Amazon deforestation approaches critical stage

Friday 16th August 2019 | Jake

A space equal to three football pitches is lost every minute in the Amazon, as rampant deforestation threatens the survival of the world’s greatest rainforest. Data published by the Brazilian government suggests deforestation in the biggest rainforest in the world is close to a tipping point. In July this year an area larger than the size of Greater London was cleared.

The current system of mapping deforestation is carried out by the Deter B satellite system, which has been in use since 2015. Results and analysis of the satellite’s findings are published by the National Institute for Space Research (NISR). July’s rate of deforestation was a third higher than any previous July recorded. The data has strengthened a widely held belief that Brazil’s far-right leader, Jair Bolsonaro has encouraged illegal land invasion, logging and burning with his policies.


Bolsonaro insists the NISR results are lies, and there are fears he will seek to analyse future data before allowing it to be published, blocking results he doesn’t like. Having been elected with universal support from agribusiness and mining companies, Bolsonaro has done his best to repay them. The government agencies responsible for protecting the forest are quickly being dismantled, meanwhile Bolsonaro has handed the head position in the agricultural ministry to the leader of the farming lobby. The government environment agency is now effectively in thrall to the aforementioned agricultural ministry.

Rainforests, and the tree cover they offer, help manage global climate. With fewer trees the rainforest will not absorb as much carbon, further intensifying the climate breakdown. Last year deforestation rose by 13% in the amazon, to the highest point in a decade. This year is set to be worse.

Philip Fearnside, a professor at Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research, told the Guardian a succession of tipping points are fast approaching for the Amazon, critical to the rainforest’s survival. “We can’t see exactly where they are, but we know they are very close. It means we have to do things right away. Unfortunately that is not what is happening. There are people denying we even have a problem.”