Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil jumped to a 12-year high in 2020, Reuters reported on Monday, citing government data. Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and vital to the fight against climate change because of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide that it absorbs.
The data was released by INPE or Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. It showed that deforestation in Amazon rose 9.5% in 2020 in comparison with the last year. This amounts to 11,088 square kilometers, which is roughly the size of London.
The calculation was made by the agency’s PRODES monitoring program, which compared satellite images from July 2020 with those in August 2019.
Environmentalists blamed President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies for the destruction of the rainforest. Brazilian environmentalist Carlos Rittl referred to the figures as “humiliating, shameful and outrageous”, The Guardian reported.
He added that the new data clearly pointed to the destruction of the environment under Bolsonaro’s rule. “Bolsonaro’s great achievement when it comes to the environment has been this tragic destruction of forests which has turned Brazil into perhaps one of the greatest enemies of the global environment and into an international pariah too,” Rittl was quotes as saying by the newspaper.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly voiced support for allowing commercial farming and mining in the ecologically-sensitive Amazon region and argued that the activities will help eliminate poverty, according to Reuters. Environmentalist believe that the Brazilian president’s stance has encouraged illegal miners to destroy the forest.
In August 2019, international attention was drawn to the Amazon after an estimated 83% increase in forest fires compared to the same time period in 2018.
Bolsonaro had accused environmental groups of setting fires in the Amazon rainforest in response to growing international criticism of his failure to protect the region. He also alleged that Hollywood actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio had sponsoring the Amazon rainforest fires.