In recent weeks, tens of thousands of fires have been recorded across the Amazon rainforest, with dramatic images and statistics reported daily across the world’s media.
Both the scale of the fires and the erratic response from Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro have garnered attention, with politicians, newspapers and commentators all weighing in on how events are playing out.
In this article, Carbon Brief looks back at how the fires and their underlying causes have been reported, as well as the impacts of the fires and the reaction to them.
The summary is split into five sections:
- Forest ablaze
- What is causing the fires?
- What impact are the fires having on climate change, people and wildlife?
- How have politicians reacted?
- What has the media had to say?
The Amazon rainforest sees fires all year round. However, this month – which is typically the beginning of the “fire season” – has seen a spike in the number of fires breaking out across the rainforest, according to media reports.
On Tuesday 20 August, Brazil’s space agency released data showing that the country as a whole had seen 74,000 fires so far this year, the Hill reported. BBC News added that this is an 84% increase in the number of fires seen in the same period last year, according to the Brazillian government data.
The fires have caused several Amazonian regions to declare a state of emergency, Reuters reported.
Smoke from the fires caused São Paulo – which is more than a thousand miles away from the Amazon – to be “plunged into an apocalyptic darkness” on 19 August, Unearthed reported:
“A thick, nicotine-yellow haze descended on the city in the early afternoon, and by 4pm local time the sky was almost totally black. Meteorologists said the eerie darkness was partially down to wildfires burning in the rainforest.”
🌎Just a little alert to the world: the sky randomly turned dark today in São Paulo, and meteorologists believe it’s smoke from the fires burning *thousands* of kilometers away, in Rondônia or Paraguay. Imagine how much has to be burning to create that much smoke(!). SOS🌎 pic.twitter.com/P1DrCzQO6x
— Shannon Sims (@shannongsims) August 20, 2019
The Times also covered the fire-fuelled black out. (For more information on the fires’ environmental impact, read: “What impact are the fires having on climate change, people and wildlife?”)
As analysts from Global Forest Watch explained in a blog post, longer term datasets from NASA show that 2019 is “relatively high” but “not on track to be record-breaking”. ( Global Forest Watch is an online forest monitoring service from the World Resources Institute (WRI).)
So far, 2019 is on track to be the third highest year for wildfires in Brazil, explained analysts Mikaela Weisse and Sarah Ruiz:
“According to data from NASA, available on Global Forest Watch, Brazil had 39% more fires between January and August 2019 than in the same period in 2018. However, the years with the most fires recorded were primarily in the early 2000s, probably linked to a high rate of agriculture-related deforestation in the Amazon at that time.”
The map below, which was created by Global Forest Watch, shows real time fire alerts across Brazil and other Amazon countries. The map – which was featured in an article by Fast Company – uses data from NASA satellites that track changes in heat and brightness. (The map is updated every 12 hours.)
As the map indicates, fires across the Amazon and other parts of South America have remained high over the past 12 hours.
On Saturday 25 August, Bolsonaro delivered a television address in which he promised “the extensive use of armed forces personnel and equipment” to help tackle the blazes, the Financial Times reported. (For more detail on Bolsonaro’s handling of the fires, read: “How have politicians reacted?”)
The Global Forest Watch blog post also noted that August is typically just the start of “fire season” in Brazil:
“August marks only the beginning of the fire season in Brazil, with the most fires typically occurring in September. So far, 2019 has seen a fairly typical trend in the number of fire alerts for this time of year. But since an average of 62% of the year’s fires happen from September onward, what really matters is what happens next. There’s still a chance to hit a record high or a record low, depending on the next couple of months.”
What is causing the wildfires
The media has pointed to various factors that could have worsened this year’s Amazon fires, including climate change, deforestation, meat eating and Bolsanaro’s policies.
Climate change can worsen wildfires by raising temperatures and increasing the chances of drought. Both of these factors can create “tinderbox” conditions, meaning that – once ignited – a fire can spread very quickly over large areas of land.
A study published in 2013 found that a severe drought that affected the South Amazon in 2013 was made more likely by climate change.
“The dry season creates favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.”
