The Amazon rainforest holds a massive amount of the world’s oxygen but it is burning at a huge rate.

  • The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has recorded more than 74,000 fires in 2019, which is an 84 per cent increase on the same period in 2018. It’s the highest number since records began in 2013.
  • The Amazon is regarded as vital in the fight against global warming due to its ability to absorb carbon from the air. It’soften referred to as the “lungs of the Earth,” as more than 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen is produced there.
  • Brazil has the biggest share of the 670 million hectares of forest (60 per cent), which is home to more species than anywhere else on the planet. But unlike in other ecosystems, scientists say the Amazon wildfires are not natural. The major reason for huge number of fires is considered to be Deforestation.
  • Environmentalists have also put the blame on President Jair Bolsonaro, saying his policies have only threatened the forest more.

What is causing the fires?

  • While wildfires in the Amazon are not entirely uncommon, the way they are spreading is driving concern. The Amazon rainforest has been “fire-resistant” for much of its history because of its natural environment, according to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, but can go through hot spells. While drought can be a factor in rainforest fires, INPE researchers have said there is nothing abnormal about the climate or rainfall amounts in the Amazon this year.
  • “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,” says INPE.
  • Human activities — farming, mining and drilling — are what scientists say are exacerbating the situation now. In Brazil, cattle farmers start fires deliberately to clear forest to make way for ranching, and it’s not always legal. In Mato Grosso and Para, where Brazil’s agricultural frontier has expanded and pushed into the forest basin, more deforestation has been recorded and wildfires have increased.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that more than a quarter of the Amazon will be without trees by 2030 if the current rate of deforestation continues. The fears surrounding deforestation have grown under Bolsonaro, who has vowed to develop the region for farming and mining since coming into office, ignoring international concern over deforestation and climate change. Environmental groups and other countries working to fight climate change have started to take notice.

Norway and Germany have pulled out of funding for projects to quell deforestation in Brazil.