Archive for Brazil
Quoted from independent.co.uk 16th January 2013
Trees in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest are being fitted with mobile phones in an attempt to tackle illegal logging and deforestation. Devices smaller than a pack of cards are being attache d to the trees in protected areas to alert officials once they are cut down and the logs are transported. Location data is sent from sensors once the logs are within 20 miles of a mobile phone network to allow Brazil’s environment agency to stop the sale of illegal timber. The technology, called Invisible Tracck, which is being piloted by Dutch digital security company Gemalto, has a battery life of up to a year and has been designed to withstand the Amazonian climate. It will also allow officials to track trees in real time rather than relying on slower traditional means of monitoring through satellite images. Ramzi Abdine, general manager of Cinterion M2M, the wireless technology arm at Gemalto Latin America, said the new device could help overcome the difficulty of tracking trees over a large area. “The rainforest in Brazil is approximately the size of the United States so it’s impossible to monitor each and every acre,” he said. Marcelo Hayashi, general manager of Cargo Tracck, added: “Gemalto’s Cinterion M2M was vital in enabling us to develop a tracking and tracing solution rugged enough to withstand the heat and moisture of the Amazon. “It is unique because it’s small for inconspicuous deployment in the field and power-efficient enough to operate over long stretches of time without recharging batteries, which is crucial when tracking trees in remote areas.”
e360.yale.edu 15th August 2012
Quoted from source:
‘A Brazilian judge has ordered a suspension of the controversial Belo Monte dam project, saying that local indigenous people who will be affected by the massive hydroelectric project were not sufficiently consulted during the environmental assessment process. In a ruling issued Tuesday, Judge Souza Prudente of the Federal Tribunal of Brazil’s Amazon region found that no consultations were held with local communities before Congress approved what would be the world’s third-largest dam project. The $16 billion project, which is expected to produce 11,000 megawatts of energy, would flood 260 square miles of rainforest in Brazil’s Para state and displace more than 20,000 people who depend on free-flowing rivers for their livelihoods. “The Brazilian Congress must take into account the decisions taken by the indigenous communities,” Prudente wrote. “Legislators can only give the go-ahead if the indigenous communities agree with the project.” The developer of the project, Norte Energia, will be fined $250,000 per day if construction on the project continues. The company says it will appeal the decision to a higher court.’
www.bbc.co.uk 24th December 2011
Quoted from source:
‘Brazil has fined US oil giant Chevron $5.4m (£3.5m) for breach of its environmental licence when it tackled an oil spill in November. Brazil’s Ibama environmental agency said Chevron lacked the necessary equipment and was slow to respond. Ibama had already fined Chevron $28m for causing the spill off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Chevron is also facing an $11bn lawsuit over the spill of about 3,000 barrels of crude oil at the Frade field. Brazil has already suspended all of the drilling operations of Chevron and its contractors after the incident. Chevron has apologised for the leak but stressed it acted as rapidly and safely as possible to contain it. The spill happened at a well in the Frade oil project, 370km (230 miles) off the Brazilian coast. In recent years Brazil has discovered billions of barrels of oil in deep water that could make it one of the world’s top five producers. But to date there has been little debate about the environmental risks of offshore drilling. Political discussion has instead focused on how future oil revenues should be divided between different states.’
www.bloomberg.com 24th November 2011
US oil giant Chevron has been banned from drilling in Brazilian waters while an investigation is carried out into the recent spill in the Frade oilfield. Although Chevron insist that they reacted to the spill as fast and as efficiently as they could, Brazil’s oil regulator Agencia Nacional do Petroleo (ANP) said the company’s “negligence” was a contributing factor. The South American country has recently discovered what are believed to be the largest oil deposits in the Western Hemisphere in deep waters off its coast. The Frade oilfield alone is valued at $3.6 billion and Brazil is looking to multinational corporations such as BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Statoil to help them maximise oil extraction. Chevron released a statement saying that it “has not received any formal notice from” the ANP and that oil production from Frade continues. However the company has been fined $27 million by Brazilian authorities and its head of Brazil operations, George Buck, has appeared in front of a congressional hearing in the country’s capital of Brasilia. “Sincere apologies to the Brazilian people and the Brazilian government,” he said. Chevron is the third largest oil producer operating in Brazil, after state-owned Petrobras and Shell, and owns a 51.74% stake of the Frade oilfield.
