Deforestation in Brazil Continues to Surge, Up 10.7 Percent in June

Areas of deforestation and degradation in Pará state, Brazil on July 8.

Areas of deforestation and degradation in Pará state, Brazil on July 8. Christian Braga / Greenpeace

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest rose 10.7 percent last month compared to June 2019, the 14th consecutive month of worsening tree loss, according to new data from the country’s national space research agency, INPE. In the first half of 2020, deforestation was up 25 percent, for a total 1,184 square miles, compared to the same period last year.

If the trends continue, 2020 is on track to be the country’s worst year for deforestation in more than a decade, with an estimated loss of more than 5,791 square miles of forest — an area larger than the state of Connecticut, Ane Alencar, science director at Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), told Reuters.

Scientists at IPAM and the Woods Hole Research Center estimated that deforestation and fires in Brazil’s Amazon over the past six months have released 115 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the equivalent of the annual emissions of 25 million cars and a 20 percent increase over the same period last year.

In recent months, international trade groups, financial institutions, and major corporations have urged Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to take aggressive steps to stop the surge in deforestation. European countries, for example, warned Brazil that it would back out of the $19 trillion European Union-Mercosur free trade agreement if the country didn’t do more to protect the Amazon. And a letter signed by 29 financial institutions, including the Church of England, said Brazil’s “dismantling” of environmental policies and indigenous rights are “creating widespread uncertainty about the conditions for investing.”

Bowing to the pressure, President Bolsonaro has deployed military to the region to stop illegal land clearing, and starting next week the administration is slated to ban fires in the Amazon region for 120 days.