Wildfires rage in the Amazon

4:24 p.m. ET, August 23, 2019

The Amazon is on fire. Here's what you need to know.

Aerial picture showing smoke from a two-kilometre-long stretch of fire billowing from the Amazon rainforest about 65 km from Porto Velho, in the state of Rondonia, in northern Brazil, on August 23.
Aerial picture showing smoke from a two-kilometre-long stretch of fire billowing from the Amazon rainforest about 65 km from Porto Velho, in the state of Rondonia, in northern Brazil, on August 23. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

Wildfires continue to rage in Brazil's Amazon rainforest.

Our live coverage has ended. Here's what you need to know about the fires in Brazil:

  • The Amazon is currently facing record-breaking wildfires: Brazil's space research center (INPE) said this week that the number of fires in Brazil are 80% higher than last year. More than half are in the Amazon region, spelling disaster for the local environment and ecology. Two states in the Amazon have already declared state of emergency: Acre and Amazonas. Brazil’s environmental agency IBAMA is hiring hundreds of temporary firefighters to help fight fires, the agency announced on Friday.
  • What Brazil's president is saying: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has suggested ranchers clearing land and NGOs hostile to his presidency may be the cause of these fires. However, environmental organizations have previously said the wildfires began with increased land-clearing and logging that was encouraged by the country’s pro-business president. Bolsonaro said he is considering sending army troops to help combat the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest, he told reporters this morning.
  • Trade deal in jeopardy: French President Emmanuel Macron said he opposes a trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur — the South American trade block — after accusing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of "lying" to him on his climate commitments, the Elysée Palace confirmed to CNN. Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he is ready to block a trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur unless Brazil takes action on the Amazon forest.
  • G7 discussion: Multiple world leaders, including Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said Friday the wildfires should be discussed at the upcoming G7 summit. Bolsonaro tweeted Thursday that Macron is attempting to raise the issue of the wildfires in Brazil at the G7 "for personal political gains."
  • More on the Amazon: The Amazon rainforest is about two-thirds the size of continental Europe. The Amazon covers 6.7 million square kilometers (2.5 million square miles), according to the World Wildlife Fund, while continental Europe covers 9.9 million square kilometers (3.8 million square miles), according to the Central Intelligence Agency.
12:41 p.m. ET, August 23, 2019

The Amazon is burning because the world eats so much meat

While the wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest may constitute an "international crisis," they are hardly an accident.

The vast majority of the fires have been set by loggers and ranchers to clear land for cattle. The practice is on the rise, encouraged by Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's populist pro-business president, who is backed by the country's so-called "beef caucus."

While this may be business as usual for Brazil's beef farmers, the rest of the world is looking on in horror.

So, for those wondering how they could help save the rainforest, known as "the planet's lungs" for producing about 20% of the world's oxygen, the answer may be simple. Eat less meat.

It's an idea that Finland has already floated. On Friday, the Nordic country's finance minister called for the European Union to "urgently review the possibility of banning Brazilian beef imports" over the Amazon fires.

How much meat Brazil exports: Brazil is the world's largest exporter of beef, providing close to 20% of the total global exports, according the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) — a figure that could rise in the coming years.

Last year the country shipped 1.64 million tonnes of beef — the highest volume in history — generating $6.57 billion in revenue, according to the Brazilian Beef Exporters Association (Abiec), an association of more than 30 Brazilian meat-packing companies.

12:32 p.m. ET, August 23, 2019

Paris mayor calls Amazon fires a "crime against humanity"

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a statement Friday the Amazon rainforest "is being burnt because of the irresponsible behaviour of a small number of international politicians and corporate executives."

She called for an "urgent international meeting" to address the fires and "to take all the measures, actions and sanctions necessary to stop this humanitarian disaster."

