Amazon deforestation in the past 9 months, the wet season, has already exceeded last year's destruction, despoiling an area larger than Delaware. With cloud cover now clearing more deforestation will be revealed and the fire season will begin. The Brazilian government has proven impotent to stop rainforest destruction in the face of spiraling food prices.
Brazil's DETER real-time monitoring system found that more than 430 square miles of forest, an area a bit smaller than the city of Los Angeles, vanished in the month of April, while about 2,300 square miles, larger than the state of Delaware, were destroyed between last August and April.
Deforestation releases massive amounts of CO2, increasing global warming, drought and climate change.
Brazil's efforts to protect the Amazon have failed as ranchers have cut hundreds of square miles of forest for cattle and farmers have opened up fields for soybean production. Skyrocketing grain prices, driven up by drought and biofuels production have encouraged development of the Amazon. Corn-based ethanol production in the United States is inadvertently contributing to the destruction of the Amazon by diverting soybean producing land to corn production.
A spiral of climate change induced drought driving deforestation, causing more warming and drought, may be beginning.
The Amazon's dry season, when farmers do most of their burning and clearing, starts this month. That means the 12-month total ending in August will surely climb, said Marcelo Marquesini, a Brazil-based forests expert with the international environmental group Greenpeace.
Marquesini said that rising prices for soybeans, beef and other commodities are pushing farmers to clear more land in the sprawling rainforest, which is about the size of the western United States.
Brazil had made progress, reducing deforestation by half, for the 3 years up to July 2007, but environmental laws and forest reserves have proven unenforceable as food prices have skyrocketed. Increased food production is a rational response to food shortages, but deforestation will only make food supply worse over the long run because climate change is reducing global water supplies for agriculture.
This deforestation crisis in the Amazon has roots in the failed energy and agriculture policies in the United States which have contributed to rapid global fuel and food price increases. Brazil cannot successfully protect the Amazon rain forest in the absence of an effective global effort to stop global warming and increase the efficiency of transportation fuel use. We cannot divert crop land to biofuel production without suffering disastrous consequences. Corn-based ethanol in the U.S. is killing the Amazon.