Last week, the Brazilian government announced a 60-day ban on starting new forest fires in the South American country. But according to Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE), 3,859 new outbreaks were recorded in Brazil in the 48 hours following the ban coming into effect. Roughly 2,000 of those are in the Amazon rainforest.
While the far-right president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, continues to claim that the number of fires is actually lower than it has been in previous years, research highlights a rise in deforestation. A study produced by the INPE in July showed that in June 2019 alone, the Amazon rainforest lost over 2,072 square kilometers (800 square miles) to deforestation, that's an area bigger than the Los Angeles metropolitan area. This is an increase of 15 percent compared to the same period last year.
Bolsonaro claimed that the study was a lie, and was backed by his ministers despite the data being produced using a methodology that has been tested for decades. Since 2004 and before Bolsonaro took power, data like this helped law enforcement to reduce the amount of deforestation in the country. The head of the INPE, Ricardo Galvao, was then sacked by the government. This serves as yet another example of how the Brazilian government has made practicing science difficult in the country since they took office in January.
The burning ban has been seen as a move to appease international outcry about the Amazon's fires, but as activist Tasso Azevedo, who runs the deforestation-monitoring group Mapbiomas, wrote in the newspaper O Globo, the worst may be yet to come.
Deforestation has continued to grow significantly over the past two months and it remains legal to indiscriminately chop down large swathes of the rainforest. Azevedo believes that once the ban ends, the chopped trees will be burned down by the many private organizations interested in turning the Amazon rainforest into something more profitable than a priceless habitat rich in biodiversity.
“What we are experiencing is a real crisis, which can turn into a tragedy that will feature fires much larger than the current ones if not stopped immediately,” Azevedo writes, calling for the ban to be extended until at least late November when the dry season ends.
[H/T: The Independent]