Brazil’s space research center, INPE, said this week that it had detected 39,601 fires this year in the Amazon, the world’s largest rain forest. About 60 percent of the Amazon is in Brazil.
There are also blazes in Brazil outside the Amazon. In all of Brazil, the research center said it had detected more than 75,000 fires so far this year, the highest number since it began keeping records in 2013.
Natural fires in the Amazon are rare, and the majority of these fires were set by farmers preparing Amazon-adjacent farmland for next year’s crops and pasture.
Much of the land that is burning was not old-growth rain forest, but land that had already been cleared of trees and set for agricultural use.
These fires were not caused by climate change. They were, by and large, set by humans. However, climate change can make fires worse. Fires can burn hotter and spread more quickly under warmer and drier conditions.
When it comes to the future of climate change, widespread fires contribute a dual negative effect. Trees are valuable because they can store carbon dioxide, and that storage capacity is lost when trees burn. Burning trees also pumps more carbon into the atmosphere.
There is evidence that farmers feel more emboldened to burn land following the election of Mr. Bolsonaro.
A New York Times analysis of public records found that enforcement actions intended to discourage illegal deforestation, such as fines or seizure of equipment, by Brazil’s main environmental agency fell by 20 percent during the first six months of this year.
Mr. Bolsonaro blames nongovernmental organizations for the fires. He has cited no evidence, and environmental experts dispute the claim.