Aug 22, 2019

Earth's lungs are burning

A charred trunk is seen on a tract of Amazon jungle that was recently burned by loggers and farmers in Brazil. Photo: Bruno Kelly/Reuters

The Amazon rainforest is burning faster than usual, it's most likely because of humans clearing land for agriculture, and it will make efforts to fight climate change harder if it doesn't stop fast.

Why it matters: "By one recent estimate, the trees of the Amazon rainforest pulled in carbon dioxide equivalent to the fossil fuel emissions of most of the nine countries that own or border the forest between 1980-2010," the BBC reported.

The big picture: Amazon deforestation has sped up under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro. Fires in the region are up 77% from last year, and the dry season has just gotten started.

  • As of last month, an area of the Amazon the size of Los Angeles had burned, per the BBC.
Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest. Photo: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Between the lines: It always burns in the Amazon during the dry season. But "natural fires are very rare in the Amazon, so all, or almost all, the fires we are seeing are set by humans," Global Forest Watch's Mikaela Weisse told the N.Y. Times.

  • "It is definitely something to be concerned about, especially with more research coming out about reaching a tipping point."

Bolsonaro isn't just unconcerned — he's made the ludicrous suggestion that the fires are being started by NGOs.

  • “It could be, it could, I’m not saying it is, a criminal action by these N.G.O. people to call attention against me, against the Brazilian government."

The bottom line: The Amazon may not belong to all of us, but what happens there affects all of us.

An aerial view of a deforested plot of the Amazon near Humaita, Amazonas State, Brazil August 22, 2019. Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

Go deeper

1,200 new fires identified in Amazon region this week

A burned area after a fire in the Amazon Rainforest in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, on Saturday. Photo: Joao Laet/AFP/Getty Images

Some 1,200 new fires have been identified burning in the Amazon Rainforest region this week, Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported Saturday.

By the numbers: There have been 40,341 fires in the Amazon this year, per the New York Times. More than 1,330 square miles burned in the first 7 months of 2019. The largest swaths of the Amazon rainforest, in Brazil and Peru, are burning at the highest rates since records began in 2013 — a rise of 84% compared to the same period last year, according to INPE.

Go deeperArrowAug 25, 2019

Bolsonaro demands apology from Macron before accepting $20 million in Amazon aid

France's President Emmanuel Macron and Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro at the G20 Summit in Osaka in June. Photo: Jacques Witt/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has said he will only accept a $20 million aid package from G7 nations to fight fires in the Amazon rainforest if French President Emmanuel Macron apologizes, according to the AP.

The big picture: Macron and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have traded barbs on Twitter over the fate of the Amazon, which has seen an 84% increase in wildfires this year compared to 2018. Bolsonaro has described the offer of international help as a “colonialist mentality," while Macron has questioned the Brazilian president's commitment to environmentalism. Per the AP, Bolsonaro says Macron must take back some of his comments "and then we can speak."

Go deeperArrowUpdated Aug 27, 2019

The war on Amazon

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For the last 2 years, Amazon has largely been a subplot in the global backlash against Big Tech, with much of the scrutiny on Facebook, Uber and Google — until now.

Why it matters: Amazon is one of the richest companies in history, and for decades, no amount of bad news has stuck to it. Now, an onslaught of regulatory investigations and critical coverage is putting the behemoth on the defensive.

Go deeperArrowSep 19, 2019