Fire-proofing the Amazon rainforest to mitigate climate change

June 21, 2024

Amazon rainforest fires increase climate challenges

The Amazon rainforest, a vital carbon sink, has been increasingly ravaged by wildfires.

As reported by Masha Hamilton for The Rockefeller Foundation, in 2023 alone, 26.4 million acres of rainforest were scorched, marking a 35.4 percent increase from the previous year.

This rise in fires is exacerbating climate change and causing severe health impacts on those working in the region.

Dr. Erika Berenguer, a Brazilian scientist and senior research associate at the University of Oxford, has witnessed the devastation firsthand.

Having studied the Amazon for years, she experienced the catastrophic wildfires of 2015 and 2023.

The destruction of the land she knew so well left a profound impact on her, both physically and emotionally.

She now suffers from pneumonia and a trauma-related gastric condition due to smoke inhalation.

Efforts to fire-proof the Amazon

Determined to mitigate the destruction, Dr. Berenguer is working towards fire-proofing the 1.4 billion acres of the Amazon.

As one of 16 Fellows in The Rockefeller Foundation’s Big Bets Climate Fellowship, she aims to develop strategies and technologies to protect the rainforest.

The Amazon stores 150-200 billion tons of greenhouse gases, making its preservation crucial for global climate health.

Berenguer advocates for stronger environmental protection policies and the implementation of fire detection sensors adapted for the Amazon’s dense forest.

Despite the challenges, she remains hopeful, driven by her deep connection to the forest.

“The forest is what makes me get out of bed every day and feel everything is not lost,” she said.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s Big Bets Climate Fellowship

The Big Bets Climate Fellowship supports 16 leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean, focusing on scalable climate solutions for underserved communities.

The fellowship aims to provide these leaders with a platform for broader impact, fostering alliances and creating blueprints for global climate challenges.

Nathalia Arcencio de Marchi dos Santos, Manager of Convenings and Networks at The Rockefeller Foundation, emphasized the importance of the fellowship: “The work of these 16 fellows flips the script: the Global South is not just a hotspot for climate change challenges, but a powerhouse for innovative solutions.”

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