Published On: Wed, Aug 28th, 2019

Amazon fires truth: Were the fires deliberately set? Real reason for the rainforest fires | World | News

Fires are raging in the Amazon rainforest, and satellite data show a record number of fires burning in Brazil. Wildfires often occur in the dry season in Brazil but according to Brazil’s space agency INPE this year has seen an increase of 80 percent. The reported increase in fires set off a storm of international outrage last week with celebrities, environmentalists, and political leaders blaming Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro for destroying the world’s largest rainforest.

Were the fires deliberately set?

Natural fires in the Amazon are rare, and the majority of the fires currently raging in Brazil were set by farmers preparing farmland for next year’s crops and pasture.

INPE’s figures represent an 80 percent increase in fires from the same period in 2018.

But there have been large numbers of fires in other recent years as well.

READ MORE: Amazon Rainforest fire current status: How much has been burned?

According to a manager of Global Forest Watch, the number of fires in the Amazon this year is roughly comparable to 2016.

NASA reports fires are common in the Amazon due to the arrival of a dry season in July and fire activity typically peaks in September before ending in November.

The space agency wrote: “As of August 16, 2019, an analysis of the space agency’s satellite data indicated that total fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average in comparison to the past 15 years.“

Though activity appears to be above average in the states of Amazonas and Rondônia, it has so far appeared below average in Mato Grosso and Pará, according to estimates from the Global Fire Emissions Database.

READ MORE: World’s lungs are not aflame but Amazon fire is a crisis claims expert

And while fires in Brazil have increased, there is no evidence that Amazon forest fires have.

What did increase in 2019, are the fires of dry scrub and trees cut down for cattle ranching as a strategy to gain ownership of land. This went up by seven percent.

Against the picture painted of an Amazon forest on the verge of disappearing, a full 80 percent remains standing.

In addition, half of the Amazon is protected against deforestation under federal law.

One of the world’s leading Amazon forest experts, Dan Nepstad said: “While the number of fires in 2019 is indeed 80 percent higher than in 2018, it’s just seven percent higher than the average over the last 10 years ago.”

Deforestation declined 70 percent from 2004 to 2012 and has risen modestly since then but remains at one-quarter its 2004 peak.

Mr Nepstad said the real threat is from accidental forest fires in drought years, which climate change could worsen.

He said: “The most serious threat to the Amazon forest is the severe events that make the forests vulnerable to fire.

“That’s where we can get a downward spiral between fire and drought and more fire.”

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