Brazil deforestation and savannah
Flanking the Amazon rainforest, Cerrado is the world’s most biodiverse savannah and is integral to South America’s water security
. Deforestation of the carbon-critical Cerrado biome hit a six-year high, according to data released by the Brazilian national space research agency (Inpe
reported. In just 12 months through to July, deforestation and other clearing of native vegetation in the Cerrado rose by as much as 8%, denuding an area more than 10 times the size of New York City, it said.
Days after Inpe released deforestation data, the agency might have to end monitoring in the region citing budget cuts, a government researcher Claudio Almeida told Reuters
. According to Almeida, Inpe would no longer produce annual figures for Cerrado deforestation and while a “minimal team” would continue producing stats on Cerrado forest cover, it would run out of money in six months or less. The agency and the Brazilian government both declined to respond to Reuters. In the past, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro accused
Inpe of “lying” when it published satellite data demonstrating a dramatic rise in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.
A new investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation
found that Brazil’s charcoal industry, which supplies the country’s steel mills, harvests timber illegally from the endangered Cerrado. The wood fuel sector accounts for nearly 7% of all global emissions. Concurrently, Brazil is the world’s biggest producer of charcoal
. An industry association representing 85% of the country’s steel mill production told reporters that the charcoal its members use comes from commercial plantations or sustainable suppliers. It said it allows them to make “carbon-neutral steel”, offsetting steel produced from charcoal with forests planted by the mills. The story also reported the rise in forced labour linked to current high charcoal prices, with 40% more workers rescued at charcoal production sites than in 2020.
A fast-moving fire burned more than 6,000 hectares and destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Colorado at the end of December, Reuters
reported. It was the “most destructive wildfire” in state history in terms of property damage, and was “fuelled by an extreme set of atmospheric conditions, intensified by climate change and fanned by a violent windstorm”, the Washington Post
wrote. The Post further noted that the state’s typical fire season lasts from May until September. The Colorado Sun
wrote that the fire “represents a paradigm shift” in thinking about wildfire risk. Colorado State University
climatologist Dr Becky Bolinger
told the newspaper: “With climate change, these kinds of events will remain an ongoing issue”.
reported that more than 300,000 hectares of South American woodlands have been razed by wildfires since the new year, mostly in Argentinian Patagonia. Argentina’s environmental council has declared an “igneous emergency” in response. teleSUR also noted that while wildfires are “usually provoked by natural factors”, 95% of the recent set of fires were “due to human negligence”. Via Agencia EFE
, La Prensa Latina
reported that “strong, swirling winds increased the destructiveness of the blazes, which consumed a vast area rich in native flora and fauna”. Areas reforested with fast-growing northern pine trees have been quick to burn in recent fires, National Geographic
reported, due to the higher flammability of those trees.
Last year saw severe drought and massive heatwaves
across much of the western US. Summing up the 2021 US fire season, the Guardian
wrote that while the overall land area burned was smaller than in 2020, “a troubling new trend emerged: fires are getting harder to fight”. The paper noted that fire season is lasting longer into the year, “megablazes” are becoming more and more common and fires are burning “hotter and faster” than they used to. (For more on how climate change is increasing wildfire risk around the world, see Carbon Brief’s
explainer on the topic.) The New York Times
wrote about researchers studying how forest management methods can create different outcomes for wildfire-burned forests. While climate change plays a critical role in fuelling wildfires, the paper wrote, “many researchers say that more than a century of [forest] management policies…also contribute to the problem”.
England’s farmers will be paid by the government to rewild their lands as part of a new scheme under the post-Brexit Sustainable Farming Incentive
, the Guardian
reported. The estimated £800m subsidy rollout to replace the EU Common Agricultural Policy
hopes to “halt the decline in species” and “reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, while increasing woodland, improving water and air quality, said George Eustice, secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.
LAND COVER: The government opened bids for up to 15 pilot projects between 500 to 5,000 hectares, hoping to scale up to nearly 10,000 hectares in the scheme’s first two-year phase rollout. Projects could focus on full rewilding, species recovery or managing wildlife habitats, with a target to improve the status of nearly half of England’s most threatened species, the story said. By 2042, land equal to the size of Lancashire is expected to be covered under “landscape recovery” projects.
However, not everyone is a fan. Conservationists questioned whether these subsidies would be “enough to deliver” on the government’s ambitious climate targets. Meanwhile, tenant farmers pointed out that there was “no clear plan” for them to access these schemes, with details lacking nearly six years after the EU referendum. Meanwhile, the UK parliament’s public accounts committee has observed that this payment overhaul could cause “a big increase” in food prices, lead to shortages and was a plan based on “blind optimism” that could leave Britain reliant on imports in the middle of a cost of living crisis, the Daily Telegraph