www.bbc.co.uk 20th November 2011
The US oil giant Chevron have admitted full responsibility for an oil spill off the Brazilian coast that regulators say has spilt 416,400 litres since it began 2 weeks ago. The company claim they underestimated the pressure of underwater oil deposits resulting in the fossil fuel to rush up the bore hole and seep into the ocean through the seabed. Although Chevron have said the spill has now been capped, its head of Brazilian operations, George Buck, stated that residual oil flow was still coming from undersea rock. Initial reports by the company suggested as little as 400-650 barrels of oil had been lost but this was revised when international environmental monitoring group Skytruth studied satellite images and reported the ‘the spill was many times bigger’. Police are also investigating the methods Chevron was using to clean up the spill amid reports that they were pushing it to the bottom of the sea rather than corralling and collecting it. Brazilian Energy Minister Edison Lobao has promised that Chevron would be “severely punished” if it was found to have failed in its environmental responsibilities. Brazil has recently discovered large oil reserves in its deeper waters that could make the country one of the top five oil producers in the world.
e360.yale.edu 19th July 2011
Quoted from source:
‘The shipping industry has become the first global business sector to agree to mandatory carbon dioxide emissions reductions. At a meeting of the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization, member countries agreed to set CO2 emissions standards on new ships beginning in 2019, with the goal of improving energy efficiency by 30 percent by 2024. The member countries also agreed to more modest efficiency improvements and emissions reductions in the world’s 60,000 existing ships. Of the world’s top 10 shipping nations, only China voted against the agreement. Brazil, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Chile also opposed the accord, and it remains to be seen if these countries will adhere to the majority decision. The agreement allows developing nations to apply for a waiver from the rules until 2019, and the Clean Shipping Coalition warned that the agreement could result in most new ships registering with countries that get a waiver. Overall, however, environmental advocates said the agreement was a positive step that could reduce CO2 emissions from shipping by 50 million tons by 2020. Shipping accounts for about 3 percent of human CO2 emissions.’
e360.yale.edu 19th May 2011
Quoted from source:
‘Satellite photographs reveal that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has intensified significantly during the last two months, a trend environmental advocates say is linked to an ongoing national debate over easing forest protection laws. According to Brazil’s National Space Research Agency, about 593 square kilometers of forest was cleared during March and April, compared to just 103 square kilometers in March and April 2010. Eighty-one percent of the recent clearing occurred in Mato Grosso, the nation’s southernmost state and a center of soybean production. The steep rise in forest loss stands in stark contrast to recent trends in Brazil, where annual deforestation had fallen almost 80 percent since 2004. Some say the recent deforestation is a direct consequence of the debate over changes to Brazil’s Forest Code, which requires property owners in the Amazon region to maintain 80 percent of their holdings as forest. Greenpeace’s Marcio Astrini told Reuters that deforestation is surging in Mato Grosso because landowners, anticipating that a weakening of the code would grant amnesty for deforestation, are rapidly clearing forest for agriculture. “The only relevant factor is the Forest Code,” he said. “It is a gigantic rise.”
www.bbc.co.uk 6th May 2011
A team of scientists from the US have determined that climate change over the past three decades has led to a 5.5% decline in global wheat yields. The research was carried out by Stanford University and assessed the impact of climate on the four major food crops of the world: wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans. Crop losses were so severe in some regions that they wiped out gains made through such factors as technology. ”There are already clear changes going on in most agricultural regions in terms of weather, and they have effects on food production that are sizeable,” said David Lobell, the head researcher on the report. Strangely enough, North America was the only region studied that did not show any trend of warming over the 30 year period whereas Europe, China, and Brazil all did. When it came to rainfall, just as many regions were experiencing more rainfall as those experiencing less. Professor Lobell insisted that the findings only referred to past relationships and in order for predictions in future crop yield to be worked out, some large assumptions would have to be made. For one, whether the crops of tomorrow will be the same as the ones we use today (genetically for one).
