Amazon wildfires are reaching a 'disastrous irreversible tipping point', scientists say
Per the Daily Mail, the Brazillian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has pledged to deploy military forces in an effort to control the Amazon wildfires that have left the country covered in smoke and darkness.
Speaking at a conference. President Bolsonaro said:
"The protection of the forest is our duty. We are aware of that and will act to combat deforestation and criminal activities that put people at risk in the Amazon.
"We are a government of zero tolerance for crime, and in the environmental field it will not be different."
As Bolsonaro revealed that the country will "act strongly" to combat the blazes, thousands of Brazil civilians demonstrated in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and the capital of Brasilia - demanding that the government announce concrete actions to attempt to extinguish the fires.
Many people could also be heard banging pots within their homes - a form of protest popular in South America.
Bolsonaro decree comes after scientists provided an ominous warning about the future of the Amazon rainforest. Back in July, the rate of deforestation was comparable to that of losing an area the size of Manhattan every day.
But speaking to The Independent on Friday, Professor Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University revealed how further deforestation to "the lungs of our planet" could soon be out of human control:
"When we were first worried about it, the amount of deforestation was small. But then these other things started to interact – the impact of deforestation and the effects of climate change became apparent, and the extent of the use of fire [for clearing land] became apparent.
"The reason we believe the tipping point is so close is because we're seeing historic droughts in 2005, 2010, and 2016.
"And satellite images in the north-central Amazon also show forests remote from everything are beginning to convert into grassland. That's yet another symptom."
The new decree signed by Bolsonaro on Friday evening details how the nation will send armed forces working with public security and environmental protection agencies, and that forces will be deployed to border areas, indigenous territories, and other affected regions in the Amazon, where they will remain for a month as they attempt to combat the inferno.
Professor Lovejoy also spoke out about how losing such huge areas of the rainforest would impact the global biodiversity:
"People don’t really grasp that the biodiversity in one part of the Amazon is very different to that in other parts.
"So if you have regional loss, you’ve having actual total loss of that biodiversity. It’s the largest terrestrial repository of biodiversity on the planet, so all that will impact the future of Brazil, the economy, for the future of the world, vanishes.
"We tend to live in the delusion we don’t depend on the biology of the planet, but we do. Agriculture, forestry, medicine, all of that has a major biological base. Scientists are revealing new potential all the time. But you can’t do that if the species isn’t there to study. It’s like book burning on a very grand scale.
"The standing forest is absorbing carbon on an annual basis, but its even greater importance is in the total amount of carbon stored in the forest itself. Tropical rainforests store more carbon per unit area than basically any other kind of habitat. So it’s folly in the end."
Per BBC News, forest fires are quite common during the Amazon's dry season - which runs from July to October - and can be caused by naturally occurring events, such as lightning strikes. However, the Daily Mail reports that several experts believe the ongoing blazes were likely to be started by people.
Christian Poirier, a program director for conservation non-profit group Amazon Watch, reveals that cattle ranchers and farmers regularly set fires to rainforest land in order to clear it for grazing and agriculture. And according to Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist at Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), roughly 99% of the Amazon's fires are started by people, "either on purpose or by accident".