated by fire, Roraima state
Fires and felling have imperilled indigenous tribes
Deforestation in the vast Amazon region has turned Brazil into one of the world's biggest carbon dioxide (CO2) polluters, scientists say.

"Through the burning of millions of hectares of the Amazon every year, Brazil is emitting ridiculously high levels of CO2," said Professor Carlos Alberto Gurgel of the University of Brasilia.

The findings were reported by a team of scientists from Brazilian and US universities who studied illegal clearances through burning of the world's largest jungle - often described as the lungs of the Earth.

According to the study, deforestation is pumping 200 million metric tonnes of gas into the atmosphere every year, Brazilian media report.

That, in addition to the CO2 emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, brings annual Brazilian greenhouse gas emissions to some 550 million tonnes.

This places Brazil among the top 10 contributors to global warming on the planet, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo says - alongside the major polluters such as the United States, China and Russia.

"Brazil is certainly among the top 10 emitters on the planet as a result of deforestation," says meteorologist Carlos Nobre from the National Institute for Space Research.

"Comparatively, the volume of emissions is far smaller than those of the main countries, but it merits discussion, principally because it is not contributing to economic and social development."

Some 14,754 sq km (9,170 square miles) of jungle was lost in 2003, according to the Brazilian government.

Brazil, the world's fifth largest country, is thought to have the greatest biodiversity on Earth.

Experts say as much as 20% of the 1.6 million square miles (four million sq km) of rainforest has already been destroyed by development, logging and farming.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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