Brazil sees record Amazon deforestation in first half of 2022text_fields
Brazil's Amazon rainforest has been deforested by a record amount in the first half of 2022, according to the country's Space Research Institute (INPE).
Data from INPE satellites shows that 3,750 square kilometers (1,448 square miles) of the world´s largest rainforest were lost in Brazil between January 1 and June 24, the largest area since 2016, when the institute began this type of monitoring.
That's an increase of 10.6% from the same months last year and the highest level for that period since the agency began compiling its current DETER-B data series in mid-2015.
Destruction rose 5.5% in June to 1,120 square km, also a record for that month of the year.
The Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, contains vast amounts of carbon, which is released as trees are destroyed, warming the atmosphere and driving climate change.
This year's rising deforestation is also feeding unusually high levels of fire, which are likely to worsen in the months ahead, said Manoela Machado, a wildfire and deforestation researcher at Woodwell Climate Research Center and University of Oxford.
Brazil recorded the highest number of fires in the Amazon for the month of June in 15 years, although those blazes are a small fraction of what is usually seen when fires peak in August and September, according to Inpe data.
Generally, after loggers extract valuable wood, ranchers and land grabbers set fires to clear the land for agriculture.
"If we have high deforestation numbers, it's inevitable that we're going to have high fire numbers as well," Machado said.
Experts in Brazil blame right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro for rolling back environmental protections and emboldening loggers, ranchers and land speculators who clear public land for profit.
Bolsonaro's office directed request for comment to the Environment Ministry, which said the government has been "extremely forceful" in fighting environmental crimes.
The ministry said that considering the 12 months through June, Inpe's data showed deforestation declined 3.8% from the same period a year earlier.