We need to talk about wildfires! In Brazil and in the world, the number of fires increases during the dry season, killing animals, plants, people, and profoundly altering the planet’s biodiversity.
Data from NASA, the United States space agency, and the European Union’s Copernicus System, reveal that fires in New South Wales (Australia), the Siberian Arctic, the west coast of the United States, and the Brazilian Pantanal were the biggest of all time, based on 18 years of data on global forest fires compiled by organizations.
According to the Global Forest Watch Organization, we have two main causes that are causing the rapid pace of these fires: climate change along with deforestation. It is obviously not the first time that forests are having to undergo periods of climate change, the forests that we have today were shaped in part by warming at the end of the last ice age. Studies of fossilized pollen suggest that the Amazon rainforest, for example, withstood the coldest and driest climate of the last ice age and potentially several ice ages that preceded it, making it an incredibly resilient ecosystem.
So, what’s different about climate change this time around?
If forests have endured millions of years of climatic fluctuations, why is rising current temperatures a cause for concern? On the one hand, climate change is happening quickly this time. The global temperature has risen 2 degrees since records began in the 1880s. The Earth normally experiences climatic cycles on the scale of hundreds of thousands of years. This is not to say that rapid climate change has never happened on Earth before. The impact of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs caused a dramatic global cooling in a matter of decades. But climate change on short timescales is almost always associated with mass extinction events. Approximately 75% of the known species were wiped out along with the dinosaurs. The global climate and temperature changes on short timescales pose a serious threat to the Earth’s biodiversity.
Forests X Climate change
The link between forests, climate change, deforestation, and fires is a vicious cycle of destruction. As the climate warms up (which is intensified by the alarming level of carbon emissions), forest ecosystems suffer damage and degradation that favor fires. Fires cause a boom in carbon emissions: by the fire itself and by drastically degrading or even extinguishing a forest ecosystem. With the degradation of these forests and the consequent lack of carbon capture, emissions increase. With more carbon emissions, the climate tends to heat up again causing degradation in the system. And all of this is intensified by the high rates of deforestation that degrade ecosystems and bring them out of balance.
In tropical forests specifically, global warming leads to less rainfall. Some researchers have hypothesized that reaching a certain drying limit can push the Amazon to an ecological tipping point, where the environment is no longer capable of sustaining a forest. The largest rainforest in the world can turn into a savanna in less than 50 years.
It has also been shown that rising soil temperatures release more carbon dioxide and higher temperatures from high levels of carbon dioxide can actually slow plant growth, compromising their ability to continue sequestering carbon. This has serious implications for programs that try to combat climate change by planting trees. While protecting and restoring forests can be essential to slow climate change, reducing carbon emissions is also critical to preserving forests in the first place. The impacts of climate change are already being felt from the tropics to the boreal region. If warming continues, the forests we know of may look very different in the coming decades.
Every year, scientists say that an area of about 4 million square kilometers of forest, roughly the size of the European Union, is burned by forest fires. This has a serious impact on biodiversity and global ecosystems. A report by the Intergovernmental Scientific Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warned last year that about 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, a record in human history.
In early September, the UN warned that the world had failed to fully meet all the biodiversity protection targets it set for this decade.
Specific causes in Brazilian Ecosystems
Unlike drought conditions on the west coast of the United States, forest fires in Brazil are mainly caused by deforestation, which some environmentalists say is motivated by government pro-agriculture and mining policies.
In the Amazon, the first days of September had 13,810 fires, an increase of 85% compared to the same period in 2019. The main cause is the land grabbers and farmers who cause the fires to appropriate the land for agriculture and illegal mining.
In the Brazilian Cerrado, data indicate that 4 thousand hectares have already been consumed by the fires. This is the biome that suffers the most with the advance of agriculture and livestock according to monitoring bodies.
But it is not just the rainforests of South America that are burning. In the south of the Amazon, in the Pantanal, fires are also intense.
The biome spans Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia and is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.
The fire has already destroyed 15% of the region, with 2.3 million hectares.
As of Thursday (08/17), there were almost 16,000 fires, the highest number of fires since 1998, when INPE started to count these statistics.
In the first half of September alone, the number of outbreaks is almost twice as high as in the whole of last year. Accumulated from January to September, the number of fires has tripled in relation to the same period of 2019.
The federal police are investigating the charge that farmers were responsible for the current fires. “They are farms in inhospitable places, it is difficult that these outbreaks occurred accidentally. The suspicion is that these farmers burned to increase the area for grazing cattle, and the fire ended up spreading to national parks and reserves ”, explains the Federal Police chief in Corumbá, Alan Givigi.
We realize that the cause of the increase in global forest fires is very complex, but in short, it results from the inconsequential intervention of human beings in the environment. The rampant pace of consumption throws tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, accelerating global warming that unbalances and destroys forests. In Brazil, the intense pace of deforestation for livestock, monoculture of commodities, and mining activities increasingly aggravate the recovery of forest ecosystems.
We urgently need to become aware of our choices as consumers, because it is we, individuals who are part of a whole, who can dictate the pace of global production, and demand that brands and industries produce, returning with a positive impact on the environment and the environment. society.
And for that, I created FreedomeE, so that, through responsible trade and communication relations, we can generate a positive impact. There is no Planet B and together we can find the answers and solutions for a better world.
Global Forest Watch
Mídia Ninja Brasil