orest fires have soared in the Brazilian Amazon this year, sharpening concerns about rising deforestation and climate emissions under the nation’s new far-right president.
The news: More than 70,000 forest fires have broken out throughout the rainforest so far this year, the largest number in at least five years and a more than 80% increase over the same period last year, according to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
What’s driving the increase? Several factors. Researchers warn climate change is making the Amazon rainforest more susceptible to wildfires, by increasing droughts. But local reports say farmers in some areas are deliberately setting fires to clear land for crops or cattle ranching, emboldened by President Jair Bolsonaro’s weakening of environmental guardrails.
Why does it matter? The Amazon proper, which spans nine nations, is one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. It accounts for around 17% of the world’s carbon trapped in vegetation on land. (It’s also, of course, a rich source of biodiversity and the oxygen we breathe.) Amazon deforestation rates had been tumbling for years. But they’ve risen significantly in Brazil this year.