Jul 28, 2019

Brazil has lost 1,330 square miles of Amazon rainforest under Bolsonaro

Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev\TASS via Getty Images

Brazil's Amazon rainforest is facing rapid deforestation under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The Amazon, the largest and most biodiverse rainforest on the planet, plays an essential part in slowing global warming. The seas of greenery absorb and store carbon dioxide, preventing the gas from overwhelming our atmosphere. But when trees are plowed, carbon has nowhere to go, risking further increases in global temperatures.

The big picture: Bolsonaro campaigned on opening up the Amazon to new economic ventures. Just 7 months into his presidency, he's keeping true on the promise, with the Brazilian part of the rainforest shedding 1,330 square miles of forest cover — 39% more than was lost during the same period last year, according to the Times. About 80% more forest cover was lost this June compared to 2018.

  • Bolsonaro has also cut the budget for Brazil's main environmental agency by 24%.
  • A New York Times analysis showed environmental enforcement measures like fines or seizures have fallen 20% in the first 6 months of the year compared to 2018.
  • The administration has hinted at the possibility of ending a $1.3 billion Amazon restoration fund, fueled in part by Germany and Norway. Bolsonaro has said that the "Amazon is ours, not yours," and insisted it should not be a concern to non-Brazilians.

Between the lines: Deforestation for the sake of economic growth had already been a marketable stance prior to Bolsonaro's leadership. Per the New York Times: "As the economy plunged into a recession in 2014, the country became more reliant on the agricultural commodities it produces — beef and soy, which are drivers of deforestation — and on the powerful rural lobby. Land clearing began to tick upward again."

Go deeper: Deforestation of Brazil's Amazon rainforest reaches decade high

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The Amazon rainforest is being ravaged by wildfires burning at record rates

A darkened skyline in São Paulo, Brazil, Aug. 19. Photo: Andre Lucas/picture alliance via Getty Images

The largest swaths of the Amazon rainforest, located in Brazil and Peru, are burning at the highest rates since records began in 2013 — an increase of 84% compared to the same period last year, according to INPE, Brazil's National Institute for Space Research.

What's happening: On Tuesday, "Inpe registered a new fire roughly every minute" across Brazil, the Wall Street Journal reports. 2019's sharp increase is largely due to illegal loggers "burning newly cleared land for cattle ranching and agricultural use," according to environmental experts.

Go deeperArrowAug 21, 2019

Earth's lungs are burning

A charred trunk is seen on a tract of Amazon jungle that was recently burned by loggers and farmers in Brazil. Photo: Bruno Kelly/Reuters

The Amazon rainforest is burning faster than usual, it's most likely because of humans clearing land for agriculture, and it will make efforts to fight climate change harder if it doesn't stop fast.

Why it matters: "By one recent estimate, the trees of the Amazon rainforest pulled in carbon dioxide equivalent to the fossil fuel emissions of most of the nine countries that own or border the forest between 1980-2010," the BBC reported.

Go deeperArrowAug 22, 2019

Jair Bolsonaro's report card on corruption and the environment

Deforestation in the Western Amazon. Photo: Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images

When Jair Bolsonaro was elected Brazil's president 9 months ago yesterday, there were high hopes he'd clean up corruption and revitalize the economy — and fears he'd endanger the environment and further divide the country.

So how's he doing?

Report cardArrowJul 29, 2019