What You Need to Know About the Amazon Wildfires
What You Need to Know About the Amazon Wildfires

The Wildfires making their way through the Amazon rainforest is a huge threat to our planet, not just to the borders of Brazil. Environmental experts claim that the damage to the rainforest could mean that fighting climate change could now be even harder. That’s down to the fact that the rainforest, which is responsible for one-fifth of the world’s oxygen, has a key role in the storage of carbon, absorbing a significant amount of the 2.4 billion metric tonnes captured by forests each year. Increased deforestation and a higher number of fires in that area could accelerate warming climates beyond just South America, and markedly so.

The crisis has further implications from a political standpoint. That’s certainly the case for Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. The first-year leader, who has been less than convinced when it comes to climate change, vowed in January that he could limit penalties for damaging forests, as well as open up the area for commercial exploration. Images of smoke and wildfire over Brazil caused worldwide alarm when first released and shone a spotlight on the region, raising concerns over broader damage. There are a few things you should know when it comes to the recent rainforest fires.

Experts claim they could obstruct key environmental goals

In 2016, close to 200 countries put pen to paper on the Paris agreement in order to take a stance on climate change. Under that pact, countries promised to put a cap on global warming before the turn of the century. Maintaining that cap, however, could become close to impossible thanks to an increase in wildfires and deforestation, in addition to a change in weather patterns, in the Amazon.

Deforestation is accelerating

Earlier in 2019, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) revealed data that showed an 88 per cent increase in deforestation over a 12-month period. Fires in Brazil have also been on the rise, with an 85 per cent increase from last year. While it’s true that the summer can contribute to fires in the Amazon, experts have said that the dry season hasn’t been sufficiently extreme to result in such a substantial increase in wildfires. Greenpeace Brazil said that the increase of the fires has occurred in areas most affected by a rise in deforestation.

Bolsonaro is in the spotlight

The Brazilian president pledged that his government would welcome business development in the Amazon rainforest and once said that the country’s environmental policies were damaging the economy. Reportedly, he imposed a 24 per cent budget cut on the main environmental agency. He’s also talked about plans to allow protected indigenous reserves to be mined. He also fired Ricardo Galvão, the INPE Director, for his defence of agency data that revealed the rate of increased deforestation in Brazil. Bolsonaro said that numbers were lies. He also made accusations of nongovernmental organisations, claiming that they were responsible for the fires as part of a bid to ruin his reputation.