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Amazon Fires: What We Know and What We Can Do
Daniel Nepstad, Ph.D., Earth Innovation Institute | August 23, 2019
"The biggest threat to the Amazon forest is large–scale displacement by scrub vegetation driven by increasingly frequent extreme drought events and associated forest fire. During years of normal rainfall, the Amazon forest extends like a giant firebreak across the landscape. Fires set by landholders to improve grass cover in cattle pastures or to burn felled trees in preparation for crops or pasture are usually extinguished when they reach the floor of neighboring forests, where the damp layer of leaves, twigs and branches in the forest's deep shade does not readily burn.
But that same fire resistance of the forest is lost during years of severe drought, when the forest's fuel layer dries out. And when the fuel layer catches fire, the likelihood of another fire becomes greater, as we explain below. As the forest burns repeatedly, grasses invade, and a once fire–resistant forest can be replaced by fire–prone scrub vegetation, as we described recently for our long–term forest fire experiment in Mato Grosso…" READ MORE
Why Everything They Say About The Amazon, Including That It's The 'Lungs Of The World,' Is Wrong
Michael Shellenberger, Forbes | August 26, 2019
The increase in fires burning in Brazil set off a storm of international outrage last week. Celebrities, environmentalists, and political leaders blame Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, for destroying the world's largest rainforest, the Amazon, which they say is the "lungs of the world."
While the number of fires in 2019 is indeed 80% higher than in 2018, it's just 7% higher than the average over the last 10 years ago,said Dan Nepstad of Earth Innovation Institute. One of Brazil's leading environmental journalists agrees that media coverage of the fires has been misleading. "It was under [Workers Party President] Lula and [Environment Secretary] Marina Silva (2003–2008) that Brazil had the highest incidence of burning," Leonardo Coutinho told me over email. "But neither Lula nor Marina was accused of putting the Amazon at risk."
Coutinho's perspective was shaped by reporting on the ground in the Amazon for Veja, Brazil's leading news magazine, for nearly a decade. By contrast, many of the correspondents reporting on the fires have been doing so from the cosmopolitan cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which are 2,500 miles and four hours by jet plane away.
"What is happening in the Amazon is not exceptional," said Coutinho. "Take a look at Google web searches search for 'Amazon' and 'Amazon Forest' over time. Global public opinion was not as interested in the 'Amazon tragedy' when the situation was undeniably worse. The present moment does not justify global hysteria."
And while fires in Brazil have increased, there is no evidence that Amazon forest fires have. READ MORE