By Julia Shanahan | August 23rd, 2019
The Amazon rainforest is on fire. There have been over 74,000 fires in the Brazilian Amazon since January, according to a report from the Washington Post, making for an 85 percent increase in fires since last year.
Researchers at Brazil’s space center, INPE, told Reuters that there is nothing abnormal about climate or the amount of rainfall this year in the Amazon. A majority of the fires were started by farmers in the region preparing farmland for planting season, as natural fires in the Amazon are rare. There were hundreds of recorded fires set by farmers on Aug. 10 in an attempt to clear land and further development, much of which is illegal according to the Washington Post. Farmers often use the land for cattle and soybeans.
The Amazon, sometimes referred to as the Earth’s “lungs,” has an extremely role in releasing oxygen and storing carbon dioxide. The Amazon lost 1,330 square miles of forest cover during the first half of 2019, according to The New York Times. The report says that while climate change did not start these fires, a changing climate can make human-caused fires worse. Fires burn more quickly in dry conditions.
According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, the fires have caused a spike in carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions — a serious threat to public health and to global warming.