The Amazon suffered more than twice as much deforestation last month as it did in November 2018, a savage uptick which will bring Brazilian rainforest destruction in 2019 to an area nearly as large as Puerto Rico.
The country’s real-time deforestation service DETER (Detecção de Desmatamento em Tempo Real), which relies on Sino-Brazilian satellite data and is run by the Brazilian Ministry for Science and Technology’s Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), found that the “destruction of the world’s largest tropical rainforest totalled 563 square kilometres in November, which is more than double the area in the same month last year,” Reuters reports, in a story published by The Guardian.
The massive increase is particularly notable as “deforestation usually slows around November and December during the Amazon region’s rainy season,” the news agency writes. It’s being blamed on President Jair Bolsonaro, with scientists and environmentalists alike calling the climate denier out for encouraging ranchers and loggers with talk about “developing” the Amazon, while weakening IBAMA, Brazil’s environment agency.
Bolsonaro and Environment Minister Ricardo Salles have rejected the accusations, punting blame back to previous administrations and noting that “budget cuts at agencies like IBAMA were in place well before the new government took office on 1 January.”
While noting that the DETER system does not generate official deforestation data, Reuters appears to use the system’s output, asserting that the November results “would bring total deforestation for the period from January to November to 8,934 square kilometres, 83% more than in the same period in 2018, an area almost the size of Puerto Rico.” (Mongabay News noted In July that “monthly DETER alerts are not meant to be used as exacting measures of deforestation rates compared year to year, but rather the statistics aim to support surveillance and enforcement, as they provide information about areas undergoing deforestation that need to be prioritized for protection in real time.”)
Brazil’s official PRODES monitoring system puts the annual loss at 9,762 square kilometres, a 30% increase over 2018, Reuters says.