Wildfires in the world’s largest tropical rainforest are causing so much smoke it is blocking out the sun. The devastating forest fire that rampages through the Amazon rainforest is taking its toll on South America, blocking out the sun with smoke that can be seen from space. What began as a “day of fire” a week and a half ago has now turned daytime skies in São Paulo an inky black. The Amazon has been in deep, deep trouble ever since far-right president Jair Bolsnaro took over running Brazil. Advocates feared his regime would commit ecological “genocide” in the Amazon and with each passing month, those fears are becoming reality.
The Amazon has seen 71,497 fires ignited since January, according to data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. That’s an 82 percent increase compared to last year and well above 2016’s extreme count of 66,622 blazes.
The Amazon rainforest is a huge asset in the fight against climate change – as one of the world’s biggest carbon stores, it slows down the pace of global warming.
Eventually, rising temperatures and drought coupled with deforestation could permanently alter one of the world’s most iconic ecosystems, effectively cleaving the Amazon in two. It’s not like the damage can be easily undone. Once the Amazon is gone, it’s gone. And the remaining fractured forest wouldn’t have anywhere near the carbon sequestering capacities of its former self, meaning climate change could accelerate there and the rest of the planet.
Under the Bolsonaro administration, the rise in deforestation is sending the Amazon careening toward a very dangerous place not just for the forest but for the planet as a whole. It might not be at a tipping point, but that’s hardly any consolation.