Brazil Announces 45 Percent Drop in Amazon Deforestation in November

Aerial view of a deforested area in the municipality of Melgaco, Para State, Brazil, on Ju
TARSO SARRAF/AFP via Getty Images

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest dropped by 45 percent in November, marking the third consecutive month it has decreased, according to the latest data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

In a statement released Wednesday, the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C., cited the findings of the INPE, which also found there was an accumulated reduction between August and November of 19 percent. The 45-percent figure compares deforestation in November 2020 to October 2020, rather than year-on-year monthly comparisons.

The institute recorded particular declines in deforestation within areas known to be “hotspots.” In the Amazon biome, deforestation fell by 44 percent and in the Cerrado, Brazil’s savanna, it fell by nine percent. Both of these figures are lower than the yearly average for that time of year.

According to the embassy, the data was compiled by “analysts from 11 government agencies gathered at the Management and Operational Center of the Amazon Protection System (Censipam), a branch of the Ministry of Defense.”

“Within Censipam, specialists compile and verify information available in the databases of environmental protection agencies and law enforcement agencies,” the embassy noted. “Gipam produces reports that show details of where deforestation and illegal mining occur. With these reports in hand, the Operation Green Brazil commanding center and the environmental agencies plan the actions of the Armed Forces and inspection teams.”

“The Gipam work has shown good results, which are noticeable month after month. From a methodology that collects the information available in every agency, we issue an interdisciplinary report, which highlights areas for more efficient action,” explained Rafael Pinto Costa, Director General of Censipam.

The data runs counter to the narrative that Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has aggressively increased deforestation in the Amazon since taking office at the beginning of 2019. A right-wing conservative who prioritizes security and economic growth, Bolsonaro has repeatedly advocated developing parts of the Amazon, much to the dismay of environmental campaigners.

Amid an uptick in forest fires last year, Bolsonaro signed a decree banning the setting of fires to clear land for farmers and other economic activities for eight weeks. The move followed criticism from dozens of countries about his handling of the situation. Bolsonaro accused non-governmental organizations and environmental campaigners such as actor Leonardo DiCaprio of personally funding the fires in an attempt to undermine his administration.

DiCaprio and many other celebrities were themselves guilty of spreading false information about the fire on social media. Figures including Madonna, Cristiano Ronaldo, and French President Emmanuel Macron were all found to have shared images that were in some cases more than 30 years old or taken in other countries.

Back in March, Agence France Press (AFP) claimed the Amazon was “approaching a point of no return under the effect of climate change and could turn into an arid desert within half a century.” According to the study in Nature Communications cited by the agency, the Amazon will arrive at a tipping point once 35 percent of its surface forestation is lost.

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