Over the past two weeks, everyone has been #prayforamazonia and tweeting incessantly about the disaster occurring in South America. But do we actually know the impact this incident will have on the global ecosystem?
Each year, the Amazon sees the outbreak of numerous fires that happen during the conventional dry season. However, this year has seen a reported 84% increase (by BBC News) in the number of fires. Out of the reported fires, nearly 40,000 were in the Amazon and because of the severity of the situation, several regions in and around the Amazon have declared a state of emergency.
Sao Paulo, a city over thousand miles away was “plunged into an apocalyptic darkness” on August 19 after smoke from the Amazon fires enveloped the city, making it fall into a nightime darkness at around 3pm.
The Global Forest Watch – an online forest monitoring platform - has said that even though the wildfires this year are “relatively high”, they are “not on track to be record breaking”. Using data from NASA, the GFW has determined that the record high was tracked in the early 2000s, probably because of the high rate of deforestation in the Amazon for agricultural land. The organisation has further said that August is usually the start of the fire season, so the next month will determine if this year is actually a record high or not.
The Amazon holds about ten years’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions, reports The Washington Post. It is further reported that this ability, to pull in carbon emissions, weakens with every fire, rise in temperature and deforestation. With every fire, the Amazon is closer to reaching a ‘tipping point’ which if crossed will start a dieback and change it from a rainforest into a savannah, releasing all of the contained carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, as written by Brazilian climate scientist Dr Carlos Nobre.
To sum up the millions of concerns and opinions, The Guardian’s global environment editor Johnathan Watts said it best, “At a time when the world needs billions more trees to absorb carbon and stabilise the climate, the planet is losing its biggest rainforest.”