“The Amazon fires are bad because they’re the destruction of people’s homes and of a critical ecosystem that among other things stores carbon emissions. They were set by humans: climate change didn’t cause them.”
While I have your attention, the Amazon fires are bad because they’re the destruction of people’s homes and of a critical ecosystem that among other things stores carbon emissions.
They were set by humans: climate change didn’t cause them.
But not all wildfires are bad.
— Kendra “Gloom is My Beat” Pierre-Louis (@KendraWrites) August 22, 2019
In the Atlantic, climate journalist Robinson Meyer wrote that “climate change is not the primary cause of the wildfires”. He said:
“Unlike, say, most California blazes – which are sparked by accident and then intensified by climate change – the Amazonian fires are not wildfires at all. These fires did not start by a lightning strike or power line: They were ignited. And while they largely affect land already cleared for ranching and farming, they can and do spread into old-growth forest.”
In a NASA blog post, Dr Douglas Morton, chief of the biospheric sciences laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said the fires are “more consistent with land clearing than with regional drought”.
An earlier article by the New York Times reported that more than 1,330 square miles of the Amazon have been deforested since January – a 39% increase over the same period last year.
Prof Márcia Akemi Yamasoe, from the Federal University of São Paulo, told Unearthed that “the majority” of Amazon fires “will have been set deliberately by people to clear land to grow crops and graze animals”. She said:
“In the tropical rainforest, first the farmers have to cut the trees and wait up to two months to allow enough time to dry the vegetation.”
The surge in using fire to illegally clear land is “directly related to President Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental rhetoric”, Christian Poirier, a director at Amazon Watch, a non-profit organisation that aims to protect the rainforest, told the Financial Times:
“Farmers and ranchers understand the president’s message as a licence to commit arson with wanton impunity, in order to aggressively expand their operations into the rainforest.”
In a Twitter thread, Richard Black, director of the nonprofit Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, noted that four of the five Brazilian states that have registered large increases in fires this year are governed by allies of Bolsanoro. He posted:
“Of the five Amazonian states with the highest increase in fires, four are governed by people in #Bolsonaro‘s current or recent political parties…By contrast, the two states registering a decrease in fire incidence are governed by Bolsonaro’s political enemies.”
Little thread here about #AmazonFires on something I haven’t seen reported yet in media
— Richard Black (@_richardblack) August 23, 2019
Documents released by openDemocracy, a UK-based investigative journalism platform, suggest that the Bolsonaro government is making plans to deliberately prevent “the implementation of multilateral conservation projects” in the Amazon.
“Everything indicates” that NGOs were going to the Amazon to “set fire” to the Amazon, Bolsonaro said, according to Reuters. When asked if he had evidence to back up his claims, he said he had “no written plan” – adding “that’s not how it’s done”.
On social media, various accounts claimed that meat eating was the “main cause” of the Amazon fires. On Instagram, the animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) posted:
“YES – everyone should be concerned about the #AmazonRainforest burning. This is an emergency. BUT if you eat meat, this devastation is happening BECAUSE OF YOU. NOW is the time to act in the best way possible – go #vegan.”
View this post on Instagram
YES—everyone should be concerned about the #AmazonRainforest burning. This is an emergency. BUT if you eat meat, this devastation is happening BECAUSE OF YOU. NOW is the time to act in the best way possible—go #vegan. #Animals #AnimalRights #ReasonsToGoVegan #Amazon #GoVegan #Veg #GoVeg #CrueltyFree #Veganism #EndSpeciesism #AmazonFires #Brazil #PETA
Brazil was the world’s largest exporter of beef in 2018 – accounting for around 20% of the global supply, according to the US government.
Cattle ranching accounts for up to 80% of deforestation in the Amazon, Quartz reported, with agricultural and wood production also contributing to forest loss.
A Guardian investigation published this July reported on the links between cattle ranching and illegal deforestation. The investigation found that much of the beef linked to deforestation in the Amazon is exported to China, Hong Kong and the European Union.
What impact are the fires having on climate change, people and wildlife?
The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world, spanning an area that is 25 times the size of the UK.
