Thursday June 30, 2022

Destroying the Amazon

May 11, 2021

At the Leaders’ Summit on the Climate, held on Earth Day, April 22, the speech by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the forty world leaders is a clear example of the use of this popular Brazilian expression, this time expanded: "for the world to see."

The virtual meeting was an attempt by the Brazilian government to persuade the international community that Brazil needs financial support from other countries to save the Amazon rainforest.

Responsible for at least 10 percent of the planet's biodiversity, the Amazon – threatened for decades by deforestation – brings moisture to all of South America, influences rainfall in the region, and contributes to stabilizing the global climate. The Amazon also absorbs carbon, a benefit that has acted as a ‘brake’ on the planet’s warming process, but which has decreased significantly over the past few years due to rapid deforestation.

Now, due to this increasing deforestation, the Amazon may be heating up the global atmosphere instead of cooling it, according to a multi-author scientific study published in March.

For Carlos Minc, former Brazilian environment minister (2008-2010) and currently deputy of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Bolsonaro’s speech didn't line up with the reality of the ongoing deforestation.

“What is most striking is the total contradiction between words and facts. Bolsonaro used to say that this history of climate and emissions reduction is cultural Marxism,” Minc says. “And now, he swears that he loves the climate since he was a child. The intention was to say what the others wanted to hear.”

In front of world leaders, Bolsonaro highlighted the commitment of the Brazilian government to eliminate illegal deforestation by 2030, but he did not mention that the goal of ending illegal logging in Brazilian forests is an old obligation for the federal government, enunciated by the government of former president Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016) as a goal for 2020. In fact, the Bolsonaro administration had withdrawn the previous target, when Brazil reformulated its contributions to the Paris Agreement in December 2020.

Ecologists criticize Brazil for performing maneuvers not contemplated under current legislation or agreements.

“A real trap was created based on the actual deforestation that occurred under Bolsonaro's management, implying to achieve a deforestation volume of at least 8,700 square kilometers per year,” says environmentalist Carlos Bocuhy. “That’s 16 percent more than the volume Bolsonaro found when he took office. So, the Brazilian government intends to increase deforestation with its own target.”

In 2020, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest reached more than 11,100 square kilometers, with an increase of 9.5 percent over the previous year, according to the Brazilian Institute for Space Research. That represents about half of the area of the state of New Jersey.

For environmentalists, this means that 626 million trees were felled in just one year – nearly three trees for each Brazilian citizen.

The writer is an analyst and commentator.

Excerpted: ‘Bolsonaro Is Destroying the Amazon While Pretending to Protect It’