If damages to the Amazon Rainforest continue, parts of it will not be able to sustain themselves through rain
- Brazil may lose US$184 by 2050 if damages to the Amazon Rainforest continue
- These damages include deforestation for lumber and cattle ranching which snowball into much worse environmental destruction
The Brazil CCDR report by The World Bank notes that Brazil is “highly exposed” to the damages caused by climate change. However, most of Brazil’s energy comes from low-carbon or renewable sources. Green House Gas emissions in the country are dominated by agriculture and illegal activities in the rainforest caused by a weak government.
Illegal deforestation, expanding cattle pastures, and climate change are taking over the world’s largest rainforest. Evapotranspiration of water from the Amazon Basin (20 billion tonnes) into the atmosphere forms the “aerial rivers” which cause rainfall in the South American continent. This water cycle depends on the rainforest returning ~75% of the water it gets from rain back into the atmosphere.
Deforestation in the Amazon disrupts this process by reducing the amount of evapotranspiration that occurs. The lack of trees also translates into a lack of shade and soil protection, leading to increasing land surface temperatures, increasing rain runoff, and increased soil erosion. The soil erosion in the rainforest is especially harmful as the sediments pool into hydropower dams that the country needs for its energy.
A lack of rain in the rainforest could also see the end of multiple native ecosystems and lower the water supply, flood mitigation, biodiversity, and carbon storage of the Amazon rainforest. The economic impact of the Amazon Rainforest reaching its tipping point is projected to be about 10% of Brazil’s 2022 GDP which amounts to about US$184.1 billion.
Cattle ranching for the meat industry of Brazil and surrounding countries have also been affecting the rainforest for some years now. According to independent reports by The World Bank (2004) and Greenpeace (2009), cattle ranching is responsible for 80% of all deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest, or about 14% of worldwide annual deforestation.
Former President, Jair Bolsonaro’s administration did little to help the indigenous Amazonian communities who had their lands stolen and forests cut down for agriculture to support the massive beef and soya industry of Brazil. Bolsonaro instead weakened environmental laws, cut the funding of key government agencies, and fired the heads of the agency’s state bodies.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the indigenous communities, who were already at risk of the disease due to their culture of community living and lack of healthcare services, were endangered even further by smoke from the fires which ranchers set off to clear newly felled forests. COVID-19 saw a huge increase in deforestation. The National Institute for Space Research in Brazil noted a 50% increase within the first 3 months of 2020 compared to the first 3 months of 2019.
The current president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has recently taken some steps towards protecting the rainforest. Recognizing 6 new indigenous reserves which total about 1,200 square km of the Amazon Rainforest in an attempt to curb deforestation into indigenous lands. President Lula has also begun talks with The EU, The UK, and Japan over funds to protect the rainforest. The fund currently holds roughly US$740 million, with an additional US$500 million pledge from the White House which is seeking congressional approval.
Nearly 10% of all known species reside in this rainforest. 2.5 million insect species, 40,000 plant species, 2,200 fishes, 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians, and 378 reptiles have been scientifically classified in this region. The “lungs of our planet” are at risk from human activity, and only humans can stop it before it gets too late.