Published: Wed, August 21, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Brazil's Amazon rainforest is burning at a record rate, experts say

Brazil's Amazon rainforest is burning at a record rate, experts say

Bolsonaro on Wednesday said the administration is working to control fires now raging in the Amazon rainforest, which have reached a record number this year. The Inpe said that it has detected more than 74,000 fires between January and August of this year, illegal or otherwise, the highest number since records began in 2013.

It's been a bad year for the Amazon, which is the largest rain forest in the world, a vital carbon store that slows down global warming, and an area that nearly never burns on its own thanks to its natural moisture and humidity.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA's Aqua satellite captured several still images of multiple fires burning in the states of Rondônia, Amazonas, Pará, and Mato Grosso on August 11 and August 13, 2019. The Amazonas capital Manaus has been on environmental alert since Friday due to the fires.

The smoke has reached all the way to the city Sao Paolo - more than 1,700 miles away. Fans of the K-Pop band BTS, who call themselves the Army, are even rallying on Twitter to spread word of the fires, with tens of thousands of people tweeting the hashtag #ArmyHelpThePlanet.

Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday accused non-governmental organizations of setting wildfires in the Amazon rainforest to damage his government's image after he cut their funding. Wildfires are common in the dry season, but are also deliberately set by farmers illegally deforesting land for cattle ranching.

Since Thursday, 9,500 forest fires erupted in the region, the agency said.

Over the last eight months, Bolsonaro (aka "Captain Chainsaw") has fulfilled pre-election pledges to relax environmental regulations and open up indigenous land to mining and agriculture. "If they are alarming, I will take notice of them in front of you", he told reporters, according to Reuters.

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Environmental activists, meanwhile, pointed to a recent increase in deforestation as the trigger for the fires.

Ricardo Mello, the head of the Amazon Programme for the World Wide Fund for Nature, said that these fires are "a outcome of the increase in deforestation seen in recent figures".

In June, six months after Bolsonaro took power, the INPE released data showing that some 769.1 square kilometres of rainforest had been lost.

Bolsonaro fired the director of INPE following the publication of the statistics, saying they were inaccurate and smearing Brazil's reputation overseas. Brazil is home to more than half of the Amazon.

An global outcry has prompted Norway and Germany to halt donations to Brazil's Amazon fund, which supports many environmental NGOs as well as government agencies.

The move came after Bolsonaro's administration unilaterally changed the fund's governance structure and closed down the steering committee that selects the projects to back, making no formal proposal for the composition of a new committee. But he said that for the time being, Brazil would stay in the pact.

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