e360.yale.edu 2nd May 2011
Quoted from source:
‘The world’s largest producer of beef, JBS-Fribol, has agreed to stop buying cattle from ranches associated with illegal deforestation in the Amazon. After being accused by Brazilian officials of purchasing large quantities of cattle from illegally deforested land and facing $1.3 billion in fines, the company has signed agreements with prosecutors in eight states in the Amazon stating that it would not purchase beef from areas classified as conservation units or indigenous territories, or listed as off-limits by state environmental authorities. JBS-Fribol also said it would stop purchasing cattle from ranches accused of labor abuses, including slave labor. In exchange for promises to begin changing its operations by September 2012, the company will avoid the $1.3 billion in fines, state prosecutors said. Although hailed as an important step in efforts to slow deforestation in the Amazon, the agreement faces significant challenges, including corruption at the local level. Cattle production is the largest driver of deforestation in the Amazon, and a crackdown on the beef industry is one reason deforestation in the region has slowed in recent years.’
www.nytimes.com 5th April 2011, video by Amazon Watch and narrated by Sigourney Weaver.
The Brazilian government has emphatically refused to stop the construction of a new dam in the Amazon amid fears that it will displace tens of thousands of indigenous people and cause environmental harm. The Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, if completed, will be the third largest in the world but it has faced strong opposition from environmental and human rights organisations. The dam, with a predicted cost of $17 billion, would divert a 62 mile stretch of the Xingu River in Pará state. Critics claim this will result in the flooding of 120,000 acres of rainforest and displace between 20,000 and 40,000 local groups. The government say these figures will be a lot lower. The opposition movement has attracted high profile supporters including James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bill Clinton. The final decision to be made about the dam is now resting with Ibama, Brazil’s environmental protection agency. So far two presidents of Ibama have resigned from their posts, reportedly due to friction with the country’s leadership. Brazil currently receives about 80% of its energy from hydroelectric power.
www.telegraph.co.uk 9th December 2010
Quoted from source:
‘They are two of the most feared predators in the jungle, but there could only be one survivor as a leopard and a caiman locked jaws in the depths of the Brazilian rainforest. Eventually the big cat defeated the reptile in the vicious encounter, which was captured on camera by a French photographer. In one photograph the jaguar is pictured carrying its prey in its jaws following the battle.Confrontations between jaguars, which are similar to leopards but larger and stronger, and caimans, a species of crocodile, are not uncommon in the jungle. Jaguars, which are extremely strong swimmers, are capable of fighting in and out of water and will hunt caiman and even anacondas as well as less dangerous prey such as deer and foxes. Caiman are the most common of all crocodiles but will generally hunt fish, amphibians and other reptiles – including each other.’
www.nationalgeographic.com 6th December 2010
‘A lone house stands out against a dry riverbed in Cadajas on October 25. A prolonged drought may harm Brazil’s crops. For instance, farmers in the Amazon’s fertile Matto Grosso state are highly dependent on Amazon rain to grow their crops, which are extremely profitable because normally so little irrigation is needed.’
‘Hard-hit by a months-long drought, a waterway within the Amazon Basin trickles to a halt in Manaus, Brazil on November 19. The Negro River, a major tributary of the Amazon River, dropped to a depth of about 46 feet (14 meters)—the lowest point since record-keeping began in 1902.’
‘A fisher reportedly discovered prehistoric etchings when water receded from the banks of the Negro River, according to the Hindu newspaper. Archaeologists suggest the 7,000-year-old engravings—which feature images of faces and snakes—may be more evidence that the Amazon was once home to large civilizations.’
