Dr. Gillian Galford: Resource Depletion in Brazil


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Presentation used in Oct. 11, 2012 webinar presentation for Primary Source and IREX.

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  • Amazon = largest remaining tropical forest on earth Cerrado = world’s most biologically rich savanna; Atlantic forest = mostly diminished but still among the biologically richest forests in the world Caatinga = semi-arid scrub forest rich in natural resources Pantanal = worlds largest freshwater wetland, seasonally flooded plain shared by 3 countries: Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay.
  • “ Lungs of the world” Area larger than the US Largest tropical forest Holds 1/3 of the world’s species Contains ¼ of all fresh water
  • Area larger than the US Largest tropical forest Holds 1/3 of the world’s species Contains ¼ of all fresh water Deforestation could cause rainfall across the Amazon rainforest to drop precipitously, warns a new study published in the journal Nature . Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0905-effects-of-deforestation-on-rainfall.html#QJYgI7f9lsDyqQjk.99
  • Government– laws regulating deforestation extent, creation of protected areas, monitoring and enforcement Private sector– voluntary enrollment in “moratoriums” on deforestation give producers a special certification that is more valuable on the global market; private investments in avoided deforestation (Sweden, hotels)
  • Most biologically rich savanna on earth Over 10,000 plant species (43% endemic) 3 times the size of Texas Feeds 3 major water basins– Amazon, Paraguay, and Sao Francisco 2% of land is National Park or Conservation Area
  • Most biologically rich savanna on earth Over 10,000 plant species (43% endemic) 3 times the size of Texas Feeds 3 major water basins– Amazon, Paraguay, and Sao Francisco 2% of land is National Park or Conservation Area Sadly, very little is being done for conservation in this area
  • What are the impacts of oil and gas extraction? Deforestation:  inland facilities require the opening of roads through forests, which bring new settlers who may engage in slash-and-burn activities and logging. Indigenous conflict:  Indigenous and local peoples often gain the least from natural resources extraction, but stand to lose the most. Compensation from energy firms and the government, where it is awarded, is often very small. In addition, local communities are not always informed of extraction projects. Biodiversity loss:  Fragmentation of natural habitat caused by the installation of pipelines, leading to smaller population sizes that are not viable in the long term. Companies may lack sound practices Soil and aquatic pollution:  Spills and toxic by-products are sometimes dumped in the vicinity of the site or are stored in open waste pits, polluting the surrounding lands and water. Air pollution:  Some of the by-products of natural gas are burned in the open air, causing pollution and fires and threatening the lives of locals. Such flaring is a waste of gas that could be used by local communities. Planning== sudden availability of funds may arise from oil or gas extraction. Local, national and regional administrations may not have the capacity or the long-term planning required to manage large budgets or may go overboard by investing in ambitious (or dubious) infrastructure projects that do not take sustainable development into consideration.
  • What are the impacts of mining? Mining can impact the area’s water drainage, pollute water with run-off from the mine, and threaten local communities, including indigenous people, by affecting the quality of the food supply. Other effects include: Deforestation:  In the Carajas Mineral Province, Brazil, maybe the world’s largest copper reserve (iron ore, manganese and gold are already found there), wood from surrounding forest is cut for charcoal to fuel pig iron plants, resulting in annual deforestation of 6,100 km 2 1 . Pollution:  A notorious pollutant used in gold extraction is mercury. In the vicinity of gold extraction sites, it may be found in high concentrations in fish, affecting local populations. Mercury also ends up in the atmosphere, from where it returns to forests. For example, 90% of fish caught by rural villagers south of gold mining areas of the Tapajós River in Brazil were found to be contaminated with methyl mercury 2 . This chemical is dangerous for the nervous system as well as foetuses. Encroachment on indigenous lands:  When mining takes place in areas that are settled by indigenous people, clashes may occur. It has been reported that there are half a million gold prospectors ( garimpeiros  in Portuguese) working throughout the Amazon Basin in small operations. In Brazil’s state of Roraima, conflicts have flared up between the indigenous Yanomamo Indians and gold prospectors, and the government had to step in with military intervention to evict miners from Indian lands 3 . Further reading: http://www.fbds.org.br/IMG/pdf/doc-295.pdf
  • Hydropower in Brazil: An Opportunity and a Liability Hydropower accounts for over 90 percent of Brazil’s electricity – and this abundant hydroelectric power is a mixed blessing. On the positive side, hydroelectric power reduces Brazil’s overall generation costs, compared to countries with more diverse sources of supply. And compared to most thermal generation, it is also more sustainable for the environment. However, this dependence makes the country more vulnerable to supply shortages in years with low precipitation, especially given sustained and increasing consumer and industrial demand. Belo Monte Dam-- The 3.75-mile dam will displace 30,000 river dwellers, partially dry up a 62-mile stretch of the Xingu river, and flood large areas of forest and grass land. Supporters say hydropower is Brazil's best clean-energy option, but reservoirs have high emissions of CO2 and methane (with a warming effect 25 times stronger than CO2), because of decaying matter underwater A further concern is that much of Belo Monte's energy output seems destined to power energy-intensive industries in the region, mostly mining and aluminium, meaning more deforestation and community displacement in the future Brazil has been facing criticism from international institutions and non-profit organisations regarding the environmental and social impacts of the implementation of hydropower projects in the Amazon. Concern mainly arises in relation to the country's supposed non-compliance with International Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, issued by the International Labour Organisation and ratified by over 20 countries. As a result, Brazil is at risk of jeopardising its long-term energy plan. The country has a large renewable energy sector, with over 47% of its overall energy originating from renewable sources. In order to support the economic growth expected over the coming years - driven by several infrastructure projects and events, such as the World Cup and Olympic Games - a large number of new hydropower plants are expected to be installed in the next 30 years. However, 70% of the non-explored hydropower potential (an estimated 174,000 megawatts) is located in environmentally sensitive areas, mainly in the Amazon and the Brazilian savannah. Belo Monte is strongly backed by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, but widely opposed by environmentalists, human rights groups, and indigenous organizations who say the project will adversely affect local livelihoods and destroy the Xingu River, a major tributary of the Amazon River. For Belo Monte to be commercially viable year round, two more dams will have to be build upstream, according to Amazon expert Philip Fearnside, who notes the dam will generate substantial greenhouse gas emissions through the flooding of tens of thousands of hectares of forest and decay of vegetation during seasonal drawdowns. Belo Monte will redirect the flow of about 80 percent of the Xingu over a 100-km stretch of the river. Read more athttp://news.mongabay.com/2012/0828-belo-monte-resumes.html#KCQ2hR5EFYzMMMFJ.99 Large hydroelectric projects — traditionally funded by international aid and development organizations like the World Bank, but increasingly funded by national development agencies and banks like Brazil's BNDES and state-backed banks in China — have led to widespread forest loss. Besides inundating large tracts of rainforest (dams in the lowland areas like much Amazon are generally ecologically inefficient because large tracts of forest are flooded due to the flatness of the basin) and killing off local wildlife, the dams have the effect of destroying aquatic habitats and affecting fish populations, displacing indigenous peoples, and adding carbon to the atmosphere.  Planned dams in the Amazon Basin On top of the ecological damage, several projects have silted up from the erosion resulting from deforestation, rendering the dams inefficient. The reduced water flow downstream disturbs riverbeds and affects floodplain farmers who rely on seasonal floods for nutrients to enrich the soil and kill pests. Thus they may turn to pesticides and artificial fertilizers which have their own negative environmental effects. Diminished water flow can contribute to greater influx of salt water in river deltas, affecting coastal ecosystems essential to fisheries. Hydroelectric projects are also of concern from a health standpoint because they provide opportunities for the spread of disease-carrying organisms including snails (schistosomiasis/bilharzia) and mosquitoes (dengue fever, yellow fever, malaria).  Greenhouse gas emissions from dams Dams are often touted as sources of "green" energy, but in the tropics, recent research suggests this is a misnomer. Dams in the tropics have two principle greenhouse gas emissions sources: carbon released from soil carbon stocks and dying vegetation when the reservoir is flooded and methane formed where organic matter decays under low oxygen conditions at the bottom of the reservoir. Methane emissions are facilitated by a dam's turbines, which usually draw from the bottom of the reservoir and spray methane-dense water into the air upon release. Emissions from rotting vegetation occur on an ongoing basis when the levels of the reservoir fluctuate: during the dry season weeds, emerge from the muddy drop-down zone, only to rot again when waters return. The effect turns a typical tropical dam into a "methane factory", as coined by Philip Fearnside, a scientist who has published widely on the issue.  