Amazon deforestation reaches highest level in over 15 years

One of the most important regions for ecological conservation in the world is under threat of reaching a catastrophic tipping point.

Holly Shaftoe
6th December 2021
The Amazon has lost more forest cover this year than at any point in the last fifteen years. Image credits: Wikimedia Commons
The Amazon rainforest spans 6.7 million km2 and supports 10% of the world’s known biodiversity. A recent report from The Guardian uncovered deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has skyrocketed 22% in the past year, the highest level since 2006.

Brazil’s space research agency, INPE, reported that 13,235 sq. km (5,110 sq. miles) of the Amazon was deforested between August 2020 and July 2021. For comparison, this is an area 17 times the size of New York City.

This dire report questions the legitimacy of claims made by the Brazilian government at the recent UN climate summit in Glasgow and president Bolsonaro’s commitment to conserving the Amazon.

At COP26, the Brazilian government pledged to end illegal deforestation by 2028, a target requiring serious commitment to reduce annual deforestation.

However, sources reveal that prior to COP26, the government touted false claims of deforestation decline and presented preliminary monthly data as annual data to appear successful in reducing deforestation.

Furthermore, far-right president Jair Bolsonaro still insists mining and commercial farming takes place in protected parts of the rainforest despite studies indicating these as major contributors to deforestation.

If unprotected, scientists warn the Amazon could soon dry out into a savannah

Urgency to protect the Amazon rainforest has reached critical levels as it is essential for absorbing vast amounts of planet-warming gases like CO2. If unprotected, scientists warn it may soon dry out into a savannah, releasing enormous quantities of CO2 and rendering all pledges to curb climate change unachievable.

Yet, Bolsonaro’s government appears unable and unwilling to reduce rainforest deforestation. Since 2019, failed military intervention to prevent illegal deforestation has left the Amazon at the mercy of illegal loggers.

Mauricio Voivodic, head of environmental group WWF Brazil, accused the government of accelerating  the Amazon’s destruction whilst trying to “hide with imaginary discourses and greenwashing efforts abroad”.

Despite the Brazilian government’s apparent reluctance to reduce Amazon deforestation, the message is clear: Action needs to be taken now to protect this precious rainforest before it's too late.

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