Deforestation reaches highest level in a decade in the Brazilian Amazon

Following record forest fires that shocked the world, Brazil is again in the spotlight as deforestation in the Amazon reached the highest annual level in a decade — putting more pressure on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, seen by many as a supporter of the deforestation.

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Almost 10,000 square kilometers of forest were lost in the year to August, which represents a hike of almost 30% from the previous year, according to Brazil’s space agency INPE.

This is the fastest deforestation rate the country has seen since 2008. It’s the equivalent to clearing two football pitches of forest per minute, according to INPE’s — the National Institute for Space Research, a research unit of the Brazilian Ministry of Science. The data was compiled with information from Prodes satellite system, which have produced annual deforestation rates for the region since 1988.

Reacting to the news, Adriana Ramos from the Socio-Environmental Institute, told The Guardian that the current administration is to blame for these changes:

“It is no surprise this is happening because the president has defended environmental crime and promoted impunity. The government weakened environmental protection, supported loggers and encouraged land-grabbing.”

Meanwhile, the NGO Climate Observatory said the increase in deforestation was the third most important experienced by Brazil, after the ones seen in 1995 and 1998, adding the growing clearing of forest is likely to continue.

“Proposals like legalizing land-grabbing, mining and farming on indigenous lands, as well as reducing the licensing requirements for new infrastructure will show that the coming years will be even worse,” Carlos Rittl, Climate Observatory executive secretary, told The Guardian.

The growing deforestation rates go completely against Brazil’s climate change pledges and its commitment to the Paris Agreement. On its contribution, Brazil vowed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030, in comparison to 2005 levels.

Currently, Brazil is not in line with the Paris Agreement goals of avoiding a temperature increase of more than two Celsius degrees, according to Climate Tracker (CAT) analysis. CAT has questioned Bolsonaro’s lack of climate policies, which have encouraged deforestation, lending more support to the idea that the current administration is at least partly to blame for the deforestation.

Back in August, Brazil declared a state of emergency due to a record number of forest fires in the Amazon region. Almost 73,000 fires were detected, which represented the highest number since 2013 and an increase of 83% from 2018. Those fires were directly connected to Brazil’s meat industry, as the ranchers tried to burn down patches of the forest to make way for soy plantations meant to feed livestock.

This is an important matter not just for Brazil, but for the entire planet. The Amazon rainforest plays a significant role in regulating the climate of the world, generating a large amount of oxygen and storing a very large amount of carbon.

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