Rio De Janeiro, Sep 10 (AP/UNB) — New satellite images published Monday by the European Space Agency show an increase in air pollution in the Brazilian Amazon while fires burned in the region last month.
Several maps showed more carbon monoxide and other pollutants in August than in the previous month, when there were fewer fires.
The agency said fires released carbon dioxide once stored in the Amazon forests back into the atmosphere, potentially having an impact on the global climate and health.
Burning continues in the Amazon despite a 60-day ban on land-clearing fires that was announced last month by President Jair Bolsonaro.
Data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research showed the number of fires in all of Brazil has surpassed 100,000 so far this year, up 45 percent compared to the same period in 2018.
Renata Libonati, a professor in the department of meteorology at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University, said that aside from gases, the burning of forests also released particles into the atmosphere.
Health experts say studies show that air pollution, whether it is small particles or gases, leads to an increase in cardiovascular conditions and lung problems, especially among young children and the elderly.
In Porto Velho, the capital of Brazil's Amazon state of Rondonia, lingering smoke has reportedly caused an increase in such respiratory problems. The number of people treated for respiratory issues increased sharply in August at the Cosme e Damia Children's hospital.
But small particles can also be transported by winds in cities that are not immediately close to where the fires are taking place.
"The impact of the fires goes far beyond where the forests are burning," Libonati told The Associated Press.
The lack of rain during the current dry season in the Amazon region makes things worse, she said, as rain can help stop the progress of particle pollution.
Brazil's Health Ministry shared last week a list of recommendations for those living in areas close to the fires, saying people should "avoid staying near places where the fires are happening," wear masks and eye protection outdoors and favor air conditioning, especially in kindergartens, schools and hospitals.
Last month, Bolsonaro sent the army to help combat the fires. A team of 11 Israeli firefighters was also deployed Sunday in the state of Rondonia to help state and federal forces, the defense ministry said in a statement.
Meanwhile, in the Amazonian state of Para, about 250 illegal miners, known as "garimpeiros," blocked a federal highway Monday demanding that the government legalize mining activities, the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported.
The group, working for wildcat mines in the region, also asked for an end to on-the-ground operations by environmental protection bodies that have the authority to burn equipment allegedly belonging to illegal miners.
Rio De Janeiro, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — Brazil on Thursday banned most legal fires for land-clearing for 60 days in an attempt to stop the burning that has devastated parts of the Amazon region.
The decree prohibiting the fires was signed by President Jair Bolsonaro and followed international criticism of his handling of the environmental crisis.
The period of the new ban coincides with the dry season, when most fires are usually set. The decree allows fires in some cases, including those deemed healthy for plant life and if set by indigenous people who engage in subsistence farming.
"I think this should have happened a long time ago," said Waldeglace Sousa Mota, a worker at the airport in the Amazon city of Porto Velho.
"I think it will bring relief during this time," she said of the ban.
More people, particularly children and the elderly, have been suffering respiratory problems in Porto Velho, where smoke from the fires has often shrouded the sky in past weeks.
The 60-day ban will help curb the burning but its effect could be "very limited" if people ignore it as the peak burning season starts, said Xiangming Xiao, a plant biologist at the University of Oklahoma who studies deforestation in the Amazon. Most fires in Brazil are set in late August, September and early October, he said.
"Both legal and illegal fire events occurred in Brazil. It will be very challenging to identify and separate them," he said in an email to The Associated Press.
Brazil's forest code normally allows farmers and others to set some fires as long as they have licenses from environmental authorities.
This year, however, there was a sharp increase in nationwide fires over the same period in 2018, raising concerns that people were emboldened to burn more after Bolsonaro said rainforest protections were blocking economic development.
Bolsonaro suggested —without citing evidence — that environmental groups were setting illegal fires to try to destabilize his government and sparred with French President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders who questioned his commitment to protecting the Amazon ecosystem.
The acrimony sidelined a pledge of $20 million from the Group of Seven nations to help protect rainforest in the Amazon. Much of the burned land had already been deforested, but the location of many fires next to intact forest reflected the increased threat of deforestation.
The Amazon rainforest is vital for the planet's health in part because it drains heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Rio De Janeiro, Aug 27 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Brazil on Monday turned down aid from the Group of Seven (G7) member states to fight the ongoing devastating wildfires in the Amazon rainforest.
