DATE: November 24, 2018
SNIP: Deforestation in Earth’s biggest rainforest reached the highest level in a decade, reports the Brazilian government.
On Friday Brazil’s national space research institute INPE released its annual preliminary estimate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The data shows some 7,900 square kilometers (3050 square miles) of rainforest were cleared between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018, a 13.7 percent rise of over the 6,947 square kilometers cleared a year earlier. The loss represents an area 134 times the size of Manhattan’s land mass.
The increase in deforestation was widely expected. Monitoring systems from both the Brazilian government and Imazon, a Brazilian NGO, have been showing deforestation trending upwards for months. Imazon’s deforestation alert system projected forest loss in the Amazon hitting a ten year high, which is now confirmed by the official data.
The rise in deforestation this year in Brazil is likely linked to current political and economic trends. U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade war with China has reduced the competitiveness of American agricultural products, boosting soy and beef exports from Brazil, including the Brazilian Amazon, which is a major producing region. Brazil’s weak currency is also increasing the profitability of agribusiness in the country at the same time that Brazilian lawmakers are pushing through measures to weaken environmental regulations and protections for indigenous peoples. President elect Jair Bolsonaro has sharply criticized environmentalists and promised to further roll back conservation initiatives across the country.
Rising deforestation bucks a long-term trend of declining rates of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon. But Brazil has now missed the deforestation target it set in 2009 for four consecutive years. Deforestation for over the past was 41 percent higher than targeted — the worst miss yet.