Academics and environmental activists have warned that if Jair Bolsonaro remains president of Brazil, the Amazon rainforest will collapse, despite a new government assault on forest protections.
Amazon in Danger
Despite evidence that fire, drought, and land clearing are accelerating the Amazon's decline, they claim the far-right leader is more concerned with appeasing the strong agriculture lobby and leveraging global markets that reward harmful behavior.
The assault on forest protections has accelerated. The lower chamber was set to vote on measures on Wednesday that would reward land squatters by legalizing ownership of land that had been unlawfully occupied and cleared before 2014.
The government had just transferred responsibility for forest fire satellite monitoring from the National Institute for Space Research, a scientifically sound organization that had been doing it for decades. The National Institute of Meteorology, influenced by the agricultural ministry and the farming industry, has been granted control.
In recent months, Congress has also weakened environmental impact assessment requirements. A committee has approved PL 490, which has been regarded as the most severe assault on indigenous rights since the Brazilian constitution was adopted in 1988.
All of these actions rip a hole in Amazon's protected framework and go against scientific advice and local issues. Brazil is experiencing a severe drought, with water inflows at certain hydropower facilities reaching 91-year lows. Forest clearing has both a cause and an impact on this.
Deforestation and fire in the Amazon have escalated to their worst levels in more than a decade since Bolsonaro took office. As a result, there are concerns that the fire season's peak in July and August may be worse than usual.
Scientists believe the rainforest is falling into a cycle of destruction. At a local level, land clearing and burning have resulted in longer droughts and greater temperatures, weakening the ecosystem's resilience and increasing fire risk.
Because the rainforest's respiration typically serves as a pump to propel humid weather systems throughout a large area of Brazil, South America, and the Atlantic, this can exacerbate a drought on a regional basis. That pump becomes less efficient as the forest degrades.
Land clearing is changing the Amazon area from a climate friend to a climate foe, with global ramifications. According to research published in Nature, forest fire currently creates nearly three times more CO2 than the remaining flora can absorb. This hastens global warming.
Disregarding the Issue
"The major thing this government has done is damage the state's power to combat illicit deforestation," Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Brazilian Climate Observatory, a network of 50 civil society organizations, said.
Gaining Political Support
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's ruralist agenda is gaining more support in Congress. As a result, the country's ruralista agriculture lobby has added new allies in Congress, including the Speaker of the House and environmental commission chairwoman.
The Brazilian government is encouraging deforestation, says an expert on Amazon land-use change. "The Brazilian government is implementing the exact opposite of what is required," she says. In addition, lawmakers have increased power in Congress to pass more hazardous legislation, experts say.
This is a worldwide issue. The United States' Vice President, Joe Biden, and France's President, Emmanuel Macron, have warned of the risks presented by the rainforest's collapse. In addition, supermarkets and financial institutions in the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, France, and Australia have threatened to boycott Brazilian products until deforestation-free supply chains can be ensured.
Undermining Environmental Safeguards
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro is the first president to openly advocate for the destruction of environmental safeguards, says Astrini. The president is unconcerned about his international reputation or global markets, he says. He is solely interested in his re-election, not the country.
Bolsonaro, on the other hand, views himself as a catalyst for change. The Amazon rainforest has become a focal point of political discussion since he assumed office. Several presidential contenders have made zero-deforestation pledges in their manifestos for next year's election.
"Even Lula is stating that any Brazilian administration can no longer tolerate deforestation in the Amazon. Astrini stated, "He's never spoken anything like this before." "It is clearly apparent that the only way to solve the Amazon problem is for the government to reform. If Bolsonaro is re-elected president, there is no chance. Bolsonaro or the Amazon are the two options. There isn't enough room for both."
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