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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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Tropical forests globally are being lost at a rate of 61,000 square miles a year. And despite conservation efforts, the global rate of loss is accelerating. In 2016 it reached a 15-year high, with 114,000 square miles cleared.
At the same time, many countries are pledging to restore large swaths of forests. The Bonn Challenge, a global initiative launched in 2011, calls for national commitments to restore 580,000 square miles of the world's deforested and degraded land by 2020. In 2014 the New York Declaration on Forests increased this goal to 1.35 million square miles, an area about twice the size of Alaska, by 2030.
By Cheryl Leahy
Do you think almond milk comes from a cow named Almond? Or that almonds lactate? The dairy industry thinks you do, and that's what it's telling the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
For years, the dairy industry has been flexing its lobbying muscle, pressuring states and the federal government to restrict plant-based companies from using terms like "milk" on their labels, citing consumer confusion.
By Jeremy Deaton
A driver planning to make the trek from Denver to Salt Lake City can look forward to an eight-hour trip across some of the most beautiful parts of the country, long stretches with nary a town in sight. The fastest route would take her along I-80 through southern Wyoming. For 300 miles between Laramie and Evanston, she would see, according to a rough estimate, no fewer than 40 gas stations where she could fuel up her car. But if she were driving an electric vehicle, she would see just four charging stations where she could recharge her battery.
Fire Continues at Texas Petrochemical Plant as Company's History of Violations Gets Renewed Scrutiny
By Andrea Germanos
A petrochemical plant near Houston continued to burn for a second day on Monday, raising questions about the quality and safety of the air.
The Deer Park facility is owned by Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC), which said the fire broke out at roughly 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Seven tanks are involved, the company said, and they contain naptha, xylene, "gas blend stocks" and "base oil."
"It's going to have to burn out at the tank," Ray Russell, communications officer for Channel Industries Mutual Aid, which is aiding the response effort, said at a news conference. It could take "probably two days" for that to happen, he added.
The hillsides dyed orange with poppies may look like something out of a dream, but for the Southern California town of Lake Elsinore, that dream quickly turned into a nightmare.
The town of 66,000 people was inundated with around 50,000 tourists coming to snap pictures of the golden poppies growing in Walker Canyon as part of a superbloom of wildfires caused by an unusually wet winter, BBC News reported. The visitors trampled flowers and caused hours of traffic, The Guardian reported.
A controversial pesticide test that would have resulted in the deaths of 36 beagles has been stopped, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the company behind the test announced Monday. The announcement comes less than a week after HSUS made the test public when it released the results of an investigation into animal testing at Charles River Laboratories in Michigan.
"We have immediately ended the study that was the subject of attention last week and will make every effort to rehome the animals that were part of the study," Corteva Agriscience, the agriculture division of DowDupont, said in a statement announcing its decision.