WIRED | 8/22/2019 | Eric Niiler
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From his office in Greenbelt, Maryland, Doug Morton can see the Amazon burning.

He watches images from NASA satellites that circle the tropics four times a day, their cameras pointed at the trees below to produce images from visible light, infrared, and thermal data. The fires are fueled not only by a rise in global temperatures, but also by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsanaro. The fiery, anti-environment populist has encouraged settlements in the Amazon region, sacked the head of the government agency that monitors deforestation from space, and just this week blamed NGOs for setting the fires to make him look bad.

NASA - Satellite - Images - Fires - Result

But NASA satellite images shows the fires are the result of Bolsonaro’s push to develop the Amazon. And experts say they may have consequences for the rest of the planet.

“When we look from space we see that economic activity, instead of drought, are driving the fires,” says Morton, an earth systems scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “They are occurring along transportation corridors and the leading edges of the states of Amazonas and Mato Grosso, where there has been recent settlement and expansion of agriculture. This is an economic signal not a climate signal.”

Election - Bolsanaro - Settlers - Areas - Parks

Since his election, Bolsanaro has encouraged settlers to invade protected indigenous areas and natural parks that had been off-limits for decades. He's also weakened Brazil's environmental enforcement agencies that are charged with protecting the rainforest from illegal logging and clear-cutting.

The Amazon rainforest might seem far away, and superficially the forest fires might seem less damaging to people and property in Brazil than the out-of-control wildfires that have ravaged California and the western United States in recent years. But the Amazon is important because it acts as a vast sink for carbon dioxide. The huge forests slow the rise of the global climate by exchanging CO2 for oxygen....
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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