Understand: How the Amazon forest fires impact people worldwide

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Rob Garza - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - The recent Amazon rainforest fires broke out in early August, but Brazil's National Space Research Institute says the number of fires in the Amazon this year has reached a total of 57,000.

Stephen Ackley, associate professor of geology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said the fires impact people worldwide. 

"Twenty five percent of the world's forests are in the Amazon," Ackley said.

He said the fires are not only giving off a large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the fires are also destroying billions of trees that in take a lot of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide doesn't just leave the atmosphere, Ackley said.

"It's going to be there for millennia, thousands of years," he said.

Ackley said when the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increase, it causes the planet to heat up. He said the increase in temperature throws off the balance of how the atmosphere flows.

"The ramifications are that it changes the whole atmospheric circulation that causes the melting of large ice sheets and many other catastrophic effects of climate change," Ackley said.

Ackley specializes in sea ice and has studied how it's been melting. He was one of the founders of UTSA's partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in creating the Center for Advanced Measurements in Extreme Environments.

The center was created last year with the goal of educating the public and to also research extreme environments and its impacts.

Ackley said it's crucial to keep carbon dioxide levels in balance. He said if nothing is done, we need to brace for the impact in the future.

"If we don't keep everything in balance, then things like rising sea level will destroy most of the coastal cities around the United States," he said. "A third of Florida will be under water, all of New Orleans and so forth."

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