TIME Environment

Wildlife Populations Have Dropped by More Than Half

"This latest edition of the Living Planet Report is not for the faint-hearted"

Vertebrate species populations have dropped by more than half over the course of 40 years, according to a new report from WWF, marking a larger decrease than ever previously documented.

The Living Plant Report measured more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish and found a 52% decline between 1970 and 2010. The facts are grimmer for some species: freshwater dwellers showed an average decline of 76%.

The study chalked up most of the decline to human impact. Habitat loss and hunting and fishing were the primary culprits, and climate change was the next largest threat, the report said.

“This latest edition of the Living Planet Report is not for the faint-hearted,” writes Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, says in a forward to the report.

TIME Environment

The Climate Deniers’ Newest Argument

Ok, this part is settled. The rest, not so much
Ok, this part is settled. The rest, not so much Meriel Jane Waissman; Getty Images

It's a lot easier to attack environmental scientists when you make up something they didn't say—and then criticize them for saying it

There are few things more satisfying than when people you’re arguing with say something manifestly wrong or tone-deaf. It’s the polemical equivalent of getting a big, fat fastball right right in your sweet spot. Just swing away with a look of disdain or checkable fact and the home run trot is yours.

Alas, that happens less often than one might like, but there’s nothing that stops you from pretending your adversary said something dumb and then pouncing on the imaginary remark. Thus we had the “You didn’t build that” and “Let Detroit go bankrupt” silliness of the 2012 Presidential campaign, in which both President Obama and Mitt Romney were pilloried for saying things they never actually said—or at least didn’t mean—at all. And so, too, we have the “Climate science is settled” charade, in which climate change deniers hand-select four words environmental scientists often do say, reframe those words to mean something else entirely, and then beat the scientists up for faux-saying it.

We saw the examplar of this ignoble formula earlier in the year when Charles Krauthammer, writing in the Washington Post, conceded that CO2 emissions aren’t good for the planet, but declared, “I also believe that those scientists who pretend to know exactly what this will cause in 20, 30 or 50 years are white-coated propagandists.” As I observed at the time, these white-coated propagandists are actually white-coated strawmen, since virtually all credible scientists acknowledge that climate systems are far, far too complex to analyze with precise accuracy. Do environmental researchers and green politicians ever say the science is “settled?” Yes they do—but they mean that the fake debate over whether climate change is a vast hoax is finished. They don’t mean there’s no work ahead.

Krauthammer, of course, is not a climate scientist—which gives him at least a small excuse. The same cannot be said of Steven E. Koonin, whose recent piece in the Wall Street Journal took a more nuanced approach to making the same point. Koonin is director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University and a former Energy Department undersecretary during Obama’s first term. Yet he runs with the same dishonest baton Krauthammer did.

“The idea that ‘Climate science is settled’ runs through today’s popular and policy discussions,” he writes. “Unfortunately, that claim is misguided.” Koonin then ticks off the usual right-wing talking points: The computer models are imperfect; the oceans’ role in warming has not been studied fully; the history of Earth’s climate is poorly understood; there has been a slowing of warming over the past 15 years. Stipulated, stipulated, stipulated and stipulated.

Again and again, climate scientists acknowledge every single one of these x-factors and again and again they come back to the fact that the planet is sick and we’re playing a role. Knowing that cigarettes can kill you is not the same as pretending to predict which fatal illness—if any—you’re going to contract or just when and how severely that disease is going to strike. But you can surely tell when you’re beginning to cough, and if you don’t quit smoking straightaway you’re a fool.

In some ways, Koonin’s own familiarity with the climate field gets in the way of his argument. He cites, for example, the fact that 55 different computer models have been used by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and not one of them is in precise agreement with the others. But where does he get that supposedly damning evidence? From the IPCC’s own 2013 report. That sounds a whole lot like a group of researchers openly acknowledging that the science is not settled, even if it all points in the same direction.

Koonin also makes the mistake of counterfeit-evenhandedness when he writes, “I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is ‘settled’ (or is a ‘hoax’) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise.” That conspicuous parenthetical is meant to provide the illusion of balance, except the deniers truly do make the hoax claim (we’re looking at you Okla. Sen. James Inhofe, former chairman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee) and climate scientists truly don’t make the settledness claim—at least not the way Koonin is implying.

