Amazon fires: Brazilian rainforest burning at record rate, space agency warns

Amazon Rainforest fire map in Brazil


The World Meteorological Organization said Tuesday on Twitter that atmospheric monitoring data shows smoke from fires across the Amazonian region has caused smoke to reach the Atlantic coast, including Sao Paulo.

Bolsonaro on Wednesday said his administration was working to control fires now raging in the Amazon rainforest, which have reached a record number this year.

Fires are raging at a record rate in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, and scientists warn it could strike a devastating blow to the fight against climate change.

That's the gist of an announcement this week by the country's National Institute for Space Research, or INPE.

A biologist Dan Schneider tweeted on Tuesday, "The number of forest fires in the Amazon Rainforest in #Brazil is up 82 percent from previous year".

Inpe said it had detected more than 72,000 fires between January and August - the highest number since records began in 2013. All the indications suggest they went there to film and start fires. That's almost as many as all of 2018 combined.

On Monday afternoon, smoke from several wildfires in the Amazon caused a mid-day blackout in Brazil's largest city almost 2,700 kilometers away.

Congressman Nilto Tatto, leader of the lower house environment caucus, said Bolsonaro's "stunning" attack on the NGOs was a smoke screen to hide his dismantling of Brazil's environmental protections built up over 30 years. Last week, thousands of Indigenous women took to the streets of Brasilia, Brazil's capital city, to denounce Bolsonaro's polices on a variety of issues, including deforestation and the president's desire to open up Indigenous land for mining. However, the agency claim that their data is 95 per cent accurate and their reliability has been backed up by agencies such as the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. He posited that these groups are trying to increase worldwide pressure on his government - but when reporters pressed him on the point, he didn't name any specific NGOs or offer any proof for his assertion. "I used to be called Captain Chainsaw".

"Crime exists", he said during a Facebook Live broadcast.

Inpe, however, noted that the number of fires was not in line with those normally reported during the dry season. Wildfires there today are caused by a combination of droughts and human activity; the intensity and frequency of droughts in turn, have been linked with increases in regional deforestation and anthropogenic climate change.

As NPR reported in 2015, deforestation such as this is often tied to subsistence farming and ranching, which uses more than two-thirds of Brazil's deforested land - and which has tripled the number of cattle in the country in the past three decades. That's up 84% over the same period past year. He attributed this year's spike to illegal deforestation since it has not been unusually dry.

"Every time you look at a satellite image of the forest", he tells Reeves, "you see another little piece missing".

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