Brazil has released its worst annual deforestation figures in a decade amid fears that the situation might worsen when the avowedly anti-environmentalist president-elect Jair Bolsonaro takes power.
Amazon Deforested
The Amazon, which is being deforested at an annual rate of some 52,000 square kilometers (20,000 square miles) -- an area the size of Costa Rica -- is vital to the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a check on global warming.
You would think that with all the warnings about deforestation and its impact on climate change, deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest would continue its decline.

Actually, it has gotten worse - much worse. In a report released by the Ministry of the Environment (MMA) and Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTIC) on Friday, about 7,900 square kilometers (3,050 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed between August 2017 and July 2018 - an area about five times the size of London.

This loss of the rainforest amounted to a 13.7 percent increase over the year before, based on satellite data. Environmental Minister Edson Duarte said illegal logging was to blame, adding that the loss of rainforest came about despite an increase in its budget and in operations carried out by its environment agency Ibama.

Rainforest in grave danger

Environmentalists and climate scientists are dismayed at the report and warned that deforestation will likely continue and even increase when Jair Bolsonaro becomes president on January 1, 2019.

"It is a lot of destroyed forest," said Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brasil's public policy coordinator. "The situation is very worrying... what is bad will get worse."

During his election campaign this year, Bolsonaro pledged to limit fines for damaging forestry and to weaken the influence of the environmental agency. And just recently, an aide to the president-elect announced Bolsonaro will merge the agriculture and environment ministries - a move that would be disastrous, say environmentalists.

Most of the deforestation occurred in the states of Mato Grosso and Pará. Mato Grosso is also Brazil's top grain producer and critics argue that expanding agriculture is infringing on the rainforest, according to the BBC.

Duarte blamed "an upsurge in organized crime" for the illegal deforestation, and said the country must broaden the fight against "environmental violations and in defense of sustainable development of the biome".
Deforestation Amazon
© CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture/flickr
Brazil's Amazon rainforest and deforestation.
Climate change a Marxist plot

Most of the millions of square miles of the Amazon Rainforest are inside Brazil - and contain plants and animals yet to be discovered. But Bolsonaro has great support from agribusiness. His Secretary of Agriculture will be Tereza Cristina, head of its Congress lobby.

While U.S. President Donald Trump blames climate change on a Chinese government plot, Bolsonaro's foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, has argued that global warming is a Marxist plot.

On Friday, vice-president elect, General Hamilton Mourão, while admitting global warming did exist, told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper: "Environmentalism is used as an instrument of domination by big economies."

"We are already in a very critical situation in terms of climate change," an environmental researcher tells National Geographic. "If we mess up with the Amazon, carbon dioxide emissions will increase so massively that everyone will suffer."