Brazilian Amazon Lost Over 5000 Square Miles of Forest the Past 12 Months, a 15-Year High

Over 13,000 square kilometers (5019.3281 square miles) of the forest was lost in the past 12 months in Brazil's Amazon, a 15-year high.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro recently pledged to end illegal deforestation this month while at the United Nations climate summit, The Associated Press reported. The National Institute for Space Research's Prodes monitoring system released a report with the numbers before the summit started on Oct. 27.

The report references the months of Aug. 2020 to July 2021. This is the most forest lost in a year since 2006.

It's been more than a decade since recording over 10,000 square kilometers (3,861.022 square miles) of deforestation in the Amazon in a year. The average had been 6,500 square kilometers (2509.66403 square miles) in the years 2009 to 2018. That changed once Bolsonaro took office in January of 2019. After, the yearly average increased to 11,405 square kilometers (4403.4951 square miles). The Amazon forest has lost a total area bigger than the state of Maryland in the past three years.

"It is a shame. It is a crime," Márcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, a network of environmental nonprofit groups, told The Associated Press. "We are seeing the Amazon rainforest being destroyed by a government which made environmental destruction its public policy."

The data shows that out of the nine states in the Amazon region, 40 percent of the deforestation was recorded in the state of Para from Aug. 2020 to July 2021. Mato Grosso and Amazonas states, which had respectively had 27 percent and 55 percent more deforestation in the past three years, reported 34 percent of devastation combined, the AP said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Amazon, Deforestation, Increased, Jair Bolsonaro
In this 2019 file photo, highway BR-163 stretches between the Tapajos National Forest, left, and a soy field in Belterra, Para state, Brazil. The number of deforestation alerts in the Brazilian Amazon rose for the second straight month in October 2021, compared to 2020, ending a streak of encouraging data at a moment when the government has promised to curb illegal logging. Leo Correa/AP Photo, File

Bolsonaro took office with promises to develop the Amazon, and dismissing global outcry about its destruction. His administration has defanged environmental authorities and backed legislative measures to loosen land protections, emboldening land grabbers. This week at a conference in the United Arab Emirates to attract investment, he told the crowd that attacks on Brazil for deforestation are unfair and that most of the Amazon remains pristine.

Early data for the 2021-2022 reference period signals further deterioration. The space agency's monthly monitoring system, Deter, detected higher deforestation year-on-year during both September and October. Deter is less reliable than Prodes, but widely seen as a leading indicator.

"This is the real Brazil that the Bolsonaro government tries to hide with fantastical speeches and actions of greenwashing abroad," Mauricio Voivodic, international environmental group WWF's executive director for Brazil, said in a statement after release of the Prodes data. "The reality shows that the Bolsonaro government accelerated the path of Amazon destruction."