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    Heart of the Amazon fires

    August 30, 2019

    São Paulo, Brazil (CNN)Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has banned the use of fire to clear land throughout the country for 60 days, in response to the massive increase in blazing fires in the Amazon rainforest that has caused international outrage.

    According to an official decree, which was released on Thursday morning, the ban started on Wednesday -- the day it was signed.
    The practice of burning land in rural areas is common among farmers, who will often use fires to clear the land for new crops or livestock.
    Bolsonaro has repeatedly insisted the Amazon should be opened to development and has defunded the agencies responsible for cracking down on illegal activity.
    Experts say his pro-development policies and lax regulation have led to ranchers and farmers burning the rainforest for purposes of cultivation and farming.
    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro banned the use of fire to clear land throughout Brazil on Wednesday.
    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro banned the use of fire to clear land throughout Brazil on Wednesday.
    The ban comes after scientists warned that fires which have been raging at a record rate in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, could strike a devastating blow to the fight against climate change.
    The Amazon, which spans eight countries and covers 40% of South America, is often referred to as "the planet's lungs" because estimates show that nearly 20% of oxygen produced by the Earth's land comes from rainforest. The Amazon also puts an enormous amount of water into the atmosphere at a time when cities are drying up.
    Despite environmentalists pointing the finger at Bolsonaro, Brazil's populist pro-business President who is backed by Brazil's so-called beef caucus, he has dismissed accusations of responsibility for the fires and declared last week that he would send 43,000 troops to combat the inferno.
    The Amazon is burning because the world eats so much meat
    The Amazon is burning because the world eats so much meat
    He also announced on Wednesday that South American leaders will meet on September 6 in Colombia to discuss policy surrounding the situation in the Amazon, according to Brazilian state news agency Agencia Brasil.
    According to Agence France-Presse news agency, on Thursday United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged the globe to do more to tackle the Amazonian fires.
    "We are strongly appealing for the mobilization of resources and we have been in contact with countries to see whether, during the high-level session of the General Assembly, there could be a meeting devoted to the mobilization of support to the Amazon," Guterres told reporters from an African development conference in Japan, according to AFP.
    Guterres stressed that "until now, we have not done enough, we need to do all together more than we have done in the past," and called the situation "very serious."
    War of words
    Earlier this week, Brazil escalated its war of words with global powers over the Amazon fires, which number over 80,000 this year.
    The special communications office for Bolsonaro told CNN on Tuesday morning that Brazil would turn down the $20 million aid offer that was pledged for the Amazon at the G7 summit in France the day before.
    Bolsonaro's ego stands in the way of saving the Amazon
    Bolsonaro's ego stands in the way of saving the Amazon
    However, just an hour later, Bolsonaro appeared to cast doubt on the matter. "Did I say that? Did I? Did Jair Bolsonaro speak?" he asked reporters outside the presidential residence.
    The Brazilian President has since softened his stance on the financial aid, suggesting that he would consider the G7's aid if Macron apologizes for accusing Bolsonaro of "lying" to him about climate commitments during trade negotiations.
    The nation has also since accepted $12 million in aid from the UK government, which is a member of the G7.

    The Amazon in Brazil is on fire - how bad is it?
    By The Visual and Data Journalism Team
    BBC News
    28 August 2019
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    Related TopicsAmazon fires
    Image copyrightAMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
    Thousands of fires are ravaging the Amazon rainforest in Brazil - the most intense blazes for almost a decade.

    The northern states of Roraima, Acre, Rondônia and Amazonas have been particularly badly affected.

    Huge fires have also been burning across the border in Bolivia, devastating swaths of the country's tropical forest and savannah.

    So what's happening exactly and how bad are the fires?

    There have been a lot of fires this year
    Brazil - home to more than half the Amazon rainforest - has seen a high number of fires in 2019, Brazilian space agency data suggests.

    The National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) says its satellite data shows an 77% increase on the same period in 2018.

    The official figures show more than 83,000 forest fires were recorded in Brazil in the first eight months of the year - the highest number since 2010. That compares with 47,000 in the same period in 2018.

    Nasa, which provides Inpe with its active fire data, confirmed recordings from its satellite sensors also indicated 2019 had been the most active year for almost a decade.

    However, 2019 is not the worst year in recent history. Brazil experienced more fire activity in the 2000s - with 2005 seeing more than 133,000 fires in the first eight months of the year.

    Forest fires are common in the Amazon during the dry season, which runs from July to October. They can be caused by naturally occurring events, such as lightning strikes, but this year most are believed to have been started by farmers and loggers clearing land for crops or grazing.

    There had been a noticeable increase in large, intense, and persistent fires along major roads in the central Brazilian Amazon, said Douglas Morton, head of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center.

    The timing and location of the fires were more consistent with land clearing than with regional drought, he added.

    Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
    Activists say the anti-environment rhetoric of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has encouraged such tree-clearing activities since he came into power in January.

    In response, Mr Bolsonaro, a long-time climate change sceptic, accused non-governmental organisations of starting the fires themselves to damage his government's image.

    Leaders of the G7 have pledged $22m (£18m) to help tackle the crisis, but Mr Bolsonaro ruled out accepting the cash over a row with French President Emmanuel Macron on Brazil's climate and biodiversity commitments.

    However, Brazil has deployed 44,000 soldiers to combat the fires as well as environmental crimes in the Amazon, the country's authorities said.

    What about Bolivia's fires?
    Amazon fires a global crisis, says Macron
    'Football pitch' of Amazon forest lost every minute
    The north of Brazil has been badly affected
    Most of the worst-affected regions are in the north of the country.

    Roraima, Acre, Rondônia and Amazonas all saw a large percentage increase in fires when compared with the average across the last four years (2015-2018).

    Roraima saw a 141% increase, Acre 138%, Rondônia 115% and Amazonas 81%. Mato Grosso do Sul, further south, saw a 114% increase.

    Amazonas, the largest state in Brazil, has declared a state of emergency.

    Brazil fires prompt 'prayers' for Amazon rainforest
    Brazil's Bolsonaro dismisses deforestation data as 'lies'
    Deliberate deforestation?
    The recent increase in the number of fires in the Amazon is directly related to intentional deforestation and not the result of an extremely dry season, according to the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (Ipam).

    Ipam's director Ane Alencar said fires were often used as a way of clearing land for cattle ranches after deforesting operations.

    "They cut the trees, leave the wood to dry and later put fire to it, so that the ashes can fertilise the soil," she told the Mongabay website.

    Image copyrightPLANET LABS INC
    While the exact scale of deforestation in the rainforest will only be certain when 2019 figures are published at the end of the year, preliminary data suggests there has been a significant rise already this year.

    Monthly data shows the scale of the areas cleared has been creeping up since January, but with a spike in July this year - almost 278% higher than in July 2018, according to Inpe.

    Inpe tracks suspected deforestation in real-time using satellite data, sending out alerts to flag areas that may have been cleared.

    More than 10,000 alerts were sent out in July alone.

    The record number of fires also coincides with a sharp drop in fines being handed out for environmental violations, BBC analysis has found.

    Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
    The fires are emitting large amounts of smoke and carbon
    Plumes of smoke from the fires have spread across the Amazon region and beyond.

    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.

    Image copyrightPLANET LABS INC
    Image caption
    Some of the fires, such as this one in Pará, Brazil, cover a number of acres
    It has even caused skies to darken in São Paulo - more than 2,000 miles (3,200km) away.

    The fires have been releasing a large amount of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 228 megatonnes so far this year, according to Cams, the highest since 2010.

    They are also emitting carbon monoxide - a gas released when wood is burned and does not have much access to oxygen.

    Maps from Cams show this carbon monoxide - a pollutant that is toxic at high levels - being carried beyond South America's coastlines.

    The Amazon basin - home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people - is crucial to regulating global warming, with its forests absorbing millions of tonnes of carbon every year.

    But when trees are cut or burned, the carbon they are storing is released into the atmosphere and the rainforest's capacity to absorb carbon is reduced.

    How is the Amazon helping to limit global warming?
    There were more fires in the mid-2000s
    While the number of fires in Brazil is at its highest level for almost a decade, the data suggests that Brazil - and the wider Amazon region - has experienced more intense burning in the past.

    An analysis of Nasa satellite data this month indicated that the total fire activity in 2019 across the Amazon, not just Brazil, is close to the average when compared with a longer 15 year period.

    Figures from Brazil's Inpe, dating back to 1998, also show the country suffered worse periods of fire activity in the 2000s.

    This is backed by numbers from Cams, which show total CO2 equivalent emissions - used to measure of the amount and intensity of fire activity - were also higher in Brazil the mid-2000s.

    Other countries have also been affected
    A number of other countries in the Amazon basin - an area spanning 7.4m sq km (2.9m sq miles) - have also seen a high number of fires this year.

    Venezuela has experienced the second-highest number, with more than 26,000 fires, with Bolivia coming in third, with more than 19,000. This is a rise of 92% on last year. Peru, in fifth place, has seen a rise of 105%.

    The size of the fires in Bolivia is estimated to have doubled since late last week. About one million hectares - or more than 3,800 square miles - are affected.

    Bolivia has hired a Boeing 747 "supertanker" from the US to drop water, and accepted an offer of aid from G7 leaders.

    Extra emergency workers have also been sent to the region, and sanctuaries are being set up for animals escaping the flames.

    South American countries are planning to meet in the Colombian city of Leticia next week to discuss a co-ordinated response to the fires.

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