By Stacey Leasca
August 21, 2019

A massive wildfire is currently ravaging the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. According to experts, the fire is not only one of the worst on record for the region, but it could also cause a ripple effect with climate change for years to come.

The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported the fires are burning at the highest rate since they began tracking them in 2013, according to CNN. Smoke from the massive blaze even reached São Paulo, located more than 1,700 miles away from the source, turning the city into a post-apocalyptic movie scene, only scarier.

In total, INPE reported, there have been 72,843 fires in Brazil this year. More than half of those fires took place in the Amazon region, which marks an 80 percent increase compared with the same period last year.

A satellite image showing several fires burning in the Brazilian states of Amazonas (top C-L), Para (top R), Mato Grosso (bottom R) and Rondonia (bottom C), 13 August 2019
NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

How did this year’s Amazon fires begin?

According to BBC, while there are natural causes that spark fires during the dry season, fires are also deliberately started to aid in illegal deforestation for cattle ranching.

Environmentalists are now blaming Brazil's far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, for further endangering the rainforest, CNN reported. The environmentalists and concerned parties say Bolsonaro relaxed environmental controls, which only encouraged deforestation.

Why does the Amazon matter?

As CNN further explained, the Amazon produces about 20 percent of the oxygen in Earth's atmosphere. The rainforest is also home to some three million species of plants and animals, along with one million indigenous people, BBC reported. And if all this goes away the human race will be in serious trouble.

How will the fires affect climate change?

The World Wildlife Fund warned on its website that the fires and deforestation of the Amazon could turn this vital resource into a “savanna-like” region where animals and plants cannot thrive.

“While there is still debate among scientists about this concept, some climate-simulation vegetation models predict that such a die-back could occur by the end of this century,” it noted. “[H]owever, this timeframe may be optimistic as these models do not include land-use change or the synergistic effects of deforestation and regional climate change. If these factors were taken into account, we could face a dire scenario in which current trends in livestock, agriculture, logging expansion, fire and drought could destroy or severely damage 55 percent of the Amazon rainforest by the year 2030.”

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