The countries made the 20-million-U.S.-dollar aid offer at the G7 summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in the French seaside resort of Biarritz. Macron proposed that the member countries take part in fighting the fire.
"We appreciate (the offer), but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe," Brazil's G1 news website quoted Onyx Lorenzoni, chief of staff to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, as saying.
"Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site," he added, referring to the fire in April that devastated the Notre-Dame cathedral. "What does he intend to teach our country?"
Although Brazil owns some 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, the forest also covers eight other countries or territories, including the French overseas territory of Guiana on the northeast coast of South America.
A total of 71,497 forest fires were registered in Brazil in the first eight months of 2019, up from 39,194 a year ago, according to data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research.
Rio De Janeiro, Aug 23 (AP/UNB) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he's leaning toward sending the army to help fight Amazon fires that have alarmed people across the globe.
In brief remarks to reporters Friday, Bolsonaro said he'd act on that plan within hours.
Bolsonaro has come under increasing international pressure to contain the fires in the Amazon, a region that produces vast amounts of oxygen and is considered crucial in efforts to contain global warming.
France's government on Friday accused Bolsonaro of lying about his environmental commitments and said it would oppose a major European trade deal that would benefit Brazil.
Brazilian experts have reported a record number of wildfires across the country this year, up 84 percent over the same period in 2018.
Paris, Aug 23 (AP/UNB) — Rarely have French President Emmanuel Macron and superstar soccer players including Cristiano Ronaldo been on the same page, but when it comes to the fires that are devastating the Amazon, they're uniting in sounding the alarm.
Five-time world player of the year Ronaldo beat Macron to the punch with his tweet urging action on the Amazon that, by Friday morning, had already racked up more than a quarter-million likes.
Ronaldo tweeted: "The Amazon Rainforest produces more than 20% of the world's oxygen and it's been burning for the past 3 weeks. It's our responsibility to help to save our planet."
Macron's tweet later was similarly urgent, saying "Our house is burning. Literally." Macron put the Amazon fires on the agenda for the G-7 summit of world leaders that France is hosting this weekend.
Other soccer stars chimed in, too — unusual in the sport whose professionals are often reluctant to express views about off-pitch issues.
Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, a World Cup winner with France, tweeted a composite photo of rainforest in the shape of human lungs , lush and green on one side, consumed by flames on the other, and the words: "Pray for Amazonia."
And from the world of tennis came a straight-to-the point tweet from top-ranked Novak Djokovic. "Heartbreaking," the winner of 16 majors wrote above a photo of forests aflame.
But beyond sports stars lamenting the Amazon's pain to their global audiences, it wasn't obvious what, if anything, Europe could immediately do about the situation.
Brazil was unlikely to ask for fire-fighting assistance, given how conservative Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has bristled over Macron's intervention.
The Brazilian leader accused Macron of sensationalism and of seeking "personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries." Brazil contains about 60% of the Amazon rainforest.
Even if Amazon nations did seek help, amphibious planes widely used in Europe to dump water and retardants on wildfires don't have the range to cross the Atlantic Ocean, Col. Grégory Allione, head of France's national federation of firefighters, told The Associated Press.
Larger, land-based fire-fighting planes could only reach the Amazon from Europe via a circuitous route over Greenland, North and Central America, which "would take an eternity," he said.
And European governments might not have much firefighting expertise and manpower to spare after another scorching European summer that saw record heatwaves and left many areas of Europe tinder-dry, another consequence of climate change.
"We're already very busy," Allione said. "We've always had fires but now we have giant infernos."
Environmental campaigners said longer-term solutions were needed to preserve the Amazon. Some have accused Macron of hypocrisy, arguing that while he's adept at using Twitter to position himself as a champion for the planet, his domestic record on green issues is spotty at best. His first environment minister quit abruptly, frustrated by the slow progress fighting climate change under Macron's government.
"Beautiful speeches are no longer deluding anyone," the French branches of Greenpeace and Oxfam said in a joint appeal for stepped-up action from G-7 nations against climate change. "Emmanuel Macron cannot content himself by playing the servant at international summits to come. He must end France's inaction on the climate to be credible."