According to official figures, the number of fires in Brazil increased 12.7% last year to a ten-year high. Experts hope this will increase pressure on the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, a well-known climate change skeptic.
Brazilian space agency INPE reported a total of 222,798 wildfires in Brazil in 2020. This is the highest rate since 2010. INPE, which uses satellite imagery to track fires and deforestation, has reported more than 103,000 fires in the Brazilian Amazon. More than 22,000 fires occurred during the year in the Brazilian Pantanal, the largest wetland in the world.
The Amazon and the Pantanal are two of the most valuable ecosystems on Earth.
Recall that the Pantanal is a vast swampy tectonic depression in Brazil, small parts of it are also located in Bolivia and Paraguay, in the Paraguay River basin. The South Pantanal is an area of incredible biodiversity. However, nearly a quarter of Brazil’s Pantanal was devastated by wildfires last year amid the region’s worst drought in nearly half a century.
The Amazon, the area with the largest rainforest globally, is considered vital in curbing climate change due to the carbon dioxide that the region’s trees absorb from the atmosphere.
The problem is that about 60 percent of the rainforest is in Brazil. The government of President Bolsonaro distinguished itself this year by canceling all measures to protect mangrove forests. The ruling is part of a series of controversial environmental decisions by the far-right president, who has overseen deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and the Pantanal wetlands since taking office in January 2019.
Images of charred landscapes strewn with animal corpses shocked the world, prompting criticism from the Bolsonaro government for failing to stop the destruction. Bolsonaro, a far-right climate change skeptic, is also under attack for the sharp increase in deforestation in the Amazon during his reign.
Activists say his push to open up protected Amazon lands for agribusiness and mining and his government’s cuts in funding for environmental programs contribute to the destruction.
During the year to August, deforestation destroyed more than Jamaica in the Brazilian Amazon, the highest rate in 12 years, according to space agency PRODES monitoring program. Experts believe that fires in the Amazon are mainly caused by people clearing land for farming and livestock raising and hope that the new data will cause a public outcry.
Previously, the number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon has already grown by 48.7% in 2019, the first year of Bolsonaro’s rule, which caused outrage worldwide.