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Brazil's Amazon Rainforest Deforestation Hits 12-Year High Amid Climate Concerns

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Brazil's Amazon Rainforest Deforestation Hits 12-Year High Amid Climate Concerns

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has reached a 12-year high according to scientists, which is sobering news in the battle against climate change.

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Brazil's space agency INPE (the National Institute for Space Research) led the report, which stated that a total of 11,088 sq km (4,281 sq miles) of rainforest were destroyed from August 2019 to July 2020. This is a 9.5 percent increase from the previous year.

Scientists have pointed to the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro as a reason for the increased rate of deforestation.

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The leader, who came to power in January 2019, has failed to give the rainforest the protections of previous administrations, instead encouraging agricultural and mining activities in the area.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

In a statement, Brazilian non-governmental organisation Climate Observatory said the figures "reflect the result of a successful initiative to annihilate the capacity of the Brazilian State and the inspection bodies to take care of our forests and fight crime in the Amazon."

Bolsonaro is unlikely to be happy with the report, given that in the past he has accused INPE of smearing Brazil's reputation.

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He may also point to quotes from his Vice-President, Hamilton Mourão, who pointed out that the rate of increase was smaller than that between 2018 and 2019.

In 2018 7,536 sq km of deforestation took place in the Amazon rainforest, the last year before the current administration took charge. This year's figure of over 11,000 means that a previous target set to reduce deforestation to just 3,900 sq km by 2020 will be missed.

 Credit: PA
Credit: PA

However, Mourão said: "While we are not here to celebrate this, it does signify that the efforts we are making are beginning to bear fruit."

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The Amazon rainforest is important not just to Brazil but also the world.

As the largest rainforest in the world, it provides a wide and varied set of ecosystems for a myriad of species, with some three million types of plants and animals calling it home, as well as one million indigenous people.

It also provides a huge source of CO2 absorption and oxygen output. Its continuing devastation has truly global ramifications.

Jair Bolsonaro. Credit: PA
Jair Bolsonaro. Credit: PA
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However, Bolsonaro has paid little heed to scientific warnings and has cut funding to federal agencies that have the power to fine and arrest farmers and loggers who are breaking environmental law, in addition to increasing activities in the region.

Previously it was said that an area the size of a football field was cleared every minute, with space being made for Brazil's big exports, cattle grazing and soya cultivation.

Given the turbulence the Amazon rainforest has had to face this year, it's no surprise that it also suffered from its biggest forest fires in a decade.

With the current leadership elected on a promise of development, it's hard to see its fate changing anytime soon.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: World News, climate change, Brazil

Simon Catling
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