Amazon deforestation in Brazil remains close to a 15-year high

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon slowed slightly last year, one year after a 15-year high, according to closely watched numbers released Wednesday. The data was released by the National Institute for Space Research.

The agency’s Prodes monitoring system shows that the rainforest lost an area roughly the size of Qatar, some 11,600 square kilometers (4,500 sq mi) in the 12 months from August 2021 to July 2022.

This is an 11% decrease from the previous year when over 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 sq mi) were destroyed.

For more than a decade it looked like things were looking up for the Brazilian Amazon. Deforestation had dropped dramatically and never returned above 10,000 square kilometers. It was before the presidency of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, starting in January 2019.

This will be the last report released under Bolsonaro, as he lost his re-election bid and will leave office on January 1. But some of the destruction that happened under its watch won’t appear until next year, including the key months of August through October of 2022. A preview of those months comes from a different federal satellite system that outputs faster but less accurate data: it shows that deforestation skyrocketed by 45 percent in the August to October period of the previous year. Traditionally, that time of year sees the peak of destruction, due to the dry season.

An analysis of new annual data from the Climate Observatory, a network of environmental groups, shows that in the four years of Bolsonaro’s leadership, deforestation has increased by 60% compared to the previous four years. This is the largest percentage increase under a presidency since satellite tracking began in 1998.

In one state, Para, the ferocious destruction rate dropped by 21%, yet it was still the focus of a third of the loss of all of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. Some tree logging and burning occurs in seemingly protected areas. One such area is the Paru State Forest, where the non-profit Amazon Institute of People and the Environment recorded 2 square kilometers (0.7 sq mi) of deforestation in October alone.

“In recent years, deforestation has reached protected areas where there was almost no destruction before,” Amazonia Institute researcher Jacqueline Pereira told the Associated Press. and livestock.”

Another critical area is the southern part of the state of Amazonas, the only state that has increased deforestation in the most recent data, by 13% compared to the previous year. It is largely attributable to Bolsonaro’s push to pave some 400 kilometers (250 miles) of the only road linking Manaus, home to 2.2 million people, with Brazil’s largest urban centers further south. Most deforestation in the Amazon occurs along roads where access is easier and land value is higher.

Researchers and environmentalists have blamed Bolsonaro’s policies for the increase in deforestation. The administration has weakened environmental agencies and supported legislative measures to relax land protections in the name of economic development, along with the idea of ​​occupying sparsely populated territory at any cost. This policy encouraged land grabbers and spurred more illegal mining.

Bolsonaro’s successor, leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, promised cheering crowds at the recent United Nations climate conference in Egypt to end all deforestation across the entire country by 2030. “There is no it will be climate security if the Amazon is not protected,” he said.

The last time da Silva was president, from 2003 to 2010, deforestation dropped dramatically. On the other hand, he has backed initiatives that set long-term destruction in motion, such as the construction of the mammoth Belo Monte hydroelectric dam and generous loans to the beef industry. The clearing of forest for grazing is the main driver of deforestation.

Covering an area twice the size of India, the Amazon rainforest acts as a buffer against climate change by absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide. It is also the most biodiverse forest in the world and home to tribes who have lived in the forest for thousands of years, some of whom live in isolation.

“If da Silva is to reduce forest destruction by 2023, he must have zero tolerance for environmental crimes from day one of his administration. This includes holding accountable those who have sabotaged environmental governance in the country while in office for the past four years,” says Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Observatory on Climate.

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The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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