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Deforestation

Deforestation In The Amazon Is At A 12-Year High 

Between August 2019 and July 2020 the Brazilian Amazon experienced a 12-year high in deforestation rates, according to the nation’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). During that one-year time period, 6,890 square miles of forest were completely destroyed, along with the thousands of wildlife habitats within them. 

The destruction that occurred within this year is 9.5% greater than the previous year-long period, and is the highest level of destruction the Amazon has endured since 2008, according to the INPE, who recently spoke at a news conference to discuss this major issue. 

In general, deforestation rates have skyrocketed in Brazil since current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office back in January 2019. Bolsonaro has highly encouraged the commercial development of the Amazon and has defunded numerous agencies that are responsible for preventing illegal logging, ranching, and mining within the rainforest. 

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Fires are often lit in the Amazon on purpose to clear vegetation from parts of the forest to make room for these illegal ranches. The surrounding forest area is typically already destroyed due to deforestation as well. Environmentalists have been outspoken about their disapproval of Bolsonaro and his policies that promote illegal logging and development in the Amazon. 

Back in August Bolsonaro was called out for referring to official data and news reports regarding fires in the Amazon “a lie.” Back in 2019 the president was faced with a threat from 34 international investors who all threatened to divest from Brazilian companies unless Bolsonaro made a genuine effort to slow the destruction of the forest as well as the illegal fires and ranching. 

While his government did take steps to curb that destruction by periodically banning fires and allocating military personnel to control them, the new data shows the opposite. NGO Greenpeace is an environmental group that’s been documenting the destruction of the Amazon throughout the past year.

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NGO released photos from a flyover operation they completed in August. The images showed the southern portion of the forest located in Rondônia which included protected areas where commercial development and exploitation is prohibited, however, the images clearly showed the areas engulfed in flames and smoke. 

Back in September current president-elect Joe Biden even brought up the deforestation issue in the Amazon during a debate, claiming that the “rainforests in Brazil are being torn down but [he would] make sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20 billion to say ‘here’s $20 billion, stop tearing down the forest and if you don’t, you are going to have significant economic consequences.’”

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and is now an integral player in the fight against global climate change. When the rainforest is healthy and thriving, it’s able to pull billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and thus defend the planet from further climate destruction. 

It’s also a biodiversity hotspot and home to numerous species, and according to NGO South America’s Pantanal region has been hit by the worst wildfires in decades. The fires have now consumed over 28% of the area, meaning the area that is typically responsible for absorbing carbon dioxide and maintaining a healthy ecosystem for the forest is struggling for survival now.

Surfer at Beach

How Climate Change is Affecting the Australian Summer

The Australian summer is something that many around the world long to experience. Who would not want to spend the long warm days on the beach, surfing some of the world’s greatest waves while soaking up some sun? Or maybe staying at home and lounging around the pool in the backyard, inviting friends and family over for a barbecue. Such thoughts bring feelings of happiness and relaxation.

But the summer of the last few years has brought another feeling to the mix: fear. Due to the increasing number of bushfires – many close to homes, businesses, retailers and schools – residents, and therefore vacationers and tourists, are increasingly worrying about the threat of damage to their properties and lives.

2019 has seen higher numbers of bush fires than in previous years, with much of the country now living with a haze of smoke even if they are not directly affected by the fires. This last week has seen the town of Batemans Bay in New South Wales having to evacuate to the beach while the fires rip through their homes while many campgrounds around the continent have closed for the summer due to the “code red” conditions.

Australia – as well as many other countries across the world – has seen its summers increase in temperatures over the years, however the link between the current conditions as well as anthropogenic climate change is immense.

So far over 5 million hectares of land have been lost. Compare this to the estimated 906,000 hectares that were lost in the Amazon Rainforest earlier in the year. It is staggering that there has not been more coverage – or more help provided from the rest of the world.

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And it is not just land that has been devastated. So far there have been eighteen deaths, including firefighters, as well as the enormous amount of wildlife that has been lost. Figures currently estimate there have been around 500 million animals that have died with 30 percent of the koala population wiped out.

Australia sees higher temperatures in January and February, so these statistics are only going to get worse causing many to call on the government for more support.

However, while Australia sees bushfires every year making it the continent most likely to burn, what has made this year so bad? As with all fires, bushfires need specific resources to grow – dry fuel, weather conditions and ignition. And thanks to the effects climate change is having on the weather and fuel, the fires are becoming bigger and occur more often and for longer.

Scientists have been warning us that the world is getting warmer each year, with Australia increasing in temperature by one degree Celsius throughout the last 100 years, and this has caused a change in the intensity, as well as the frequency, of their heat waves.

The increase in the temperatures has caused an increase in evaporation, drying the fuel and soil load. Over ten years ago the IPCC – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – came to the conclusion that the continuing anthropogenic climate change would increase how often Australia would experience fires. They also predicted that these fires would increase in intensity.

With the rising temperatures continuing to dry out the environment, they can be reduced by precipitation or by increasing the vegetation, which can improve humidity.

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However Australia’s southern states have seen a considerable decrease in rainfall, with the southwest seeing a decrease of nearly twenty per cent in the last forty years. The southeast has also seen a decrease of eleven percent of rainfall since the 1990s.

While there are many factors contributing to the drop in rainfall the positive trend in the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) is one of the biggest. The change has seen the westerly winds across the Southern Ocean to move south towards Antarctica, meaning the rain-bearing cold fronts are bypassing southern Australia.

Scientists have also blamed the trend of anthropogenic climate change for increasing the trend in the SAM.

These changes have played a significant role in why the 2019-2020 summer has been so intense, however southeast Australia has been suffering from a drought for the last three years having not seen any winter rain since 2017, which has not happened in Australia’s history before – not even when they experienced their ten year droughts including the Millennium Drought.

And with large areas of vegetation unable to survive the wet rain forests are drying out, meaning areas that would not normally see fires are starting to burn.

This year also saw one of the most severe positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) events which saw the cold sea-surface temperatures putting a halt to one of the biggest resources of moisture for Australia. When these events happen Australia usually experiences a longer fire season and the positive IOD events are another aspect of global warming as they are occurring more often.

With many Australians accusing their government of not doing enough to stop climate change – and many not even acknowledging that it is an issue – it is hard to see that these fires will start to reduce. And that is not good for anyone anywhere.