The Amazon burns, Bolsonaro blames NGOs, New Green Deal coming?

Amazon Fire

Brazil has had more than 72,000 fire outbreaks so far this year, an 84% increase on the same period in 2018, according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research. More than half of them were in the Amazon. Wildfires often occur in the dry season in Brazil but they are also deliberately started in efforts to illegally deforest land for cattle ranching. The headlines are alarming, but what is the world going to do about it?

Jair Bolsonaro, current President of Brazil claims that NGOs are behind Amazon forest fire surge – but provides no evidence. He has accused environmental groups of setting fires in the Amazon as he tries to deflect growing international criticism of his failure to protect the world’s biggest rainforest. Local newspapers do say farmers in some regions are organizing “fire days” to take advantage of weaker enforcement by the authorities, in order clear more land. But who is really behind the farmer organizations? – business or political interests? Some believe that there are political interests bent on embarrassing Bolsonaro. Does Bolsonaro have a point?

So just how bad is it? Looking at the inset chart, this year is high, though not as eye-popping as the headlines read. For 2019, climate change has been higher than normal, making areas more dryer than normal. South America had a January – July temperature that ranked among the five highest such periods on record. So a mix in a climate change hotter than normal year, relaxed enforcement and perhaps other nefarious actors – and we have a crisis in the making. All of these could be true – just a matter of degrees.

But isn’t deforestation and preservation of our environment an issue to be concerned with? The WWF estimates that 27% – more than a quarter – of the Amazon biome will be without trees by 2030 if the current rate of deforestation continues. Yes, who wouldn’t be concerned with an issue like this? So as often said, never let a good crisis go to waste.

An international outcry has prompted Norway and Germany to halt donations to Brazil’s Amazon Fund, which supports many environmental NGOs as well as government agencies. There have also been calls for Europe to block a trade deal with Brazil and other South American nations. Does yanking funding from a crisis make sense? Perhaps, if you want to make the crisis worse for an eventual win … ;-).

French President Emmanuel Macron has said the record number of fires in the Amazon rainforest is an “international crisis” that needs to be on the top of the agenda at the upcoming G7 summit. Bolsonaro responded by accusing the French president of using a Brazilian domestic issue for “personal political gain,” Macron is suffering from internal low opinion.

On cue, in walks, the climate change activists with their New Green Deals. Bernie Sanders is no exception and launches his $16 trillion climate change plan. Like many of these plans, it is littered with massive new taxes on the fossil fuel industry (even their elimination), social justice engineering, dubious renewable energy subsidies, and international climate change foreign aid – where much of the new climate change issues would occur. News Forecasters finds the lack of diversity in solutions interesting. Could there not be other solutions with lower costs and higher impact? Such as limitation of recent mass movement of people from low carbon footprint countries to high carbon footprint countries.

So what will happen? The world is awash with experts ready to scare you to spend your money. If you have ever worked for a consulting company you know this – create and expose pain to a company’s stakeholders, and very often they are ready to spend the cash. Not only this, but politically if you are the one percieved solving problems, your sphere of influence and power grows. This does not mean that the fear is not real, it is a matter of degree.

With this in mind, some mini New Green Deal will eventually come, though far less than a $16 trillion or more price tag. Rather it may just come in piecemeal form. It will target renewable energy subsidies, some fossil fuel taxes, R&D, and some regulations. It will most likely not be more than $1 trillion over 10 years. To think that the fossil fuel industry will disappear soon via some New Green Deal is folly.

A video presentation of this subject:

Leave a Reply