‘A boat rests amid debris in Manaus on September 15. The drought has also sparked a surge in wildfires, particularly in the state of Mato Grosso—which means “thick forest,” according to Reuters. There have been 36,700 forest fires in Mato Grasso so far this year, compared with 8,135 in 2009, Reuters reported. The blazes have destroyed cattle pastures, killed livestock, and burned down some of the region’s remaining original forest.’
www.bbc.co.uk 1st December 2010
According to the Brazilian government, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has dropped to its lowest rate in 22 years. Satellite imaging has shown that between the dates of August 2009 and July 2010, 6,450 square kilometres (2,490 sq miles) of forest were cleared, down 12% from the year before. The environment minister Izabella Teixeira described the news as ‘fantastic’ before insisting that the Brazilian government is well on its way to reducing deforestation to 5,000 sq km by 2017. The drop in fell rates have been attributed to better monitoring and police enforcement. Political action has been swift following an all time high in cleared land of 27,772 sq km in 2004. The year after, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva promised to reduce forest clearing by 80% by 2020. With 20% of global CO2 emissions attributed to deforestation, the Brazilian government seem to be making an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. Although this year’s reduction is considerable compared to 2004, it is still equivalent to an area of land half the size of Jamaica.
www.independent.co.uk 27th November 2010
The latest rounds in UN sponsored talks on climate change are set to take start in two days time (29th November) in the holiday resort of Cancun in Mexico. Spectators hope that a viable alternative to the Kyoto Pact will be put into place following last year’s failure at Copenhagen. The summit will be hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 194 parties are due to attend. The two main objectives are as follows:
1) ACTION BEYOND 2012
- launching a new financial vehicle, unofficially dubbed the Green Fund, to help poor countries cope with the impact of climate change. It could be the main source for aid, promised in Copenhagen, that could reach 100 billion dollars a year by 2020.
- setting financial encouragement to tropical countries so that they preserve their forests rather than cut them down. Logging and land clearance have accounted for between 12 and 25 percent of global emissions annually over the past 15 years.
- encouraging the transfer of clean technology from rich countries to poor economies.
- agreeing ways to measure and monitor countries’ actions, including emissions curbs.
2) FUTURE OF THE KYOTO PROTOCOL
The renewal of greenhouse gas reduction targets. This is difficult due to the lack of support from the USA and the absence of developing economies like Brazil, China, and India. Even the European Union, which saved Kyoto following the USA’s refusal to ratify the treaty in 2001, is doubtful that such as renewal is possible.
www.independent.co.uk 10th November 2010
The British government has admitted that its policy of doubling the amount of biofuels used in the country by 2020 will actually increase carbon emissions. The UK is signed up to an EU agreement that states that signatories have to source 10% of their transport fuel from biofuels by that date. The problem is that a large amount of land is needed to grow these fuel crops. It has been estimated that in order for the target to be met, an area of between the size of Belgium and the Republic of Ireland needs to be cultivated. But the carbon dioxide given off by clearing the vegetation off this land will, potentially, be more than the savings made by replacing fossil fuels with biofuels. As Europe does not have enough land to satisfy this demand, the crops are mostly grown in other countries such as Brazil and Indonesia (pictured). A study by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) has stated that the deforestation will produce as much as 56 million tons of CO2 per year, or the equivalent of between 12 and 26 million extra cars on European roads by 2020. Although the EU has banned biofuels bought from new land, i.e.: forested land cleared to grow them, biofuel companies have got around this law by buying up existing fields thereby forcing the farmers to clear land for their own means. This is known as Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC). The results of the IEEP study has caused the British government to reassess its position on the subject. Ministers are now urging the European Commission to rethink its plans on biofuels, a move welcomed by environmental groups.
