Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Brazil Indigenous

Members of the Kayapo tribe block the BR163 highway during a protest outside Novo Progresso in Pará state, Brazil on August 17, 2020. Indigenous protesters blocked the major transamazonian highway to protest the lack of governmental support during the Covid-19 pandemic and illegal deforestation in and around their territories. (Photo: Carl De Souza/AFP via Getty Images)

'Out of Control': Brazilian Amazon Deforestation Hits Highest Level in a Decade

"At this rate, we will not be able to keep global warming below 1.5ºC, a target defined in the Paris agreement," said the conservation institute Imazon.

Brett Wilkins

Encouraged by President Jair Bolsonaro, deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest surged to its highest annual level in a decade over the past year, with researchers warning that the accelerated destruction of the critical carbon sink is imperiling the ability to keep planetary heating below the Paris climate agreement's 1.5ºC target.

"Brazil is going against the global climate agenda that is seeking to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
—Carlos Souza, Imazon

Imazon, a Brazilian research institute whose mission is to promote conservation and sustainable development, reported Thursday that from August 2020 to July 2021, 10,476 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest were destroyed, a 57% increase over the previous 12-month period.

"In July alone, 2,095 km² were deforested, 80% more than in the same month in 2020," said Imazon. "This area is larger than the city of São Paulo."

According to the institute, the northeastern state of Pará suffered the most severe deforestation in July, losing 771 square kilometers, an area about the size of Austin, Texas. Additionally, seven out of the 10 Indigenous territories most affected by forest destruction during the 12-month period were located in the state.

"Deforestation is still out of control," Imazon researcher Carlos Souza told The Guardian. "Brazil is going against the global climate agenda that is seeking to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Imazon said that "at this rate, we will not be able to keep global warming below 1.5ºC, a target defined in the Paris agreement.

Often called the "lungs of the planet" for its role in keeping CO2 emissions in check, the massive 2.1 million square mile Amazon rainforest is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, boasting some three million plant and animal species. Nearly a million Indigenous people from over 300 tribes—including some who have never had any contact with the outside world—also call the Amazon home. 

However, since taking office in 2019, Bolsonaro has strongly encouraged economic development including logging, mining, expansion of agricultural activity, and the construction of a major highway and dam in the region.

Despite the devastation caused by these and other activities, the Bolsonaro administration has vowed to accelerate Amazon exploitation, claiming the region is "unproductive" and "desert-like." The administration has also slashed funding for federal agencies tasked with catching and prosecuting illegal farmers and loggers, who are responsible for around 90% of Amazon deforestation, according to Greenpeace Brazil.

The new Imazon data was released two days after the publication of a study in the journal Global Change Biology showing that the impact of Amazon deforestation on rainfall amounts can be up to four times greater than estimated by scientists. The researchers concluded that vegetation loss could result in a 55% to 70% reduction in annual precipitation.

This study's results "strongly indicated that current estimates of precipitation effects of land-cover changes in the Amazon are underestimated, affecting not just the Amazon basin itself but also the surrounding basins such as the La Plata and Orinoco basins," its researchers said.

Imazon says there are many things people can do to help combat Amazon deforestation, including eliminating or limiting beef consumption, buying wood products made from trees in replanted forests, and voting for politicians "who prioritize an environmental agenda" over economic development.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

To 'Step Back From the Edge of Recession,' UN Urges Central Banks to Stop Rate Hikes

The UNCTAD chief warns that "the current course of action is hurting the most vulnerable, especially in developing countries, and risks tipping the world into a global recession."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Their Greed Knows No Bounds': Analysis Shows Ongoing Price Gouging by Oil Giants

"Big Oil is boasting record profits and dragging their feet to pass any lower costs onto consumers in order to keep padding investors' pockets," said Accountable.US.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Doing This for My Son': UK Climate Activist Gives Interview While Handcuffed, Hauled Off by Cops

"The government's inaction on climate change is a death sentence to us all," the Just Stop Oil protester said.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Dr. Oz Is a Puppy Killer': Fetterman Campaign Responds to Reporting on Animal Testing

"This is who Dr. Oz is: unconscionable and a danger to others," said Fetterman's wife, activist Gisele Barreto Fetterman.

Julia Conley ·

'We Must Not Stand By': Amnesty Urges State Leaders to Ban Guns Near Polling Places

"Governors and secretaries of state must do everything in their power to ensure the safety of voters and poll workers this November."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo