Brazil following US in rolling back climate protections

GR: It is not good to see Trump’s Paris retreat mentioned in stories of other countries rolling back their climate commitments. It is especially disappointing to see Brazil making so many backward moves. Politics, greed, and corruption are once again attacking the Amazon. Anteaters, Capybaras, Parrots, and all the rest are losing their homes.

“Brazil is considering measures that would roll back environmental protections and make it difficult to meet its Paris climate accord targets.

“The move would see the country step back from its global leadership on climate change just as the United States is also retreating.

“Congress has already passed two measures that will dramatically reduce the size of protected environmental reserves. Lawmakers are also considering substantially relaxing environmental licensing rules for infrastructure, agricultural and industrial projects. A proposal that would change how indigenous lands are designated, potentially reducing their size and protection, is also on the table.

“This comes at a time when the Amazon and Atlantic rain forests are being cut at the fastest rate in nearly a decade, and the violent struggle for control of forested land is on the rise. “Brazil is throwing aside the opportunity to be a leader on these questions,” said Marcio Astrini, co-ordinator of public policy for Greenpeace in Brazil. “It’s very hard for someone to manage to be worse than (US President Donald) Trump on the environment, but the Brazilian government is working very hard” to do that, he added.

“Brazil was long seen as a global leader on environmental issues. As the major steward of the Amazon rain forest, its policies have a tremendous effect on global rates of carbon emissions reduction. In conjunction with Mr Trump’s recent decision to pull the US out of the Paris agreement, Brazil’s move away from environmental regulation could jeopardise global goals. The moves come amid political turmoil in Latin America’s largest nation. President Michel Temer is struggling to stay in office amid corruption allegations and threats of impeachment or removal by an electoral court. Amid the turmoil, he is trying to pass unpopular reforms he says are essential to helping Brazil’s economy shrug off a two-year recession.

“Mr Temer has agreed to back a series of measures promoted by Congress’ so-called “rural caucus” – a group of lawmakers representing the interests of rural landowners, including agribusiness and ranchers – in exchange for help passing his own agenda, and hopefully avoiding impeachment.

“This government is using the environmental agenda as currency,” Mr Astrini said.

“In April, a week-long protest outside Congress by indigenous groups who say Mr Temer is reducing protections on their lands and allowing land-grabs by farmers and ranchers illustrated the debate. When police fired tear gas at the protesters, they responded with spears and arrows.

“Last month, Congress passed two measures that convert around 1.4 million acres of protected land, the vast majority of it in the Amazon, into areas open to logging, mining and agricultural use.” –AP (Brazil considers following US in rolling back climate protections | BreakingNews.ie).

Wild Amazon Faces Destruction as Brazil’s Farmers and Loggers Target National Park

Cattle graze beside the tree stumps that are all that is left of cleared Amazon forest inside the Sierra Ricardo Franco state park. Photograph: Jonathan Watts for the Observer

GR:  A few years back, Brazil finally realized that cutting down the Amazon rainforest was causing drought, something that Alexander Von Humboldt had described two centuries ago. The country made an effort to preserve its forest. Then we saw oil prices fall, rampant corruption exposed, and the wealthy had to shift their hungry eyes. The oligarchs replaced conservation sentiments with the old standby, harvest and sell natural resources. In Brazil’s case, this has often been irreversible logging or simply clearing for pasture of the ancient rainforest. The loss of indigenous and migratory wildlife is a sad example of how human greed is destroying the natural world.

I used Google Earth’s history function to show the forest’s destruction in around the Serra Ricardo Franco state park. You can see that destruction accelerated after 1993. It slowed between 2003 and 2013, but that’s because not much was left. Nevertheless, efforts are underway today to harvest the remnants.

Google Earth 12-30-1984.

Google Earth 12-30-1993.

Google Earth 12-30-2003.

Google Earth 12-30-2013

The excellent article below describes what’s happening now to the Amazon Rainforest.

“Today, orange dirt roads, cut into the forest by illegal loggers, lead you to the north-western flank of the elevated hilltop. Now called the Serra Ricardo Franco state park, this is nominally a conservation area set up with support from the World Bank. Instead of forest, however, you find swaths of land invaded by farmers, stripped of trees, and turned over to pasture for 240,000 cows. There are even private airfields inside the park’s boundaries, which exist on maps only.

“Far from being an isolated area where a wanderer might starve, this is now – despite its dubious legal status – one of the world’s great centres of food production. In recent months, it has also emerged as a symbol of the resurgent influence of a landowning class in Brazil who, even more than in the US under Donald Trump, are cashing in on the destruction of the wild.

“Locals say a member of President Michel Temer’s cabinet – chief of staff Eliseu Padilha – owns ranches here on hillsides stripped of forest in a supposedly protected park. The municipal ombudsmen told the Observer the cattle raised here are then sold – in contravention of pledges to prosecutors and international consumers – to JBS, the world’s biggest meat-packing company, which is at the centre of a huge bribery scandal.

“These allegations are denied by farmers but there is no doubt the government is easing controls as it opens up more land for ranches, dams, roads and soy fields to meet the growing appetite of China. Last year, Brazil reported an alarming 29% increase of deforestation, raising doubts that the country will be able to meet its global commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Rather than an aberration, this appears to mark a return to historical norms for a country that has been built on 500 years of land seizures that were later legalised by the politicians who benefited from them.

