Tchau, rainforest

Yesterday we read about forest fires in the western US reducing the ability of forests to regrow and continue to sequester carbon; today it’s Brazil’s turn.

Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has surged above three football fields a minute, according to the latest government data, pushing the world’s biggest rainforest closer to a tipping point beyond which it cannot recover.

The sharp rise – following year-on-year increases in May and June – confirms fears that president Jair Bolsonaro has given a green light to illegal land invasion, logging and burning.

Clearance so far in July has hit 1,345 sq km, a third higher than the previous monthly record under the current monitoring system by the Deter B satellite system, which started in 2015.

Wrong direction. Very wrong direction. Bolsonaro’s children and grandchildren won’t be thanking him.

The steady erosion of tree cover weakens the role of the rainforest in stabilising the global climate. Scientists warn that the forest is in growing danger of degrading into a savannah, after which its capacity to absorb carbon will be severely diminished, with consequences for the rest of the planet.

See? That’s what we saw yesterday about the repeated forest fires. Push a forest too far and it tips into permanent savannah-hood, and goodbye carbon capture.

“It’s very important to keep repeating these concerns. There are a number of tipping points which are not far away,” said Philip Fearnside, a professor at Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research. “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.”

Like Trump and Bolsonaro, for instance.

In his first seven months in power, Bolsonaro, who was elected with strong support from agribusiness and mining interests, has moved rapidly to erode government agencies responsible for forest protection.

He has weakened the environment agency and effectively put it under the supervision of the agricultural ministry, which is headed by the leader of the farming lobby. His foreign minister has dismissed climate science as part of a global Marxist plot. The president and other ministers have criticised the forest monitoring agency, Ibama, for imposing fines on illegal land grabbers and loggers. The government has also moved to weaken protections for nature reserves, indigenous territories and zones of sustainable production by forest peoples and invited businesspeople to register land counter-claims within those areas.

And we can’t just get out there and plant trees to compensate.

Trees are considered essential to climate stability. Earlier this month, a study indicated that planting a trillion trees could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities. But scientists say maintaining existing forests, particularly in the tropics, is far more important.

But apparently short-term profits are even more important than that. Soz, future generations, sucks to be you.

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