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The 2019 Amazon rainforest wildfires season saw a year-to-year surge in fires occurring in the Amazon

rainforest and Amazon biome within Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Peru during that year's Amazonian
tropical dry season.[4] Fires normally occur around the dry season as slash-and-burn methods are used to clear
the forest to make way for agriculture, livestock, logging, and mining, leading to deforestation of the Amazon
rainforest. Such activity is generally illegal within these nations, but enforcement of environmental
protection can be lax. The increased rates of fire counts in 2019 led to international concern about the fate of
the Amazon rainforest, which is the world's largest carbon dioxide sink and plays a significant role in global
climate change.
The increased rates were first reported by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (Instituto Nacional de
Pesquisas Espaciais, INPE) in June and July 2019 through satellite monitoring systems, but international
attention was drawn to the situation by August 2019 when NASA corroborated INPE's findings, and smoke
from the fires, visible from satellite imagery, darkened the city of São Paulo despite being thousands of
kilometers from the Amazon. As of August 29, 2019, INPE reported more than 80,000 fires across all of Brazil,
a 77% year-to-year increase for the same tracking period, with more than 40,000 in the Brazil's Legal
Amazon (Amazônia Legal or BLA), which contains 60% of the Amazon. Similar year-to-year increases in fires
were subsequently reported in Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, with the 2019 fire counts within each nation of
over 19,000, 11,000 and 6,700, respectively, as of August 29, 2019.[1] It is estimated that over 906 thousand
hectares (2.24×106 acres; 9,060 km2; 3,500 sq mi) of forest within the Amazon biome has been lost to fires in
2019.[2] In addition to the impact on global climate, the fires created environmental concerns from the
excess carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide within the fires' emissions, potential impacts on
the biodiversity of the Amazon, and threats to indigenous tribes that live within the forest.
The increased rate of fires in Brazil has raised the most concerns as international leaders, particularly French
president Emmanuel Macron, and environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs) attributed these to
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's pro-business policies that had weakened environmental protections and
have encouraged deforestation of the Amazon after he took office in January 2019. Bolsonaro initially
remained ambivalent and rejected international calls to take action, asserting that the criticism was
sensationalist. Following increased pressure from the international community at the 45th G7 summit and a
threat to reject the pending European Union–Mercosur free trade agreement, Bolsonaro dispatched over
44,000 Brazilian troops and allocated funds to fight the fires, and later signed a decree to prevent such fires
for a sixty day period.
Other Amazonian countries have been more open for aid and reduce the rate of fires. While Bolivian
president Evo Morales was similarly blamed for past policies that encouraged deforestation, Morales has
since taken proactive measures to fight the fires and seek aid from other countries. At the G7 summit,
Macron negotiated with the other nations to allocate US$22 million for emergency aid to the Amazonian
countries affected by the fires.
There are 670 million ha (1.7 billion acres; 6.7 million km2; 2.6 million sq mi) of Amazon rainforest.[5] Human-
driven deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has been a major concern for decades as the rainforest's
impact on the global climate has been measured.[6][7] From a global climate perspective, the Amazon has been
the world's largest carbon dioxide sink, and estimated to capture up to 25% of global carbon
dioxide generation into plants and other biomass.[8] Without this sink, atmospheric carbon
dioxide concentrations would increase and contribute towards higher global temperatures, thus making the
viability of the Amazon a global concern.[9] Further, when the forest is lost through fire, additional carbon
dioxide is released to the atmosphere, and could potentially contribute significantly to the total carbon
dioxide content.[10] The flora also generates significant quantities of water vapor through transpiration which
travel large distances to other parts of South America via atmospheric rivers and contribute to the
precipitation in these areas.[11][12] Due to ongoing global climate change, environmental scientists have raised
concerns that the Amazon could reach a "tipping point" where it would irreversibly die out, the land
becoming more savannah than forest, under certain climate change conditions which are exacerbated
by anthropogenic activities.[13][14]
Human-driven deforestation of the Amazon is used to clear land for agriculture, livestock, and mining, and for