“The concurrent erosion of legal authority and natural habitat can be seen in many Brazilian states: the newest soy frontiers of Maranhão, Tocantins and Bahia; the hydropower heartland of Pará and the wild west mining and logging regions of Rondônia and Acre. But it is in Mato Grosso that the political forces behind deforestation – associated with corruption, violence, weak regulation and deliberate obfuscation of land ownership – reveal themselves most clearly.” –Jonathan Watts (Continue: Wild Amazon faces destruction as Brazil’s farmers and loggers target national park | World news | The Guardian.)

The endangered Tatu-bola Armadillo, the mascot of the 2014 World Cup is disappearing along with many other inhabitants of the forest (belizar73/Getty Images/iStockphoto).

How a Warming Planet Drives Human Migration

GR:  Thoughts on Climate Change

The climate news today (and really every day now) is not good. The Times article below focuses on just one of the bad bits. Global warming and consequent shifts in weather patterns are stressing everyone, but especially those people living in equatorial regions. Droughts, fires, and floods are becoming intolerable. The emerging climate-change-driven diaspora will carry the stress north and south into temperate latitudes. Projections made by many scientists in the U. S., European Union, and Asia portray a dismal future for Earth and humanity.

A Glimpse of Future Earth

Climate-change emigrants and their descendents moving north will not escape the ravages of a warming planet for very long. Stresses in northern latitudes have already begun. As the human population squeezes north to find food and water, resources will dwindle and conflicts will intensify. Nature in even the diminished form that we see now will sink toward unsustainable levels where wild plants and animals, then watersheds, then soils, and then fresh water are lost.

As I look out across my fields of invasive weeds and my ponds and small stream choked with artificially fertilized algae and filled with invasive animals, I remember the sunflowered fields and sparkling creek of my history. As the pace of climate change accelerates, “the good old days” will become a meaningful phrase for younger and younger people facing a constant need to adapt to more difficult times.

Want to keep up with the changes? The Daily Climate carries the best selection of current stories I’ve found. The Daily Climate included a link to the story below along with dozens of others. (Header image:  A farmer tries to revive his unconscious cow. Photo by CNN.)

Illustration by La Tigre.

“Climate change is not equal across the globe, and neither are its longer term consequences. This map overlays human turmoil — represented here by United Nations data on nearly 64 million “persons of concern,” whose numbers have tripled since 2005 — with climate turmoil, represented by data from NASA’s Common Sense Climate Index. The correlation is striking. Climate change is a threat multiplier: It contributes to economic and political instability and also worsens the effects. It propels sudden-onset disasters like floods and storms and slow-onset disasters like drought and desertification; those disasters contribute to failed crops, famine and overcrowded urban centers; those crises inflame political unrest and worsen the impacts of war, which leads to even more displacement. There is no internationally recognized legal definition for “environmental migrants” or “climate refugees,” so there is no formal reckoning of how many have left their homes because climate change has made their lives or livelihoods untenable. In a 2010 Gallup World Poll, though, about 12 percent of respondents — representing a total of 500 million adults — said severe environmental problems would require them to move within the next five years.

  1. ‘Amazon Basin: As glacial melting reduces freshwater reserves for the Andean plain, tensions are growing between locals and the mining and agribusiness operations that consume much of what remains. Researchers predict that this resource conflict will drive more migrants to the Amazon Basin where many have already turned to informal mining and coca cultivation, fueling the rise of criminal syndicates.

  2. “Lake Chad, 3. Syria, 4. China, 5. Philippines” –Jessica Benko (New York Times: Continue reading.)

Brazil halves environment budget amid rising Amazon deforestation | Climate Home – climate change news

GR: Of today’s 12 lead stories in my climate newsletter, The Atmosphere News, 3 stories were either optimistic or neutral and 9 were pessimistic or bad. The ‘bad’ story below is worth noting because of the years of back-and-forth over Amazon rainforest protection. I think it illustrates what happens to nature when human problems arise. Nature may “bat last,” but it gets that last-word only after a long string of strikeouts.

Environmental budget cuts come as pressure to convert the rainforest into pasture is intensifying (Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT)

In a bid to contain a growing budget deficit, the government has slashed the funding to enforce forest protection laws

“The Brazilian government is cutting its environment ministry budget by 51% as part of a bid to limit the country’s spiralling deficit.

“The cuts come as deforestation rates are rising, driven by demand for timber, soy and beef. The Amazon region saw a 29% increase in forest clearance last year, according to preliminary data from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute.

“It is an even steeper drop in spending than the 31% Donald Trump’s administration is proposing for the US Environmental Protection Agency.

“The environment ministry oversees the agency responsible for enforcing laws to protect the forest. Sharp spending cuts risk weakening its capacity to carry out inspections, warned NGO Observatorio do Clima.

“Other ministries hit by the austerity drive include transport, tourism and planning, budget and management. Certain programmes have been protected under the government’s “growth acceleration programme”.

“The move comes among reports that Brazilian government environment and land policy is being swayed by a dominant pro-beef caucus.” –Megan Darby (Continue: Brazil halves environment budget amid rising Amazon deforestation | Climate Home – climate change news.)