 Read Hidalgo's full statement:

“The lungs of our shared planet are on fire. The Amazon rainforest is one of the most important common goods of humanity, and it is being burnt because of the irresponsible behaviour of a small number of international politicians and corporate executives.
The greed of these so-called leaders will impact all of humanity by accelerating the global climate crisis. Inevitably it will be those that benefit least from the proceeds of this illegal activity that will bear the greatest impact of our rapidly heating world. This includes the direct threat posed to indigenous communities in the Amazon Basin, as well as the elderly, vulnerable and youngest citizens of the world’s cities who will suffer most from climate related disasters in the years ahead.
Fires burning in the Amazon are a crime against humanity and those responsible must be held accountable. Judges in jurisdictions around the world must be empowered to bring anyone found guilty of destroying the common goods of humanity to justice. That includes those political leaders whose inaction or neglect allows a culture of environmental degradation to flourish.
As mayors of more than 50 of the world’s leading cities prepare to gather in Copenhagen for the C40 World Mayors Summit in October, I will be sure to work on it with my fellow city leaders.
Just as the international community is quick to respond in the aftermath of humanitarian disasters, from earthquakes to outbreaks of deadly viruses, there must be a similar mobilisation of resources to protect the Amazon. I am calling for an urgent international meeting, under the aegis of the UN, to take all the measures, actions and sanctions necessary to stop this humanitarian disaster. The human body cannot survive without healthy lungs, and our shared planet is no different. For climate justice; for the most vulnerable members of our societies; for the future we want, we must act now.” 
12:33 p.m. ET, August 23, 2019

Here's how many fires are burning in the Amazon

Fires are raging in the Amazon right now.

And the peak of the dry season is still to come in September, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said.

Here's a look at the fires in the Amazon:

12:33 p.m. ET, August 23, 2019

The number of fires in Brazil are 80% higher than 2018

Brazil's space research center (INPE) said this week that the number of fires in Brazil are 80% higher than last year. More than half are in the Amazon region, spelling disaster for the local environment and ecology.

And 99% percent of the fires result from human actions "either on purpose or by accident," Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist at INPE, said. The burning can range from a small-scale agricultural practice, to new deforestation for a mechanized and modern agribusiness project, Setzer told CNN by email.

12:15 p.m. ET, August 23, 2019

Brazil is considering deploying troops to fight fires

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Credit: EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is considering sending army troops to help combat the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest, he told reporters this morning.

"That’s the tendency, we will figure it out this morning," he said when asked whether he would deploy military troops through an executive action.

Executive action to deploy troops is only available when traditional public safety measures have been depleted, according to guidelines from the Ministry of Defense.

Two states in the Amazon have already declared state of emergency: Acre and Amazonas.

12:57 p.m. ET, August 23, 2019

In July, the Amazon just had clouds. Now it's choked with smoke.

New satellite images of the Amazon from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show how much smoke is in the air above the rainforest.

An image from July 28, 2019 shows just clouds in the skies above the rainforest, while an image from yesterday now shows smoke in the air.

July 28:

NOAA
NOAA

Aug. 22

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NOAA

12:04 p.m. ET, August 23, 2019

Amazon fires are an "international crisis," British prime minister says

 

 GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images
 GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the fires in the Amazon rainforest are “not only heartbreaking, they are an international crisis."

“We stand ready to provide whatever help we can to bring them under control and help protect one of Earth’s greatest wonders,” Johnson added.

Read his tweet:

11:45 a.m. ET, August 23, 2019

The rainforest is in "great danger," German environment minister says

Omer Messinger/Getty Images
Omer Messinger/Getty Images

German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said Brazil must want assistance in dealing with what she called “shocking” wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest.

“South America and Brazil in particular deserve our support when it comes to preserving the rainforest — both generally and with the blazes we are now witnessing,” Schulze said. “However, Brazil itself must want this assistance, and not counteract it with a national policy of increased clearance."

She echoed an earlier statement by the French President Emmanuel Macron, who said he would oppose a trade deal between Mercosur and the European Union if Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro did not change his environmental policies.

“There is no doubt in my mind that a Mercosur trade agreement cannot be justified without guarantees that the rainforest will be protected,” Schulze said.

The German environment minister went on to say:

"The images of the fires raging in the Amazon region are shocking. The rainforest, a fragile ecosystem that formed over millions of years, is in great danger — from the devastating fires, but also from the forest clearance policy of the Brazilian government. The impacts this will have on the global climate are incalculable.”