Story at a glance
- Brazil’s space research agency, INPE, found that 5,110 square miles of the Amazon rainforest experienced deforestation from August 2020 through July 2021.
- During the global climate summit COP26, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro pledged to end illegal deforestation by 2028.
- But critics have noted that the INPE report came out before Brazil made pledges at COP26, potentially undermining its promises.
A new report out of Brazil has revealed that deforestation in the country’s Amazon rainforest increased 22 percent, the highest level since 2006.
Brazil’s space research agency, INPE, found in its PRODES satellite data that 5,110 square miles of the Amazon rainforest had experienced deforestation from August 2020 through July 2021, according to Reuters.
That’s about 17 times the size of New York City.
The INPE’s report showed that deforestation has been rising in each of the last four cycles, the first noted increase in data since at least 2000.
Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest intact forest and plays an essential role in controlling the Earth’s climate. According to climate advocacy group Greenpeace, the Amazon Basin stores about 100 billion metric tons of carbon, which is more than ten times the annual global emissions from fossil fuels.
The latest report from INPE conflicts with assurances made by Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro during COP26, a global climate summit which took place in early November in Glasgow, Scotland.
Bolsonaro pledged to end illegal deforestation by 2028, a bold goal that would require aggressive government action. Bolsonaro also pledged to cut Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030.
However, according to Reuters, a Brazilian advocacy group called Climate Observatory said Bolsonaro knew about the bleak INPE deforestation report heading into COP26 and said, “Notice the date on the INPE note. The government went to COP26 knowing the deforestation data and hid it."
The INPE report was dated Oct. 27 and Brazil’s environment minister Joaquim Pereira Leite spoke at COP26 on Nov. 1.
According to Reuters, Leite spoke at a news conference on Thursday and told reporters that the INPE data did not reflect recent enforcement of illegal deforestation but also conceded there was still work to be done.
“The numbers are still a challenge for us and we have to be more forceful in relation to these crimes," said Leite.
Though the Amazon rainforest technically spreads across nine countries, spanning 2.6 million square miles, about 60 percent of it is in Brazil. Over the last 40 years, Brazil’s portion of the Amazon has lost more than 18 percent of its rainforest from illegal logging, soy agriculture and cattle ranching.
A Reuters investigation found that if enough of the Amazon rainforest is destroyed it could cross a tipping point of no return, with parts of it drying out and turning into a savannah.
The head of World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) in Brazil, Mauricio Voivodic, told Reuters that, “what the reality shows is that the Bolsonaro government has accelerated the course of the Amazon’s destruction.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE RIGHT NOW