Fires are raging at a record rate in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and scientists warn it could strike a devastating blow to the fight against climate change.
An area of Amazon rainforest roughly the size of a football pitch is now being cleared every single minute, according to satellite data.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said the record number of fires in the Amazon rainforest is an “international crisis” that needs to be on the top of the agenda at the G7 summit.
“Our house is burning,” he tweeted.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro responded by accusing Mr Macron of using the issue for “political gain”.
He said calls to discuss the fires at the G7 summit, which Brazil is not participating in, evoke “a misplaced colonialist mindset”.
Bolsonaro has suggested that Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) receiving funds from abroad may be behind the increase in forest fires occurring in the Amazon rainforest.
But on Thursday Mr Bolsonaro said the fires were being investigated but said that the government lacked the resources to fight the flames.
He also denied he had blamed NGOs for lighting the fires, a day after appearing to suggest they had done so as revenge for his government slashing their funding.
Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has seen a record number of fires this year, new space agency data suggests.
On Wednesday, Brazil’s environment minister, Ricardo Salles, was heckled at a meeting on climate change over the record number of fires in the Amazon.
The National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) said its satellite data showed an 84% increase on the same period in 2018.
The largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming.
It is also home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people.
It comes weeks after President Bolsonaro sacked the head of the agency amid rows over its deforestation data. Conservationists have blamed Bolsonaro for the Amazon’s plight, saying he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land, and scientists say the rainforest has suffered losses at an accelerated rate since he took office in January.
Bolsonaro, who has told people, supposedly ironically, to call him “Captain Chainsaw,” campaigned on the theory that his country’s economic development had been limited by the world’s affection for the Amazon, and he made clear that those who wanted to cut it down had little to fear from his administration.
Spanning across Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, the Amazon has an incredibly rich ecosystem – there are around 40,000 plant species, 1,300 bird species, 3,000 types of fish, 430 mammals and 2.5 million different insects.