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Amazon Deforestation

The recognized authority for satellite observations of Amazon deforestation is the Brazilian Space Research Institute (Portuguese acronym, INPE). This organization has been monitoring Amazon deforestation since 1988. Currently, INPE publishes monthly reports (for example, see the August 2009 [PDF] report in Portuguese) describing the latest satellite data and deforestation rates estimated from them. The area shown here is in the southern part of Mato Grosso, which had the highest deforestation rate among all Brazilian states between 2001 and 2005 (and subsequently surpassed by Pará state [PDF]). The images come from INPE, but were provided to Climate Central by Dr. Ruth DeFries (Columbia University) and Dr. Douglas Morton (University of Maryland).

Close to 20% of total human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide come from deforestation. Trees, other vegetation and soil return carbon to the atmosphere when forests are cut or burned down. There are many causes of deforestation. Analysis by Tim Searchinger and colleagues found that biofuels crop production in countries like the U.S. may be one contributing factor because of pressure it may generate to increase the amount of land cultivated for food production abroad.

See the companion still graphic, Amazon Deforestation and the related video, Iowa: Corn and Climate.