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Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has already reached a new deforestation record this year

<i>Leo Correa/AP</i><br/>Smoke rises from a fire in the Amazon rainforest in Ruropolis
Leo Correa/AP
Smoke rises from a fire in the Amazon rainforest in Ruropolis

By Camilo Rocha and Stefano Pozzebon, CNN and Reuters

The portion of Amazon rainforest impacted by deforestation in the first three months of 2022 was the highest ever recorded, according to a new report by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

According to the INPE report, published Friday, 941.34 square kilometers (363 square miles) of forest were cleared between January and March this year. That’s the largest amount recorded since the institute began monitoring deforestation rates in 2016. The area cleared is nearly the size of Dallas, Texas.

Researchers observed a 64% increase from the same time period last year, when 573.29 square kilometers (221 square miles) were cleared.

Destruction of the world’s largest rainforest has surged since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019 and weakened environmental protections, arguing that they hinder economic development that could reduce poverty in the Amazon region.

The president’s office and the Environment Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A UN climate panel report on Monday warned that governments are not doing enough to rein in greenhouse gas emissions in order to avert the worst effects of global warming. While fossil fuel use is mostly to blame, deforestation accounts for about 10% of global emissions, according to the report.

“Brazil is an example of what the UN climate report is saying when referring to governments not taking the necessary actions,” said Cristiane Mazzetti, a forest campaigner in Brazil for environmental advocacy group Greenpeace.

“We have a government that goes deliberately against the necessary steps to limit climate change.”

Some scientists predict deforestation will continue to rise ahead of Brazil’s October presidential election, as it has ahead of the last three elections.

Environmental enforcement typically weakens in election years and criminals may rush to deforest ahead of a new government taking office, according to Carlos Souza Jr, a researcher at Imazon, a Brazilian research institution.

On Thursday, Facebook’s parent company Meta announced that it had removed 14 Facebook accounts, nine Facebook pages, and 39 Instagram accounts for posting fake information related to deforestation.

“This network originated in Brazil and targeted domestic audiences in that country,” Meta said in its first quarterly “Adversarial Threat Report.”

Meta’s report says it found “links to individuals associated with the Brazilian Military” behind the accounts.

The accounts were engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” which included posting content that argued not all deforestation was harmful, and which criticized “legitimate environmental NGOs who spoke out against deforestation in the Amazon,” the Meta report says.

CNN has reached out to Brazil’s Defense Ministry for comment.

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