Fires in Amazon rainforest up more than 80% this year, scientists warn

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The Amazon rainforest in Brazil is experiencing a record amount of fires this year, according to the country’s space agency.

The number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon between Jan. 1 and Aug. 20 — more than 74,000 as of Tuesday — has risen 84% from the same period in 2018, according to data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which used satellites to collect its research.

The wildfires are so intense that smoke loomed over the city of Sao Paolo, more than a thousand miles away, according to Greenpeace.

The severity of the fires has prompted the state of Amazonas to declare a state of emergency. The hashtags #PrayforAmazonas and #AmazonRainforest were trending on Twitter on Wednesday.

Environmental activists blamed far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has called for a double-digit increase in deforestation, The Associated Press reported.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro suggested that non-governmental organizations whose budgets have been cut could be responsible for setting fires to make him look bad, alleging that these groups wanted “to draw attention against me, against the government of Brazil.” He didn’t cite any evidence, according to the AP.

Earlier this month, Bolsonaro fired physicist Ricardo Galvao, director of the INPE.

Wildfires are common during Brazil’s dry season but are also deliberately started for the illegal deforestation of land for cattle ranching, the BBC reported.

Scientists warn that if the Amazon fires reach a “point of no return,” the forests could be replaced by fire-prone brush and savanna, causing the death of millions of species, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

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