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Trump’s Trade War Was Bad Enough for Brazil’s Amazon. Then Came Bolsonaro (World Politics Review)

November 6, 2018

By Kimberly Ann Elliott

From the article:

From 2004 to 2012, the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon dropped more than 80 percent, even as Brazil’s agricultural production continued to grow. But that progress in protecting a fragile and essential ecosystem reversed in recent years, before the outlook got even worse.

First, U.S. President Donald Trump launched a trade war with China, shifting more Chinese demand for soybean products from the United States to Brazil, potentially leading to more deforestation to meet the demands of Brazilian agriculture. Then, last month Brazilians elected the far-right Jair Bolsonaro as president, a major supporter of agribusiness who has vowed to put economic growth over environmental protection. That combination could mean a surge in deforestation in the Amazon with serious implications not just for the Brazilians most directly affected, but for the wider world.

The Amazon basin is home to the world’s largest rainforest. Its trees release carbon dioxide when cut down or burned, and sequester it when planted or left in place. The pace of deforestation, especially in tropical areas like Brazil, has become a major contributor to climate change, as large in the aggregate as the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions. Reversing those trends could reduce global emissions by even more—as much as 30 percent according to some estimates. Rainforests like the Amazon’s are also important for global biodiversity and local resilience. In addition to the ecological benefits it provides, biodiversity creates economic opportunities through eco-tourism and sources of new pharmaceutical products. Forests also contribute to localized amenities, such as clean water and protection from climate-related disasters that include flooding and mudslides, as well as drought. Reducing tropical deforestation could stem the temperature rise due to greenhouse gas emissions faster and more cost-effectively than other options, according to researchers at the Center for Global Development.

Read the full article here.


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