A tragic fire in the Amazon rainforest has caused international concerns for the quality of the Earths oxygen. After 3 weeks of burning the winds have now pushed the smoke as far as San Paulo where you can see the large cloud of smoke black out the sun as early as 3pm. According to National Geographic the Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rain forest covering a vast 5.5 million square kilometers and is responsible for about 20% of earths oxygen. The Amazon is often referred to as "The Earths Lungs". I'm not completely sure if there are any significant measures being taken to put out the fire. Talk around the web is that deforestation and climate change might be responsible for the pro-fire conditions. Vox reports:
The source of the current wildfires in Brazil is not yet known, and the government in Brazil is not all that inclined to find out. INPE’s director, Ricardo Galvão, was ousted from his job earlier this month after his agency reported an 88 percent increase in the deforestation rate in the Amazon.
Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, called the deforestation data “lies.”
This deforestation stands to have major regional consequences. Without trees in place to anchor the soil and retain moisture, the underlying vegetation can dry out, making it easier to burn. Trees also evaporate a huge volume of water and emit chemicals that make it condense, helping the rainforest generate its own rainfall.
Right now, the Amazon has been deforested by 15 percent or more from its primeval state and scientists are worried that if it reaches 25 percent, there won’t be enough trees cycling water through the forest. The region will cross a tipping point and eventually degrade into savanna.
This has huge consequences for the rest of the world as well. The Amazon rainforest produces huge amounts of oxygen. Its vegetation holds on to billions of metric tons of carbon that could oxidize into heat-trapping gases.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this month reported that conserving areas like the Amazon rainforest will be integral to mitigating climate change. But with the current pace of wildfires and deforestation, the world is rapidly galloping in the wrong direction.