Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Lone burnt tree stands in a deforested area near Porto Velho, Rondônia State, in Brazil's Amazon basin in 2019. Photo: Carl De Souza/AFP via Getty Images

Paving a Brazilian highway that runs through the Amazon without environmental studies could lead to massive deforestation and release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, two scientists warn in a letter published in Science Thursday.

State of play: Brazil's administration is facing a rampant COVID-19 pandemic, the probability of its worst recession ever and criminal investigations. Estimates of soaring illegal deforestation has led to a global backlash over not protecting the Amazon.

The backstory: The BR-319, sometimes called "Brazil's worst highway," is a 800 km mostly dirt road from Porto Velho through the Amazon forest to the city of Manaus in the middle.

  • The letter says it traverses 63 official Indigenous areas plus five other areas containing Indigenous communities.
  • The highway was built by the military in 1973 but mostly abandoned in 1988 and is difficult to navigate as less than one-third is paved now. It's been the subject of dispute for decades.
  • While a judicial decision had previously ruled that environmental studies must be carried out before paving the highway, President Jair Bolsonero has started moving forward, according to co-author Lucas Ferrante, a post-graduate student at the National Institute for Research in Amazonia (INPA).

Why it matters: These moves will "likely accelerate anthropogenic climate change" and negatively impact Indigenous communities, per the letter, which was co-authored by Philip Martin Fearnside, professor in the Department of Environmental Dynamics at INPA.

  • Planned reconstruction includes many secondary roads, including some the authors consider "illegal," which together are projected to lead to more than 138,000 square kilometers of deforestation by 2100 — an increase of cumulative deforestation of 1,291%, when compared with the area cleared by 2011, Ferrante says.
  • “The historical process of opening roads in the Amazon is marked by intense social conflicts involving squatters, farmers, ranchers, rubber tappers and Indigenous people. If these Indigenous peoples are not consulted about the highway, there is a chance that we will see a genocide here,” Ferrante tells Axios. Already, concerns have risen over exposing Indigenous communities to the coronavirus.

What they're saying: John Miller, a carbon scientist at NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory, says the letter describing the situation is "concerning" and the overall point is true.

  • But he adds further data should be presented behind some of the "grand statements that are not necessarily supported," such as the 1,291% increase from 2011.
"The Amazon holds a lot of carbon both in its trees and in the soil. If you go through processes of deforestation, two things happen."
"One is that the carbon that is locked away and stored in those trees that the ecosystems have been sucking in ... that sometimes literally goes up in smoke. Or, it either decomposes slowly or goes up in a fire. But it returns to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. And, that's certainly not what we need now when we have so much carbon dioxide already coming out of power plants and cars, etc."
"The other thing that happens when you denude a forest is that you lose the future capability for the forest to absorb carbon. So there's really two simultaneous effects that you have through deforestation. And, that's the spirit of their statement."
— John Miller

What's next: Ferrante says they hope to accomplish three steps:

  1. Cancel the paving bidding and suspend maintenance.
  2. Carry out environmental studies requiring an external opinion to avoid approval by pressure from the government.
  3. Ensure consultation of the 68 indigenous areas impacted by the highway, as established by ILO Convention 169.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Sep 17, 2020 - Podcasts

Amazon exec on company Climate Pledge Fund

Amazon on Thursday announced the first companies to receive money from a $2 billion venture capital fund it formed to help combat climate change.

Axios Re:Cap digs into how Amazon hopes the fund will help achieve its goal of being carbon neutral by 2040, and whether the plan is more substance than spin, with Matt Peterson, Amazon's director of new initiatives and corporate development.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 4 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.