The hashtag #PrayForAmazonas was the highest trending subject on the earth on Twitter on Wednesday, as pictures of a rain forest on hearth unfold throughout the web. Here’s what we all know up to now concerning the fires raging within the Amazon.
How widespread are the fires within the Amazon?
The variety of fires recognized by satellite tv for pc pictures within the Amazon up to now this month is the best since 2010, based on Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research company, which tracks deforestation and forest fires utilizing satellite tv for pc pictures.
[Update: Amid outrage over rainforest fires, many within the Amazon stay defiant.]
The variety of fires recognized by the company within the Amazon area up to now this yr, 40,341, is about 35 p.c larger than the typical for the primary eight months of every yr since 2010.
The decade earlier than that included a number of years wherein the variety of fires recognized in the course of the first eight months was far larger.
How did the fires begin?
Natural fires within the Amazon are uncommon, and nearly all of these fires have been set by farmers making ready Amazon-adjacent farmland for subsequent yr’s crops and pasture.
Much of the land that’s burning was not old-growth rain forest, however land that had already been cleared of bushes and set for agricultural use.
How uncommon are the fires? How harmful are they to the rain forest?
INPE’s figures symbolize a 79 p.c improve in fires from the identical interval in 2018. There have been massive numbers of fires in different current years as effectively: According to a supervisor of Global Forest Watch, the variety of fires within the Amazon this yr is roughly corresponding to 2016.
The destruction of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil has increased rapidly since the nation’s new far-right president took over and his government scaled back efforts to fight illegal logging, ranching and mining.
While campaigning for president last year, Mr. Bolsonaro declared that Brazil’s vast protected lands were an obstacle to economic growth and promised to open them up to commercial exploitation.
Less than a year into his term, that is already happening.
Brazil’s part of the Amazon lost more than 1,330 square miles of forest cover in the first half of 2019, a 39 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the government agency that tracks deforestation.
The Amazon is often referred to as Earth’s “lungs,” because its vast forests release oxygen and store carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that is a major cause of global warming. If enough rain forest is lost and can’t be restored, the area will become savanna, which doesn’t store as much carbon, meaning a reduction in the planet’s “lung capacity.”
Did climate change cause these fires, and how will they affect climate change?
These fires were not caused by climate change. They were, by and large, set by humans. However, climate change can make fires worse. Fires can burn hotter and spread more quickly under warmer and drier conditions.
When it comes to the future of climate change, widespread fires contribute a dual negative effect. Trees are valuable because they can store carbon dioxide, and that storage capacity is lost when trees burn. Burning trees also pumps more carbon into the atmosphere.
How does deforestation work? Is this different?
Deforestation can be caused by natural factors, like insects or blight, or by humans. This is a typical case of human deforestation: Farmers cut down trees to plant or expand a farm, then burn the leavings to clear the ground.
Brazil had previously tried to portray itself as a leader in protecting the Amazon and fighting global warming. From 2004 to 2012, the country created new conservation areas, increased monitoring and took away government credits from rural producers who were caught razing protected areas. This brought deforestation to the lowest level since record-keeping began.
But as the economy plunged into a recession in 2014, the country became more reliant on the agricultural commodities it produces — beef and soy, which are drivers of deforestation — and on the powerful rural lobby. Land clearing, much of it illegal, began to tick upward again.
Are the fires the fault of President Jair Bolsonaro?
There is evidence that farmers feel more emboldened to burn land following the election of Mr. Bolsonaro.
A New York Times analysis of public records found that enforcement actions intended to discourage illegal deforestation, such as fines or seizure of equipment, by Brazil’s main environmental agency fell by 20 percent during the first six months of this year.
Mr. Bolsonaro blames nongovernmental organizations for the fires. He has cited no evidence, and environmental experts dispute the claim.
What is Brazil’s government doing to fight the fires?
Some local governments have said they are shoring up their fire brigades. On Thursday, Mr. Bolsonaro said the Brazilian government lacked the resources to fight the fires, but on Friday he said he would direct the military to enforce environmental laws and to help contain the fires.