Thousands of fires have been ravaging the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and other South American countries for more than three weeks, some of the most intense blazes the area has seen for close to a decade.
According to data provided by Brazil’s space agency, there have been more than 72,000 forest fires in the first eight months of 2018. Venezuela (26,000) and Bolivia (17,000) have also seen a large increase.
In Brazil alone, there have been 9,507 new forest fires in the country since Thursday. Nearly 36,000 of them began in the last month.
It is difficult to ascertain the total damage as of yet. However, the director of Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) found that in one month alone (May) the Amazon lost 739 square kilometres.
That’s the same as three Maltas. In just one month.
The Amazon basin – home to about three million species of plants and animals and one million indigenous people – is crucial to regulating global warming, with its forests absorbing millions of tonnes of carbon emissions every year.
Forest fires are common in the Amazon during the dry season, which runs from July to October. They can be caused by naturally occurring events, such as by lightning strikes, but also by farmers and loggers clearing land for crops or grazing.
However, activists and critics of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro argue that his deregulation of tree-clearing activities is behind the massive spike. He has also refused to follow the Paris Climate Change agreement.
Bolsonaro, a long-time climate sceptic, accused non-governmental organisations of starting the fires themselves to damage his government’s image.
?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) 20 August 2019
Northern regions, Roraima, Acre, Rondônia and Amazonas, are the worst affected. However, plumes of smoke from the fire have spread across the entire country. Data indicates that the fires have been releasing a large amount of carbon dioxide, around 228 megatonnes so far.
It has even caused skies to darken in São Paulo.
French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that the has been placed firmly at the top of the agenda of the next G7 summit.