Bolsonaro’s re-election could lead to deforestation of more than 27,000 km2 in 2026

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The re-election of Jair Bolsonaro (PL) could cause deforestation in the Amazon to return, in the next four years, to the worst levels observed since the beginning of monitoring, in 1988. If the same policies adopted in the first term are maintained, the expectation is that the devastation of the forest can overcome the barrier of 20 thousand kmtwo already in 2024, something that has not happened since 2005.

The calculation was made, at the request of the Sheet, by a group of researchers led by Gilberto Câmara, former director of Inpe (National Institute for Space Research). They considered the advance of deforestation in the Amazon in the first three years of the Bolsonaro government, the way the government has handled the issue so far, in addition to the expectation of pressure to open new areas.

When Bolsonaro took office in 2019, the annual deforestation rate measured by Inpe’s Prodes system was around 7,500 km.two. This was the value observed from August 2017 to July 2018.

At the next rate — from August 2018 to July 2019 — deforestation jumped to 10,129 kmtwo (34% increase). There were three consecutive increases and, in 2021, the rate reached 13 thousand kmtwothe highest value since 2006. The average increase in the period was 20% per year.

Data for 2022, scheduled for November, have not yet been released. But the estimate of the team and some other researchers in the country who work with monitoring what happens in the Amazon is that there will be another increase, reaching 15 thousand kmtwo.

“The Bolsonaro government dismantled the main environmental inspection bodies, reduced Inpe’s budget to 20% of what the institute received in 2010, in addition to dismissing its director. [Ricardo Galvão, em 2019]. Compliance with the provisions of the Forest Code has been postponed”, wrote Câmara in a technical note released in preprint format, still without review by other scientists.

“Between 2016 and 2021, there was a 40% drop in Ibama’s infraction notices in the Amazon. The embargo on deforested areas fell by 85% in 2020 compared to 2018. In 2021, Ibama only paid 41% of its budget. It supported projects of laws that reduce environmental protection, such as bill 191/20, which allows mining in indigenous lands”, he adds.

In the researcher’s view, “the current government has signaled to the deforesters that the government would not act to curb their action”.

“It started to openly encourage the occupation of indigenous lands and the illegal occupation of public lands not destined. The settlements and properties of family agriculture in these regions are being occupied by a violent speculative movement, with new deforestation for livestock and grains. As a result, deforestation in the Amazon has grown significantly again”, says Câmara.

Given the absence of signs that this policy could change in an eventual second term, the researchers worked with an estimate of linear growth in deforestation, similar to what has occurred in the last three years, between 15% and 20% per year.

In addition to numerical modeling, the scientists estimated a spatial distribution of this deforestation — that is, where it should occur (see maps below).

In this scenario, the rate at the end of the second term, in 2026, could exceed 27,000 km.twoequivalent to the area of ​​the state of Alagoas, or 18 times that of the city of São Paulo.

This was the value observed in 2004, the second worst in the historical series, at the beginning of Lula’s first term. That same year, the PT government put into action a plan to combat deforestation, the PPCDAm, which dropped rates in subsequent years, until reaching the lowest ever recorded, in 2012, of 4,600 km.two —an 83% reduction.

“All the enormous effort made by Brazil to protect the forest made between 2004 and 2014 will have been annulled”, analyzes Câmara.

In an effort to imagine where this growth could occur, the researchers also made a simulation in the dynamic spatial modeling system LuccME/TerraME, developed by Inpe, which allows to project how this potential deforestation can be distributed on the map. The system considers biophysical and socioeconomic data — for example, pressures for new land openings for agriculture, proximity to already deforested areas, as well as roads and logging centers.

The map generated for the year 2026 shows the intensification of a process that has been gaining strength in the last two years: deforestation in the region known as Amacro (on the border between southern Amazonas, eastern Acre and northeast Rondônia).

Since 2021 the chainsaw has been advancing in this region, both due to the influence of the expected paving of the BR-319, which connects Porto Velho to Manaus, and due to the advance of the agribusiness frontier.

“In the last five years, this region concentrated 77% of deforestation in Rondônia, 63% of cuts in Acre and 82% of cuts in Amazonas. The state is now the second in terms of deforestation. This region, relatively preserved until the mid-2010s , is now under the control of organized squatters, who occupy public lands that are not destined without any control by the Brazilian State”, says Câmara.

“If the occupation process in the Amacro region is not immediately contained with a strong command and control action in the next government, an important part of the Amazon will be destroyed”, he says.

The researcher points out, however, that the simulation is not intended to make a prediction, but to support public policies, indicating what needs to be done for each region of the forest.

A less pessimistic scenario also suggested is that, in a possible second term, a certain stability of deforestation may occur, with an average rate of the last three years maintaining around 11 thousand km.two.

Another group of researchers, led by Aline Soterroni, who currently works at the University of Oxford and is also affiliated with INPE, estimated this possibility in view of future expectations of the Brazilian commodity market, with lower growth rates in global demand for meat and soy. .

Bolsonaro’s campaign was approached to comment on the estimates, but did not respond until the report was published.

The Planeta em Transe project is supported by the Open Society Foundations.

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