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Current Affairs 23rd May 2024 for UPSC Prelims Exam

Amazon Fires


  • In the first four months of the year 2024, Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has experienced its largest blazes on record.
  • This situation has raised concerns about the impacts of climate change, government policies, and human activities on the environment.


  • The Amazon rainforest plays a crucial role in mitigating global warming by absorbing vast amounts of greenhouse gases.
  • However, a record drought exacerbated by the El Niño climate phenomenon and global warming has created exceptionally dry conditions, making the forest more susceptible to fires.
  • Between January and April, over 12,000 square kilometres of the Amazon burned, the largest area recorded in more than two decades.
  • This area is larger than Qatar or nearly the size of Connecticut in the United States.

Contributing Factors

  • Climate Conditions:
    • El Niño: This periodic climate pattern contributed to the drought conditions in the Amazon, reducing moisture levels and making the forest more vulnerable to fires.
    • Global Warming: Rising global temperatures have intensified the severity of droughts and the likelihood of extreme weather events, contributing to the dry conditions that fuel fires.
  • Human Activities:
    • Land Clearing for Agriculture: Fires in the Amazon are generally not natural occurrences but are set by people to clear land for agricultural purposes.
    • Reduced Firefighting Efforts: The environmental workers union Ascema partially attributed the fires to cuts in government spending on firefighting efforts.
      • The budget for the environmental agency Ibama to fight fires was 24% lower than in 2023.
    • Government Policies:
      • Budget Cuts: The reduced budget for firefighting has hindered effective response efforts.
        • Ibama agents have been on strike since January due to ongoing negotiations for better pay and working conditions.
      • Emergency Measures: Despite budget constraints, the federal government allocated 405 million reais ($79.4 million) from the Amazon Fund for state-level firefighting efforts and deployed approximately 380 firefighters to the hardest-hit northern state of Roraima.


  • Environmental Impact: The extensive fires have severe ecological consequences, including loss of biodiversity, disruption of water cycles, and increased carbon emissions, which further exacerbate global warming.
  • Economic and Social Consequences: The fires threaten the livelihoods of indigenous communities and others dependent on the forest.
    • Additionally, the destruction of vast forest areas can impact agriculture, water resources, and air quality, leading to broader socio-economic challenges.
  • Global Climate Policy: Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has emphasised protecting the Amazon and restoring Brazil’s leadership in climate policy.
    • However, the ongoing fires and budget cuts undermine these efforts and raise questions about the country’s commitment to environmental protection.


  • Increased Funding and Resources: Reversing budget cuts and providing adequate funding for firefighting and prevention efforts are crucial.
    • Ensuring stable working conditions and fair compensation for environmental workers is essential for effective fire management.
  • Preventive Measures: Implementing comprehensive prevention strategies, such as raising awareness about fire risks, creating firebreaks, and conducting prescribed burns, can help mitigate the severity of future fires.
  • International Collaboration: Leveraging international support and cooperation through initiatives like the Amazon Fund can enhance Brazil’s capacity to protect the rainforest and combat climate change.
  • Sustainable Land Management: Promoting sustainable agricultural practices and enforcing regulations against illegal land clearing can reduce human-induced fire incidents.

Climate Shield

Context: Recent studies highlight significant economic and environmental impacts of global warming, emphasising the necessity of building resilience against climate change.

Economic Impact of Global Warming

  • World GDP Impact: The World GDP would be 37% higher today if global warming had not occurred between 1960 and 2019, according to a new working paper by economists at the US’s National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
  • Future Economic Losses: Another study published in Nature suggests that average incomes will fall by almost a fifth in the next 26 years compared to what they would have been without climate change.
  • Costs of Transition: Both studies agree that the cost of transitioning from fossil fuels, though significant, pales in comparison to the costs imposed by global warming.
  • Holistic Approach: The NBER research takes a more comprehensive approach by linking global impacts with local effects, arguing that the economic costs of a hotter planet could be six times more than previous estimates.

Environmental and Health Impacts

  • Heat Waves and Natural Disasters: The impacts of heat waves, floods, storms, and other climate-related events impair people’s health, reduce productivity, and affect livelihoods.
  • Rangelands and Ecosystems: Poorly understood ecosystems, such as drylands, are likely to be more affected by climate change.
    • The UN Convention on Combating Desertification report highlighted that over 50% of these ecosystems, including desert shrublands, mountain pastures, tundra, and plateaus, have degraded.

Vulnerability and Conservation

  • Vulnerable Ecosystems: Most of these ecosystems are recognized as vulnerable and their role as carbon sinks is acknowledged.
    • However, rangelands do not receive as much attention as forests in conservation efforts.
  • India’s Pastoralists: In India, the socio-ecological role of pastoralists on these ecosystems is gaining recognition.
    • Pastoralist communities like the Maldharis, Van Gujjars, and Rabaris face significant challenges in the modern economy.

Global Climate Mitigation Strategies

  • Resilience Against Climate Change: Protecting people from climate impacts involves improving resilience against climate-related catastrophes.
    • The recent studies underline the importance of understanding ecosystem vulnerabilities and integrating these insights into climate mitigation strategies.
  • Upcoming Climate Conference: The upcoming Conference of Parties (CoP) in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku will need to address these imperatives, shifting the paradigm towards more effective climate action.

Examples, Case Studies And Data

  • Challenges Associated with Mangroves (GS 3): A study conducted using the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Ecosystems highlighted that:
    • Over half of the world’s mangrove ecosystems are at risk of collapse.
    • Nearly one in five mangrove ecosystems face severe risk.
    • Climate Change Impact: Climate change threatens 33% of mangrove ecosystems.
    • Threat Factors:
      • Deforestation
      • Development
      • Pollution
      • Dam Construction
      • Sea-Level Rise
      • Increased Frequency of Severe Storms.
    • Environmental and Economic Impact
      • Carbon Storage Loss:
        • Predicted loss of 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon stored in mangroves by 2050.
        • This loss represents 16% of the total current carbon stored in mangroves.
        • Valued at least USD 13 billion in voluntary carbon markets.

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