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Rainforests May Be Smothered Due To The Newly Elected Brazil President: Scientists

If the rainfall cycle collapses, winter droughts in parts of Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina could devastate agriculture.

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Brazil, rainforests
This photo released by the Brazilian Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources Institute (Ibama) shows an illegally deforested area on Pirititi indigenous lands as Ibama agents inspect Roraima state in Brazil's Amazon basin. VOA

Scientists warn that Brazil’s president-elect could push the Amazon rainforest past its tipping point — with severe consequences for global climate and rainfall.

Jair Bolsonaro, who takes office Jan. 1, claims a mandate to convert land for cattle pastures and soybean farms, calling Brazil’s rainforest protections an economic obstacle.

Brazilians on Oct. 28 elected Bolsonaro, a far-right candidate who channeled outrage at the corruption scandals of the former government and support from agribusiness groups.

Next week global leaders will meet in Poland for an international climate conference to discuss how to curb climate change, and questions about Brazil’s role in shaping the future of the Amazon rainforest after Bolsonaro’s election loom large. New Brazilian government data show the rate of deforestation — a major factor in global warming — has already increased over the past year.

Climate change, carbon
The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory stands in Sebastiao do Uatuma located in the Amazon rain forest in Brazil’s Amazonas state, Aug. 22, 2015. The tower, built by Brazilian and German governments, collects data on greenhouse gases. VOA

Brazil contains about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, and scientists are worried.

It’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance of the Amazon rainforest to the planet’s living systems, said Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist at the University of Sao Paulo.

Each tree stores carbon absorbed from the atmosphere. The Amazon takes in as much as 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year and releases 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen, earning it the nickname “the lungs of the planet.”

It’s also a global weather-maker.

Stretching 10 times the size of Texas, the Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest. Billions of trees suck up water through deep roots and bring it up to their leaves, which release water vapor that forms a thick mist over the rainforest canopy.

This mist ascends into clouds and eventually becomes rainfall — a cycle that shapes seasons in South America and far beyond.

Brazil President, rainforest
Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro arrives for a meeting in Brasilia. VOA

By one estimate, the Amazon creates 30 to 50 percent of its own rainfall.

Now the integrity of all of three functions — as a carbon sink, the Earth’s lungs, and a rainmaker — hangs in the balance.

On the campaign trail, Bolsonaro promised to loosen protections for areas of the Brazilian Amazon designated as indigenous lands and nature reserves, calling them impediments to economic growth. “All these reserves cause problems to development,” he told supporters.

He has also repeatedly talked about gutting the power of the environmental ministry to enforce existing green laws.

“If Bolsonaro keeps his campaign promises, deforestation of the Amazon will probably increase quickly — and the effects will be felt everywhere on the planet,” said Paulo Artaxo, a professor of environmental physics at the University of Sao Paulo.

Bolsonaro’s transition team did not respond to an interview request from the Associated Press.

Rainforest
In this May 4, 2018 photo released by Ibama, the Brazilian Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources Institute, members of a specialized inspection group of Ibama walk with their weapons up through an area affected by illegal mining, after landing in helicopters in Munduruku indigenous lands in Para state in Brazil’s Amazon basin. VOA

Brazil was once seen as a global environmental success story. Between 2004 and 2014, stricter enforcement of laws to safeguard the rainforest — aided by regular satellite monitoring and protections for lands designated reserves for indigenous peoples — sharply curbed the rate of deforestation, which peaked in the early 2000s at about 9,650 square miles a year (25,000 square kilometers).

 

After a political crisis engulfed Brazil, leading to the 2016 impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff, enforcement faltered. Ranchers and farmers began to convert more rainforest to pastureland and cropland. Between 2014 and 2017, annual deforestation doubled to about 3,090 square miles (8,000 square kilometers). Most often, the trees and underbrush cut down are simply burned, directly releasing carbon dioxide, said Artaxo.

