Protestors in France march on Saturday during the annual G7 summit.
Gari Garaialde/Getty Images

  • Concern over a record number of fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest are influencing the political discourse as world leaders convene in France for the Group of Seven summit.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted earlier this week urging his fellow G7 members to treat the "emergency" that is the Amazon fires as a priority, prompting a rebuke from right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro. US President Donald Trump then tweeted the US is "ready to assist" Brazil.
  • "This speaks to climate change being an issue at the highest level of international discourse," one professor of earth and atmospheric sciences told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider SA's homepage for more stories.


A record number of wildfires ravaging the Amazon, the world's largest tropical rainforest, is influencing the political discourse as world leaders congregate in France for the Group of Seven summit and protestors call for action.

Leaders from Canada, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and the United States are set to meet in the beachy Biarritz, France as the burning forest brings political rhetoric around climate change to the fore.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted earlier this week urging fellow G7 members to treat the "emergency" that is the Amazon fires as a priority, prompting a rebuke from Jair Bolsanaro, the right-wing Brazilian president. US President Donald Trump then said on Friday, just ahead of the summit, that he and Bolsanaro had spoken. 

"I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!" he tweeted.

Wildfires in the Amazon rainforest have hit a record 72,843 so far this year, according to a count by Brazil's space research center, the National Institute for Space Research.

'Devastating and unprecedented' Amazon fires

Even if no formal action is executed during this summit, the pressure on Bolsonaro to act on environmental policy will mount, said scientist and Pacific Institute co-founder Peter Gleick.

"It's been a long time since the environment played a key role at a G7 Summit but the global news about growing climate change, the destruction of the Arctic, the burning of the Amazon, and other growing disasters is pushing the environment higher on the agenda," Gleick, who won a MacArthur fellowship in 2003 for his work in fresh water resources, told Business Insider in an email.

He added: "The devastating and unprecedented fires in the Amazon have caught the attention of the entire planet because of their severity and the importance of the Amazon to the global climate and our biodiversity."

Kim Cobb, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said the deforestation is "rightfully raising this conversation around the world."

"This speaks to climate change being an issue at the highest level of international discourse, with the EU really leading the charge these days," she told Business Insider in a phone interview.

Climate impact

As Bolsanaro dismisses international concern over the rising number of Amazon forest fires (the Amazon stretches across parts of Brazil, as well as countries including Colombia, Venezuela, and Peru), experts say the climate impact of burning is tremendous.

The impact is "enormous" due to the black and brown particles from burning, said Mark Jacobson, a senior fellow and professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.

"Due to such particles plus the gases, anthropogenic biomass burning is responsible for about 20% of global warming," Jacobson wrote to Business Insider.

While environmental policy was set to shape some of the G7 agenda, with Macron vocal about his intentions, members of the Trump administration expressed frustration that France was focusing too much on "niche issues" like climate change, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

Unnamed administration officials accused Macron of ignoring their pleas to focus the summit "on national security and a looming economic slowdown," rather than topics like climate change that would appeal to Macron's domestic base, the Times reported.

Larry Kudlow, director of the White House's National Economic Council, echoed this sentiment in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Friday, bemoaning France as host country was not focused enough on meaty issues.

"In place of consensus, France will lead 'coalitions' of 'everyone who shares our values,'" he wrote. "These coalitions produce politically correct bromides such as calls to ban everything from straws to fossil fuels."

Receive a daily email with all our latest news: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: