The portion of the Amazon rainforest affected by deforestation in the first three months of 2022 was the highest ever recorded, according to a new report from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
According to the INPE report, released Friday, 941.34 square kilometers (363 square miles) of forest were cleared between January and March this year. It is the largest amount recorded since the institute began monitoring deforestation rates in 2016. The cleared area is nearly the size of Dallas, Texas.
Researchers observed a 64% increase from the same period last year, when 573.29 square kilometers (221 square miles) were cleared.
The destruction of the world’s largest rainforest has risen sharply since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, weakening environmental protection by arguing that they hinder economic development that can reduce poverty in the Amazon region.
The President’s Office and the Ministry of Environment did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A report by the UN Climate Panel warned on Monday that governments are not doing enough to curb greenhouse gas emissions to ward off the worst effects of global warming. While the use of fossil fuels is mainly to blame, deforestation accounts for about 10% of global emissions, according to the report.
“Brazil is an example of what the UN climate report says when it refers to governments not taking the necessary action,” said Cristiane Mazzetti, a forest advocate in Brazil for the environmentalist group Greenpeace.
“We have a government that is deliberately taking the necessary steps to curb climate change.”
Some scientists predict that deforestation will continue to rise ahead of Brazil’s presidential election in October, just as it has done ahead of the last three elections.
Enforcement of the environment typically weakens in election years, and criminals can rush to clear the forest prior to the inauguration of a new government, according to Carlos Souza Jr., a researcher at Imazon, a Brazilian research institution.
On Thursday, Facebook’s parent company Meta announced that it had removed 14 Facebook accounts, nine Facebook pages and 39 Instagram accounts to post false information related to deforestation.
“This network originates from Brazil and targets domestic audiences in that country,” Meta said in its first quarterly “Adversarial Threat Report.”
Meta’s report says it found “links to individuals affiliated with the Brazilian military” behind the accounts.
The reports were engaged in “coordinated illicit behavior,” which included posting content claiming that not all deforestation was harmful, and criticizing “legitimate environmental NGOs who spoke out against deforestation in the Amazon,” the Meta report said.
CNN has contacted the Brazilian Ministry of Defense for a comment.