Bolsonaro’s Big Talk at the UN

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro addresses the UN General assembly. Image: Seth Wenig/AP

The Amazon Rainforest is still on fire. This fact comes as Brazil’s newly-elected president Jair Bolsonaro addressed the United Nations General Assembly for the first time and told the world (as the New Yorker reported) that the forest was “practically untouched,” and blamed a “lying and sensationalist media” for propagating fake news about their destruction. He also decried the notion that the Amazon is “a heritage of humankind.”

The Receipts: As CNBC reported, “The Brazilian leader came under fire last month when it emerged that rainforest was burning at a record rate. Data from Brazil’s space agency showed that the number of forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon between January and August surged by 84% from the same period in 2018.”

Can’t Forests Just Grow Back?: While reforestation is currently being floated as a silver-bullet to sequester carbon and solve climate change, there are many factors that play into how effective forests are at mitigating climate change. For instance, research shows that swaths of forest in the Amazon that have grown back after fires are not as diverse and do not sequester nearly as much carbon as they did before they were burned.

Why This Matters: Bolsonaro has been called the “Tropical Trump” and in this instance the comparison is apt. Fires in the Amazon are verifiable by satellites and are certainly not some “liberal media conspiracy.” Additionally, men have largely denied the sovereignty of indigenous people living on public lands, and in the United States as well as Brazil native people have come forth to ring the alarm bells about the dangerous environmental degradation (for the benefit of industries) that has resulted from Bolsonaro and Trump’s administrations. The bottom line is that climate deniers are the most dangerous leaders, they are willing to say and do anything to spread a false narrative even if it means putting their citizens’ lives in jeopardy. 

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