Amazon Rainforest Fires: What Is Being Done?

Brazilian warplanes have been deployed and 44,000 troops made available as a record number of wildfires rip through the Amazon rainforest.

More than 80,000 fires have broken out in Brazil this year -- a record 83 percent increase on last year.

Nearly half of those are burning in the Amazon, the wildfires so large and intense that thick plumes of smoke can be seen from space.

What Is Being Done?

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has admitted that the country does not have the resources to fight the blazes but was quick to warn other countries not to interfere.

After days of world leaders and the public criticising his government for not doing enough, the President stepped up and authorised military operations in seven states.

Six aircraft, including two Hercules C-130s big enough to carry 12,000 litres of water each, have been sent to Rondonia to fight the fires, while 43,000 troops are based in the Amazon and are available to help when required.

It is not known how the armed forces have and will be deployed or how effective they have been.

READ MORE: Brazil Army Deployed To Fight Amazon Fires After International Outcry

Bolsonaro has also vowed to "combat illegal deforestation and all other criminals activities that put [the] Amazon at risk".

His actions came as leaders of G7 countries, which includes the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Canada, discussed a possible deal on "technical and financial help" at the weekend.

French President Emmanuel Macron led the push.

“There’s a real convergence to say: ‘let’s all agree to help those countries hit by these fires’,” he said overnight, adding that world powers needed to be ready to help with deforestation.

Celebrities are also coming to the rainforest's aid, with environmental foundation Earth Alliance, backed by Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio pledging AU$7.4 million dollars in aid.

The money will be distributed directly to local partners and indigenous communities.

"The destruction of the Amazon rainforest is rapidly releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, destroying an ecosystem that absorbs millions of tons of carbon emissions every year and is one of the planet’s best defences against the climate crisis," the foundation's website reads.

"In addition, indigenous peoples’ land covers about 110 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon, making the region critical not just for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation, but also for the cultural survival, self-determination, and wellbeing of the Amazon's indigenous peoples."

Madonna Jennifer Lopez and Kris Jenner are among the celebrities calling for more action. Some called for Bolsonaro to make changes, others highlighted the global effect the fires would have.

READ MORE: Celebrities Call For Action Against Raging Amazon Fires

"This is a devastation to Brazil -- to the indigenous people who live there and the-plant and animal species that make this the most important bio-diverse Forest!!!" Madonna wrote on Instagram.

"President Bolsonaro please change your policies and help not only your country but the entire planet. No economic development is more important than protecting this land."

Why Are The Fires A Big Deal?

The Amazon -- of which 60 percent is in Brazil -- is often referred to as "lungs of the planet," as it absorbs a huge amount of the world's carbon dioxide and produces 20 percent of oxygen in the atmosphere.

The rainforest is home to more than 20 million people, including 350 indigenous groups, as well as millions of species.

According to Brazil's National Institute For Space Institute (INPE), more than one and a half soccer fields worth of rainforest is being destroyed every minute, which is not only affecting the rainforest ecosystem but the entire world.

If there is too much destruction, the rainforest could be transformed into a savannah-like habitat which, in the process, would release billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Scientists say that preserving and reforesting the Amazon is vital to fight global warming.

Firefighters walk a burnt tract of the Amazon jungle. August 25. Photo: Ricardo Morses via Reuters

What Caused The Fires?

Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist at INPE told CNN that 99 percent of the destruction is a result of human actions "either on purpose or by accident."

Farmers, cattle ranchers and loggers often use fire to clear land and make it ready for use. July, August and September is the prime time to burn because the vegetation is dry, but the fires can easily spread out of control.

Deforestation has spiked by 67 percent year-on-year in the first seven months of 2019 and more than tripled in July alone, according to Reuters.

Bolsonaro himself admitted last week that farmers could be illegally setting the rainforest ablaze, while authorities are investigating whether there has been reduced monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections.

Some people are pointing the finger directly at Bolsonaro and his environmental policies.

"This devastation is directly related to President Bolsonaro's anti-environmental rhetoric, which erroneously frames forest protections and human rights as impediments to Brazil's economic growth," Amazon Watch's Program Director, Christian Poirier said in a statement.

Deforesting has spiked in 2019. Photo: Reuters