An indirect source of emissions from dams is the activity their electricity powers. For example, several major dams in the Amazon are under construction specifically to power mining operations and agroindustry, both of which can drive deforestation. The case is similar in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, where hydropower will fuel new mines, ore refiners, and mills for palm oil and paper production.  Dam expansion Despite vocal objections to many dams from civil society and increased awareness among traditional lenders like the World Bank, the number of planned dam projects in tropical regions is growing. On the Mekong alone, one of tropical Asia's biologically richest rivers, some 11 dams are planned by 2030, while 77 hydroelectric projects are in the works for the Mekong Basin. Meanwhile some 150 dams are planned in the Amazon Basin.  While deforestation and chemical pollution from mining can impact the rainforest environment, downstream aquatic habitats fare worse. Increased sediment loads and reduced water flows can seriously affect local fish populations.  Learn more: http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0830-belo_monte_google_earth.html
  • http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/10/biofuels/biofuels-text Brazil, which has done more than any other nation to displace oil with ethanol, is poised as never before to ramp up production of its sugarcane-based fuel and, it hopes, to market its “sweeter alternative” around the world. Brightening Brazil’s prospects to solidify its position as world biofuel powerhouse are billions of dollars of new foreign investment and the possible fall of a long-standing trade barrier in the United States, a huge potential market. Today, Brazil is a global leader in the use of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. In an effort to reduce petroleum import dependency and improve its carbon balance, Brazil launched the largest program to promote domestic production of biodiesel fuels (soybeans, castor beans, oil palm and sunflowers) and ethanol (sugarcane) in 2004. In 2010, the Brazilian Government increased the mandatory mixture blend in gasoline from 4% (B4) to 5% (B5). At the same time, the Government of Brazil (GOB) encouraged and regulated the ethanol market with its ethanol-use mandate, which enforces the percentage of ethanol in gasoline (25% as of today). Anyhow, the bio-fuel industry still depends on the cost and production of feed-stocks.   The Agricultural Trade Office/Sao Paolo forecasts the total bio-ethanol production in 2011 at 28.7 billion liters for fuel use only (32.5 billion total), and biodiesel production at 2.65 billion liters for the same year (up 8 percent from 2010).   GOB still encourages ethanol consumption by tax incentives for ethanol-flex fuel vehicles, and ethanol fuel is available directly at the pump. Today, the biodiesel production is only enough to satisfy national consumption, while 10% of the ethanol production is exported and makes Brazil the largest exporter of ethanol in the world with 60% of the global market share (3.2 billion liters exported).
  • Dr. Gillian Galford: Resource Depletion in Brazil

    1. 1. Resource depletion in Brazil Gillian Galford, Ph.D. University of Vermont Primary Source Webinar October 11, 2012
    2. 2. Ecosystems of BrazilIt’s a lot more than rainforest!
    3. 3. Amazon Tropical Forest• 1/3 of world’s species• ¼ of all fresh water• Large carbon reservoir
    4. 4. Amazon Tropical Forest• 1/3 of world’s species• ¼ of all fresh water• Large carbon reservoir• Threats–• DEFORESTATION Logging, ranching & infrastructure expansion• Overfishing & Overhunting
    5. 5. Reducing deforestation• Successes come from government and the private sector
    6. 6. Cerrado– Cerrado, Cerradão, Campo limpo– 43% of plant species are endemic– Most unprotected savanna in the world
    7. 7. Cerrado– Cerrado, Cerradão, Campo limpo– 43% of plant species are endemic– Most unprotected savanna in the worldTHREATS: expansion of croplands, mostly soy
    8. 8. Oil and gas• Deforestation • Energy• Indigenous conflict independence• Biodiversity loss • Economic• Soil & water development pollution• Air pollution
    9. 9. Mining• Iron, gold, tin, copper and bauxite• 2% of GDP• 4% of workforce Large list of environmental problems
    10. 10. Hydropower• Accounts for 90% of Brazil’s electricity• Cheap• Vulnerable• Growth needed• Ex: Belo Monte – Industry – Indigenous people – Forest loss – Water quality – Greenhouse gases
    11. 11. BiofuelsLargest ethanol producerin the worldCause direct or indirectloss of forest? Corn Cane
    12. 12. Brazil’s environmental future: A new dawn• Global awareness• Political will• Economic incentives• Personal responsibility• Scientific understanding