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The Brazilian government announced that the rate at which the Amazon rainforest is being cut down has increased significantly over the past few months.
During the past three years, Brazil has celebrated a 59% reduction in the rate of deforestation. However, signs of problems are now beginning to surface:
In the past 40 years, nearly 20% of the Amazon has been cut down.
Over the last five months of 2007, more than 3,200 sq. kilometers (1,250 sq. miles—about the size of the U.S. state of Rhode Island) was chopped down during a time when deforestation would normally drop.
Nearly 75% of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by deforestation (when trees are cut down large amounts of stored carbon dioxide are released) and forest fires.
The Amazon—the world’s largest absorber of carbon dioxide, holding nearly 86 billion metric tons of carbon (about 11 years of recent carbon dioxide emissions)—is being destroyed at an alarming rate. The primary cause is the clearing of land for cattle. Additionally, the need for land in increased soybean production is also becoming a more significant factor, as well as illegal logging.
The Brazilian government says it has conducted many inspections, seized over one million cubic meters of wood, cancelled thousands of land registrations and made hundreds of arrests.
Several hundred police will be sent into the area, joining more than 1,600 inspectors already there, to help fight environmental destruction.