Brazil Wildfires Surge Again in 2020

Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

According to official figures likely to add to pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro's government over the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, the number of wildfires in Brazil rose 12.7 percent last year to a decade-high. 

There were a total of 222,798 wildfires across Brazil in 2020, the highest number since 2010, according to the Brazilian space agency, INPE.

In the Brazilian Amazon, this included more than 103,000 fires, an annual rise of almost 16 percent, said INPE, which uses satellite imagery to monitor fires and deforestation.

More than 22,000 fires were also included in Brazil's share of the Pantanal, the largest wetlands in the world, which was destroyed by an annual rise of over 120 percent last year.

The Amazon and Pantanal are two of Earth’s most valuable ecosystems.

Because of the carbon dioxide it absorbs from the atmosphere, the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, is considered crucial for curbing climate change. 

About 60 percent of the rainforest is in Brazil.

Further south, the Pantanal is a biodiversity paradise that spreads from Brazil into Bolivia and Paraguay.

Nearly a quarter of the Brazilian Pantanal was devastated by fires last year, amid the region’s worst drought in nearly half a century.

The world was stunned by photographs of burned landscapes strewn with animal carcasses, prompting condemnation from the government of Bolsonaro for failing to avoid the devastation.

Bolsonaro, a skeptic of far-right climate change, also faces assaults on his watch over the dramatic increase in Amazon deforestation.

Activists say his push to open protected Amazon lands to agribusiness and mining and his government’s funding cuts for environmental protection programs are fueling the destruction.

According to the Space Agency's PRODES monitoring program, deforestation wiped out a region greater than Jamaica in the Brazilian Amazon in the year to August, a 12-year high.

Experts say the Amazon fires are mainly set by individuals who clear land for farming and ranching.

The number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon had already risen by 48.7 percent in 2019, Bolsonaro’s first year in office, triggering global outcry.

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