Despite what Fox News and your wacky uncle may tell you, there is a preponderance of extremely convincing scientific evidence that climate change is happening, that it’s happening fast, and that it very well may be irreversible. But on the off-chance that you’re looking for more evidence that this is the case, you can now add “the Amazon is on fire” to your list.
According to a statement from the Brazilian research center the National Institute for Space Research (known as INPE), rainforest fire rates in the Amazon are at an all-time high. In total, there have been more than 72,000 forest fires in Brazil this year alone, with more than half of these concentrated in the Amazon. That’s an 80% increase from the number of fires recorded in the country last year, and it’s the highest number to date since the INPE started recording forest fires in 2013.
While wildfires are apparently common during the dry season, the INPE pointed out that drought was likely not the cause, as there was nothing unusual about the rainfall levels in the Amazon this year. Instead, the group attributed the fires to rising deforestation rates, citing internal data from earlier this month saying that more forest was cleared this summer than in the past three years.
Environmental activists blame the deforestation on right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, who has been gung-ho about exploiting the country’s natural resources to boost its faltering economy. Last month, Greenpeace condemned Bolsonaro for his aggressive approach toward deforestation, referring to his administration as a “threat to the climate equilibrium.”
Bolsonaro, whose nickname in Brazil is “Captain Chainsaw,” attempted to deflect criticism from environmental activists by blaming the fires on local NGOs, trying to undermine his administration. “Maybe the NGO types are conducting these criminal acts in order to generate negative attention against me and against the Brazilian government. This is the war we are facing,” he said on Facebook Live on Wednesday.
The issue has gotten so out of hand that smoke from the fires is traveling all the way from the Amazon to Sao Paolo, one of the largest cities in Brazil, which is located more than 1,500 miles away. According to one satellite map, the smoke has been spreading across the country and is even spilling over Brazil’s borders into neighboring countries. Social media users have been sharing photos of the smoke, which appear to show the city blanketed in a thick cloud of darkness in the middle of the day. The images, many of which were shared with the hashtag #PrayForAmazonia, are truly apocalyptic-looking:
— WWF UK (@wwf_uk) August 21, 2019
The Amazon rainforest is the largest in the world, and serves as the home of more than three million native plant and animal species, not to mention more than one million indigenous people. Protecting the Amazon is also crucial to curbing the spread of global warming, as the region supplies nearly 20% of the oxygen in the world’s atmosphere.
According to a statement from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), “current trends in livestock, agriculture, logging expansion, fire and drought could destroy or severely damage 55 percent of the Amazon rainforest by the year 2030.”