Published August 27, 2019
Group of Seven nations have pledged millions of dollars in aid to fight fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest to show they are serious about fighting climate change. Instead, the situation starkly shows how unserious their climate change policy is.
No one disputes that the rainforest’s survival is crucial to fighting climate change. Its massive size sucks carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, mitigating the rise in greenhouse gas levels. If the rainforest gets smaller, the greenhouse gas level in the air gets larger.
But the rainforest is something else, too: It represents massive amounts of land that many Brazilians see as their ticket out of poverty. That’s why the forests are burning at such high rates; Brazilians are burning trees to clear land for farming and resource exploitation. For these people, if the rainforest gets smaller, their chance at a more comfortable life gets larger.
Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.