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The surge in wildfires raging through the Amazon rainforest is posing a threat to the environment beyond Brazil's borders.
Environmental experts say the destruction of the rainforest could make it harder to combat climate change on a global scale.
That's because the rainforest — a source of 20 percent of the earth’s oxygen — has served a vital role in carbon storage, absorbing a substantial amount of the 2.4 billion metric tons captured each year by forests worldwide. An increase in fires and deforestation in that region could markedly accelerate warming climates beyond South America.
The environmental crisis also has political implications, particularly for Jair Bolsonaro, who's in his first year as president of Brazil. The far-right politician and climate change skeptic came into power in January vowing to limit fines for damaging forests and open up the area for commercial exploitation.
Images of wildfires and plumes of smoke hovering over parts of Brazil prompted international alarm this week, shining a spotlight on the region and raising concerns about the broader damage. Here are five things to know about the rainforest fires.
Nearly 200 nations in 2016 signed the Paris agreement to combat climate change. As part of the pact, countries pledged to cap global warming at “well below” 3.6 degrees before the end of the century.
But maintaining that goal may become nearly impossible due to a rise in deforestation and wildfires, as well as changing weather patterns, in the Amazon.“If you continue to deforest… you are releasing this huge amount of carbon to the atmosphere,” Paulo Moutinho, a senior fellow at the Woods Hole Research Center, told The Washington Post, noting that climate change would accelerate if the region were to release more carbon than it absorbs.