www.independent.co.uk 4th November 2010
The RSPCA have released a report stating that two of the world’s biggest poultry exporters, Brazil and Thailand, have better animal welfare standards than farms in the UK. Three of the main comparisons were between the amount of space each chicken was allowed (13 chickens per square metre in Thailand compared to 20 in the UK), how long chickens were allowed to grow (42 days in Thailand, 35 in the UK), and how much rest a chicken is allowed a day (Thailand: 6 hours, UK: 4). Dr. Marc Cooper of the RSPCA said that, rather than presuming that standards are better in the UK, generally the reverse is true. This may be seen as good news by supermarkets who have increasingly imported foreign poultry to cut costs. In 1996, only £36 million worth was imported compared to the £510 million in 2009. £292 million of this amount came from Thailand. However, Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, simply retorted: “I don’t think Marc Cooper is right”. The RSPCA report coincided with video footage released by the Vegetarian Organisation Viva! showing a ‘conveyor belt of death’ for male chicks not wanted by the egg production industry. Every year between 30 and 40 million are killed in gas chambers and meat-mincers.
www.independent.co.uk 3rd October 2010
Initial results from new research by the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) project has calculated that the economic loss of biodiversity through deforestation alone costs the global economy £2.8 ($4.5) trillion a year. This equates to roughly $650 for every person on the planet. The research is ground-breaking in that it is the first study to calculate the economic potential of the world’s environment in an attempt to encourage governments and businesses to act on conservation. A former banker Pavan Sukhdev has been hired to head the study. Other statistics include the $320 billion worth of genetic resources used by the pharmaceutical industry. The results of the report coincide with the Convention of Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan. Headed by the UK government and Brazil, and supported by the UN and the World Bank, biodiversity has been pushed into the diplomatic agenda. Britain and Brazil hope that the convention of the 18th October will produce a treaty that ‘would ensure that regions rich in natural resources, including South America, Asia and Africa, receive the benefits enjoyed by developed countries.’ With a quarter of the world’s original biodiversity already extinct by the beginning of the millennium, and with a further 11% expected to disappear by 2050, an agreement is vital. By explaining the extent of the problem in economic terms, the Teeb hope to encourage governments to act.Speaking for the UK, Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, said: “We are losing species hand over fist. I would be negligent if I didn’t shout from the rooftops that we have a problem; the loss of species will cost us money and it will undermine our resilience in the face of scientific and medical research.”
Sources: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment 10th September 2010
IBM have set up a ‘global community of personal computers’, called the Worldwide Community Grid, to help tackle the global water crisis. The hypothesis behind the idea is that scientists will be able to use the idle processing power of computers left connected to the grid in order to develop ‘water filtering technology, research into treatments for water-related diseases and clean up polluted water sources’. Academic institutions from the USA, China, and Australia (among may others) can tap into the network and perform simulations, tests, and hypotheses quicker than was previously possible. For example: scientists from Brazil are using the WCG to seek a cure for waterborne disease schistosomiasis.
Users can register their computers onto the network by visiting www.worldcommunitygrid.org and downloading a small sized software program.
Sources: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment 14th May 2007
People often underestimate the importance of the world’s forest in cooling our planet down. However, with an area of trees comparable to the combined size of England, Wales, and Scotland being felled annually (c. 50 million acres) causing 2 billion tons of CO2 to enter the atmosphere, deforestation is the second largest contributor to climate change after the energy sector. Only 14% of CO2 emissions are caused by the transport industry (3% attributable to aviation) compared to the 25% of destroying the world’s rainforests. Scaled down, the statistics mean that a day’s deforestation is equivalent to 8 million people flying from the UK to New York. To halt such heavy emissions is simple: halt deforestation in Brazil, the Congo, Indonesia and elsewhere. The figures were highlighted by the Global Canopy Program, a Oxford-based alliance of leading scientific scientists.
With Developed Countries focusing more on improved technology to combat their own carbon emissions there is little incentive for Developing Countries to stop deforestation. Papua New Guinea, for example, one of the world’s poorest nations, stated in 2006 that it cannot stop cutting down its forests unless it is given financial incentive not to. Furthermore, international demand for intensive agriculture, logging, and ranching has created a greater demand for land. Up to now conservation cannot stand up to commerce. With 50% of the world’s species living in rainforests that only take up 7% of the world’s landmass, any further loss would be devastating. They forests also generate a bulk of the world’s rainfall and act as a cooling mechanism for the atmosphere. Developed nations have just not woken up to their plight yet.