Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) released on Tuesday (1st) the fire figures for August in the Amazon. The number of fire counts was the second highest for that month in the last ten years: 29,307 fires, a mere 5% below the 2019 number that shocked the world (30,900), and above the historical average of 26,000 counts. And even that slight drop must be taken with a grain of salt, since a glitch in Inpe’s reference satellite, Aqua, prevented part of the Amazon from being observed in August 16th, leading to an abnormally low number of fires detected that day.
The new data confirm the failure of the expensive and poorly planned Army operation Verde Brasil 2, unleashed in the Amazon by the Bolsonaro administration as a substitute for a plan to fight deforestation. Between May and August, when troops were sent to the jungle, the number of fires was 39,187, not different from the same period of 2019 (38,952). The military were dispatched to the forest theoretically to avoid a repeat of last year’s fire crisis. A four-month moratorium on the use of fire was enacted in July.
The area of deforestation alerts in the Amazon in 2020 was 34% bigger than in 2019, even after three months of Army operation replacing Ibama, the federal environmental agency, which has been subordinated to the military. The official deforestation data, to be released in the coming months, shall point to more than 12,000 square kilometers – three times the target of Brazil’s climate change law for 2020. Brazil is about to become the only big climate polluter to increase its emissions during the pandemic, thus straying even further from its Paris Agreement pledge.
“The military masquerade put up by Vice-President Hamilton Mourão in the Amazon to persuade investors could not fool the satellites in the end”, says Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory. “We have wasted time and taxpayers’ money, we have emitted carbon, we have seen our credibility go up in smoke and we have lost irreplaceable biodiversity. All because the people in power have refused to implement proven policy to curb environmental crime.”