Last Updated on August 27, 2023 by Robert C. Hoopes
Increased carbon emissions from the Amazon rainforest have been linked to weak law enforcement, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Nature. The study, titled “Increased Amazon carbon emissions mainly from decline in law enforcement,” involved a team of international scientists, including Professor Emanuel Gloor from the University of Leeds.
The research reveals that emissions from the Amazon saw a significant increase in 2019 and 2020, coinciding with a rise in large-scale, illegal deforestation. During the same period, fines paid for environmental crimes decreased by almost 90%. This decline in law enforcement has had negative effects on the Amazon forests and has contributed to increased atmospheric CO2.
The Amazon rainforest plays a vital role in the world’s ecosystem, as it is responsible for storing a staggering 90 billion tonnes of carbon. It represents 50% of the world’s remaining tropical rainforest. However, environmental regulations were rolled back by President Jair Bolsonaro’s government when he took office in 2019. This led to a surge in deforestation and devastating fires.
Deforestation in the Amazon saw an 82% increase in 2019 and a further 77% increase in 2020, compared to the average levels recorded from 2010 to 2018. The area of land burned for farming and cattle grazing also expanded during this period. Alarmingly, the number of infringements of laws designed to protect the rainforest decreased by 30% in 2019 and a staggering 54% in 2020, resulting in significantly fewer fines being paid.
The lack of law enforcement had its most significant impact in municipalities where logging was already prevalent. The inspection strategy, which focused on the areas at the highest risk, was removed by the Brazilian federal government. As a result, these areas saw the largest increases in deforestation.
The consequences of deforestation in the Amazon are far-reaching. It impacts local temperatures, making the dry season longer, hotter, and drier, thereby increasing the risk of devastating fires. Additionally, the regional effects of deforestation contribute to global warming and reinforce heating across the Amazon.
The total amount of carbon emitted from the Amazon in 2019 and 2020 is comparable to the impact of the record-breaking El Niño weather event that occurred from 2015 to 2016. This further highlights the urgent need for stronger law enforcement to protect the Amazon rainforest and mitigate the consequences of climate change.
The research involved collaboration between scientists from universities in the UK, Brazil, the United States, and New Zealand, as well as Brazilian and US space and atmospheric agencies. It represents a call to action for governments and organizations worldwide to prioritize the protection of the Amazon and implement stricter measures against illegal deforestation.