An increase of 85% of wildfires in Brazil has been seen according to satellite data published by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research; most fires have been recorded in the Amazon region. According to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), a part of the European Union’s Earth observation programme, the smoke has been travelling as far as the Atlantic Coast. It has even caused skies to darken in São Paulo- more than 3,200km away. (BBC NEWS, 2019)
The Amazon is important in that it is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming. One of the causes of global warming being the burning of fossil fuels like coal, this increases the concentration of Carbon Dioxide, to a lesser extent, clearing land for agriculture and other human activities have increased concentration of greenhouse gases.
Now, industrial activities that our modern civilisation depends on have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years.
With this increase in C02; ground level radiation is trapped preventing the earth from cooling at night, an increase in ocean water levels is seen, physical damage to trees and other plant life from acid rain and breathing becomes more difficult.
As trees grow, they help remove carbon dioxide from air by storing carbon in the trees and soil then they release oxygen into the atmosphere. As they mature, trees can consume 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year (among other greenhouse gases like ozone), and they release enough oxygen to breathe for two years!
Although climate change did not cause these particular fires in The Amazon, it makes fires worse. They can burn hotter and spread more rapidly under warmer and drier conditions. When trees burn, they also pump more carbon into the atmosphere
Known as “the lungs of the planet”, much of The Amazon’s land that is burning was not old-growth rain forest, but land that had already been cleared of trees and set for agricultural use. Most of the blame which has led to a rapid destruction of the forest is going to the Government of Brazil and how it has scaled back efforts to fight illegal logging, ranching and mining.
Previously being seen as trying to portray itself as a leader in protecting the Amazon and fighting global warming, the country created new conservation ideas, increased monitoring and took away government credits from rural producers who were caught razing protected areas; bringing deforestation to the lowest level since record-keeping began- this was from 2004-2012.
As the economy plunged into a recession in 2014, more reliance was seen on the agricultural commodities the country produces— beef and soy, which are drivers of deforestation- and on the powerful rural lobby. Land clearing, much of it being illegal, was seen to begin ticking upward again.
With climate change, it’s seen to be affecting every country on every continent, disrupting national economies and affecting lives today and even more tomorrow.
If we lose enough rain forest and its restoration turns futile, the area will become savannah, which doesn’t store as much carbon, meaning a reduction will be seen in the planet’s “lung capacity.”