By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has increased 28 percent according to new reports released last week. Satellite data gathered and studied by several organizations showed that 5,850 km square meters (2,250 sq miles) of the Amazon were deforested between August 2012 and July 2013.
The increase would mark a reversal after four consecutive years of reported decline in deforestation of the world’s largest rainforest.
“You can’t argue with numbers. This is not alarmist – it’s a real and measured inversion of what had been a positive trend,” Marcio Astrini, Amazon campaign coordinator at the Greenpeace Brazilian chapter told the media.
The Brazilian Minister of the Environment Izabella Teixeira, in response to the report cautioned that the numbers represented the “second lowest deforestation rate ever recorded in history.”
The lowest reported numbers since the government began recorded deforestation, occurred in 2004, when 27,000 square kilometers were deforested.
News of the report came during Teixeira’s participation in the World Climate Conference in Warsaw , Poland. There, pushes for a diplomatic efforts to reduce greenhouse gases remain a growing source of tension during the ongoing U.N. talks.
The Amazon due to its size and abundance of trees, water and ecological diversity is thought by many scientists to lessen the greenhouse effect on the planet. Many also argue that without the Amazon climate change could worsen.
Before the report was released, some Brazilian government officials were already pushing to adopt a measure to curb illegal logging within the Amazon and pointing to the passage of latest Código Florestal (Forest Code) last year as the reason for increased deforestation.
“Well, I warned about the approval of the Forest Code as it would be a signal, a green light to amplify deforestation, and that’s what happened,” Federal Deputy Sarney Filho and member of Brazil’s Green Party (PV), said on Tuesday.
Another major factor is that with Brazilian agriculture surging and global prices increasing for many agricultural commodities, some Brazilian growers in the Amazon might have been encouraged to cut trees in order to gain more farmland.
According to the report, the states with the most deforestation by percentage during the time period measured were Mato Grosso with 52 percent and Roraima with 49 percent. In terms of the size of land deforested the state of Para ranked highest with with 2,379 square kilometers and second was Mato Grosso with 1,149 square kilometers.
Follow-up data is still needed before the report is officially confirmed and that information is usually compiled and released before the end of the year.
In the meantime, Teixeira has called for an emergency meeting with members of Meio Ambiente (the Ministry of the Environment), in search of answers and possible approaches to reverse the deforestation. The meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, November 19th.
Teixeira stated, “The Brazilian government will not tolerate any increase in illegal logging.”
Read more (in Portuguese).
* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.