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Brazil’s New President Could Spell Catastrophe for the Amazon, Indigenous Rights and Global Climate
Far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro, whose hostile campaign rhetoric has earned him comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump, won Brazil's presidential election Sunday, a development that has raised concerns about the future of human rights and environmental action in the world's sixth-largest greenhouse gas emitter, CNN reported.
Like Trump, Bolsonaro has made homophobic, sexist and racist statements and emboldened right wing groups who share his views.
Also like Trump, he has talked tough about prioritizing his nation's economy over environmental regulations, at one point even threatening to withdraw Brazil from the Paris agreement, as the Huffington Post reported, though he has since walked that back.
Here's how a Bolsonaro presidency might impact Brazil's environment, and the world's.
Deforestation in the Amazon decreased by an impressive 70 percent from around 2005 to 2011 as a growing popular movement to protect the rainforest led to increased government regulations. From 2011 to 2017, as the country entered a more chaotic political period, the decrease in deforestation stopped, but it didn't reverse.
Bolsonaro's leadership could change that. He has promised to open more of the Amazon to development and to merge the country's environment ministry with its agriculture ministry, which is controlled by agribusiness interests, The Guardian reported. He also wants to reconsider dams in the Amazon that were stopped because they posed too much of a risk to the forest.
"His reckless plans to industrialize the Amazon in concert with Brazilian and international agribusiness and mining sectors will bring untold destruction to the planet's largest rainforest and the communities who call it home, and spell disaster for the global climate," Amazon Watch Program Director Christian Poirier told CNN in a statement.
Part of Bolsonaro's plans to open more Amazon regions to industry also trample on the rights of the indigenous communities that call them home.
This rhetoric could be deadly. Last year, 110 indigenous people were murdered in Brazil, largely for defending their land.
"Brazil is a 'champion' of killings in the countryside. This can be aggravated by these statements ... because people's acts follow such signals," Paulo Barreto of Imazon told Reuters.
Towards the end of his campaign, Bolsonaro said he would keep Brazil in the Paris agreement as long as the country did not have to hand sovereignty of the Amazon, Andes and Atlantic Ocean over to indigenous or international groups.
But staying in the agreement might not matter much if deforestation in the Amazon is allowed to increase. The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels said that planting more trees, and keeping existing trees in the ground, were both essential to meeting that goal.
Brazil was on the right track. Its deforestation efforts made it the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is one of the world's largest producers of sustainable biofuels and it pledged to plant more than 70 million trees in 2017. Bolsonaro's election puts that progress in jeopardy.
"The kinds of policies Bolsonaro has talked about could be catastrophic," Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) senior director of tropical forest policy Steve Schwartzman told the Huffington Post. "Brazil is still the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas pollution. If that changes, it's exactly what Brazil doesn't need, and exactly what the world doesn't need."
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.