Fires in Amazon rainforest up more than 80% this year, scientists warn

Amazon Rainforest fire map in Brazil

InfoAmazonia

Video footage of the fire shows that Sao Paolo in Brazil, though 2,400 kilometres away from the fire, has been shadowed by dark billows of smoke and day has turned to night.

The Amazon rainforest in Brazil is experiencing a record amount of fires this year, according to the country's space agency. Namely, the rapid rate of deforestation taking place under the leadership of the right-wing authoritarian president Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January 2019.

The number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon between January 1 and August 20 - more than 74,000 as of Tuesday - has risen 84% from the same period in 2018, according to data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which used satellites to collect its research.

Fires are often set by ranchers to clear shrubs and forest for grazing land in the Amazon basin.

While wildfires do occur in Brazil's drier months, they are also purposely started to illegally deforest the land.

Some meteorologists say the smoke came from major fires burning in Paraguay, which is much closer to the city and not in the Amazon region. That's up 84% over the same period past year.

Just weeks ago, the director of INPE was sacked after a spat with the president; the director had defended satellite data that showed deforestation was 88% higher in June than a year earlier, and Bolsonaro called the findings "lies".

As of August 16, 2019, satellite observations indicated that total fire activity in the Amazon basin was slightly below average in comparison to the past 15 years.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro said that the recent wave of fires in the Amazon may have been caused by nongovernmental organizations in order to draw global criticism to his government. However, when asked for evidence to support that theory, he had none to provide, and said, "that's not how it's done", as per Reuters. "This is the war that we are facing", he said Wednesday in a Facebook Live, according to a translation by the BBC. It said it had observed more than 9,500 forest fires since Thursday, mostly in the Amazon region.

It shouldn't need repeating, but the Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world and is therefore utterly vital for storing carbon and helping to reduce the effects of carbon emissions, which accelerate climate change.

Bolsonaro vowed to explore the Amazon's economic potential and condemned deforestation warnings that could interfere with trade negotiations.

"The dry season creates the favorable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident", Setzer told the news agency.

Nearly 73,000 fires have been detected by Brazil's space research centre INPE.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro pointed out that his government had slashed NGO funding, which he claimed may be a motive for NGOs burning down the forest as they seek to bring infamy to his government.

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