its lumber.[15] Most forest is typically cleared using slash-and-burn processes; huge amounts of biomass are
removed by first pulling down the trees in the Amazon using bulldozers and giant tractors during the wet
season (November through June), followed by torching the tree trunks several months later in the dry season
(July through October).[16][17][18] Fires are most common in July through August.[17] In some cases, workers
performing the burn are unskilled, and may inadvertently allow these fires to spread. While most countries in
the Amazon do have laws and environmental enforcement against deforestation, these are not well
enforced, and much of the slash-and-burn activity is done illegally.[15][19][20]
Deforestation leads to a large number of observed fires across the Amazon during the dry season, usually
tracked by satellite data. While it is possible for naturally-occurring wildfires to occur in the Amazon, the
chances are far less likely to occur, compared to those in California or in Australia.[21] Even with global
warming, spontaneous fires in the Amazon cannot come from warm weather alone, but warm weather is
capable of exacerbating the fires once started as there will be drier biomass available for the fire to
spread.[22][23] Alberto Setzer of INPE estimated that 99% of the wildfires in the Amazon basin are a result of
human actions, either on purpose or accidentally.[21] Manmade fires in the Amazon also tend to elevate their
smoke into the higher atmosphere due to the more intense burn of the dry biomass, compared with naturally
occurring wildfires.[24] Further evidence of the fires being caused by human activity is due to their clustering
near roads and existing agricultural areas rather than remote parts of the forest.[10]
Brazil's role in deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has been a significant issue since the 1970s, as 60% of
the Amazon is contained within Brazil, designated as the Brazil's Legal Amazon (Amazônia Legal,
BLA).[19][25] Since the 1970s, Brazil has consumed approximately 12 percent of the forest, representing roughly
77.7 million ha (192 million acres)—an area larger than that of the US state of Texas.[26] Most of the
deforestation has been for natural resources for the logging industry and land clearing for agricultural and
mining use.[27][28] Forest removal to make way for cattle ranching was the leading cause of deforestation in the
Brazilian Amazon from the mid-1960s on. The Amazon region has become the largest cattle ranching territory
in the world.[29] According to the World Bank, some 80% of deforested land is used for cattle
ranching.[29] Seventy per cent of formerly forested land in the Amazon, and 91% of land deforested since
1970, is used for livestock pasture.[30][31] According to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR),
"between 1990 and 2001 the percentage of Europe's processed meat imports that came from Brazil rose
from 40 to 74 percent" and by 2003 "for the first time ever, the growth in Brazilian cattle production, 80
percent of which was in the Amazon[,] was largely export driven."[32] The Brazilian states of Pará, Mato
Grosso, and Rondônia, located along the southern border of the Amazon rainforest, are in what is called the
"deforestation arc".[33]
The month of August 2019 saw a large growth in the number of observed wildfires according to INPE. By
August 11, Amazonas had declared a state of emergency.[54] The state of Acre entered into a environmental
alert on August 16.[55] In early August, local farmers in the Amazonian state of Pará placed an ad in the local
newspaper calling for a queimada or "Day of Fire" on August 10, 2019, organizing large scale slash-and-burn
operations knowing that there was little chance of interference from the government.[56][57] Shortly after,
there was an increase in the number of wildfires in the region.[56][58]
INPE reported on August 20 that it had detected 39,194 fires in the Amazon rainforest since January.[56] This
represented a 77 percent increase in the number of fires from the same time period in 2018.[56] However, the
NASA-funded NGO Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED) shows 2018 as an unusually low fire year
compared to historic data from 2004–2005 which are years showing nearly double the number of counted
fires.[59] INPE had reported that at least 74,155 fires have been detected in all of Brazil,[60] which represents a
84-percent increase from the same period in 2018.[61] NASA originally reported in mid-August
that MODIS satellites reported average numbers of fires in the region compared with data from the past 15
years; the numbers were above average for the year in the states of Amazonas and Rondônia, but below
average for Mato Grosso and Pará.[62][63][62][64] NASA later clarified that the data set they had evaluated previous
was through August 16, 2019. By August 26, 2019, NASA included more recent MODIS imagery to confirm
that the number of fires were higher than in previous years

