Amazon rainforest burns at record rate

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Picture courtesy of Getty images.

The largest rainforest in the world is in flames.

According to estimates from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), roughly 1.5 soccer fields of rainforest are being destroyed every minute. Plumes of smoke from the fires have spread thousands of miles, turning afternoon skies pitch black, covering half of Brazil and spilling over into neighboring Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.

The health of the rainforest is essential in the fight against climate change. The Amazon is referred to as the planet’s lungs, as it produces over 20% of the Earth’s oxygen.

Satellite image of the smoke plumes. Picture courtesy of The European Union Earth Observation Programme.

Environmental groups have blamed Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro for relaxing regulations and encouraging deforestation. Satellite data from June showed that deforestation increased by 88% compared to last year, which president Bolsonaro denied. He has since de-funded non profit environmental groups, accusing them of starting the Amazon fires.

“We took money away from the NGOs,” he said.”They are now feeling the pinch from the lack of funding. So, maybe the NGO types are conducting these criminal acts in order to generate negative attention against me and against the Brazilian government.”

There have been over 36,000 fires in the Amazon this year, an 80% increase from last year. The World Wildlife Fund has warned that 30%-60% of the Amazon rainforest is at risk of becoming a dry savanna, which would have profound effects on the world’s climate.

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