Africa’s tropical land emitted more CO2 than the US in 2016, satellite data shows

This means that, if Africa’s tropical regions were a country, it would be the second largest emitter of CO2 in the world – ahead of the US, which currently emits 5.3bn tonnes of CO2 a year.

The region’s 2016 emissions were “unexpectedly large”, the authors write in Nature Communications. This is because the land surface is covered by tropical forests and peatlands, environments which typically absorb large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.

The high rate of CO2 loss in 2016 could be associated with a “strong” El Niño, scientists tell Carbon Brief. El Niño is a natural phenomenon that periodically affects weather in many parts of the world. In the African tropics, it can cause unusually high temperatures and drought.

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