Deforestation in the Amazon increased by 33% in the first ten months of 2021, compared to the first ten months of 2020, a new analysis shows.
The analysis published Wednesday by the Institute for Man and the Environment of the Amazon (Imazon), an independent Brazilian research institute, found that the Amazon lost more than 2.4 million acres of forest from January through October — the worst such period in the last decade — with nearly 200,000 acres lost in October alone.
Imazon, in collaboration with the Deforestation Alert System, used satellite imagery to monitor and gather deforestation data from January to October and compared it to data from the same time frame in 2020, the analysis said.
A spokesperson for Brazil’s National Institute for Space and Research told CNN the agency’s annual report summarizing deforestation between August 2020 and July 2021 was sent to the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Science and Technology at the end of October, as it usually is. Therefore, the agency expects the data to be released before the end of the year.
Imazon’s analysis comes after world leaders and delegates from nearly 200 countries gathered in Glasgow earlier this month for the COP26 climate summit. At the summit, nations that hold more than 85% of the planet’s forests pledged to end and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030.
Brazil was a signatory on the agreement, along with Colombia, Indonesia, Canada, Russia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all of which have significant tracts of forest. The US and China are also party to the agreement.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has been criticized for allowing deforestation to increase in the Amazon in recent years. Deforestation has soared since Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, and reached a 12-year high between August 2019 and July 2020.
Healthy forests are critical to combat the climate crisis. Through photosynthesis, vegetation in the Amazon absorbs billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, which can offset some of what humans emit through the burning of fossil fuels.
But when forests are logged or otherwise degraded, they can emit carbon dioxide and contribute to the climate crisis. Deforestation accounts for around 10% of the world’s total carbon emissions, according to the Rainforest Alliance.
Wildfires have devastated the Amazon in recent years. A study published in January warned that the amount of forest burned by wildfires could double by 2050 and consume 16 percent of the rainforest — an area nearly the size of the state of Michigan. Fires are used to clear vegetation areas that have already been cut down — which in turn released more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — to clear space for illegal pasture planting and cattle raising.
Recent studies have shown that parts of the Amazon have shifted to emitting more carbon dioxide than they absorb, due in large part to deforestation.
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