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Amazon Deforestation Rate Hits 3 Football Fields Per Minute, Data Confirms

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Amazon Deforestation Rate Hits 3 Football Fields Per Minute, Data Confirms
Aerial view of deforestation in the Western Amazon region of Brazil on Sept. 22, 2017. CARL DE SOUZA / AFP / Getty Images

The Amazon rainforest in Brazil is being clear cut so rapidly — a rate of three football fields per minute — that it is approaching a "tipping point" from which it will not recover, according to the Guardian.


As trees are lost, researchers said there is a risk that large areas could transition from rainforest to savannah as they lose the ability to make their own rainfall from evaporation and from plants giving off water vapor, according to Newsweek.

A transition on that scale could have significant implications for global warming since the rainforest absorbs vast amounts of atmospheric carbon. Recent research has shown the potential for massive tree plantings to remove excess carbon from the atmosphere.

"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, as the Guardian reported. "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."

The alarming rate of deforestation and its acceleration confirms suspicions that new president Jair Bolsonaro has allowed illegal land invasion, logging and burning. Bolsonaro has called his own government's satellite data lies. The president's comments followed preliminary satellite data that showed more than 400 square miles of the rainforest had been cleared in the first half of July — an increase of 68 percent from the entire month of July last year, according to the BBC.

Bolsonaro, the far right politician who has said he is fulfilling a mission from God, dismissed concerns expressed by European Union members and called it hypocritical since so many European forests have been wiped out.

"You have to understand that the Amazon is Brazil's, not yours," Bolsonaro said, as the Guardian reported. "If all this devastation you accuse us of doing was done in the past the Amazon would have stopped existing, it would be a big desert."

The DETER-B satellite system that the Brazilian government started to use in 2015 to track deforestation has shown that the record setting July deforestation is on pace to clear enough forest to fit New York City twice by the end of the month.

The DETER satellite data is considered preliminary. Detailed figures are released at the end of the year when data from other satellites and observatories is also collected, according to Newsweek.

"Unfortunately, it is absurd, but it should not catch anyone by surprise. President Jair Bolsonaro and minister Ricardo Salles are dismantling our socio-environmental policies," said Carlos Rittl, the executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, an NGO formed by a coalition of environmental groups, as the Guardian reported.

After years of conservation, Brazil's environmental track record has nose-dived in the first seven months of Bolsonaro's administration. He has given environmental oversight to the agriculture minister, who is the leader of a farming lobby. His foreign minister called climate science a part of a global Marxist plot. The government has invited businesses to register land counter-claims in areas that are protected nature reserves, indigenous territories and areas dedicated to sustainable production by native forest people, according to the Guardian.

Former U.S. Sec. of Energy Ernest Moniz listens during the National Clean Energy Summit 9.0 on October 13, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Isaac Brekken / Getty Images for National Clean Energy Summit

By Jake Johnson

Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.

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Climate change can evoke intense feelings, but a conversational approach can help. Reed Kaestner / Getty Images

Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.

"It's easy to feel dwarfed in the context of such a global systemic issue," says psychologist Renée Lertzman.

She says that when people experience these feelings, they often shut down and push information away. So to encourage climate action, she advises not bombarding people with frightening facts.

"When we lead with information, we are actually unwittingly walking right into a situation that is set up to undermine our efforts," she says.

She says if you want to engage people on the topic, take a compassionate approach. Ask people what they know and want to learn. Then have a conversation.

This conversational approach may seem at odds with the urgency of the issue, but Lertzman says it can get results faster.

"When we take a compassion-based approach, we are actively disarming defenses so that people are actually more willing and able to respond and engage quicker," she says. "And we don't have time right now to mess around, and so I do actually come to this topic with a sense of urgency… We do not have time to not take this approach."

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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