Smoke from Amazon wildfire blankets the sky, can be seen from space

Brazil rainforest fires

Smoke from fires in Brazil's Amazon rainforest is captured by a satellite image on Aug. 13 2019

Fire, in general, seems to be the theme of climate change this year: In July-August alone, more than 21,000 square miles of the forest have caught fire in Siberia, making it Russia's worst year on record for wildfires.

Wildfires in the Amazon rainforest sending smoke cover across roughly half of Brazil have ignited a firestorm on social media, with President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday suggesting green groups started the blazes.

Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported that there had been more than 72,000 fires in Brazil in 2019, an 80% increase compared to the same period from 2018.

Bolsonaro's latest comments enraged environmentalists, who are increasingly concerned by his administration's attitudes towards the world's largest rainforest, a vital bulwark against climate change.

The Amazon is often referred to as the planet's lungs, producing a total of 20% of the oxygen in the earth's atmosphere.

The Amazon's wet weather and humid climes provide a buffer against wildfires throughout most of the year, preventing fires from spreading or even starting in the first place.

A satellite image showing several fires burning in the Brazilian states of Amazonas. "The fact that this record-breaking figure comes out in a relatively un-dry dry season shows that deforestation is increasing".

Official figures show almost 73,000 forest fires were recorded in Brazil in the first eight months of the year.

Nasa explained on its website the total fire activity in the Amazon basin was "slightly below average in comparison to the past 15 years".

Media captionHow is the rainforest helping to limit global warming? "The Amazon Rainforest's burning for about 3 weeks and nothing's been done". NASA further said in a press release that regional deforestation has been linked to increased "intensity and frequency of droughts and anthropogenic climate change".

The increase in wildfires has occurred since controversial president Mr Bolsonaro took office in January.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, who has threatened to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement and said that he wants to develop the Amazon, responded to the news this week by blaming the fires on non-governmental organizations.

"An aerial view over a chemically deforested area of the Amazon jungle caused by illegal mining activities in the river basin of the Madre de Dios region in southeast Peru, on May 17, 2019, during the "Mercury" joint operation by Peruvian military and police ongoing since February 2019".

Bolsonaro hit back Wednesday, saying "criminal action by those NGOs, to call attention against me, against the Brazilian government" following funding cuts may be the reason for the forest fires. "Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame", he was quoted by Reuters as saying. INPE researcher Alberto Setzer said the number of fires was not in line with those normally reported during dry season, according to Reuters.

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