Story at a glance

  • Reuters reports a total of 11,088 square kilometers, or 4,281 square miles, of Amazon rainforest were destroyed from August 2019 to July.
  • That’s a 9.5 percent increase from the previous year and the highest level of destruction since 2008.
  • The figures are preliminary and official deforestation numbers are expected to be released early next week.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon surged to its highest levels since 2008, according to Brazil’s national space research agency Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE).

Reuters reports a total of 11,088 square kilometers, or 4,281 square miles, of Amazon rainforest were destroyed from August 2019 to July. That’s a 9.5 percent increase from the previous year and the highest level of destruction since 2008. The figures are preliminary and official deforestation numbers are expected to be released early next week. 


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The figures show that Brazil will not meet its goal of reducing annual deforestation to about 3,900 square kilometers by this year established under a 2009 climate change law. Reuters notes this could leave the government open to lawsuits. 

Deforestation in the Amazon has spiked since far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019 as the president has taken actions to weaken environmental enforcement and pushed for more mining and farming in the country, arguing the industries would help lift the region out of poverty. 

Fires are often used to clear land for agricultural use after trees are cut down. The INPE reported a 40 percent increase in Amazon fires last year over 2018. 

The Amazon is home to about 3 million species of plants and animals and is a vital resource in the battle against global warming as trees and plants pull billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. 

Bolsonaro, who has often been referred to as Brazil’s version of President Trump, has criticized President-elect Joe Biden who said in September that Brazil could face economic consequences if it fails to curb deforestation in the region. Biden also said the world should offer the country money to help fund efforts to stop deforestation. 

Bolsonaro warned Biden of a “gunpowder” reaction if the U.S. were to impose economic sanctions on the country.


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Published on Dec 01, 2020