This isn’t to say all climate papers cover themselves in glory. Just last year, a study published in Nature tried to forecast the exact year in which various cities around the world would reach a tipping point, after which their climates would have moved permanently outside the boundaries of the mean. And so we got New York in 2047, Paris in 2054, Moscow in 2063 and on and on. Yes, there were generous margins of error built into the study, but even to suggest such precision is to misrepresent the science—at least in the popular mind.

Still, studies like this one are outliers—overzealous pieces of prognosticating in a discipline better known for caution and candor. The same moderation has not been true of the folks who have spent the better part of 25 years flinging accusations of conspiracy and fraud at climate scientists just trying to do their work. The disingenuous “settled science” argument may be a less shrill approach, but it’s a no more honest one.

MONEY Environment

Why “Green” Cars Are Still Destroying the Earth

Tesla Model S.
Tesla's battery makes it cleaner than gas-guzzling alternatives—but think about what else it's made of. Tesla

In 2013 Tesla‘s TESLA MOTORS, INC. TSLA 1.3144% Model S won the prestigious Motor Trend Car of the Year award. Motor Trend called it “one of the quickest American four-doors ever built.” It went on to say that the electric vehicle “drives like a sports car, eager and agile and instantly responsive.”

What is remarkable about the car’s speed and agility is that it’s powered by a battery and not an internal combustion engine. Because of that it produces absolutely no tailpipe emissions, making it both better performing and cleaner than its gas-guzzling peers. That said, the company does have one dirty little secret: It’s not as clean as you might think.

The secret behind Tesla’s success

While the power driving Tesla’s success might be its battery, that’s not the real secret to its success. Instead, Tesla has aluminum to thank for its superior outperformance, as the metal is up to 40% lighter than steel, according to a report from the University of Aachen, Germany. That lighter weight enables Tesla to fit enough battery power into the car to extend the range of the Model S without hurting its performance. Vehicles made with aluminum accelerate faster, brake in shorter distances, and simply handle better than cars loaded down with heavier steel.

Even better, pound-for-pound aluminum can absorb twice as much crash energy as steel. This strength is one of the reasons Tesla’s Model S also achieved the highest safety rating of any car ever tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But it’s not all good news when it comes to aluminum and cars.

Aluminum’s dirty side

Aluminum is the third-most abundant element in the world, behind oxygen and silicon. In fact, it makes up 8% of the Earth’s crust by weight. However, despite aluminum’s abundance, it’s not found in its pure form because it’s so reactive; instead, it is found in combination with more than 270 different minerals. Aluminum wasn’t even isolated until the 1800s when the predecessor company to Alcoa ALCOA INC. AA 0.4481% discovered how to transform a raw form called alumina into the metal.

Before alumina can be converted into aluminum its source needs to be mined. That source is an ore called bauxite, which is typically extracted in open-pit mines that aren’t exactly environmentally friendly. Bauxite is then processed into the fine white powder known as alumina, and from there alumina is exposed to intense heat and electricity through a process known as smelting, which transforms the material into aluminum.

Aluminum smelting is extremely energy-intense. It takes 211 gigajoules of energy to make one tonne of aluminum, while just 22.7 gigajoules of energy is required to produce one tonne of steel. In an oversimplification of the process, aluminum smelting requires temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius to melt alumina, while an electric current must also pass through the molten material so that electrolysis can reduce the aluminum ions to aluminum metals. This process requires so much energy that aluminum production is responsible for about 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Carbon Trust.

There is, however, some good news: Aluminum is 100% recyclable. Moreover, recycled aluminum, or secondary production, requires far less energy to produce than primary production, as the following chart shows.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Recycled aluminum, which in the U.S. primarily comes from beverage cans and automotive parts, doesn’t require as much energy because the aluminum is simply melted down in a furnace that is usually fired by natural gas. As illustrated in the chart, this segment’s energy consumption is just a fraction of that of the aluminum sector as a whole.

Still, Tesla, which doesn’t specify whether its aluminum is from primary or secondary production, is using a very carbon-intensive metal for its Model S. Moreover, even if it did use purely recycled aluminum, Tesla is still creating demand for aluminum by taking supply from the metals marketplace to make its cars. One way or another, new primary aluminum production will be required to increase overall supply, which will only create more emissions. This means Tesla’s success will require more aluminum to be produced in the years ahead.

Investor takeaway

While green technologies might be better for the environment, none is completely clean yet. Somewhere down the line a dirty material is being used to make green technology. Aluminum production could be a lot greener given how much less energy is required for recycled aluminum. That’s why Tesla and other automakers looking to the material to reduce weight and increase performance need to make an effort to push for increased aluminum recycling. Otherwise, we could be replacing one dirty technology with another.

Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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TIME health

Climate Action is a Health Priority

World Leaders Speak At UN Climate Summit
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Judith Rodin is President of The Rockefeller Foundation

The addition of human and planetary health priorities to our fight against climate change is a bold - but necessary - step

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in cities around the globe demanding the world take action against the rising threats of climate change. On Tuesday, leaders converged on the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Summit to make concrete commitments to mitigate climate change and build resilience.

Meanwhile, the Ebola virus continues to spread across large swaths of West Africa, a tragic example of how under-resourced national health systems can lack the capacity to contain a disease outbreak. The World Health Organization recently predicted the death toll could rise as high as 20,000, while officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned the toll could grow even higher.

On first glance, the two events might not seem related. But the link between climate change and human health has become ever clearer in recent years. From pollution and ocean acidification to declining freshwater resources and the loss of biodiversity, these trends are not only causing changing patterns of known diseases. They are raising the likelihood that new, unknown diseases will emerge. And on a planet undergoing rapid changes due to population growth, economic development, environmental degradation and climate change, the emergence of a disease in any one place is no longer a local issue but a global concern.

As the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Summit this week calls for greater action, it is critical to understand that climate change has both immediate and future consequences for human health. Already today we are seeing threats to health that range from waterborne diseases in degraded, polluted watersheds to the emergence of novel diseases transmitted from wildlife. Grave future threats include changes in temperature and rainfall patterns that can result in the spread of diseases, such as malaria, dengue, and West Nile virus, to higher latitudes and shifting altitudes. And rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere may cause substantial declines in the nutritional content of key crops.

Scientists and policy makers are calling for deeper and broader research and responses on the interactions between human health and the rapidly changing planetary environment, and there is a rising awareness that tackling these challenges may require radical new approaches, new ways of thinking and, perhaps even an entirely new discipline around the idea of planetary health. The Rockefeller Foundation is working with the medical journal The Lancet to escalate attention to this potential new field.

Planetary health offers a bold new framework for thinking about the interconnections between the health of our planet and the resilience of our ecosystems in an era of globalization, urbanization, and climate change. Consider the trajectory: from the field of “medicine” to the evolution over the past century of “public health,” and onward to the more recent conceptions of “international health” and “global health,” each shift from one conceptual framework to another has meant fundamental changes in the way the world takes on its most pressing health challenges. In the last century, for example, the creation of the modern field of public health involved huge changes in public policy, the creation of new government agencies and programs, transformations in training and radical changes in public expectations. Now, with massive ecological and environmental changes underway, the time has come to consider planetary health and how we organize our efforts to support it.

The frame of planetary health would fill important gaps not yet recognized within the framework of global health. For example, global health does not fully take into account the effects on human health of changes in the natural foundation on which human beings live: the planet itself. And it does not take stock of our civilization’s capacity to change our environment and then suffer potentially drastic health consequences.

By applying instead a planetary health lens, we could begin to answer large and vital questions. What risks does our civilization face, and how will we identify them? Are we living through a key transition for our species and civilization, and how will we know if we are? What will determine human health, sustainability and resilience in the face of environmental and planetary dangers?

The addition of human and planetary health priorities to our fight against climate change is a bold – but necessary – step. We must integrate the health of the world’s ecosystems and the health of its people. Because, in the words painted on a sign spotted in this weekend’s New York Climate March, “There is no Planet-B.”

 

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Japan

Japan’s Annual Dolphin Hunt Has Resumed

Fishermen in wetsuits hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji
Fishermen hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji, western Japan, on Jan. 20, 2014 Adrian Mylne—Reuters

The slaughter made infamous in the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary The Cove is still happening

The Japanese coastal village of Taiji has begun its annual dolphin hunt again this month, CNN reports.

The hunt, which runs from September to March, has long been the focus of outrage among environmental activists and was even made into an Oscar-winning documentary in 2009 called The Cove.

However, locals in Taiji, a town in Wakayama prefecture with a population of 3,500, say that hunting dolphins and whales is crucial to the region’s economy.

They appear to have the support of the Wakayama prefectural government, which declined CNN’s request for an interview but referred them to a statement on its website that calls dolphins and whales a legitimate marine resource.

“Located far away from the centers of economic activity, the town has a 400-year history as the cradle of whaling, and has flourished over the years thanks to whaling and the dolphin fishery,” the statement says.

Environmental organizations like Sea Shepherd, which has been broadcasting a live feed of the hunts for the past five years and running a robust social-media campaign against them, say the dolphins are tortured and treated inhumanely before they are killed.

The dolphins are captured and killed using a method known as “drive hunting,” which involves boatmen banging metal poles to cause deafness and disorientation in the dolphins, who then swim away from the boats and straight into the killing cove.

“Once netted into the cove, the dolphins are literally wrangled and tethered, often sustaining bloody wounds … The dolphin hunters use large metal rods to penetrate the spinal cord,” said Melissa Sehgal, Sea Shepherd’s campaign coordinator for the Taiji project.

Sehgal said the dolphins do not die immediately but are left to bleed out or drown in their own blood, a practice she described as “barbaric.”

Although most of the marine mammals are killed and sold for meat, a few choice specimens are captured. Captive dolphins can reportedly fetch over $100,000 from aquariums.

Sea Shepherd estimates that over the past three hunting seasons, there have been nearly 2,600 dolphins killed and a little under 500 taken captive.

[CNN]

TIME 2014 Election

Midterm Elections See a Surge in Ads About Energy and Environment

Projected to hit highest level ever

Political ads about energy and the environment will likely reach their highest number ever this election cycle, according to the Cook Political Report.

While these issues usually don’t rule the national polls of top midterm election priorities, there are several competitive races this cycle with energy at the forefront, especially in the Senate. There is also new outside money being spent on environmental issues, particularly from billionaire Tom Steyer, who has spent a reported $26.6 million of his own money this cycle to raise the profile of climate change through his super-PAC NextGen Climate Action.

“We’ve already seen more spots in U.S. Senate general elections alone (87,000 as of September 12) than we saw by this point in both Senate and House races in 2008 (56,000),” writes Elizabeth Wilner, a Senior Vice President of Kantar Media Ad Intelligence and contributing editor of the Cook Political Report. “If you add in 2014 House spots, we’ve nearly doubled the 2008 number (102,000). And with overall trends in advertising being what they are, with spot counts increasing over time, logic points to 2014 being the biggest cycle for energy/environment-related advertising, ever.”

Many of the “toss-up” Senate races this year have candidates bashing each other over energy industries that are economically or culturally important to the state. The prospect of the Keystone XL pipeline has ignited races from Michigan down to Louisiana, where Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is trying to prove how her chairmanship on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will help the state increase its offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has campaigned on his commitment to fight the “War on Coal” while his Democratic rival, Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes, hit the airwaves to put distance between herself and President Barack Obama on the issue. In Colorado, the support for the green energy industry has thrust Republican Rep. Cory Gardner’s and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s campaigns to cut ads with their candidates in front of wind turbines. And in Alaska, Democratic Sen. Mark Beigch has aired an ad of him driving a snowmobile over the ice of the Arctic Ocean to tout his efforts to expand drilling there. In a response ad for Republican opponent Dan Sullivan—a former commissioner of the Alaska’s Department of Natural Resourcesan X Games medalist criticized Begich’s “lame tricks,” driving skills and voting record.

Some energy industries appear to have a have a greater hold than others on donors’ wallets. While Democrats and Republicans are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to figure out who is more pro-coal in Rep. Nick Rahall’s southern West Virginia district, NextGen Climate Action has yet to receive much support, receiving four donations of $250, $500, $300 and $2,500 in August, according to Bloomberg.

TIME United Nations

Climate Summit Kicks Off With Promises of $200 Billion for Clean Energy

UN Climate Change Ban Ki Moon
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during the Opening Session of the Climate Change Summit at the United Nations in New York City on Sept. 23, 2014. Timothy A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images

More than 120 world leaders gathered at the United Nations Tuesday to call for an international agreement to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

The leaders used the one-day summit to announce plans by governments, investors and financial institutions to mobilize more than $200 billion to finance clean energy and support resilience among vulnerable nations.

Opening the session alongside Vice President Al Gore and a bearded Leonardo DiCaprio, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that time was running out for the world to agree on a legally-binding deal that would force nations to set emissions targets by 2020 in a bid to keep temperatures at 2 degrees Celsius.

The summit is seen as the beginning year-long negotiations that should culminate with a deal in Paris next year. But negotiations for the past seven years have been fraught with clashes between rich and poor nations, symbolized in part Tuesday by the absence of leaders from China and India.

“We need a clear vision, anchored in domestic and multinational actions, for keeping global temperature rise below 2 Degrees Celsius,” Ban told delegates. “The world needs to see what opportunities there are to cut greenhouse gas emissions and provide sustainable energy sources. By seeing what is possible, others can find inspiration and follow suit.”

Ban said he was especially heartened by the climate march that drew upwards of 300,000 on Sunday in New York and the promises of financial help. The $200 billion would be available at the end of 2015. It includes pledges by donor — several billion of dollars expected Tuesday — and developing countries to capitalize on the Green Climate Fund, which was set up 2010 to help facilitate climate funding from developed to developing nations.

“I am very impressed by the financing mobilized at the Summit by both the public and private sector. This will serve as a catalyst in finalizing a universal and meaningful agreement at Paris on climate change in 2015.” “The Summit has created a platform for new coalitions and has brought leaders from both public and private sectors across the globe to not only recognize climate risks, but to agree to work together.”

The financing reflects the growing clout of the private sector in the negotiations. Long sidelined over their perceived indifference the talks, the U.N. has sought them out and it appears to be paying off. Along with the financing, more than 100 CEOs are expected to get time later in the day with Ban to illustrate what they are doing on climate and some 30 are expected to announce plans to internalize the price of carbon in their operations and advocate for the setting a price on carbon emissions.

Of the $200 billion, about half comes from institutional investors who have committed to expediently decarbonize and to measure and disclose the carbon footprint of at least US$500 billion in assets under management. Another $30 billion comes from commercial banks providing climate finance by the end of 2025 while the insurance industry has agreed to double its green investments to $82 billion by the end of 2015.

Meanwhile, a group calling itself free Divest-Invest movement said it has now has over 800 global investors representing $50 billion in total assets to agreement to divest from their holdings in fossil fuels over the next five years. Those making the commitment include foundations, individuals, faith groups, health care organizations, cities and universities around the world.

“John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, moved America out of whale oil and into petroleum,” said Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

“We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Environment

U.S. Gives $15 Million to Help Cut Methane Emissions

"It is about time that world leaders come to the United Nations to recognize this threat in the way that it requires and demands"

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday pledged $15 million to help get the World Bank’s new initiative to cut methane emissions underway.

The Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Mitigation will use auctions to allocate public funds and private investment into projects around the globe that reduce methane emissions, including those that cut waste from landfills and treatment plants.

Addressing business leaders and government representatives at the opening of Climate Week NYC, Kerry said it was “about time” that world leaders recognized the “threat” of global warming.

“It gives me hope that this global summit may actually produce the leadership that is necessary to try to come together and move the needle to take advantage of the small window of time that we have left in order to be able to prevent the worst impacts of climate change for already happening,” he said.

Kerry urged leaders attending the U.N. Climate Change Summit in New York, which kicks off Tuesday, to “move and act now” on global warming, reports Responding to Climate Change.

The summit aims to engage governments and businesses into making real efforts to reduce climate change in preparation for an international agreement in 2015 to limit global warming to less than 2°C.

TIME brazil

Brazil Says No to Global Forest Plan

A Ka'apor Indian warrior uses a chainsaw to ruin one of the logs they found in the Alto Turiacu Indian territory
A Ka'apor Indian warrior uses a chainsaw to ruin one of the logs found during a jungle raid to expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, in the northeast of Maranhao state in the Amazon basin, Brazil on Aug. 7, 2014. Lunae Parracho—Reuters

Brazil's complaints showcase the pitfalls of building international consensus on any major environmental initiative

(NEW YORK)— Despite its critical role in protecting the Amazon rainforest, Brazil will not endorse a global anti-deforestation initiative being announced at the U.N. climate summit, complaining it was left out of the consultation process. A U.N. official disputed that claim.

Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said Brazil was “not invited to be engaged in the preparation process” of the declaration. Instead, she said Brazil was given a copy of the text and asked to endorse it without being allowed to suggest any changes.

“Unfortunately, we were not consulted. But I think that it’s impossible to think that you can have aglobal forest initiative without Brazil on board. It doesn’t make sense,” Teixeira said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press.

Charles McNeill, a senior environmental policy adviser with the U.N. Development Program, said “there were efforts to reach out to Brazilian government people but there wasn’t a response.”

“There was no desire to exclude Brazil,” said McNeill. “They are the most important country in this area. An effort that involves Brazil is much more powerful and impactful than one that doesn’t.”

The forest declaration has not been publicly released but it is expected to be endorsed by many countries, corporations and major environmental groups, as one of the centerpieces of Tuesday’s U.N. climate summit.

Although it is not part of the formal negotiation process, the summit is intended to build momentum for a new climate treaty in late 2015, with the U.N. hoping governments will announce major initiatives that would boost confidence heading into next year’s talks in Paris.

But Brazil’s complaints showcase the pitfalls of building international consensus on any major environmental initiative.

Teixeira says her government had concerns that the text could clash with Brazil’s national laws, which allow for managed felling of the Amazon and other forests.

“It’s different to have legal deforestation vs. illegal deforestation. Our national policy is we want to stop illegal deforestation,” she said.

McNeill, who said the UNDP facilitated the forest declaration process, said the effort to get countries to sign on to the initiative would continue until the Paris summit. “Hopefully, Brazil will have a chance to get on board,” he said.

Teixeira emphasized that Brazil is committed to protecting the Amazon rainforest, which is considered one of the world’s most important natural defenses against global warming because of its capacity to absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide.

The minister said her country has set a goal of slowing the pace of deforestation to 3,900 square kilometers (1,505 square miles) annually by 2020. That would be down from about 5,843 square kilometers (2,256 square miles) in the August 2012 through July 2013 period, when Brazil made its last annual survey measuring the destruction of the forest by studying satellite images.

Brazil’s rate of deforestation has fallen 79 percent since 2004, according to government figures. But last year, the government reported that annual destruction of its Amazon rainforest jumped by 28 percent after four straight years of declines.

The destruction was still the second-lowest amount of jungle destroyed since Brazil began tracking deforestation in 1988, but environmental activists blamed the increase on recent loosening of Brazil’senvironmental law meant to protect the jungle. They also say that the government’s push for big infrastructure projects like dams, roads and railways is pushing deforestation.

Teixeira denied that the increase had anything to do with the revised Forest Code law, which was passed two years ago after more than a decade of efforts by Brazil’s powerful agricultural lobby. The changes mostly eased restrictions for landowners with smaller properties, allowing them to clear land closer to riverbanks and other measures.

Another controversial portion of the new law allows those who illegally felled land to not face penalties if they sign an agreement to replant trees. But Teixeira said the part of the law only applies to those who illegally felled trees prior to 2008.

She said the increase in deforestation was concentrated mostly in the states of Para, Mata Grosso and Rondonia, and argued it would have been more widespread had the Forest Code law been to blame.

“The dynamics of the deforestation is not related to the Forest Code,” she said. “We are trying to find the cause.”

On the broader climate change talks, Teixeira said Brazil — the world’s sixth largest emitter of carbon dioxide — is open to a binding treaty that would commit every country to emission reduction targets for beyond 2020, “but only if every country is on board.”

After the last climate change talks in Copenhagen five years ago, which failed to produce a binding treaty,Brazil set a voluntary goal of reducing its emissions by nearly 40 percent by 2020, mostly through reducing deforestation and promoting renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.

TIME Environment

Climate Change Activists Protest Corporations at #FloodWallStreet Sit-In

Protestors took over the Financial District on Monday

Climate change activists staged a sit-down protest on Wall Street against the role of large corporations in global warming on Monday, a day after an estimated 400,000 people demonstrated at the People’s Climate March in New York City.

Organizing under the hashtag #FloodWallStreet and dressed mostly in blue, protestors began their sit-in at New York City’s Financial District around noon. At least two people were arrested later in the day, Buzzfeed reported, as some protestors clashed with police at the sit-in.

“Two years ago, Superstorm Sandy literally flooded New York’s Financial District — but it didn’t phase Wall Street and their drive for the short term profits that flow from the cooking of the planet,” author and activist Naomi Klein said in a statement about the event. “Which is why we’re going to flood them again.”

Gothamist reports that while police “appeared reluctant” to make arrests (the rally did not have a permit), the protest turned tense when officers and demonstrators fought over barricades in the late afternoon, while multiple Twitter users claimed pepper spray had been used against protestors.

The NYPD’s director commissioner for strategic initiatives remarked on the protests in a tweet late afternoon:

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