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Amazon rainforest fire

Report: Amazon Rainforest Fires & Deforestation: Exactly How Long Does It Have Left?

The Amazon rainforest’s worst-case scenario is uncomfortably near. Wildfires and deforestation are pushing the Amazon rainforest toward a dieback scenario: an irreversible cycle of collapse.

The Amazon rainforest is still burning.

Blazes have been torching the world’s largest tropical forest for three weeks now. French President Emmanuel Macron called it an “international crisis” and put the fires on the agenda of the G7 meeting over the weekend, triggering a diplomatic spat with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. G7 countries promised €20 million in aid for the rainforest, which Bolsonaro said Tuesday he would reject.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has reported at least 74,000 fires in the Amazon this year so far, an increase of 84 percent compared to the same time last year.

The smoke from the fires has cast a pall stretching across the country and reaching coastal metropolises like São Paulo.

Forests have a profound influence on the carbon cycle

It’s an alarming increase because the Amazon almost never burns on its own and the increase in fires this year has been so dramatic. The region is usually too wet to ignite, so the vast majority of fires are caused by humans. Some of the blazes are started by farmers aiming to clear land, some by illegal loggers trying to cover their tracks, and some by negligence. Fires and logging had been on the decline for years in the Amazon until Bolsonaro, who made his intentions to exploit the Amazon perfectly clear, took office last year.

Bowing to domestic protests and international pressure, Bolsonaro deployed the military over the weekend to fight the fires now burning across six Brazilian states.

Conversion of peat forests releases large volumes of carbon from below ground

But when the smoke dissipates and the flames die down to embers, another perilous threat is looming for the Amazon rainforest. Scientists warn that if enough of the forest is lost, it could enter a spiral of collapse. This is an outcome with global consequences, and if we cross this threshold of deforestation, it could be a point of no return.

Avoiding deforestation is better for the climate than reforestation

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