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Experts: Amazon fires hold implications for Ja

Published:Monday | August 26, 2019 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr, director of the Mona GeoInformatics Institute.
Allison Rangolan, choef technical director at the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica.
A fire burns a field on a farm in the Nova Santa Helena municipality, in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Under increasing international pressure to contain fires sweeping parts of the Amazon, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday authorised use of the military to battle the massive blazes.

The Amazon has been burning for the past two weeks, releasing tonnes of carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that were previously locked in the ground of the world’s largest rainforest.

Its impact is already being assessed, with indications that the devastation will add a tremendous amount of earth-warming gases into the already heated atmosphere, resulting in more unusually warm weather, which will impact sea levels and help precipitate coastal erosion, a phenomenon island states such as Jamaica are already hard-pressed to deal with.

On June 22, Jamaica recorded its hottest day ever when temperatures soared to a high of 102 degrees Fahrenheit, or 39.1 degrees Celsius. According to Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee, Jr, director of the Mona GeoInformatics Institute at the University of the West Indies, the forest fires will only make matters worse.

Lyew-Ayee says that the unrelenting Amazon fires will have a global long-term impact and that island states such as Jamaica and low-lying areas of major cities across the world could feel the impact as the Earth continues to heat up.

“The fires in Brazil’s Amazon are really a sad thing that will result in calamitous weather and climate even here in Jamaica in the long term,” he told The Gleaner.

“But what we need to understand here is the scale of this. Imagine that areas being burnt are larger than all of Jamaica. It’s a terrifying event.”

He added: “This, too, will have impacted wild life, destroying habitats, while at the same time leaving the planet worse off.”


Environmentalist: Jamaica making efforts to tackle climate change

Environmentalist Allison Rangolan, the chief technical director at the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), is happy that there have been efforts made locally to use legislation to help battle climate change.

According to Rangolan, from a policy perspective, Jamaica is moving in the right direction.

“Things are being done; there are policies in place and in the same breath there is a Special Climate Change Adaptation Fund. Those funds are part of the pilot programme for climate resilience that was brokered by the Government of Jamaica,” she said.

The EFJ is the administrator of the fund, through an arrangement with the Inter-American Development Bank.

She said the Amazon fires are one of the additional contributors to many of the environmental challenges countries like Jamaica have to grapple with as a result of the overall changing climate.

Brazil’s Research Centre said it had detected more than 75,000 fires so far this year, the highest number since it began keeping records in 2013. That figure represents a 79 per cent increase in fires from the same period in 2018.

The Amazon is often referred to as the ‘Lungs of the Earth’, because its vast forests release oxygen and store carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that is a major cause of global warming.