Wildfires damaging thousands of kilometres of land are happening all over the world right now. About 21,000 square miles of Siberia’s forests have gone up in flames earlier this month, which brings the worst wildfires in Russia on record. These blazes have shrouded major cities in the country with smoke, including Novosibirsk, and has even crossed the Pacific Ocean sending billowing clouds of smoke to the United States.
2019 temperatures were ripe for fires with July being the hottest July on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The average global temperature in July was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 20th century average recorded.
Paris recorded its highest temperature ever, with Poland, Spain and the Czech Republic also experienced extremely high temperatures.
In August 19, various forest fires also broke out in the Canary Islands namely Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Tenerife, forcing over 8,000 to flee from their homes. New fires also broke out in Alaska over the weekend, which extended the state’s fire season even longer than usual.
Greenland needed Denmark’s help last week when the wildfires were already approaching inhibited areas, worsening the massive ice melt the country has been experiencing all throughout the year.
More than 74,000 fires have been recorded by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) for this year alone, which is an 84% increase in 2018 and the highest recorded number in 2013. Last year, California suffered a destructive wildfire season, and although this year has been much calmer, potential wildfire still remains to be seen.
Apart from the natural wildfires breaking out in different parts of the planet, the most alarming are the wildfires that are currently happening in the Amazon Rainforest, which is the largest tropical forest in the world. An area where torrential rain happens throughout the year, it is a forest that barely burns on its own, yet blazes that are so intense have been burning the area for more than two weeks with smoke reaching all the way to Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo.
The Amazonas state which is almost covered entirely by the rainforest has already declared an emergency. Whereas many of these wildfires around the world occur from warmth and dryness in their climates, the fires in the Amazon forest is the cause of how humans are radically putting the state of the planet in their own hands. Bad idea.
Usually, wildfires happen naturally as a way to clear out decaying bush, help new plants germinate and restores nutrients back to the soil. Although during the past few years, human activity plays an integral part in making the wildfires worse. Urbanization is being expanded closer to areas that naturally ignite, and so they suppress these natural fires which leads to dry vegetation.
The case in the Amazon Rainforest is entirely different. Because this part of the planet has water for most of the year, wildfires do not set ablaze here naturally. Instead, cattle farmers could possibly be using the slash-and-burn tactic to clear out land and convert it to farming and pasture, even if this is illegal in the country due to fire risk. Mining, drilling and farming exacerbates the situation. In this year alone, the Amazon has already experienced 72,843 reported fires, which makes than an 84% increase as compared to the same season last June.
Although the cause has not yet been proven, Brazil’s government doesn’t seem to be doing anything to find out why. Ricardo Galvão, INPE director was also conveniently ousted from his position after his office reported the 88% increase in the deforestation rate last June as compared to the year before.
Alberto Setzer, fellow researcher in INPE told Reuters that:
“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 favorable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.”
Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who entered office on January 1, implemented various laws that would supposedly benefit the country’s pro-development “rural caucus.” Before being elected, he also made promises to restore the country’s economy by finding other uses of the forest, without any seen improvement. He also mentioned that his government is doing measures needed to control the fires, but it is not clear as to what the ‘measures’ are. He commented that INPE’s deforestation data were all “lies” – but did not provide proof of this, while accusing the non-governmental organizations for starting the fires when the government took back these groups’ funding. Environmentalists are putting blame on the government, saying the new policies in place are further threatening the forest.
“I am waiting for the next set of numbers, that will not be made up numbers,” he said. “If they are alarming, I will take notice of them in front of you,” said President Bolsonaro.
Carlos Rittl from the Climate Observatory told CNN that: “Over the past six months, Bolsonaro and his environment minister have been devoting themselves to the dismantling of the Brazilian environment governance and neutralizing regulatory bodies.” This comment was regarding the farmers being emboldened by Bolsonaro’s pro-business leadership to continuously expand their farming and ranching land ‘illegally.’
This extreme deforestation will have major consequences to the country without trees to evaporate water for the rainforest to generate its own rainfall. At present, 15% of the rainforest has already been deforested. The World Wildlife Fund has estimated that if this speed of deforestation continues, then more than 25% of the Amazon will not have trees by 2030. This fear is continuously growing under the government of Bolsonaro, who is concentrating more on developing farming and mining whilst ignoring international concern of deforestation and climate change.
Because this forest produces an enormous amount of the planet’s oxygen, this will be a given consequence to the rest of the world, and not only to Brazil. The Amazon acts as the “lungs of the earth” with more than 20% of the world’s oxygen being produced there and due to its ability to absorb massive amounts of carbon, this rainforest plays a great importance in the fight against global warming. With 60% or 670 million hectares of forest, Brazil is home to the most species than anywhere else in the world.
Because of this shocking deforestation rate, other countries and environmentalists have begun to take notice. Norway and Germany have pulled out funding for projects in Brazil and Greenpeace made a statement calling the president and his government a “threat to the climate equilibrium.”
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