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15 Million Hectares of Amazon Rainforest at Risk

The Amazon rainforest may soon be at risk of even further deforestation under a new anti-environmental government. | Image By Rich Carey | Shutterstock

The Amazon rainforest may soon be at risk of even further deforestation under a new anti-environmental government. | Image By Rich Carey | Shutterstock

Researchers warn about a paragraph in a Brazilian forest act that could jeopardize a large chunk of the Amazon rainforest.

Humanity is currently facing one of the most extreme and rapid periods of climate change in the history of our planet. The Amazon rainforest is one of the most important things protecting us from a total climate collapse. Now, new legislation by the Brazilian government may put the forest at risk.

In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, the new president from the far-right, has earned the nickname of “Trump of the Tropics“.

Bolsonaro shares similar controversial rhetoric on several topics with the U.S. president. In general, these comments largely focus on minorities, women, and environmental protection.

The Brazilian president-elect is worrying the world with his regular hostile attacks on the environment.

Leading up to his election, Bolsonaro declared that too many environmental-protection regulations are impeding the development of Brazil. To the dismay of indigenous populations and environmentalists, he promised to let companies commercially-exploit the Amazon.

He also pledged to follow in Trump’s footsteps and withdraw Brazil from the Paris agreement. In fact, the Prime Minister he named already qualified climate change as a Marxist hoax that benefits China.

This is only a drop in Bolsonaro’s bucket regarding environmental topics and experts worry for what’s to come for the world’s largest tropical forest.

Read More: New Study Shows Tax Havens are Causing Climate Change

Brazil’s Amazon at the Mercy of Legal Deforestation

The Amazon rainforest is increasingly losing ground to farms and pastures. Under the new president, experts expect worse scenarios.

Now, thanks to a new study, we can get an idea of the scale of the potential damage to the Brazilian rainforest that Bolsonaro presidency makes more imminent.

A massive chunk of Brazil’s rainforest, up to 15 million hectares, is at risk of losing its legal protection. This is according to a study by researchers from the Chalmers University of Technology, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and the University of Sao Paolo.

The Forest Act for Deforestation

In Brazil, the Forest Act allows landowners in the Amazon to clear up to 20 percent of the forest on their property. They then have to leave the remaining 80 percent to native vegetation.

However, six years ago, a revision to the Forest Act added a paragraph that brings the percentage of deforestable lands from 20 to 50 percent in some Amazon states.

It’s this paragraph in razil’s Forest Act that drew the attention of researchers and raised their concerns.

“This means that between 6.5 and 15.4 million hectares could lose the protections they enjoy today. By way of comparison, the total forest area of the UK is about 3.17 million hectares. The areas that might become legally available for agriculture consist primarily of tropical rainforest, which holds high biodiversity values. Additionally, tropical deforestation causes large carbon dioxide emissions, which contributes to global warming.”

As researchers note, this doesn’t mean that millions of hectares of rainforest will inevitably disappear but “it is important to acknowledge the situation, and to consider possible mitigation actions before such development take place.”

We share their hope that “the law could be revised, with the paragraph adjusted or removed entirely.”

What’s at stake is the world’s whole global climate.

You can read the paper in the journal Nature Sustainability.

Can international action, through businesses non-deforestation commitments, help the Amazon?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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