“In the Brazilian Amazon, far and away the largest source of deforestation is industrial agriculture and cattle ranching,” said Emilio Bruna, an ecologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Now observers are parsing Bolsonaro’s campaign statements and positions as a congressman to anticipate what’s next for the Amazon.

Bolsonaro — who some call “tropical Trump” because of some similarities to U.S. President Donald Trump — is a former army captain with a knack for channeling outrage and generating headlines. As a federal congressman for 27 years, he led legislative campaigns to unravel land protections for indigenous people and to promote agribusiness. He also made derogatory comments about minorities, women, and LGBT people.

Brazil, cuban doctors, rainforest
Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro talks to the media, in Brasilia, Brazil. VOA

Much of his support comes from business and farming interests.

“These farmers are not invaders, they are producers,” said congressman and senator-elect Luiz Carlos Heinze, a farmer and close ally of Bolsonaro. He blamed past “leftist administrations” for promoting indigenous rights at the expense of farmers and ranchers.

“Brazil will be the biggest farming nation on Earth during Bolsonaro’s years,” said Heinze.

Indigenous-rights advocates are worried about the new direction signaled. “Bolsonaro has repeatedly said that indigenous territories in the Amazon should be opened up for mining and agribusiness, which goes completely in the opposite direction of our Constitution,” said Adriana Ramos, public policy coordinator at Social Environmental Institute in Brasilia, a non-governmental group.

In a Nov. 1 postelection interview with Catholic TV, Bolsonaro said, “We intend to protect the environment, but without creating difficulties for our progress.”

Bolsonaro has repeatedly said that Brazil should withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, a treaty his predecessor signed in 2016 committing to reduce carbon emissions 37 percent over 2005 levels by 2030. After the election, he has publicly wavered.

Meanwhile he has named a climate-change denier, Ernesto Araujo, to become the next foreign minister.

 

Amazon, Climate, carbon, rainforests
This Sept. 15, 2009 file photo shows a deforested area near Novo Progresso in Brazil’s northern state of Para.. VOA

Nelson Ananias Filho, sustainability coordinator at Brazil’s National Agriculture and Cattle Raising Confederation, which backed Bolsonaro’s campaign, said, “Brazil’s agribusiness will adapt to whatever circumstances come.”

Whether or not Brazil formally remains in the Paris Climate Accord, the only way for the country to make its emission targets is to completely stop deforestation by 2030 and to reduce agricultural emissions, said Nobre, the climate scientist. “If Bolsonaro keeps moving in the current direction, that’s basically impossible.”

There’s another danger lurking in deforestation.

Aside from the oceans, tropical forests are the most important regions on the planet for putting water vapor in the air, which eventually becomes rainfall. “It’s why we have rain in the American Midwest and other inland areas — it’s not just the Amazon, but it’s the largest tropical rainforest,” said Bill Laurance, a tropical ecologist at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia.

Also Read: Brazillians at a Disadvantage Due To Loss Of Cuban Doctors

Carlos Nobre and Thomas Lovejoy, an environmental scientist at George Mason University, have estimated that the “tipping point for the Amazon system” is 20 to 25 percent deforestation.

Without enough trees to sustain the rainfall, the longer and more pronounced dry season could turn more than half the rainforest into a tropical savannah, they wrote in February in the journal Science Advances.

If the rainfall cycle collapses, winter droughts in parts of Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina could devastate agriculture, they wrote. The impacts may even be felt as far away as the American Midwest, said Laurance.

Bolsonaro’s rhetoric about potentially dismantling the environmental ministry and rolling back indigenous rights worries Nobre who says, “I am a scientist, but I am also a Brazilian citizen, and a citizen of the planet.” (VOA)

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Couples Turn To Drive-thru Weddings Amid The COVID Pandemic

Dozens of couples anxious to wed in the midst of the pandemic are taking advantage of a drive-thru wedding facility in Brazil

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Couples
Love cant be stopped, many Brazilian couples are turning to Drive-thru weddings. Pixabay
Wedding in pandemic
Wearing masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, a couple at a drive-thru wedding of Santa Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. VOACOVID

An official of the marriage registry, Alessandra Lapoente, said the drive-thru system allows more couples to move forward with their nuptials, despite the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.

