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| 4 February 2023, Saturday |

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon edges down, still high under Bolsonaro

Preliminary data released on Friday revealed that deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest declined 10% in July from a year earlier, after four consecutive monthly increases, but devastation remains significantly greater than before President Jair Bolsonaro entered office.

According to the federal satellite research organization INPE, cleared forest in July totaled 1,498 square kilometres (578 square miles), roughly twice the area of New York City.

According to INPE data, deforestation in the Amazon increased 7.8% year over year to 5,108 square kilometers from January to July.

Under far-right President Bolsonaro, who has reduced environmental regulation and urged for mining and commercial farming in rainforest protected areas, deforestation reached a 12-year high last year.

Bolsonaro ordered the military to safeguard the forest once more in June, continuing an intermittent tactic that has failed to reduce devastation to levels seen before his election in 2019.

A request for comment from Bolsonaro’s office on the latest deforestation figures was not immediately returned.

To avoid distortion from cloud cover, the newest INPE figures cap the period for Brazil’s official annual deforestation records, which are recorded from August 2020 to July 2021.

For the 12 months through July, the preliminary data shows a 4.6% decrease in deforestation. Scientists say a decrease in the preliminary numbers generally means there will be a decrease in the final, more accurate measure known as PRODES.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao, who leads the government’s Amazon policy, said last week that the figures are now headed in the right direction.

“The cycle ended on July 31 … I think it will be in the range of 4% to 5%, a very small reduction, very inadequate, but it’s on track,” Mourao told reporters.

But researchers say the destruction is still far higher than before Bolsonaro took office and a single-digit decrease does little to change the vast environmental impact.

The Amazon is considered a vital bulwark against climate change and its destruction is the top source of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions.

BRASILIA, Aug 13 (Reuters) – Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest fell 10% in July from a year earlier, after four straight monthly increases, preliminary data showed on Friday, but destruction remains far higher than before President Jair Bolsonaro took office.

Cleared forest in the month of July totaled 1,498 square km (578 square miles), nearly twice the size of New York City, according to government space research agency INPE.

From January to July, deforestation in the Amazon was up 7.8% from a year ago to 5,108 square kilometers, INPE data showed.

Under far-right President Bolsonaro, who has reduced environmental regulation and urged for mining and commercial farming in rainforest protected areas, deforestation reached a 12-year high last year.

Bolsonaro ordered the military to safeguard the forest once more in June, continuing an intermittent tactic that has failed to reduce devastation to levels seen before his election in 2019.

A request for comment from Bolsonaro’s office on the latest deforestation figures was not immediately returned.

The latest INPE figures cap the period for Brazil’s official annual deforestation records, measured from August 2020 to July 2021 to minimize interference from cloud cover.

For the 12 months through July, the preliminary data shows a 4.6% decrease in deforestation. Scientists say a decrease in the preliminary numbers generally means there will be a decrease in the final, more accurate measure known as PRODES.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao, who leads the government’s Amazon policy, said last week that the figures are now headed in the right direction.

“The cycle ended on July 31 … I think it will be in the range of 4% to 5%, a very small reduction, very inadequate, but it’s on track,” Mourao told reporters.

But researchers say the destruction is still far higher than before Bolsonaro took office and a single-digit decrease does little to change the vast environmental impact.

The Amazon is considered a vital bulwark against climate change and its destruction is the top source of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s too early to celebrate the reduction in the deforestation rate this year,” said Ane Alencar, the science director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM).

“It will be quite difficult for the government to change its image with a reduction that small.”

Alencar said the annual PRODES figure will likely be above 10,000 square km for the third straight year. Before Bolsonaro, that level of destruction was last seen in 2008.

She said that Amazon destruction may have plateaued at this high level in part because of uncertainty over whether Bolsonaro will be re-elected and continue his rhetoric signaling to illegal loggers and ranchers that they will not be punished.

Bolsonaro has slid in opinion polls and is currently seen losing to former left-wing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the 2022 election, although neither has declared their candidacies.

“It’s a moment where these people that are deforesting the Amazon, in the middle of nowhere, they are just waiting to see what is going to happen,” Alencar said.

    Source:
  • Reuters