Amazon Deforestation Rate Highest in 11 Years
The latest figures come from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE). Using satellite data, the agency concluded that the forest lost 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3,769 square miles) in the year leading up to July 2019. The number represents a 29.5 percent increase compared to the previous year and the highest deforestation rate since 2008.
INPE / Notícias - A estimativa da taxa de desmatamento por corte raso para a Amazônia Legal em 2019 é de 9.762 km² https://t.co/uFMsnTJUNs— INPE (@INPE)1574109361.0
It is also the most conclusive proof to date that deforestation is on the rise under far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, The New York Times reported. Bolsonaro has cut funding for key agencies that help protect the rainforest and reduced enforcement against illegal mining, logging and ranching.
"The Bolsonaro government is responsible for every inch of forest destroyed. This government today is the worst enemy of the Amazon," Greenpeace public policy coordinator Marcio Astrini said in a statement reported by Reuters.
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest rose to its highest in over a decade this year, government data on Mond… https://t.co/c1PEwnyAqZ— AMAZON WATCH (@AMAZON WATCH)1574162521.0
Brazilian environmental group Climate Observatory said that the increase was the third highest in Brazil's history, following spikes in 1995 and 1998, The Guardian reported. But this time, the government seemed less likely to act on the data.
"In a break with what occurred in previous years during which the rate rose, this time the government did not announce any credible measures to reverse the trend," the group said in a statement reported by The New York Times.
In a break with previous denials, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles did acknowledge the deforestation increase and promise action, Reuters reported. He blamed illegal mining, logging and ranching for the rise, and said he would meet with the governors of Amazon states on Wednesday to discuss strategies for fighting deforestation. But he did not outline any detailed plans for curbing illegal forest-clearing, The New York Times pointed out.
The news follows a global outcry this summer after INPE reported a record number of fires burning in the forest this August. The new figures do not account for forest lost from August to October, Reuters pointed out, when initial data indicates deforestation rates more than doubled compared to the same time period last year.
The Amazon rainforest is considered crucial for fighting the climate crisis because it stores massive amounts of carbon. Some scientists fear that if enough forest is cleared, a tipping point will be reached and the forest will transform into savanna, which does not store as much carbon.
"We must remember that the Amazon has been undergoing deforestation for decades," Oyvind Eggen, the secretary general of the Rainforest Foundation Norway, said in a statement reported by The New York Times. "We are approaching a potential tipping point, where large parts of the forest will be so damaged that it collapses."
However, Climate Observatory Executive Secretary Carlos Rittl told The Guardian he was concerned deforestation would only increase under Bolsonaro.
"Proposals like legalising land-grabbing, mining and farming on indigenous lands, as well as reducing the licensing requirements for new infrastructure will show that the coming years will be even worse," he said. "The question is how long Brazil's trading partners will trust its promises of sustainability and compliance with the Paris agreement, as forests fall, indigenous leaders are killed and environmental laws are shattered."
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World leaders and businesses are not putting enough money into adapting to dangerous changes in the climate and must "urgently step up action," according to a report published Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Adaptation Has a Long Way to Go<p>The Adaptation Gap Report, now in its 5th year, finds "huge gaps" between what world leaders agreed to do under the 2015 <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/5-years-paris-climate-agreement/a-55901139" target="_blank">Paris Agreement</a> and what they need to do to keep their citizens safe from climate change.</p><p>A review by the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative of almost 1,700 examples of climate adaptation found that a third were in the early stages of implementation — and only 3% had reached the point of reducing risks.</p><p>Disasters like storms and droughts have grown stronger than they should be because people have warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests. The world has heated by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution and is on track to warm by about 3°C by the end of the century.</p><p>If world leaders <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-change-performance-index-how-far-have-we-come/a-55846406" target="_blank">deliver on recent pledges</a> to bring emissions to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/joe-bidens-climate-pledges-are-they-realistic/a-56173821" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">net-zero</a> by the middle of the century, they could almost limit warming to 2°C. The target of the Paris Agreement, however, is to reach a target well below that — ideally 1.5°C. </p><p>There are two ways, scientists say, to lessen the pain that warming will bring: mitigating climate change by cutting carbon pollution and adapting to the hotter, less stable world it brings.</p>
The Cost of Climate Adaptation<p>About three-quarters of the world's countries have national plans to adapt to climate change, according to the report, but most lack the regulations, incentives and funding to make them work.</p><p>More than a decade ago, rich countries most responsible for climate change pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance for poorer countries. UNEP says it is "impossible to answer" whether that goal has been met, while an OECD study published in November found that between 2013 and 2018, the target sum had not once been achieved. Even in 2018, which recorded the highest level of contributions, rich countries were still $20 billion short.</p><p>The yearly adaptation costs for developing countries alone are estimated at $70 billion. This figure is expected to at least double by the end of the decade as temperatures rise, and will hit $280-500 billion by 2050, according to the report.</p><p>But failing to adapt is even more expensive.</p><p>When powerful storms like cyclones Fani and Bulbul struck South Asia, early-warning systems allowed governments to move millions of people out of danger at short notice. Storms of similar strength that have hit East Africa, like <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/zimbabwe-after-cyclone-idai-building-climate-friendly-practices/a-54251885" target="_blank">cyclones Idai</a> and Kenneth, have proved more deadly because fewer people were evacuated before disaster struck.</p><p>The Global Commission on Adaptation estimated in 2019 that a $1.8 trillion investment in early warning systems, buildings, agriculture, mangroves and water resources could reap $7.1 trillion in benefits from economic activity and avoided costs when disasters strike.</p>
Exploring Nature-Based Solutions<p>The report also highlights how restoring nature can protect people from climate change while benefiting local communities and ecology.</p><p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-fires-risk-climate-change-bushfires-australia-california-extreme-weather-firefighters/a-54817927" target="_blank">Wildfires</a>, for instance, could be made less punishing by restoring grasslands and regularly burning the land in controlled settings. Indigenous communities from Australia to Canada have done this for millennia in a way that encourages plant growth while reducing the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. Reforestation, meanwhile, can stop soil erosion and flooding during heavy rainfall while trapping carbon and protecting wildlife.</p><p>In countries like Brazil and Malaysia, governments could better protect coastal homes from floods and storms by restoring <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/mudflats-mangroves-and-marshes-the-great-coastal-protectors/a-50628747" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mangroves</a> — tangled trees that grow in tropical swamps. As well as anchoring sediments and absorbing the crash of waves, mangroves can store carbon, help fish populations grow and boost local economies through tourism. </p><p>While nature-based solutions are often cheaper than building hard infrastructure, their funding makes up a "tiny fraction" of adaptation finance, the report authors wrote. An analysis of four global climate funds that spent $94 billion on adaptation projects found that just $12 billion went to nature-based solutions and little of this was spent implementing projects on the ground.</p><p>But little is known about their long-term effectiveness. At higher temperatures, the effects of climate change may be so great that they overwhelm natural defenses like mangroves.</p><p>By 2050, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/rising-sea-levels-should-we-let-the-ocean-in-a-50704953/a-50704953" target="_blank">coastal floods</a> that used to hit once a century will strike many cities every year, according to a 2019 report on oceans by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the gold standard on climate science. This could force dense cities on low-lying coasts to build higher sea walls, like in Indonesia and South Korea, or evacuate entire communities from sinking islands, like in Fiji.</p><p>It's not a case of replacing infrastructure, said Matthias Garschagen, a geographer at Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany and IPCC author, who was not involved in the UNEP report. "The case for nature-based solutions is often misinterpreted as a battle... but they're part of a toolkit that we've ignored for too long."</p>
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