Think deforestation is declining in the Amazon, with all the warnings about climate change? Nope, it just got worse—its highest rate in the past 10 years, the BBC reports. Brazil has released data showing that roughly 3,050 square miles (or nearly 1.5 million football fields) of Earth's biggest rainforest was chopped down between August 2017 and July 2018, a 13.7% increase over the year before. Opinions differ on the cause, with Environment Minister Edson Duarte blaming illegal loggers: "An upsurge in organized crime" is behind it, says Duarte, who calls for a broader battle against "environmental violations and in defense of sustainable development of the biome." Then there's a 2012 forest code that still gives amnesty to anyone who deforests on small properties, notes the Guardian.
After declining for years, deforestation began rising in 2013 and increased in four of the following years. Now Brazil is welcoming a new, openly anti-environmentalist president, Jair Bolsonaro, whose foreign minister calls global warming a Marxist plot. Environmentalists say the Amazon rainforest could suffer a 300% deforestation surge under the new regime: "We are already in a very critical situation in terms of climate change," an environmental researcher tells National Geographic. "If we mess up with the Amazon, carbon dioxide emissions will increase so massively that everyone will suffer." Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former military officer, wants more roads and mines in the rainforest and fewer penalties for chopping down trees. (A scientist calls the decline in forest insects "hyperalarming.")