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The Right-Wing Populist Wave Is a Threat to the Climate

The Amazon rainforest is on fire — and the consensus is that Brazil’s far-right populist leader, Jair Bolsonaro, is to blame.

Bolsonaro, who took office in January and has been referred to as “Captain Chainsaw,” gutted funding for agencies protecting the massive rainforest, essentially giving wink-and-nudge approval for illegal loggers to do their thing. Fire is used as a tool for clearing Amazon land for ranching, and the more trees are cut down, the more vulnerable the rainforest is to wildfires. There have been almost twice as many fires detected in 2019 so far as there were in the entirety of 2018

It’s hard to overstate how threatening this policy is to the climate. The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest: its trees scrub the Earth of a significant amount of CO2 and have captured a huge amount of carbon and methane within their branches and roots. If you lose the trees, a lot of greenhouse gases get released and it becomes harder to capture emissions from other sources. Continued fires and clear-cutting in the Amazon could cripple the fight against climate change.

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