Paulo Moutinho: ‘There’s momentum in Brazil now to stop Amazon deforestation forever’

Brazilian biologist Paulo Moutinho talks to EarthSky about strategies for ending deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.

Paulo Moutinho: We have a good momentum in Brazil right now to stop deforestation in the Amazon, forever.

Brazilian biologist Paulo Moutinho recently co-authored a study with the U.S.-based Woods Hole Research Center. The study identified strategies for ending deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Moutinho said that over the past several years, Brazil has been working to bring down its rates of deforestation. The country has reduced deforestation by 64% since 2004, he said.

Paulo Moutinho We have a society more engaged in debate on why it’s good to reduce deforestation in terms of benefits for Brazilian society, for the world society.

Moutinho credited Brazil’s improved policing of environmental laws with helping to lower deforestation rates. He also found that businesses played a role; his study documented that Brazil’s cattle and soybean industries are doing less business with those known to engage in deforestation.

Paulo Moutinho: We have producers who want to do more in terms of sustainable production.

By seizing the moment, Moutinho said, the Brazilian government might be able to bring an end to deforestation of the Amazon. Using economic models, Moutihnho’s study estimated that up to $18 billion would be needed though the year 2020 to end deforestation in Brazil. That money, he said, would provide incentives for people to use fewer trees, to enforce laws better, and to manage protected areas.

Dr. Moutinho spoke more about the evidence to base his claim that Brazil can realistically end its deforestation by 2050.

Paulo Moutinho: The first evidence that something is changing in Brazil, in a good direction from my perspective, in terms of deforestation reduction, emission reduction, is how Brazil has changed its position in terms of tropical deforestation in the context of climate change negotiations. Five years ago, if you went to the government and said something about targets, that would be impossible to continue in the discussions about that, because Brazil was so resistant to that. But now, Brazil is saying, okay, we can use the forests. And we can help the world end deforestation and associated emissions, in a way that we can provide good service, environmental service to the world, to the Brazilians, and maybe we could get some kind of recognition about that, and maybe some kind of compensation.

If Brazil were to end its deforestation, the study authors estimate that global emissions of CO2 would drop from 2 to 5 percent. Dr. Moutinho told EarthSky what he thinks is the most important thing people should know about climate change.

Paulo Moutinho: I think that we need more qualified information from science at the ground level. That’s important. We need to reach those people living in the ground level with good information. That’s exactly what’s going on right now in Brazil. We have indigenous forums for climate change. We have rubber tappers talking about climate change, at the ground level. So we need good decisions at the ground level in a way that you can put some kind of pressure on our governments to make different, to go in the other direction, in a good direction in terms of climate change.

Jorge Salazar