Updated: 22 August 2019
Major wildfires are currently burning all over the world. More than 21,000 square miles of forest have gone up in flames in Siberia this month, reports Vox. The most alarming spate of wildfires has taken plan in the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical forest. The area almost never burns on its own but this year, the blaze has been so intense that the dense fumes have blackened the sky in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. The lack of media coverage of the fires led to the #PrayforAmazonia tag on social media. The State of Amazonas has declared an emergency.
What caused the wildfires?
Most of the recent wildfires have stemmed from unprecedented warmth and dryness across many parts of the world. In the case of the Amazon the major contributing factor is human intervention leading to climate change. Humans have made the destruction of wildfires worse. Forests are heating up and drying out due to human activity.
People end up igniting a majority of wildfires through errant sparks and arson. Farmers using slash and burn agriculture is another factor. Even though the practice is illegal in Brazil this time of the year, people continue to do it. The Amazon rainforest has experienced a record number of fires this year, with 72,843 reported so far.
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The Amazon is burning at a record rate, according to recent data published by the National Institute for Space Research. The satellite data showed an 84% increase in the number of fires burning, in comparison to the same period in 2018 (➡️swipe across to see the figures) The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world and is an absolutely vital carbon store, meaning it plays a crucial role in slowing down the pace of global warming. The Brazilian government is being widely criticised by conservationists, who say the rainforest has suffered losses at an accelerated rate since President Bolsonaro took office. Satellite data released in July showed that an area the size of a football pitch is cleared for deforestation every single minute. The Amazon is home to about three million species of plants and animals – and one million indigenous people. Tap the link in our bio to read more about what’s going on.⬆️ #amazonfire #amazonisburning #bbcnews
What do government officials have to say?
Alberto Setzer, a researcher at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said, “There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average. The dry season creates the favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.”
Wildfires have increased in Mato Grosso and Para in Brazil where agriculture has been pushed into the amazon basin and increased deforestation.
UPDATE: The wildfires in the Amazon Rainforest plunged Brazil’s largest city Sao Paulo into darkness in the middle of the afternoon as a massive wall of smoke descended upon the area, alarming residents.