Troops deployed to battle Amazon fires
Burning forests ignite global debates on climate change and deforestation
This year's fire season in the Amazon is igniting a global debate on climate change and deforestation while thousands of Brazilian troops battle the spreading fires.
The number of fires between January and August 21 is up 85 percent from the same period in 2018, according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, which tracks satellite data. The cases also increased in neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay.
Under increasing international pressure to contain the fires, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has ordered 44,000 troops to be ready to combat the fires. He also spoke with the presidents of Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and Spain.
Bolivia and Paraguay have also struggled to contain fires that swept through woods and fields and, in many cases, got out of control in high winds. About 7,500 square kilometers of land has been affected in Bolivia. A Boeing 747-400 Super-Tanker has been despatched to dump retardant on the blazes there.
Forest fires are common across the Amazon rainforest between May and October but the big jump this year has ignited a global debate that threatens to hurt Brazil's trade and diplomatic relationships.
"The number of fire outbreaks recorded in the Amazon in 2019 is one of the largest in recent years. And it is getting worse," Romulo Batista, an Amazon campaigner from Greenpeace Brazil, said.
The concern is that the increase in the number of fires is directly related to rapid deforestation.
Thomas Lovejoy, a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation and a professor at the Environmental Science and Policy department at George Mason University in the United States, said deforestation of the Amazon rainforest could soon reach a tipping point. Working with a Brazilian scientist, Lovejoy concluded about 18 months ago that "the tipping point probably is around 20 percent deforestation. And we're very close to that. Probably at 18 percent or 19 percent".
"There are three things affecting (the Amazon) today. One is deforestation. One is extensive use of fire as you can see right now. And the third is climate change. And the three of them are working together on that hydrological cycle pushing toward a tipping point," Lovejoy added.