Bolsonaro and Amazonian Deforestation
Deforestation in the Maranhão state of Brazil, 2016. Photograph by Ibama
From Yale Environment 360:
With Bolsonaro’s ascension, Brazil — home to the largest rainforest in the world — is facing an “Apocalypse Now” moment for the Amazon. When he takes office on January 1, Bolsonaro — with deep support in Brazil’s Congress, military, and agribusiness sector — has vowed sweeping changes. These include an effective end to environmental licensing for infrastructure projects, which would open up vast areas of the already beleaguered Amazon to development, and a ban on creating new protected areas or indigenous territories. If these scenarios play out, the deforestation rate in the Amazon — already on the rise in recent years — could nearly triple, according to a recent study. This environmental disaster would unfold at a time when climate change and diminishing rainfall already pose a serious threat to the Amazon, whose vast stores of carbon could be released to the atmosphere.
During his campaign, Bolsonaro repeatedly promised to withdraw Brazil from the agreement. Then, just before the runoff election, he appeared to walk this back. However, what he said was far from a reversal because it was conditioned on “someone” giving him a written guarantee that there would be no project for an ecological corridor connecting the Andes to the Atlantic and no “independence of any indigenous area.” Since no such guarantee can be expected to materialize, Bolsonaro may well move ahead with his vow to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
Although climate denial is a powerful force in Brazil, the country is, ironically, expected to suffer disproportionately from climate change. For example, the Brazil 2040 report, which was prepared (and later suppressed) by the Dilma Rousseff administration in 2015, projected a substantial reduction in rainfall in eastern Amazonia by 2040, plus complete devastation of northeastern Brazil, a semi-arid region where periodic droughts have long driven out waves of migrants. A sharp, long-term decline in precipitation in the northeast could force an exodus of tens of millions of people who work on agriculture, with some moving into the Amazon and further driving deforestation.