While INPE's data had been reported in international sources earlier, news of the wildfires were not a major
news story until around August 20, 2019. On that day, the smoke plume from the fires in Rondônia and
Amazonas caused the sky to darken at around 2 p.m. over São Paulo—which is almost 2,800 kilometres
(1,700 mi) away from the Amazon basin on the eastern coast.[4][68][69] NASA and US National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also published satellite imagery from the Moderate Resolution Imaging
Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellitein alignment with INPE's own, that showed smoke
plumes from the wildfires were visible from space.[62][17] INPE and NASA data, along with photographs of the
ongoing fires and impacts, caught international attention and became a rising topic on social media, with
several world leaders, celebrities, and athletes expressing their concerns.[70]

In the months prior to August 2019, Bolsonaro mocked international and environmental groups that felt his
pro-business actions enabled deforestation.[71][21] At one point in August 2019, Bolsonaro jokingly calling
himself "Captain Chainsaw" while asserting that INPE's data was inaccurate.[51] After INPE announced an 88%
increase of wildfires in July 2019, Bolsonaro claimed "the numbers were fake" and fired Ricardo Magnus
Osório Galvão, the INPE director.[19][43][72][73] Bolsonaro claimed Galvão was using the data to lead an "anti-Brazil
campaign".[74][75][76][77] Bolsonaro had claimed that the fires had been deliberately started by environmental
NGOs, although he provided no evidence to back up the accusation.[75] NGOs such as WWF
Brasil, Greenpeace, and the Brazilian Institute for Environmental Protection countered Bolsonaro's claims.[78]
Bolsonaro, on August 22, argued that Brazil did not have the resources to fight the fires, as the "Amazon is
bigger than Europe, how will you fight criminal fires in such an area?".[79]
Historically, Brazil has been guarded about international intervention into the BLA, as the country sees the
forest as a critical part of Brazil's economy.[80] Bolsonaro and his government have continued to speak out
against any international oversight of the situation. Bolsaonaro considered French President Emmanuel
Macron's comments to have a "sensationalist tone" and accusing him of interfering in what he considers is a
local problem.[81] Of Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bolsonaro stated: "They still haven't
realized that Brazil is under new direction. That there's now a president who is loyal to [the] Brazilian people,
who says the Amazon is ours, who says bad Brazilians can't release lying numbers and campaign against
Bolsonaro's foreign minister Ernesto Araújo has also condemned the international criticism of Bolsonaro's
reaction to the wildfires, calling it "savage and unfair" treatment towards Bolsonaro and Brazil.[82] Araújo
stated that: "President Bolsonaro's government is rebuilding Brazil", and that foreign nations were using the
"environmental crisis" as a weapon to stop this rebuilding.[82] General Eduardo Villas Bôas, former
commander of the Brazilian Army, considered the criticism of world leaders, like Macron and Canadian Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau, to be directly challenging "Brazilian sovereignty", and may need to be met with
military response.[83]
With increased pressure from the international community, Bolsonaro appeared more willing to take
proactive steps against the fires, saying by August 23, 2019, that his government would take a "zero
tolerance" approach to environmental crimes.[84] He engaged the Brazilian military to help fight the wildfires
on August 24, which Joint Staff member Lt. Brig. Raul Botelho stated was to create a "positive perception" of
the government's efforts.[85][86] Among military support included 43,000 troops as well as four firefighting
aircraft, and an allocated US$15.7 million for fire-fighting operations.[87][88] Initial efforts were principally
located in the state of Rondônia, but the Defense Ministry stated they plan to offer support for all seven
states affected by the fires.[89] On August 28, Bolsonaro signed a decree banning the setting of fires in Brazil
for a period of 60 days, making exceptions for those fires made purposely to maintain environmental forest
health, to combat wildfires, and by the indigenous people of Brazil. However, as most fires are set illegally, it
is unclear what impact this decree could have.[66]
Rodrigo Maia, president of the Chamber of Deputies, announced that he would form a parliamentary
committee to monitor the problem. In addition, he said that the Chamber will hold a general commission in
the following days to assess the situation and propose solutions to the governm


Images created by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder which depict carbon monoxide caused by fires in the Amazon
region of Brazil from Aug. 8-22, 2019.[140]

Locations of active wildfires (marked in orange) in the Amazon as of 22 August 2019

By August 22, NASA's AIRS published maps of increased carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide resulting from
Brazil's wildfires.[141][140] On the same day, the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service reported a
"discernible spike" in emissions of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide generated by the fires.[142]
Areas downwind of the fires have become covered with smoke, which can potentially last upwards of months
at a time if the fires are left to burn out. Hospitals in cities like Porto Velho had reported over three times the
average number of cases of patients suffering from the effects of smoke over the same year-to-year period in
August 2019 than in other previous years. Besides hindering breathing, the smoke can exacerbates patients
with asthma or bronchitis and have potential cancer risk, generally affecting the youth and elderly the

Scientists at the Natural History Museum in London, described how while some forests have adapted to fire
as "important part of a forest ecosystem's natural cycle", the Amazon rainforest—which is "made up of
lowland, wetland forests"—is "not well-equipped to deal with fire". Other Amazon basin ecosystems, like the
Cerrado region, with its "large savannah, and lots of plants there have thick, corky, fire resistant stems", is
"fire adapted".[144]
Mazeika Sullivan, associate professor at Ohio State University's School of Environment and Natural
Resources, explained that the fires could have a massive toll on wildlife in the short term as many animals in
the Amazon are not adapted for extraordinary fires. Sloths, lizards, anteaters, and frogs may unfortunately
perish in larger numbers than others due to their small size and lack of mobility. Endemic species,
like Milton's titi and Mura's saddleback tamarin, are believed to be beset by the fires. Aquatic species could
also be affected due to the fires changing the water chemistry into a state unsuitable for life. Long-term
effects could be more catastrophic. Parts of the Amazon rainforest's dense canopy were destroyed by the
fires therefore exposing the lower levels of the ecosystem, which then alters the energy flow of the food