According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon surged to a 12-year high in the year between August 2019 and July 2020.
During this time, 11 088 sq km of rainforest was destroyed- up 9.5% from the previous year and the highest level of destruction since 2008, according to the INPE during its annual news conference this week.
Brazil’s vice-president, Hamilton Mourão, attempted to be positive about the figures as he visited INPE’s headquarters in São José dos Campos this week. Mourão claimed the annual increase of 9.5% was less than half the anticipated figure of about 20%. He said, “We’re not here to commemorate any of this, because it’s nothing to commemorate. But it means that the efforts being launched [against Amazon deforestation] are starting to yield fruit.”
What is Happening?
- Since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has soared. He has incessantly encouraged the “development” of the Amazon and has defunded the agencies responsible for preventing illegal logging, ranching and mining in the rainforest. Fires are often lit in the region to clear vegetation from parts of the forest that have already been cut down to prepare for illegal pasture planting and cattle raising.
- Bolsonaro is also unsurprisingly a climate science denialist, calling official data and news reports about fires in the Amazon “a lie.”
- In 2019, a group of 34 international investors threatened to divest from Brazilian companies unless steps were taken to curb deforestation and extinguish fires in the region. While Bolsonaro’s government has taken some steps to do so, periodically banning fires and assigning military personnel to help control the blazes, these measures are ineffective, as shown by Greenpeace, who has documented the destruction with photos from an August 16 flyover mission of southern Amazonas and in Rondônia, which shows flames and smoke.
The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and is called the “lungs of the world” as one of the planet’s best defenses against climate change. The rainforest is capable of pulling billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.
Featured image by: Wikimedia Commons