The Amazon Rainforest is On Fire

The Amazon is often referred to as the planet’s lungs, producing 20% of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is considered vital in slowing global warming, and it is home to uncountable species of flora and fauna. Roughly half the size of the United States, it is the largest rainforest on earth.

CNN reports that fires are raging at a record rate in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. According to National Institute for Space Research (INPE), here have been 72,843 fires in Brazil this year, with more than half in the Amazon region. That’s more than an 80% increase compared with the same period last year.

The smoke has covered nearly half of the country and is even spreading over into neighboring Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Activists blame Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro for relaxing environmental controls in the country and encouraging deforestation. On Wednesday, Bolsonaro said that the recent fires in the Amazon may have been caused by NGOs in order to draw international criticism to his government. In July, Greenpeace called Bolsonaro and his government a “threat to the climate equilibrium” and warned that in the long run, his policies would bear a “heavy cost” for the Brazilian economy.

Environmental activists and organizations like the World Wildlife Fund warn that if the Amazon arrives a point of no return, the rainforest could turn into a dry savannah, no longer habitable for its wildlife. Rather than being a wellspring of oxygen, it could begin discharging carbon – the major driver of environmental change.

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