The Amazon Rainforest has been burning at alarming rates in the past few weeks. Currently 72,843 fires have been reported in Brazil this year and 41,858 in the Brazilian Amazon. This doesn’t include fires occurring in other countries in the Amazon. The fires are largely intentionally set to clear land to be developed for agriculture. Forest fires and burns for clearing occur each year during the dry season throughout the region, but not at a rate this great. This year, the blame for the increase in fires is largely due to new president Jair Bolsonaro.
Fires and deforestation have been burning increasingly since president Jair Bolsonaro took office. Bolsonaro is widely viewed as one of the most unfriendly leaders when it comes to environmental concerns. Fires have increased nearly 85% since last year, coinciding with the president’s extreme rhetoric and policies towards the environment. Bolsonaro views environmental protection as a hurdle to economic progress for Brazil. The issue of deforestation has been going on for decades and continues to be a complex issue. Geopolitical tensions will surely come to a head as these fires continue to burn.
The climate will be surely negatively impacted. The Amazon Rainforest produces around 20% of the world’s oxygen. The forest also holds an immense amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere when it is burned. This has the ability to dramatically increase the rate of climate change if the forest continues to be burned. In addition, the ability of the forest to remain the way it is may reach a tipping point where it is no longer self-sustaining.
The Amazon creates its own weather systems, and produces the water used for agriculture and human consumption throughout the region. 30 million people live in the Amazon (2.7 Million Indigenous people) as well as 10% of the World’s biodiversity, according to the WWF, including an array of endangered species. Deforestation creates a positive feedback loop that lengthens the dry season, making fires worse, thus causing more deforestation. If too much of the rainforest is deforested or burned, the amazon would be turned into a savannah like climate without the ability to sustain the biodiversity the region currently holds.
The practice of clearing land by burning is a common practice in the region, used by small and large operations alike. The practice is controversial, and an ongoing effort has been happening in the region for decades to address this problem. Tremendous progress has been made on slowing down deforestation in the past. The rate of deforestation has slowed since the 1990’s-2,000’s.
A strong stance and pressure should be put on Bolsonaro to enforce deforestation laws and protect a resource that is necessary in order to fight climate change. Currently, the Brazilian government has deployed troops to battle the blazes as the G7 takes place, which will surely address this important issue. It is clear that protection of the Amazon is necessary, and everything must be done to mitigate this problem.