Top scientists warn of an Amazon ‘tipping point’

Top scientists warn of an Amazon ‘tipping point’

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: December 20, 2019 SNIP: Deforestation and other fast-moving changes in the Amazon threaten to turn parts of the rainforest into savanna, devastate wildlife and release billions of tons carbon into the atmosphere, two renowned experts warned Friday. “The precious Amazon is teetering on the edge of functional destruction and, with it, so are we,” Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University and Carlos Nobre of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, both of whom have studied the world’s largest rainforest for decades, wrote in an editorial in the journal Science Advances. “Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny: The tipping point is here, it is now.” Combined with recent news that the thawing Arctic permafrost may be beginning to fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and that Greenland’s ice sheet is melting at an accelerating pace, it’s the latest hint that important parts of the climate system may be moving toward irreversible changes at a pace that defies earlier predictions. In interviews, Lovejoy and Nobre said they decided to sound a dire alarm about the Amazon after witnessing the acceleration of troubling trends. The combination of rising temperatures, crippling wildfires and ongoing land clearing for cattle ranching and crops has extended dry seasons, killed off water-sensitive vegetation and created conditions for more fire. The Amazon is 17 percent deforested, but for the large portion of it inside Brazil, the figure is closer to 20 percent. The fear is that soon there will be so little forest that the trees, which not only soak up enormous quantities of rainwater but also give off mist...
The Amazon Is Completely Lawless: The Rainforest After Bolsonaro’s First Year

The Amazon Is Completely Lawless: The Rainforest After Bolsonaro’s First Year

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: December 5, 2019 SNIP: When the smoke cleared, the Amazon could breathe easy again. For months, black clouds had hung over the rainforest as work crews burned and chain-sawed through it. Now the rainy season had arrived, offering a respite to the jungle and a clearer view of the damage to the world. The picture that emerged was anything but reassuring: Brazil’s space agency reported that in one year, more than 3,700 square miles of the Amazon had been razed — a swath of jungle nearly the size of Lebanon torn from the world’s largest rainforest. It was the highest loss in Brazilian rainforest in a decade, and stark evidence of just how badly the Amazon, an important buffer against global warming, has fared in Brazil’s first year under President Jair Bolsonaro. He has vowed to open the rainforest to industry and scale back its protections, and his government has followed through, cutting funds and staffing to weaken the enforcement of environmental laws. In the absence of federal agents, waves of loggers, ranchers and miners moved in, emboldened by the president and eager to satisfy global demand. Deforestation soared, up almost 30 percent from the year before. “It confirms the Amazon is completely lawless,” Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist with the University of São Paulo, said of the data. “The environmental criminals feel more and more empowered.” He warned that the Amazon may soon cross a tipping point and begin to self-destruct. “Law enforcement has reached its minimum effectiveness in a decade,” he said. “It is a worrying warning for the future.” Agribusiness, always...
Amazon deforestation ‘at highest level in a decade’

Amazon deforestation ‘at highest level in a decade’

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 18, 2019 SNIP: Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has hit the highest annual level in a decade, according to new government data which highlights the impact the president, Jair Bolsonaro, has made on the world’s biggest rainforest. The new numbers, showing almost 10,000 sq kms were lost in the year to August, were released as emboldened farm owners scuffled with forest defenders in Altamira, the Amazonian city at the heart of the recent devastation. The assault on the planet’s biggest terrestrial carbon sink by land-grabbers, agribusiness, miners and loggers is accelerating. In the year until 30 July 2019, 9,762 sq kms were lost, an increase of 29.5% over the previous 12 months, the Brazilian space agency INPE said. The clearance rate – equivalent to about two football fields a minute – is the fastest since 2008, pushing Brazil far off course from reaching its Paris agreement goals to cut carbon emissions. The annual numbers are compiled with information from the Prodes satellite system, which is considered the most conservative measurement of deforestation. Although less steep than the rise suggested by monthly alerts from the Deter system, it confirms an upward trend that Bolsonaro and his ministers said was a “lie”, which the former head of the space agency was fired for repeating. Environmental groups blamed the government for “every inch of the increase because it weakened environmental protections, supported loggers and encouraged...
Bolsonaro has blessed ‘brutal’ assault on Amazon, sacked scientist warns

Bolsonaro has blessed ‘brutal’ assault on Amazon, sacked scientist warns

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: August 9, 2019 SNIP: Illegal loggers are ramping up a “brutal, fast” assault on the Brazilian Amazon with the blessing of the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, the sacked head of the government agency tasked with monitoring deforestation has warned. Speaking to the Guardian five days after his dismissal, Ricardo Galvão said he was “praying to the heavens” the far-right leader would change tack before the Amazon – and Brazil’s international reputation as an environmental leader – were ruined. “This government is sending a very clear message that the control of deforestation will not be like it was in the past …. And when the loggers hear this message that they will no longer be supervised as they were in the past, they penetrate [the rainforest],” Galvão said, claiming “enormous” damage had already been done since Bolsonaro took power in January. “It is a question of brutal, fast economic exploitation.” “There is no doubt about it. They have much closer relations with the loggers [than previous governments] … The president has said explicitly that he wants to make deals with American companies to exploit minerals in indigenous reserves,” Galvão said. Galvão said he hoped the international community would now support “those Brazilians who are struggling against this state of affairs, and force the government to understand that increasing deforestation in the Amazon will only cause harm to Brazil – and to the government itself”. That seems unlikely. This week, as new Inpe data emerged suggesting an “explosion” of Amazon deforestation in July, Bolsonaro scoffed at his portrayal as Brazil’s “Captain Chainsaw” and mocked Emmanuel Macron and...
Bolsonaro Fires Head of Agency Tracking Amazon Deforestation in Brazil

Bolsonaro Fires Head of Agency Tracking Amazon Deforestation in Brazil

SOURCE: NY Times DATE: August 2, 2019 SNIP: President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil on Friday fired the head of a government agency that had revealed a big increase in deforestation in the Amazon, with the dismissal inciting protests from environmental organizations and public workers. The sacking of Ricardo Magnus Osório Galvão, a well-respected physicist, came a day after Mr. Bolsonaro angrily claimed that people within the government were damaging the country’s image abroad by disclosing the rate at which the world’s largest tropical rain forest is withering. Mr. Bolsonaro and his minister of the environment, Ricardo Salles, on Thursday had held a news conference during which they cast doubt on his own government’s figures, which are routinely released monthly, that showed a steep rise in deforestation in the Amazon this year. “The numbers, as I understand it, were released with the objective of harming the name of Brazil and its government,” Mr. Bolsonaro told reporters, speaking alongside Mr. Salles. Mr. Bolsonaro often makes spurious statements. Brazil’s portion of the Amazon lost more than 1,330 square miles of forest cover during the first six months of this year, a 39 percent increase over the same period last year. Since Mr. Bolsonaro took office in January, the main agency that enforces environmental laws has taken considerably fewer enforcement actions. Mr. Bolsonaro, a far-right former Army captain, has said protected indigenous territories should be opened up to mining and other industries. Last week, he called concerns about the environment overblown, saying the issue mattered solely to “vegans, who eat only...