According to alarming new data from the Brazilian government, deforestation in the Amazon region rose to an all-time high last month.
The amount of forest removed was almost double compared to April last year, it turned out.
Environmentalists claimed that deforestation had become “institutionalized” in the country that contains much of the world’s largest tropical rainforest and pointed the finger at the Brazilian president for the record levels.
According to data from the national space research agency Inpe, which has been reporting monthly figures since 2015/2016, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon totaled 1,012.5 square kilometers, excluding the last day of April.
The data for April 30 will be released next week. But the numbers already show that deforestation is at the highest level recorded for April.
It comes after records were also broken in January and February of this year.
“The April issue is very scary. Because of the rain, it is traditionally a month with less deforestation,” says Suely Araujo of Climate Observatory.
Marcio Astrini, the head of the same Brazilian environmental advocacy group, said: “The cause of this record has a first and last name: Jair Messias Bolsonaro.”
Amazon deforestation has accelerated since the right-wing president took office three years ago, weakening environmental protections.
He argues that more agriculture and mining in the rainforest – which is a major carbon sink and one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world – will help reduce poverty.
But the Amazon is one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world, as well as a huge carbon sink believed to be key to fighting the climate crisis.
Trees, especially in old-growth forests, play an important role in removing the planet-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Bill McGuire, a professor of climate risk at University College London, said the level of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon was “terrible news” last month.
“Saying we’ll miss it when it’s gone is like saying we’ll miss our lungs when it’s gone,” he tweeted.
Ane Alencar, scientific director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), said the amount of rainforest being cleared was “absurd”.
“It seems that forest clearing in the country has been institutionalized as commonplace, with record after record,” she said.
Researchers have also found that the Amazon rainforest is losing its ability to bounce back from extreme events, raising concerns that it is hurtling toward a “tipping point.”
Scientists fear that this could cause a massive death of trees and turn the forest into a savanna.
The Brazilian government said it is making great efforts to fight environmental crimes and authorities are working together to fight deforestation in five Amazon states.
Additional reporting by agencies