The forest currently accounts for around a quarter of the CO2 removal service provided by the world’s forests each year, according to the Washington Post. In total, the Amazon rainforest holds the equivalent of 10 years’ worth of global greenhouse gas emissions, it added:
“However, the ability of the rainforest to pull in more carbon than it releases is diminishing, weakened by changing weather patterns, deforestation and increasing tree mortality, among other factors. The ongoing fires will further degrade its function as a carbon sink.”
In an explainer, Reuters reported that the ongoing fires could help to push the Amazon rainforest past a climate “tipping point”, according to Brazillian climate scientist Dr Carlos Nobre. The article reads:
“Scientists fear that continued destruction of the Amazon could push it toward a tipping point, after which the region would enter a self-sustained cycle of forest dieback as it converts from rainforest into savannah.
“If the tipping point is triggered, the dieback will take 30 to 50 years, in which time 200bn tonnes of CO2 would be released into the atmosphere, Nobre said.”
The Guardian’s global environment editor Johnathan Watts also mentioned the risk of the Amazon passing a potential tipping point in a Q&A on the fires. He added:
“At a time when the world needs billions more trees to absorb carbon and stabilise the climate, the planet is losing its biggest rainforest.”
He also dismissed tabloid claims that the Amazon fires could deplete the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, writing:
“Although some reports have claimed the Amazon produces 20% of the world’s oxygen, it is not clear where this figure originated. The true figure is likely to be no more than 6%, according to climate scientists such as Michael Mann and Jonathan Foley. Even if it were accurate, the crops being planted in the cleared forest areas would also produce oxygen – quite likely at higher levels. So although the burning of the rainforest is worrying for many reasons, there is no need to worry about an oxygen shortage.”
Meanwhile, ProPublica reported on what the Amazon fires could mean for carbon offsetting projects. “The emergency threatening part of the world’s largest rainforest is proof that offsets are too risky to count on to cancel out corporate pollution,” the article reads.
Several publications also report on how the fires are impacting the Amazon’s indigenous people.
“With each passing day, we see the destruction advance: deforestation, invasion, logging,” Handerch Wakana Mura, one of several leaders of a tribal clan of more than 60 people that live in the Amazonas state, told Reuters. “We are sad because the forest is dying at every moment. We feel the climate changing and the world needs the forest.”
Other publications report on the fires’ impact on biodiversity. The rainforest is home to 10% of the world’s species – many of which are unadapted to widespread fire, according to National Geographic. The article reads:
“Certain traits may be beneficial in the midst of wildfire. Being naturally mobile helps. Large, fast-moving animals like jaguars and pumas…may be able to escape, as may some birds. But slow-moving animals like sloths and anteaters, as well as smaller creatures like frogs and lizards, may die, unable to move out of the fire’s path quickly enough.”
Elsewhere, a blog from London’s Natural History Museum also explores the potential impact of the fires on biodiversity. The post reads:
“Millions of animals also rely on the Amazon. Mammals including jaguars, capybara, freshwater dolphins, sloths, armadillos, and tapirs. It is also home to more than 1,000 bird species, including macaws, owls, vultures and kingfishers. Experts believe that there are many species deep in the Amazon that are still unknown to science – and once gone, they will remain unknown forever.”
How have politicians reacted?
Speaking to reporters on Thursday 22 August, Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro said his government lacked the resources to fight the fires, reported BBC News. “Forty men to fight a fire? There aren’t the resources. This chaos has arrived,” he said.
That same day, Reuters reported that French president Emmanuel Macron described the fires as an international emergency and called for the situation to be discussed at the forthcoming Group of Seven wealthy nations (G7) summit.
“The Amazon rainforest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency,” Macron wrote on Twitter.
Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon pic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019
Bolsonaro fired back with his own tweet, reported NBC News: “I regret that Macron seeks to make personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries. The sensationalist tone he used does nothing to solve the problem.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan also tweeted his concern, calling the fires an “act of shocking environmental vandalism”.
The burning of the Amazon rainforest is an act of shocking environmental vandalism with global consequences – seemingly aided & abetted by the Brazilian government.
Our government must demonstrate its commitment to tackling climate change by calling on Brazil to stop the fires. https://t.co/bEgue7ggSZ
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) August 22, 2019
The following day, Macron used a presidential statement to suggest that Bolsonaro had “lied” about his environmental commitments at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan in June, reported the Daily Telegraph.
“The decisions and statements from Brazil these recent weeks show clearly that President Bolsonaro has decided to not respect his commitments on the climate, nor to involve himself on the issue of biodiversity,” the statement said.
As a result, France would oppose an EU trade deal “in its current state” with the Mercosur bloc of South American nations that includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, the statement added.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas said the planned trade agreement had allowed the bloc to exert pressure on Brazil, reported Reuters. “The Mercosur agreement…gives us possibilities and means to exert pressure to influence things on the ground (in Brazil),” Maas told diplomats in Berlin. In addition, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was quoted saying “there is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments”, said Climate Home News. And European Council President Donald Tusk said the EU “stands by the EU-Mercosur agreement but it is hard to imagine a process of ratification as long as the Brazilian government allows for the destruction” of the Amazon, reported BBC News.
The EU stands by the EU-Mercosur agreement but a harmonious ratification is hard to imagine as long as the Brazilian government allows for the destruction of the green lungs of Planet Earth.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) August 24, 2019
In response, Brazil’s agriculture minister Tereza Cristina Dias said countries “overreact” when they link the fires to the trade deal, reported another Reuters piece.
On Friday 23 August, US president Donald Trump tweeted that he has spoken to Bolsonaro and that the US “stands ready to assist”.
Just spoke with President @JairBolsonaro of Brazil. Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before. I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
On Saturday 24 August, a number of publications reported that Bolsonaro had pledged to deploy the Brazilian army to help fight the fires. In a brief televised address on Friday night, Bolsonaro said that “the extensive use of armed forces personnel and equipment” would help fight “the advance of fires” in the Amazon region, reported the Financial Times. Backed by military aircraft, some 44,000 troops would be made available, the Independent said.
(In his address, Bolsonaro also said that those living in the Amazon basin should be allowed “to develop along with the rest of the country” by exploiting the “incalculable wealth … of natural resources” in the region, reported the Daily Telegraph.)
As the three-day G7 summit in Biarritz in France rolled round, the G7 collectively agreed to offer an immediate $20m (£16m) aid package to help the nine Amazon countries fight wildfires and launch a longer-term global initiative to protect the rainforest, the Guardian – and many others – reported.
“We must respond to the call of the forest which is burning today in the Amazon,” said Macron at a press conference alongside the Chilean president Sebastian Pinera.The response from the G7 countries included an offer from Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau to send water bombers to Brazil to help fight the fires, noted Reuters.
Macron noted that the G7 countries “were all in agreement we should act but, done in full coordination with the countries of the region”, noted Politico. However, the Guardian reported that US president Donald Trump did not attend the G7 discussion on the fires. Emmanuel Macron confirmed Trump had not personally attended the climate session but that Trump’s team had been present. Trump was later asked by reporters whether he had attended the climate session. He replied: “We’re having it in a little while.” He did not appear to hear when a reporter told him it had just taken place, noted the Guardian.
The offer of aid did not receive a warm welcome from the Brazilian government. Bolsonaro “lashed out” on Twitter in response, the Independent said, accusing world leaders of treating his country like “a colony or no-man’s land” and attacking its sovereignty. This was followed by mixed reports of whether Brazil would accept the money. The Sun reported that Bolsonaro “turned down” the money, while Reuters said Brazilian environment minister Ricardo Salles told reporters in São Paulo that financial aid was welcome.
Meanwhile, Reuters also reported that the Brazilian administration “has distributed a 12-page circular to its foreign embassies, outlining data and statistics that diplomats are meant to cite to defend the government’s position on the crisis”. Brazil has also “ordered its ambassadors in Europe and other G7 countries not to take vacation for the next two weeks in order to coordinate a diplomatic response to global concerns over the fires”, noted another Reuters piece.
By Tuesday morning, BBC News and the Guardian were both reporting that Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, had told the G1 news website that Brazil will reject the offer of aid. “Thanks, but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Lorenzoni said, adding that Brazil could teach “any nation” how to protect native forests.
“Macron cannot even avoid a predictable fire in a church that is part of the world’s heritage, and he wants to give us lessons for our country?” Lorenzoni added, referencing the fire at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris in April.
