Yes, the Amazon wildfires are bad, but how bad?

Brazil has recorded over 75,000 individual forest fires in 2019 so far, showing an 85 per cent increase when compared to the first eight months of 2018. The impact on the Amazon has been catastrophic. In July, an area the size of Manhattan was obliterated every single day. And this destruction will undoubtedly have grave consequences for the entire planet.

The Amazon basin is center-stage in the debate over the causes and solutions to global warming. Spanning over seven million square kilometers, it accounts for over 40 percent of the world´s entire stock of tropical forests, 20 per cent of the global fresh water supply and recycles roughly 20 percent of the air we breathe.

As media headlines around the world are showing, these forests are under threat due to fires, relentless deforestation and degradation. Much of this is caused by cattle rearing, soy production, mining and selective logging.

Scientists are concerned that the Amazon is perilously close to a tipping-point creating conditions so hot and dry that local species could not regenerate. If 20-25 percent of the tree cover is deforested, the basin’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide would collapse.

If this happens, the world´s largest tropical forest will become its biggest patch of scrubland. This would not only lead to rapid deterioration of biodiversity, it would profoundly upset the process of evapotranspiration which influences cloud cover and the circulation of ocean currents.

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