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  • Writer's pictureEdward Iris

The Amazon Forest Fire and Climate Feedback Loops

Updated: Sep 3, 2019

There has been an explosion of support in regards to raising awareness of the ongoing fires in the Amazon rainforest. It is quite telling that this went viral over social media before the mainstream media really picked up on it, I know I found out over social media last night and these fires have been going on for more than 2 weeks.

The largest forest fire ever recorded in the Amazon rainforest is currently ongoing. The worst part about these fires is that they are mainly due to human actions. Rainforests are relatively protected from large-scale forest fires as rainforests are typically wet and humid unless experiencing drought due to extreme weather. Unfortunately the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest isn't a new issue. However, as of late it has become more pressing, due to the election of Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro as well as the looming existential threat of climate change.

Bolsonaro's policies and economic goals seem to be firmly anti-climate action. He's openly expressed his willingness to open up the Amazon rainforest for economic development. The Amazon rainforest is one of the Earths largest carbon sinks, it stores a ton of carbon in highly productive environment that simultaneously produces lots of oxygen, and it also hosts much of the earths biodiversity. The practice of (slash and burn) has been used for many years to cleared the Amazon rainforest to create new land for economic development, this is largely done to create more land for Brazil's agriculture industry.

Since Bolsonaro took office in January the rate of Amazon deforestation has greatly increased.

Satellite data from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), shows that Amazon deforestation has increased by around 245% in July 2019 compared to July 2018.

Bolsonaro appears to be keeping to his economic development promises and that's bad news for climate change as forest fires are a positive environmental feedback loop. They release carbon that's trapped in forests into the air and this attacks the environment on two fronts now there is more carbon leading to an increased greenhouse effect (warmer global temperatures due to more insulation in the atmosphere) it also strips the Earth of its means of naturally drawing down carbon from the atmosphere as trees are one of our best means of carbon drawdown. Lastly higher temperatures lead to longer and hotter summers which equates to greater frequency and severity of forest fires. This is a vicious circle that threatens our very way of life. And this is just one of many positive environmental feedback loops that put us on a  trajectory towards Hothouse Earth.

Another notable positive feedback loop that ties into the Siberian forest fires is the melting of permafrost. The melting of permafrost is a serious positive feedback loop as methane gas that's trapped in the Arctic and Antarctic regions below layers of permafrost and glacial ice. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas that is more effective at trapping heat than CO2, once it is released it leads to more warming and thus the release of more trapped methane. We're in a race against time against climate change, the need for serious climate action is pressing. We need governments and corporations on our side if we're seriously going to combat climate change, it's an uphill battle but it's one we can't escape from we only have one home. So please start taking action for the sake of future generations. Share this post and consider getting involved politically climate action needs all the support it can get.

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