Brazil's Amazon rainforest is on fire since June as satellite images show thousands of fires as the dry season approaches. Experts warn that the region could witness a repeat of last year's devastating blazes.
National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Brazil's space research agency identified 2,248 forest fires in the Amazons last month, they saw a 20 percent spike from the 1,880 fires seen in June 2019. Data points out that it was the worst fires witnessed in more than a decade.
Fires Challenge Fight Against Coronavirus
Medical experts warned that the smoke from fires could cause respiratory problems among people and would challenge the fight against Brazil's huge coronavirus cases.
Over 63,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Brazil, while more than 1.54 million have been infected so far. There has been a 34 percent increase in deforestation in this first five months compared to 2019, as preliminary INPE data shows.
Not Accidental Fires
Greenpeace UK Head of Forests, Anna Jones told Independent that the fires were "no accident." She accused Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro that he did nothing in the direction of stopping deforestation and discouraging land grabbers. She also said that deforestation surged despite coronavirus pandemic and that fires were deliberately lit in order to clear land for industrial agriculture.
"This is just the beginning," Jones said If there is no strong intervention, the fires are set to increase that could span wide forest areas while it can also pose a threat to Indigenous Peoples' lives adding to the climate crisis. This June, there were about 75 fires per day, as compared to almost 1,000 fires per day as they peaked in August 2019. Brazil is yet to witness how the current fires will peak.
The 2019 Fires May Repeat
Amazon rainforests absorb almost two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels. The rainforests significantly mitigate the rising climate crisis. Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist at the University of Sao Paulo told AP that Amazon is a "sink" that drains the 'heat-trapping carbon dioxide' from the atmosphere.
Almost 40 billion tonnes of CO2 per year escapes to the atmosphere, globally. The Amazon fires not only decreases the absorption capacity of CO2 but also releases millions of tonnes of the global warming gas into the atmosphere, which it had to absorb.
According to Ane Alencar, director of science at the NGO - Amazon Environmental Research Institute, the 2019 story can "repeat itself in 2020 if nothing is done to prevent it." This will affect the impact of the pandemic too, as experts believe, added to the fact that the actual number of cases in Brazil, as experts say, could be almost seven times more than the official numbers.