Brazil is at the top of the coronavirus epicenter in Latin America, with more than 430,000 infections, the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world.

Also Read: Dangers From Deep-Sea Mining Hazadous: Reports

Brazil has also confirmed more than 26,000 deaths. (VOA)

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What is More Dangerous? COVID-19 or Climate Change?

UN Weather Organization: Climate Change May Pose Bigger Danger Than COVID

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Climate crisis COVID-19
If we are unable to mitigate climate change, we will see persistent health problems, especially hunger and the ability to feed the growing population of the world. VOA

By Lisa Schlein

The World Meteorological Organization is warning that if the planet keeps warming at its current pace, the average global temperature could increase by 1.5 degrees C  in the next 10 years.  This rise would worsen extreme weather events, and many of the dangerous effects of climate change might become irreversible, it said.

WMO reported Wednesday that the national lockdowns of transportation, industry and energy production because of the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in a 6 percent drop of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

However, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said this good news would be short-lived.  He said the startup of industry might even trigger a boost in emissions.  He said the pandemic also was making it more difficult to monitor and manage weather and other hazards.

Climate crisis COVID-19
Petteri Taalas, Secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) attends a news conference on the annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin on concentrations of CO2 in climate at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. VOA

“This current COVID crisis has led to the decrease in some measurements,” he said. For example, “airline companies have been carrying out measurements.  Since we have very few flights nowadays, we have less measurements from the aircraft, which is having a negative impact on the quality of the forecasts.”

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While the world is in the throes of tackling two big issues at the same time, Taalas said, the magnitude of problems associated with climate change is much greater than that of COVID.  He said health and economic problems resulting from the pandemic were devastating but noted they would last only a few years.

Also Read- Astrology, Zodiac Sign and COVID-19: What is the relation?

“If we are unable to mitigate climate change, we will see persistent health problems, especially hunger and the ability to feed the growing population of the world, and there will be also more massive impact on economies,” he said.

Taalas said the world needs to show the same determination and unity against climate change as against COVID-19.  He said people everywhere need to act together in the interests of the health and welfare of humanity, for the sake of this and future generations. (VOA)

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Ice Loss in Antarctica and Greenland Increasing at an Alarming Rate: Scientists

Greenland, Antarctica ice loss accelerating

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Ice loss
Earth's great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, were now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s due to warming conditions. Pixabay

Earth’s great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, were now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s due to warming conditions, the media reported on Thursday citing scientists as saying.

A comprehensive review of satellite data acquired at both poles was unequivocal in its assessment of accelerating trends, the BBC quoted the scientists as saying.

Between them, Greenland and Antarctica lost 6.4 trillion tonnes of ice in the period from 1992 to 2017.

Ice loss
The combined rate of ice loss for Greenland and Antarctica was running at about 81 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s. Pixabay

This was sufficient to push up global sea-levels up by 17.8 mm, the scientists added. “That’s not a good news story,” said Professor Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds.

“Today, the ice sheets contribute about a third of all sea-level rise, whereas in the 1990s, their contribution was actually pretty small at about 5 per cent. This has important implications for the future, for coastal flooding and erosion,” he told BBC News.

The researcher co-leads a project called the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise, or Imbie, which is a team of experts who have reviewed polar measurements acquired by observational spacecraft over nearly three decades.

The Imbie team’s studies have revealed that ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland were actually heading to much more pessimistic outcomes, and will likely add another 17 cm to those end-of-century forecasts.

“If that holds true it would put 400 million people at risk of annual coastal flooding by 2100,” Professor Shepherd told the BBC.

Also Read- People of All Generation Can Feel Lonely for Different Reasons: Research

The combined rate of loss for Greenland and Antarctica was running at about 81 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s.

By the 2010s, it had climbed to 475 billion tonnes per year. (IANS)