Brazil's space agency claimed that this week tens of thousands of fires had charred the rainforest. That is really bad for the planet's fight against the climate change.
The Amazon is on fire!
Brazil's space agency said that this week approximately 73,000 fires had broken out across the Amazon forest since the start of the year. This directly is imperiling one of the planet's last resorts of biodiversity and is raising serious concerns about climate change.
Here's everything you need to know about the fires raging in the Amazon.
There are more fires than usual
Brazil's space research, also known as INPE, claimed that this month only, the Amazon has seen 75,336 fires since the beginning of the year.
Those numbers exceed tremendously the numbers of last year, with more than 85% increase over 2017!
The numbers also crunch those seen in 2016, where there were approximately 68,000 fires by this point of the year. Of course, 2016 was heavily linked to a strong El Nino ocean pattern that left the region face extreme drought conditions.
The Amazon is dubbed as the “lungs of the planet”
The Amazon is one of the richest areas of biodiversity on the planet. It covers 2.12 million square miles in total.
It's often touted as one of the biggest oxygen suppliers, as well as the main mechanism to absorb dioxide that helps to slow down the effect of climate change.
The world's forests usually suck up 2.4 billion tons of carbon yearly, and Amazon alone absorbs 25% of that.
But, the Amazon's ability to do so has been weakening with time, according to a study back in 2015. The scientist has been warning that even without fires and deforestation, the rainforest will not be able to keep up with the increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions that are released in the atmosphere annually.
The fires are not accidental at all
INPE research Alberto Setzer told Reuters earlier this week that, even though fires are completely common in dry years, humans are primarily to blame for the rampant level in the recent months.
Farmers have been setting illegal blazes to clear the land for their own personal cattle and crops. The Brazilian leader has ascended back his government efforts to rein in bankruptcy, instead promising to open up protected lands to development in order to encourage economic growth.
“There is really nothing abnormal about the climate change this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little above average,” said Setzer. “The dry season creates the conditions to spread fire but starting the fire is the work of the humans, either by accident or purposely”.
Mikaela Weisse, currently a manager at Global Forest Watch (an initiative of the WRI) told the New York Times that natural fires were actually very rare in the Amazon.
“Almost all the fires we are seeing are set by humans,” said Weisse to the Times.
#Fires have been #burning in the Brazilian #Amazon for weeks. Smoke from the uptick in fires caused a blackout in #SaoPaulo on Monday. Track the fires in real time and access historical fire data on #GFWFires: https://t.co/HPNol2tNTL pic.twitter.com/MLAzUA2jeM
— Global Forest Watch (@globalforests) August 21, 2019
The fires can be seen from space!
The fires have grown tremendously fast over the past two months during the arrival of the famous dry season in Brazil.
NASA's Earth Observatory released images of the smoke from the fires covering the Amazon basin. And the smog grew so bad that it darkened the skies above Sao Paulo in the middle of the day!
🌎Just a little alert to the world: the sky randomly turned dark today in São Paulo, and meteorologists believe it’s smoke from the fires burning *thousands* of kilometers away, in Rondônia or Paraguay. Imagine how much has to be burning to create that much smoke(!). SOS🌎 pic.twitter.com/P1DrCzQO6x
— Shannon Sims (@shannongsims) August 20, 2019
The instant darkening prompted an outcry on social media, with some people stating it as the “apocalypse” while others organized around the now trending hashtag #prayforamazonia.
Environmental groups link the fires to the policies of Brazil's leader
Bolsanora has been in power of Brazil since the beginning of the year, but the Amazon has already lost more than 1,330 square miles just six months later. This happens while the Brazilian government pulled back on implementing environmental policies, the Times reported in July
Environmental groups have pointed this all to the Bolsonaro government's policies as a driving force behind the extinction of the Amazon.
“The unprecedented fires ravaging the Amazon are a global tragedy and a very dangerous contribution to climate change,” said Christan Poirier, the director of the program for Amazon Watch. Amazon Watch is an environmental non-profit organization.
“This devastation is directly related to President Bolsonaro's anti-environmental policy, which erroneously limits forest protections and human rights as blocks to Brazil's economic growth. Farmers understand the president's message as a license to commit a crime with reckless privilege, in order to expand their operation in the rainforest”
Queimadas e desmatamento na Amazônia. Por que acontece? O que você pode fazer para ajudar? Uma thread. (Foto de Outubro/2018) pic.twitter.com/vlxc8oHna0
— Greenpeace Brasil (@GreenpeaceBR) August 21, 2019
On the contrary, Bolsonaro has blamed the environmental groups, claiming in a Facebook broadcast this week, with no evidence at all, that non-government organizations have been setting the fires.
The Brazilian government recently stopped the funding to green groups in line with Boslonaro's anti-environment agenda.
“Maybe – I am not confirming it – these [NGO] are carrying some criminal actions to draw attention against me and the Brazilian government,” Bolsonaro said in the broadcast. “There is was going on in the world against Brazil, an information war”