Environmentalists are ringing alarm bells after Brazil released its latest data on the Amazon rainforest, CNN reports. According to the government, the rainforest lost nearly 3,800 square miles over 12 months through July 2019, marking an 11-year high in deforestation and a 29.5% increase over the year before. "From the point of view of future generations, the loss of biodiversity and the rise of emissions are huge setbacks that will have enormous consequences over the next 10, 15 years and beyond," Gilberto Câmara of the Group on Earth Observations tells the New York Times. The news comes as President Jair Bolsonaro weakens environmental agencies and says industries like agriculture and mining should gain greater access to protected lands.
Bolsonaro was intensely criticized this summer amid reports that record fires were burning in the Amazon, CBS News recalls. He called worldwide concern "sensationalist" and told foreign governments to butt out, but environmentalists said the rainforest is vital for storing emitting oxygen and storing carbon dioxide—a major contributor to climate change. Bolsonaro hasn't responded to the latest data, but his environment minister, Ricardo Sales, said that while it's "far from what we wanted ... it's also far from the three digit numbers that had been reported." As it stands, the Amazon rainforest extends over 2 million square miles across nine South American countries. (Bolsonaro got into a war of words with French President Emmanuel Macron over the rainforest.)