Brazil Could Save Its Atlantic Forests for Just $200 Million a Year

August 29, 2014

Douglas Main – Newsweek, 8/28/2014

The forests surrounding some of Brazil’s biggest cities, like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, are home to a dizzying variety of life, with iconic species like golden lion tamarins (pictured above), maned three-toed sloths and red-tailed parrots. A total of 2,200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians are found in Brazil’s Atlantic forests, and nearly 200 types of birds live there and nowhere else.

But these forests are disappearing as farmers clear them for agriculture and as towns spread outward; less than 15 percent of the original forest cover remains.

The good news is that scientists have calculated that it would cost a relatively small amount to pay the area’s farmers to protect their own land by not developing it. By their estimate, it would cost Brazil $198 million annually—or 6.5 percent of what the country currently spends on agricultural subsidies—to preserve enough land to harbor a sustainable level of flora and fauna, the scientists wrote in a study published today (August 28) in the journal Science.

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Environmentalist Surges Ahead In Brazilian Presidential Polling

August 28, 2014

Nick Cunningham – Oilprice.com, 8/28/2014

Political change could be coming to Brazil. A new Ibope poll in Brazil shows that an unexpected challenger in the 2014 presidential election would defeat incumbent President Dilma Rousseff in a hypothetical run-off.

Rousseff was once thought to be in a strong position for reelection, but Marina Silva, an ardent environmentalist, has vaulted to the front of the pack.

The daughter of a rubber tapper, Silva had humble beginnings. She grew up poor and was illiterate until she was a teenager. But after years of activism in union politics, Silva was eventually elected senator from her home state of Acre.

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Brazil Vows Water Supply Is Under Control as Basins Dry

August 28, 2014

Vanessa Dezem – Bloomberg, 8/28/2014

The state of Sao Paulo is facing its worst drought in eight decades, threatening the water supplies for 20 million people — but you wouldn’t know that by asking Brazil’s elected officials.

Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, who is seeking re-election in October, has been minimizing the crisis for the region, which includesSouth America’s largest city. The reaction is a far cry from the response in drought-stricken California, where Governor Jerry Brownhas declared a state of emergency and residents are being fined for watering their lawns.

Sao Paulo state is already rationing water for more than 2 million people in 18 cities. The capital city’s main reservoir is now at only 12 percent of capacity, according to the water utility Cia. de Saneamento Basico do Estado de Sao Paulo, known as Sabesp. While the utility received a warning at the end of July that it risks running out of drinking water in 100 days, officials vow the situation is under control.

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Deforestation: Brazil is a success story for conservation

August 28, 2014

Eva Botkin-Kowacki – The Christian Science Monitor, 8/28/2014

Climate scientists link about 10 percent of annual global carbon increase to the effects of deforestation. But a new study points to a promising shift.

In the 1990s, tropical deforestation claimed 40 million acres each year, according to a report released in June by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Today, about 32 million acres of forests fall each year, a drop of about 19 percent.

Trees grow by absorbing carbon dioxide, locking it away in their roots, trunks, branches, and leaves, and emitting oxygen in return.

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GE to add 1.5GW Brazil wind by 2016

August 27, 2014

Recharge News, 8/26/2014

General Electric anticipates that it will have an additional 1.5GW of wind energy capacity installed in Brazil by the end of 2015, company executive Jean-Claude Fernand Robert told an exclusive Recharge Thought Leaders lunch here.

Robert, head of renewable energy at GE for Latin America, made his forecast as GE announced that it has now 1GW in Brazil wind installations.

During the first half, GE connected 381 wind turbines to the grid in Brazil, providing 600MW generating capacity. GE claims to have connected 184 of these turbines in one week alone for developer Renova Energia.

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Brazil Pollution: CO2 Emissions From Energy Have Doubled As Drought Puts Strain On Hydroelectric Supplies

August 25, 2014

Maria Gallucci – International Business Times, 8/21/2014

Brazil’s power sector has doubled its global warming emissions in the past two years, a new analysis found. The uptick threatens to offset some of the country’s gains in slowing deforestation – an effort that climate groups say has led to dramatic cuts in carbon dioxide pollution. That could diminish the government’s negotiating power ahead of global climate talks in Paris next year, analysts say.

From January to July 2014, the cumulative monthly average of emissions grew by 182 percent for every one megawatt-hour of electricity produced, compared with the same period in 2012, according to data from Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, São Paulo-based newspaper Valor Economico reported on Thursday (link in Portuguese).

Overall, the energy sector accounts for about 30 percent of Brazil’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

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A clearing in the trees

August 25, 2014

The Economist (print edition), 8/23/2014

In 1998 Fernando Henrique Cardoso, then Brazil’s president, said he would triple the area of the Amazonian forest set aside for posterity. At the time the ambition seemed vain: Brazil was losing 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 square miles) of forest a year. Over the next 15 years loggers, ranchers, environmentalists and indigenous tribes battled it out—often bloodily—in the world’s largest tropical forest. Yet all the while presidents were patiently patching together a jigsaw of national parks and other protected patches of forest to create the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA), a protected area 20 times the size of Belgium. Now, less than 6,000 sq km of Brazil’s Amazonian forest is cleared each year. In May the government and a group of donors agreed to finance ARPA for 25 years. It is the largest tropical-forest conservation project in history.

This matters because of Brazil’s size: with 5m sq km of jungle, it has almost as much as the next three countries (Congo, China and Australia) put together. But it also matters for what it may signal: that the world could be near a turning point in the sorry story of tropical deforestation.

Typically, countries start in poverty with their land covered in trees. As they clear it for farms or fuel, they get richer—until alarm bells ring and they attempt to recover their losses. This happens at different stages in different places, but the trajectory is similar in most: a reverse J, steeply down, then bottoming out, then up—but only part of the way. This is usually called the “forest transition curve”. Brazil seems to be nearing the bottom. The world may be, too.

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