The number of fires in the Amazon in Brazil in August reached a five-year high

The number of fires in the Amazon in Brazil in August reached a five-year high

MANAUS, Brazil (AP) — Brazil’s Amazon rainforest experienced more fires this August than any other month in almost five years, thanks to a surge in illegal logging.

According to Brazil’s National Space Institute, satellite sensors have detected 33,116 fires. The dry season months, August and September, are usually the most dangerous for both deforestation and fires.

It was also the worst August for fires in 12 years. This includes August 2019, when images of burning rainforests shocked the world and drew criticism from European leaders. Bolsonaro recently took office and turned environmental law enforcement on its head, saying that criminals should not be fined and promising the development of the Amazon.

The far-right president downplayed the raging fires then and continues to do so today. He told the Globo media network on August 22 – the worst day for fire outbreaks in 15 years – that the criticism is part of an effort to undermine the nation’s agribusiness sector.

“Brazil does not deserve such attacks,” said Bolsonaro, who is campaigning for re-election.

Fires are evident even a few hundred miles from the Amazon’s largest city, Manaus, where smoke has hung in the sky for weeks.

Fires in the Amazon are almost always lit on purpose, primarily to improve grazing or to burn newly cut trees when they are dry. Often fires get out of control and spread to untouched areas of the forest.

After a quiet period with unusually heavy rains in early August, the fires began to spread rapidly, according to Ané Alenkar, coordinator of the Mapbiomas Fire project, run by a network of nonprofits, universities and tech startups.

“The rate of deforestation is very high. This means there are a lot of fallen trees ready to burn,” Alencar told The Associated Press in an interview with Zoom. In September, the fire season will be even more intense.”

About 20% of the area burned this year in the Amazon Basin has recently been cleared. According to an analysis by the Brazilian nonprofit Center of Life Institute, based on the NASA Global Fire Emissions Database, some of them are within protected areas targeted by land invaders.

One example is Cristalino II State Park in Mato Grosso, a protected area recently declared illegal by a state court. The State Attorney’s Office appealed the decision, but the legal dissolution appears to have licensed the fellers, setting off a wave of destruction. In just the past few weeks, the fire has destroyed almost 40 square kilometers (15 square miles) in the park, despite the presence of firefighters, according to the Center for Life Institute.

The massive fire means Brazil is failing to curb its greenhouse gas emissions, as nearly half of the country’s carbon pollution comes from land conversion. The Amazon rainforest is an important carbon sink for the planet, but burning wood releases this carbon into the atmosphere.

During the COP26 climate summit earlier this year, Bolsonaro’s government pledged to stop all illegal logging by 2028. During his tenure, forest loss reached a 15-year high.

“If Brazil wants to cut carbon emissions, the first thing to do is cut down on deforestation. And the second is to reduce the use of fire,” Alencar said.

About the photo: Smoke rises from a wildfire in Cristalino II State Park, Mato Grosso state, Brazilian Amazon, in this image courtesy of Victor Ostetti, August 27, 2022. More fires have occurred in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest this August than in any other month in nearly five years, thanks to a surge in illegal logging. (Victor Ostetti via AP)

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

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