Brazil’s new president Michel Temer is expected to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change next week, committing the country to a reduction of 37% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, and of 43% by 2030. But critics say that the commitment glosses over the government’s failure to address the legal and illegal forest clearance that is adding to global warming.
Brazil’s emissions are the seventh highest in the world, and they come mostly from land-use change − in other words, deforestation.
Scientists from the US space agency NASA and the University of California, Irvine, warn that lower rainfall in the Amazon basin because of the 2015-2016 El Niño phenomenon’s climate effects means that the region is now even drier than it was in 2005 and 2010, which were years of unprecedented drought.
This means that it is heading for a very bad fire season, fed by dieback − a process in which the forest dries out, storing less carbon, producing less rainfall, and worsening global warming.
The dry season in Brazil now extends from July to November, and a record number of 53,000 forest fires – mostly in the Amazon region − had been detected by the beginning of this month.
The largest number of fires − around 15,000 − were detected by Brazilian scientists, using satellite images, in the state of Mato Grosso, which contains part of the Amazon biome − a region sharing similar climate, animals and plants. Most of them had been started deliberately.
The result? A drastic change in the landscape.
Thus, granting the government has promised that all illegal deforestation will be ended by 2030 and is officially signing up to the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions overall, the reality is that the Amazon − the source of most of the deforestation-linked emissions − is at risk as never before. And at the same time, emissions from energy, agriculture and industry continue to rise.