Personal relations between Macron and Bolsonaro subsequently “deteriorated even further after Brazil’s leader mocked Macron’s wife on Facebook”, said Reuters. When asked about Bolsonaro’s remarks, Macron said it was “extraordinarily rude” and “sad”, reported BBC News. The Guardian, CNN, Independent and MailOnline all covered Macron’s response.
Lorenzoni’s office later said that his remarks about turning down the aid money was a personal opinion, reported the Evening Standard. Speaking to reporters in Brasilia on Tuesday, Bolsonaro said that he would only consider accepting the funding if Macron “withdraws his insults” towards him:
“First of all, Macron has to withdraw his insults. He called me a liar. Before we talk or accept anything from France…he must withdraw these words then we can talk.”
Later on Tuesday, President Trump tweeted that Bolsonaro and Brazil “have the full and complete support of the USA”.
I have gotten to know President @jairbolsonaro well in our dealings with Brazil. He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil – Not easy. He and his country have the full and complete support of the USA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2019
On Wednesday, CNN reported that the Brazilian government “walked back its rejection” of foreign aid. “Acceptance of the funds, however, would hinge on the Brazilian government being able to administrate the aid,” said CNN. Reuters reported comments from presidential spokesman Rego Barros, who said: “The Brazilian government, through its president, is open to receiving financial support from organisations and countries. This money, when it enters the country, will have the total governance of the Brazilian people.”
Separately, the New York Times reported that after initially refusing G7 help, Brazil decided to accept $12m in aid from the UK to tackle Amazon fires, after the nation’s foreign minister Ernesto Araújo was offered help by his British counterpart Dominic Raab.
What has the media had to say?
A Guardian editorial describes the G7 aid package to help Amazon countries fight wildfires as “a start”. However, “targets and protections are only effective when they are strictly applied”, it adds. The Guardian is supportive of Macron for taking Bolsonaro “to task for encouraging the wanton destruction of the world’s biggest tropical forest”, while it also criticises the UK, which appears “to be more fixated on securing its own post-Brexit trade arrangements than standing up for what is right”.
A New York Times editorial calls the $20m of aid pledged by the G7 “a trifle given the scale of the fires and the size of the economies of the donors”. It points out that even actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental organisation Earth Alliance pledged $5m (£4.1m) towards tackling the fires.
The editorial says that more notable than “the token action was the fact that President Trump skipped the session at which it was taken, which happened to be devoted to climate, oceans and biodiversity”. It adds:
“Even more noteworthy was that neither French President Emmanuel Macron, the convener of this year’s summit and champion of action on the Amazon fires, nor hardly anyone else seemed to find this particularly disturbing.”
The New York Times also published a column by Prof Roberto Mangabeira Unger, A former Harvard law professor who headed up implementing Brazil’s new Plan for a Sustainable Amazon between 2007 and 2009. In his column, Unger writes that “if the Bolsonaro administration, sunk in its perverse culture wars, refuses to participate, governments, research institutions, and businesses of the world should go to the governors and mayors of the Amazon”. He adds:
“The Amazonian states have joined in a regional organisation, the Interstate Consortium of the Legal Amazon, that can partner with our foreign friends…Give us a hand without disrespecting our sovereignty. Instead of just helping put out fires, help us make the discoveries and achieve the innovations that a better future demands.”
David Miranda – a federal congressman in Brazil representing the state of Rio de Janeiro with the Party of Socialism and Liberty (PSOL) – writes in the Guardian that Bolsonaro and “his extremist environment minister, Ricardo Salles” have “not merely permitted these devastating fires, but have encouraged and fuelled them”. He writes:
“But the world also cannot stand by and let the Bolsonaro government destroy the Amazon. In lieu of unilateral decrees that smack of arrogant colonialism, rich industrialised countries who need the Amazon to survive should fund social programmes for poor Brazilians who compose a large majority of our supremely unequal country, in exchange for preservation of this vital environmental asset.”
