Thousands of intentionally set fires push Brazil’s rainforest close to the tipping point

Thousands of fires raging across the Amazon, many deliberately set by loggers, ranchers, and others seeking to clear land, have triggered public outrage in recent weeks and prompted climate experts to warn of a fast-approaching point of no return for the lush jungle that covers more than 2 million square miles and extends into nine countries. The rich rainforest is critical to the Earth’s climate, influencing weather systems, generating oxygen, and absorbing huge amounts of carbon dioxide—the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Harvard’s Brian Farrell, director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Monique and Philip Lehner Professor for the Study of Latin America, curator of entomology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and professor of biology, has conducted research in the Amazon for decades. He spoke to the Gazette recently about what the fires mean for the future of the planet.

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