Dams could permanently damage Amazon

GR: Deforestation on the land and dams on the river are eating away at the Amazon rainforest ecosystem.

EDGARGO LATRUBESSE Image caption The Amazon basin is the largest and most complex river system in the world (Edgargo Latrubesse)

Dams Threaten Amazon Ecosystem

“The Amazon basin could suffer significant and irreversible damage if an extensive dam building programme goes ahead, scientists say. Currently, 428 hydroelectric dams are planned, with 140 already built or under construction. Researchers warn that this could affect the dynamics of the complex river system and put thousands of unique species at risk. The study is published in the journal Nature.

“The world is going to lose the most diverse wetland on the planet,” said lead author Prof Edgargo Latrubesse, from the University of Texas at Austin, US.

Cascading problems for the Amazon

The Amazon basin covers more than 6.1 million sq km, and is the largest and most complex river system on the planet. It has become a key area for hydroelectric dam construction. But this study suggests that the push for renewable energy along the Amazon’s waterways could lead to profound problems. The international team of researchers who carried out the research is particularly concerned about any disruption to the natural movement of sediment in the rivers. This sediment provides a vital source of nutrients for wildlife in the Amazon’s wetlands. It also affects the way the waterways meander and flow. –Rebecca Morelle (Dams could ‘permanently damage Amazon’ – BBC News).

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).

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.)

Deforestation spikes in Brazilian Amazon

GR:  Growing global inequity is fueling resentment and despair. As inequity and the human population grow, resources decline, poverty spreads, and criminal destruction and harvest of wild plants and animals may increase.

“In the Amazon, Illegal land clearing hits highest levels since 2008 as environmental policies come under attack.”

People burn parts of the Amazon to make way for farms or ranches.

“Illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has spiked since 2015, bringing the rate to its highest level in 8 years. The finding has raised fears that the country could lose a decade’s worth of progress in forest protection.

“In an analysis of satellite data released on 29 November, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) in São José dos Campos estimates that 7,989 square kilometres of land — nearly the size of Puerto Rico — was cleared between August 2015 and July 2016. The total was 29% above the previous year and 75% above the 2012 level, when deforestation hit a historic low of 4,571 square kilometres (see ‘Going up’).

“The current trends illustrate a growing sense of impunity as well as betrayal among landowners who have yet to benefit from the sustainable-development agenda, says Daniel Nepstad, a tropical ecologist who heads the Earth Innovation Institute, an environmental organization in San Francisco, California. “There’s been a lot of talk about improving the lives and the bottom lines of farmers and ranchers if they stop clearing the forest,” Nepstad says, “and they are still waiting.” –Jeff Tollefson  (Continue reading:  Deforestation spikes in Brazilian Amazon : Nature News & Comment)