The world’s forests are burning—and the damage goes far beyond the Amazon

It's not just rain forests that are aflame: Greenpeace estimates that massive blazes in Siberia have released almost as much CO2 as the annual emissions of 36 million cars.
September 25, 2019 10:30 AM UTC
<!-- wp:image {"id":2702594,"width":800,"height":880,"linkDestination":"media"} --> <figure class="wp-block-image is-resized"><a href="https://content.fortune.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/RAP_FORESTS.png"><img src="https://content.fortune.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/RAP_FORESTS.png?w=800" alt="Map of forest fires" class="wp-image-2702594" width="800" height="880"/></a></figure> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>From the [hotlink ignore=true]Amazon[/hotlink] to central Africa,</strong> forests are burning. In late August, for example, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research said that the number of fires in the country—largely set by humans—had jumped 84% this year over the same period in 2018. The amount of [hotlink ignore=true]Amazon[/hotlink] forest cover lost in Brazil in that span spiked 39%. Last year, according to Global Forest Watch, the tropics overall lost some 8.9&nbsp;million acres of primary rain forest—an area equal to the size of Belgium. But not just rain forests are aflame: Greenpeace estimates that massive blazes in Siberia this year have released more than 166 metric tons of CO2, nearly equal to the annual emissions of 36&nbsp;million cars.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><em>Sources: NASA; University of Maryland; Global Forest Watch.</em> <em>Fire data is based on satellite imaging and filtered for accuracy.</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><em>A version of this article appears in the October 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline "Rain Forests on Fire."</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:heading {"level":3} --> <h3>More must-read stories from <em>Fortune</em>:</h3> <!-- /wp:heading --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>—<a href="https://fortune.com/2019/09/18/internet-cloud-server-data-center-energy-consumption-renewable-coal/">The Internet cloud</a> has a dirty secret<br>—Nestlé has a <a href="https://fortune.com/2019/09/21/nestle-dairy-emissions-happy-cows/">plan for reducing emissions</a>—and it starts with happier cows<br>—<a href="https://fortune.com/2019/09/20/amazon-walmart-apple-greenhouse-gas-emissions-climate-change/">Grading Amazon on climate change</a>: better than [hotlink ignore=true]Walmart[/hotlink], worse than Apple<br>—Google has bought enough <a href="https://fortune.com/2019/09/20/google-renewable-energy-uruguay-climate-week/">renewable electricity</a> to power all of Uruguay<br>—Listen to our audio briefing, <a href="http://fortune.com/radio/"><em>Fortune</em> 500 Daily</a><br><em>Subscribe to </em><a href="https://cloud.newsletters.fortune.com/fortune/newsletters/"><em>The Loop</em></a><em>, a weekly look at the revolutions in energy, tech, and sustainability.</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph -->
Map of forest fires

From the Amazon to central Africa, forests are burning. In late August, for example, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research said that the number of fires in the country—largely set by humans—had jumped 84% this year over the same period in 2018. The amount of Amazon forest cover lost in Brazil in that span spiked 39%. Last year, according to Global Forest Watch, the tropics overall lost some 8.9 million acres of primary rain forest—an area equal to the size of Belgium. But not just rain forests are aflame: Greenpeace estimates that massive blazes in Siberia this year have released more than 166 metric tons of CO2, nearly equal to the annual emissions of 36 million cars.

Sources: NASA; University of Maryland; Global Forest Watch. Fire data is based on satellite imaging and filtered for accuracy.

A version of this article appears in the October 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “Rain Forests on Fire.”

More must-read stories from Fortune:

The Internet cloud has a dirty secret
—Nestlé has a plan for reducing emissions—and it starts with happier cows
Grading Amazon on climate change: better than Walmart, worse than Apple
—Google has bought enough renewable electricity to power all of Uruguay
—Listen to our audio briefing, Fortune 500 Daily
Subscribe to The Loop, a weekly look at the revolutions in energy, tech, and sustainability.