A Los Angeles Times editorial says Bolsonaro “doesn’t care“ about the fires, and accuses him of following “Donald Trump’s populist, anti-establishment playbook to win an election last year”. It continues:
“[Bolsonaro] thinks the Amazon should not be protected, and that lands reserved for indigenous peoples should not be recognised – all in the name of economic growth. That see-no-evil approach is another point Bolsonaro has in common with Trump, who has sought to make an alarming amount of public lands available for oil and gas drilling and other extractive industries, such as uranium mining – the health of the planet be damned.”
A Chicago Tribune editorial agrees:
“Point much of the blame for this slow-burning catastrophe at Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who sees rainforest protection as an impediment to economic growth.”
The Toronto Star gives “kudos” to the G7, who “reacted quickly to forest fires in the Amazon”, but warns that is won’t be enough:
“But, sadly, those aid packages won’t stop future fires from being lit in a forest that is home to three million species of plants and animals unless world leaders can convince Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, to change his ways.”
Writing in the Hill, scientist and author Dr Shahir Masri says that “as we look to blame ranchers, politicians, and climate for these fires, we overlook a glaring paradox. That is, underlying the long-term destruction of the Amazon rainforest for decades has been global demand for meat products”.
“If images of this month’s forest fires have stirred public emotion, then it’s incumbent upon us to reflect on our personal behaviour and understand how consumer choice at the grocery store,” he writes, adding:
“It is often said that we cast a vote each time we use our dollar to make a purchase. This couldn’t ring truer than in the present context.”
This is a theme picked up in an Observer editorial as well:
“It’s all very well for European governments to condemn Bolsonaro, but western demand for Brazilian beef is contributing to deforestation. The EU imported more than £490m worth of beef from Brazil last year. Consumers in Britain were indirectly responsible for the destruction of the equivalent of 500 football pitches of rainforest in Brazil last year.”
And an opinion piece by Bloomberg columnist David Fickling in the Washington Post points out that US trade war with China could be “fuelling” the Amazon fires as it drives up demand for soy from Brazil. While most soy is grown in the cerrado – a vast area of savannah to the south and east of the rainforest – “the trouble is, even Brazil has a finite amount of land and if you squeeze the balloon in one place, it risks popping out in another”, Fickling says:
“As it is, most of the expansion of Brazil’s arable land over the past decade appears to have come at the expense of regrowth forest, which tends to be less well-protected than primary forest like the Amazon.”
In the Washington Post, freelance writer Shannon Stirone says the reaction to the fires in wider society has been “so indifferent”:
“The fires in the Amazon, cumulatively, have received less media coverage than the fire at Notre Dame this spring, for instance: Media Matters reported that the fire at Paris’s historic church got 15 times the coverage that the burning rainforest has.”
Again noting the comparison with Notre Dame, Sitrone notes that the G7 agreed to $20m of aid to fight the Amazon fired, yet “Notre Dame raised 1bn euros in a matter of days”.
Perhaps the Amazon is harder to relate to than a human-made place of worship, she wonders, or “maybe our ability to look away from disasters like this is a symbol of our own ambivalence about doing anything to fight the climate crisis in general”.
Elsewhere in the Washington Post, foreign affairs reporter Ishaan Tharoor looks at the relationship between Brazil and Bolivia, with fires raging in both countries. There is “little neighborly love between the leaders of Brazil and Bolivia”, says Tharoor, but critics argue that the fires in both countries are “a product of policies that encouraged deforestation”.
In Deutsche Welle, reporter and senior editor Vanessa Fischer writes that “the international community must provide even more money to save the Amazon rainforest in the long term”. This means a global fund, compensation payments and a global commitment to not prioritise economic interests in the Amazon, she says:
“The upcoming UN summit in September in New York, where climate change will be at the top of the agenda, would be the ideal setting to agree on such steps. It would be an opportunity for the global community to show that it can really take action, not just express outrage.”
And finally, a column in the Conversation by Prof Scott Denning – professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University – points out that “the oft-repeated claim that the Amazon rainforest produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen is based on a misunderstanding”. He explains:
“In fact nearly all of Earth’s breathable oxygen originated in the oceans, and there is enough of it to last for millions of years. There are many reasons to be appalled by this year’s Amazon fires, but depleting Earth’s oxygen supply is not one of them.”
Media reaction: Amazon fires and climate change
How the media has reacted to the recent Amazon fires