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Record fires are raging in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, with more than 2,500 fires currently burning. They are collectively emitting huge amounts of carbon, with smoke plumes visible thousands of kilometers away.
Fires in Brazil increased by 85% in 2019, with more than half in the Amazon region, according to Brazil's space agency.
Increase - Degradation - Land - Clearing - Farming
This sudden increase is likely down to land degradation: land clearing and farming reduces the availability of water, warms the soil and intensifies drought, combining to make fires more frequent and more fierce.
The growing number of fires are the result of illegal forest clearing to create land for farming. Fires are set deliberately and spread easily in the dry season.
Desire - Land - Cattle - Driver - Deforestation
The desire for new land for cattle farming has been the main driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon since the 1970s.
Ironically, farmers may not need to clear new land to graze cattle. Research has found a significant number of currently degraded and unproductive pastures that could offer new opportunities for livestock.
New - Developments - Possibility - Cattle - Farms
New technical developments also offer the possibility of transforming extensive cattle ranches into more compact and productive farms – offering the same results while consuming less natural resources.
The devastating loss of biodiversity does not just affect Brazil. The loss of Amazonian vegetation directly reduces rain across South America and other regions of the world.
Planet - Carbon - Sink - Fires - Carbon
The planet is losing an important carbon sink, and the fires are directly injecting carbon into the atmosphere. If we can't stop deforestation in the Amazon, and the associated fires, it raises real questions about our ability to reach the Paris Agreement to slow climate change.
The Brazilian government has set an ambitious target to stop illegal deforestation and restore 4.8 million hectares of degraded Amazonian land by 2030. If these goals are not carefully addressed now, it may not be possible to meaningfully mitigate climate change.
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