Amazon Deforestation Sets Record

Brazil's government promised to do better, but polices remain, experts say
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2022 1:10 PM CST
Amazon Deforestation Sets Record
Cargo trucks turn off the Trans-Amazon highway, top, in Campo Verde, Para state, Brazil, in 2019. The roads were built through the jungle in the 1970s.   (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)

"There is a race to deforest the Amazon," said a researcher at Brazil's Federal University of Minas Gerais. It's becoming clearer that the Amazon is the loser. Trees in the Brazilian Amazon were cut down in an area five times the size of the deforested land in January 2021, the BBC reports. It's the biggest January impact since recordkeeping began in 2015. The toll equaled 166 square miles, satellite data from Brazil's space agency show. President Jair Bolsonaro and his government are drawing fresh criticism for the trend; he's weakened environmental protections and said deforestation can help reduce the nation's poverty, especially through commercial farming and mining.

Under pressure, Bolsonaro recently has promised to take action to slow the damage to the forest. The area deforested in January alone is more than seven times the size of Manhattan. "The new data yet again exposes how the government's actions contradict its greenwashing campaigns," said an official with Greenpeace Brazil. The Environment Ministry told Reuters that month-to-month comparisons aren't the best gauge, saying that deforestation from August to January was slightly lower than that in the same period a year ago. Officials also said they're stepping up efforts against environmental crimes this year.

But the Climate Observatory reported Tuesday that the environmental protection agency spent only 41% of its enforcement budget last year. A political scientist at the University of Brasilia said government officials have changed their rhetoric about deforestation but not their policies. She and the university researcher said the only thing that will stop deforestation is Bolsonaro losing his attempt at reelection in October. The rainforest is important to slowing climate change, per Phys.org. (Read more Amazon rainforest stories.)

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