Industrial agriculture is pushing areas of the Amazon Rainforest toward a dangerous 'tipping point': report

Industrial agriculture is pushing areas of the Amazon Rainforest toward a dangerous 'tipping point': report
Image via Creative Commons.

Not unlike many MAGA Republicans in the United States, far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been a blistering critic of environmentalism and views climate change as a myth. Bolsonaro, who is running for reelection in Brazil’s 2022 presidential race, doesn’t view the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest as a problem. But according to a newly released study, the Amazon is in such bad condition that parts of it may never recover.

The study was conducted by the Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG) along with the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA). And it covers all nine of the countries in South America that include areas of the Amazon.

According to the study, “The tipping point is not a future scenario, but rather, a stage already present in some areas of the region,” the report concludes. “Brazil and Bolivia concentrate 90 percent of all combined deforestation and degradation. As a result, savannization is already taking place in both countries.”

READ MORE: How Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro has promoted 'the world’s greatest environmental crime story': report

The Guardian’s Andrew Downie, in an article published on September 5, notes that the study “found that only two of the nine, tiny Suriname and French Guiana, have at least half their forests still intact.”

“Amazonian Indigenous organizations representing 511 nations and allies are calling for a global pact for the permanent protection of 80 percent of the Amazon by 2025,” Downie reports. “The 80 percent target is a massive challenge given that only 74 percent of the original forest remains. Urgent action is needed not only to protect the forest still standing, but also, to restore degraded land and get back to that 80 percent level.”

For the Amazon, according to Downie, an “even greater concern” than the impact of oil is the impact of “farming.”

“Agriculture is responsible for 84 percent of deforestation, and the amount of land given over to farming has tripled since 1985, according to the report,” Downie reports. “Brazil is one of the world’s main food exporters, with soy, beef and grains feeding large parts of the world and bringing in billions of dollars each year. A key recommendation of the study is more collaboration between regional governments, international financial institutions and the private equity firms that hold much of the debt owed by Amazonian nations.”

READ MORE: Why the most important election in the Americas is in Brazil

In Brazil’s presidential election, which will be held on October 2, Bolsonaro is up against left-wing candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In contrast to Bolsonaro, da Silva is campaigning on protecting the environment.

“Lula leads in the polls,” Downie notes. “During his time in power in the 2000s, deforestation fell by more than 80 percent.”

Greenpeace has described Bolsonaro as a “catastrophe” for the environment. And scientists have been warning that the more the Amazon suffers environmental destruction, the worse it will be from a climate change standpoint. But South America is hardly the only part of the world where carbon emissions are a problem.

According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), carbon emissions increased by 5.4 percent in 2021 — and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions was a factor. When those restrictions were lifted, more cars were in use.

The Irish Times’ Simon Carswell notes, “The latest figures from the SEAI show emissions going in the wrong direction when energy-related emissions should be cut by 4.8 per cent a year from 2021 to 2025 under the government’s first carbon budget targets. Increased energy demand, coupled with a “modest” delivery of new renewable capacity, and low wind levels resulted in the renewable energy share remaining unchanged at just 13.6 per cent. The SEAI, which is the State body responsible for promoting sustainable energy use, said carbon emissions returned to the same level as 2019 after a temporary reduction due to pandemic restrictions."

Carswell adds, “Car use was ‘a significant contributor’ to the increased emissions last year while demand for transport rose by 8.3 per cent after energy use was suppressed significantly during 2020. The SEAI said that while the new figures may be expected, they underlined ‘the urgent requirement for a change in transport sector with a necessary shift to cycling, walking, public transport and electric vehicles and eliminate unnecessary car journeys.’”

READ MORE: Record deforestation pushing Amazon Rainforest toward 'the tipping point of no return': report

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