Flaming Amazon Rainforest Likely Wasn't An Accident, Frighten All Future Climate Change Action

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"Just a little alert to the world: the sky randomly turned dark today in São Paulo, and meteorologists believe it’s smoke from the fires burning *thousands* of kilometers away, in Rondônia or Paraguay. Imagine how much has to be burning to create that much smoke(!). SOS"
That was a message São Paulo-based journalist Shannon Sims tweeted on 20 August. That was roughly a week after the first news about a surge in forest fires in the Amazon was broken, followed by six continuous days of unrelenting fires in the region. Scientists have declared it a "record rate" of the fire's spread. A warning has since been issued: the burning forest could strike a devastating blow to the global fight against climate change. Potentially, the fires could be something the world doesn't recover from.

Destroyed: 1.5 soccer fields of rainforest per minute
The Amazon region stretches over a 7,000,000 km2 area of river basin. Of this, a 5.5 million square kilometre area spanning nine countries makes up the densest rainforest on Earth. There were an estimated 390 billion trees in the area as of 2013. That number has seen a steep decline over the past few years, particularly under the directives of Brazil's current President. Data from the Brazilian Space Agency shows how Brazil has dramatically reduced deforestation in the Amazon starting at ~2007, reducing it by over 2/3 in half a dozen years and keeping it low for the following decade. That all changed and ecological destruction ensued the Brazilian President's term.
Fires are quite common in the Amazon, with a few ten thousand recorded each year. These fires have increased in frequency of late. A record 72,000 fires have blasted the rainforest since January this year, of which 9,500 are from the past week alone (15 August-21 August), the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) of Brazil has said. This is the highest rate of fires in the region since the country's space research center began tracking them in 2013, the INPE said Tuesday. More than 1½ soccer fields of Amazon rainforest are being destroyed every minute of every day, they added.

Ironically, the Amazon rainforest has been “fire-resistant” for much of its history. This, simply because of the kind of forest it is, receiving rain and staying moist through most of the year. That said, it does also go through hot spells, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said, and drought is an established fuel for wildfires. There is nothing abnormal about the climate or rainfall amounts in the Amazon this year, INPE researchers have said.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The scale of the Siberian wildfires is underlined by this animation of the huge area of the smoke cloud: more than 5 million km². <br>For comparison, the EU is about 4.5 million km² and the contiguous US about 8.1 million km². <br>(Via <a href="https://twitter.com/anttilip?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@anttilip</a> of <a href="https://twitter.com/IlmaTiede?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@IlmaTiede</a>)<a href="https://t.co/RDhntqaDEO">pic.twitter.com/RDhntqaDEO</a></p>&mdash; WMO | OMM (@WMO) <a href="https://twitter.com/WMO/status/1160872603961167872?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 12, 2019</a></blockquote>
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Environmental groups in Brazil have been campaigning for years to save the rainforest. More recently, they have blamed President Bolsonaro for having endangered the vital rainforest by relaxing restrictions and "openly encouraging deforestation". The Institute of Environmental Research in Amazonia (IPAM) said that it found no evidence to suggest that a lack of rain could have caused the fires, and that deforestation was the primary driver for the fire's reach.

"The dry season creates favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident,” INPE researcher Alberto Setzer told Reuters. "The fire that we’re seeing today is a fire that’s directly related to deforestation," said Ane Alencar, scientific director of IPAM.
Research has shown that indigenous management of forests, which has shrunk dramatically in Amazonia since Bolsonaro took office, is the best approach to maintain the health of rainforests, anywhere in the world. In Brazil, which is home to two-thirds of the rainforest, the President, Jair Bolsonaro, has likened indigenous Amazonian reserves to "chickenpox" on the land.

To top it off, an invasion of human activity — farming, mining, and drilling — are exacerbating what was a bad situation to begin with in Brazil. Fears surrounding deforestation continue have grown under Bolsonaro, who appears to be blatantly ignoring international concerns over deforestation and climate change.
The 'Planet's Lungs' are burning
The Amazon rainforest is often referred to as the planet's lungs for producing 20 percent of atmospheric oxygen on the Earth. At roughly two and a half times the size of India, is the largest rainforest on the planet, and home to uncountable species of fauna and flora. It's no surprise that Amazonia is among the most important and vital ecosystems int the world to slow global warming.
The majority – over two-thirds – of the rainforest falls in Brazil, where there have been a total of 72,843 fires this year. Over half of these have been in the Amazon region, according to the INPE – an 80+ percent increase compared to the same period last year. While that sounds like an inordinate number of fires for any single region, here's some perspective: Last year, this same region saw 40,136 fires burn. The second-worst year on record after 2019 was 2016, over which 68,484 fires.

Tropical rainforests everywhere in the world are critical in the fight against climate change. They are large-scale sites that store carbon dioxide, keeping the greenhouse gas in its solid carbon state as soil, branches, and leaves. The Amazon is the world’s largest such tropical rainforest, making its protection critical to the world in its attempts to preventing any further global heating.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Even out here in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean I hear about the record amount of devastating fires in the Amazon. My thoughts are with those affected. Our war against nature must end.</p>&mdash; Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) <a href="https://twitter.com/GretaThunberg/status/1164525622246465536?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 22, 2019</a></blockquote>
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The Amazon is also the single-richest biodiversity hotspot – home to the most biodiverse place on Earth. It's safe to say that preserving the rainforest is a matter of slowing down plant and animal extinctions overall.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">There was worldwide outcry when the Notre Dame cathedral was on fire. Why is there not the same level of outrage for the fires destroying the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AmazonRainforest?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AmazonRainforest</a>? <a href="https://t.co/VbSda5PYAK">pic.twitter.com/VbSda5PYAK</a></p>&mdash; WWF UK (@wwf_uk) <a href="https://twitter.com/wwf_uk/status/1164185881613389824?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 21, 2019</a></blockquote>
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Widespread devastation & impact
As the fires mark what the world hopes is a climax to the relentless ecological destruction in Brazil over recent years, a Twitter user offers a glimpse of how bad things are at the edges of the fireline in the Amazon as of 20 August this week.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">a reminder that the amazon forest has been on fire for 3 weeks now and because of the lack of media coverage people don’t know about it. this is one of most important ecosystems on earth  <a href="https://t.co/bJWtsShOky">pic.twitter.com/bJWtsShOky</a></p>&mdash; Shafeeq (@Y2SHAF) <a href="https://twitter.com/Y2SHAF/status/1163925109570199557?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 20, 2019</a></blockquote>
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