Fires Are Pushing The Amazon To A Tipping Point


Oscar Saucedo, Writer

Fires continue to rage at high levels through the Amazon Forest in Brazil for the second consecutive year, Raising worries among scientists that the rainforest destruction could eventually reach a point of no return. Since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office, government measures have been taken to curb illegal fires, but have shown little impact on the situation. As flames and deforestation erase many habitats and trees in the world’s biggest rainforest.

Most fires in the Amazon are set by land grabbers and wildcat ranchers, seeking to transform parts of the rainforest into their own lucrative agricultural enterprise. And in August was a particularly bad time for the fires: “initial data collected by the National Spatial Research Institute showed 29,307 fires in the Brazilian Amazon last month; however, due to technical issues with NASA satellite tracking fires, experts say that the rates can be even higher. The final tally of fires recorded in August is expected to rise 2% above the 2019 total,” said Albert Setzer, INPE’S senior scientist — which would make this August the worst in 10 years.

The 50-page report, “The Air is Unbearable’: Health Impacts of Deforestation-Related Fires in the Brazilian Amazon,” uses official health and environmental data and estimated that 2,195 hospitalization due to respiratory illness is attributed to the 2019 fires. Nearly 500 involved infants under 1-year-old and more than 1,000 involved are over age 60. This hospitalization estimates only represent a fraction of the total health impact from fires, as millions of people were affected by the fires in 2019 from the levels of air pollution caused by the deforestations in the Amazon. 

Under Brazil’s Legally binding national Policy on climate change, the government committed to reducing the yearly deforestation rate overall to 3,925 square kilometers by 2020. Instead, 4,700 square kilometers have already been cleared by this year by the end of July.