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Tens of thousands of fires in the Amazon are taking the region to a point where it will not be able to produce enough rain to sustain itself | CNN


Fires in the Amazon continue to rage at high levels in Brazil for the second year in a row. This raises concern among scientists that the destruction of the rainforest could eventually reach a point of no return. | Environment | CNN

(CNN) -

Fires in the Amazon continue to rage at high levels in Brazil for the second year in a row.

This raises concern among scientists that the destruction of the rainforest could eventually reach a point of no return.

Since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office, government measures to curb illegal fires in the Amazon have shown little impact.

Flames and deforestation erase vast expanses of the world's largest rainforest.

Most of the fires in the Amazon are started by land grabbers and wild ranchers.

They seek to transform parts of the rainforest into their own lucrative agricultural enterprises.

And this August was a particularly bad time for such fires in the Amazon.

Preliminary data compiled by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows 29,307 fires in the Brazilian Amazon last month.

LOOK: The fires in the Amazon could be worse this year than those of 2019, according to HRW

Fires in the Amazon could be worse

However, due to a technical problem with NASA's satellites, experts say the figure could be even higher.

The final count of fires recorded in August is expected to rise 2% above the total for August 2019, says Albert Setzer, principal scientist at INPE, which would make this August the worst in 10 years.

Thus, the more fires there are, the faster the rainforest is transformed into pasture for illegal cattle and soybean farming operations.

According to an investigation by the NGO MapBiomas, which tracks land use in Brazil, 95% of the deforested area in Brazil in 2019 was unauthorized.

"Most of (the fires) are illegal," said Tasso Azevedo, former head of Brazil's forest service and coordinator of MapBiomas.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon biome reached 1,830 square miles, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island, in the period from January to July 2020. The August deforestation figures have not yet been released.

A turning point?

As the trend progresses, the Amazon accelerates towards a tipping point.

That will be when large areas of the rainforest will no longer be able to produce enough rain to sustain themselves, according to Carlos Nobre, one of the leading climate scientists and researcher at the University of Brazil in Sao Paulo.

Once that happens, the rainforest will begin to die and eventually turn into a savanna, Nobre said.

MIRA: Brazil faces a double crisis: the coronavirus and accelerated deforestation of the Amazon

The Amazon serves as an "air conditioning" for the planet, scientists say.

That is, it influences global temperature and rainfall patterns.

And a healthy Amazon also absorbs carbon dioxide, while fires do the opposite, releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide that traps heat in the atmosphere.

Fires and deforestation

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has accelerated since Bolsonaro took office in 2019. Environmentalists accuse the president of encouraging development on protected lands.

Pressure from international investors and companies this summer pushed the Brazilian president to issue a 120-day moratorium on July 15.

In it, fires were prohibited in the Amazon and in the Pantanal, which is the largest wetland area in the world.

However, INPE data seem to show that the ban was totally ignored.

From July 15 to the end of August, fires in Amazon remained at the same level (around 35,000) and nearly quadrupled (from 2035 to 7320 fires) in the Pantanal, compared to the same period in 2019.

Brazil also launched Operation Green Brazil 2 in May, which mobilized the Armed Forces to combat deforestation and fires in the Amazon along with federal environmental agencies and local police forces.

But they also failed to stop the destruction of the Amazon, acknowledged Vice President Hamilton Mourão, who led the operation.

"We are late in the fight against deforestation," Mourão said at a press conference on September 4, asking for more time to show the results.

The last frontier: Amazon

The Brazilian state of Amazonas is one of the last frontiers where forests remain mostly preserved.

But even there, the illegal operations of loggers and ranchers are expanding.

Deforestation has grown 209% in the state of Amazonas since Bolsonaro took office, clearing 844 square miles of forest in less than two years.


Source: cnnespanol

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