Story at a glance
- In the last year, the Brazilian Amazon lost 3,769 square miles of rainforest.
- That’s 30 percent more than last year and exceeds the single year totals of any of the previous 11 years.
Intentional fires and chainsaws destroyed a swath of the Brazilian Amazon seven times the size of Los Angeles between August 2018 and July of this year, a timeline that coincided with the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, the New York Times reports.
The Bolsonaro administration’s response to this summer’s fires in the Amazon drew widespread criticism, culminating in a threat to boycott Brazilian exports. Eventually, Brazil deployed its military to control the fires.
The country’s environment minister, Ricardo Salles, stated on Monday that the increase in rainforest destruction predates Bolsonaro’s January election.
The Amazon rainforest is a trove of priceless biodiversity, but it also removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it, combating climate change. Some fear that the losses from deforestation could push the Amazon past an ecological tipping point, causing it to transform into a more arid savanna that stores less carbon.
“We must remember that the Amazon has been undergoing deforestation for decades,” Øyvind Eggen, the secretary general of the Rainforest Foundation Norway, said in a statement. “We are approaching a potential tipping point, where large parts of the forest will be so damaged that it collapses.”
Bolsonaro has struck a defiant tone in the face of the mounting criticism from environmentalists and other world leaders. During the summer’s forest fires in the Amazon, Germany announced it would send money towards conservation efforts in Brazil. In response, Bolsonaro invited Chancellor Angela Merkel to “take that money and use it to reforest Germany.”
Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, which reported the new deforestation figures, are meeting Nov. 20 to discuss ways to combat the ongoing destruction of the Amazon.