How Brazil’s Government Is Silencing Scientists


When you look at the Amazon from above, it all looks so lush, so unscathed. But as I scaled a thousand-foot tower with a climate scientist, we saw a storm brewing, it feels
like it’s getting closer literally and politically. If just
another fifth of the Amazon goes, it could pass an ecological point of no
return. From there, the rain force dries out and burns up forever. But Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, is a climate skeptic, who’s propped up by the
country’s powerful agriculture industry. His policies encourage developing large
parts of the rainforest with mining, logging and agriculture. I’m here to meet
the scientists who are sounding the alarm for a rainforest in crisis. These
are the researchers who’ve made the Amazon their home and are working around the clock to study a rainforest that’s increasingly under threat. They’re
conducting research in the face of a government that doesn’t want to hear the
facts. I came to Brazil just a few months before the international community was
shocked by images of the rainforest burning, including the same area where I would meet scientists whose groundbreaking
research is at risk of losing government funding. Stefan Wolff is an atmospheric
scientist. We took a boat deep into the Amazon, to the research center where he works. We’re headed to the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory. This is a collaboration
between the Germans and the Brazilians. It’s one of the largest science projects in this country. The Amazon is 55 million years old and home to 390 billion trees. It has served as a carbon sink, able to absorb emissions that trap heat and cause the
earth to warm up. Until recently, the forest was taking in the equivalent of all the emissions of every car on the planet and slowing the pace of global
warming. But that’s no longer the case Stefan and his team are using data
towers to observe how things are changing. ATTO is one of these research stations. It’s the tallest tower in South America. This looks like miles and miles of untouched forests. It actually is, it’s
completely pristine here. Is that a rare thing for the Amazon basin these days? Yeah, basically 20% of the amazon is already destroyed, so this one example which really strongly shows how important it is to protect it. Stefan’s team uses these structures of varying heights to collect data. We started out on one that was 262 feet tall. Sensors and readers up here, what kind of
information are you getting? Basically, this is, on the one hand,
meteorological information like humidity, temperature, radiation, that means energy
which is coming from the Sun. How tall is the ATTO tower? It’s 325 meters top, there. And why does it need to be so tall? We are not only measuring in one spot
of the Amazon rainforest, that’s only possible if you go very much higher up than 50 or 80 meters. With the data from the tower, scientists here have published
groundbreaking science like the first long-term record of how clouds are
formed in the Amazon. Those same clouds water crops across South America. They
also tracked micro particles of dust that have been carried from the Sahara
Desert all the way to the rainforest. In other words, they have shown us just how deeply interconnected
the planet’s ecosystems are. But scientists here are
finding their work increasingly lacking support by the government they rely on
for funding. First, they need to have passion
to do what we do here. As a scientist, I’m curious. Bruno Takeshi is the operational manager
of the ATTO and AmazonFACE, which is a long-term study of how increasing CO2
will affect the rainforest. One thing that’s not so much a mystery is that CO2 levels are rising and we’re getting into a planetary danger zone. So really, the
big question is, will this forest survive or not? Exactly, so we are facing this
scenario. As we burn more fossil fuels for energy, atmospheric carbon dioxide
rises and drives global temperatures higher. And which level of the forest is
the most sensitive to co2? Actually, we have seen that the low level of the forest is the area more sensitive. Of course, the entire forest is sensitive,
but especially the small species that react more fast for any kind of changes. Much of South America depends on Amazonian rain cycles. But with rising
surface temperatures, rain cycles are destabilized, leading to forest fires and
flooding. If this trend continues in the Amazon, a deadly feedback loop could lead
to the rainforest drying out and turning into a savanna. And once that happens nothing can stop the entire ecosystem from collapsing. Beto Quesada
is a world-renowned scientist who revealed groundbreaking research in 2015
that show the Amazon has likely stopped taking in our CO2. We feel, you know, this urge, this need to understand it before it’s gone. No matter what, it
sounds like the Amazon is waving a white flag. I cannot take any more of your
emissions. Yeah, yeah, pretty much. Today, Beto overseas scientists like
Laynara Lugli, who is collecting data about how the Amazon’s ancient soil is lacking crucial nutrients. So here, especially in this part of the Amazon, the soils are very poor, in terms of phosphorus and some cations like calcium. So it doesn’t matter if we increase CO2 forever, the plants need other resources to assimilate this carbon. The irony is that Brazil’s
president Jair Bolsonaro wants to clear the Amazon to make room
for agriculture like soy and beef. With the soils we have here, you know, they are not suitable for agriculture. You know, sometimes I think people don’t realize that. Beto’s research group is studying how
increasing CO2 levels in our atmosphere will affect the rainforest. The best
computer model suggests that the Amazon will continue to trap excess CO2. But Beto has found inaccuracies in the models, which means it’s not clear
whether the Amazon will survive the increasing CO2. So now, they need a large-scale experiment to get new data and adjust the model. You know, when
a country like Brazil has some financial problems, you know science is usually the
first thing that is cut. But President Bolsonaro just slashed more than 40 percent of the Ministry of Science’s annual budget. We’re heading out with a
group of biologists who are trying to understand the nitty-gritty of how these
drones interact with the atmosphere so Michelle Robin is a
biologist who studies how trees are physically adapting to a CO2 rich world.
CO2 is essentially plant food but it’s also what’s warming our planet at an
exponential rate. So we see that we can have some groups of trees that have characteristics that allow them to grow faster. But this goes at the expense of
them not having dense tissue for them to survive. Let me see if I’ve got
this, the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, it gives the trees a sort of
a growth spurt and they grow tall, they grow fast, but they don’t grow sturdy and that kind of thin growth spurt makes them vulnerable to diseases
and insects and all kinds of things. And also their wood is less dense, so if you have wind events or fires they are also more vulnerable. So this is where we climb up to the walkway. Right. Michelle took me up into the forest canopy to where she does some of her most exciting research. This is so badass. But this breathtaking scene is vanishing. What is your biggest concern when it
comes to this rainforest, from your perspective? I think deforestation is
my biggest concern. The rate this is happening right now, it’s really extreme.
And we know that these trees they can act as a sink of carbon and once we
cut them down they become sources of carbon. They are storing a lot of carbon,
in their stems, in the soil in their roots, and if we cut them down we will
release this all over again to the atmosphere. We headed back to camp before
sunset, where that evening, the scientists watched as Bolsonaro attacked
deforestation data, released by the country’s Space Agency and started
singling out scientists. The attack would have a chilling effect on our interview
with Stefan the next day, as we climbed the tallest data tower, the ATTO. So the forest is emitting some gasses, the forest is absorbing some gasses and we have the important point of the recycling of rain, where the rainforest is
responsible for the huge amount of precipitation which is occurring in
South America. Early on in the climb, Stefan spoke openly about the impact of deforestation which Bolsonaro is encouraging more of in Brazil’s Amazon. If you would cut the forest away and we had a completely different ecosystem, it will be probably getting hotter ecosystem which would shift some global
precipitation and wind patterns completely. As we climbed, a storm
approached. It’s quite a bit of rainfall around us.
– Yes. In the East direction and the
cloud is growing a bit in the last minutes and I’m just wondering if there
is a chance that we get wet. And then the storm blew in. Luckily, it changed direction so we could resume our climb. But at the top, Stefan’s tone shifted. What are the drivers behind this deforestation belt? This is this is a
question to which I will not respond, because this is out of our research and this is too political, and this is too endangering right now the situation. The reason for Stefan’s fear became clear just days later, when President Bolsonaro fired the head of Brazil’s Space Agency, who had released data showing
increased deforestation. Do you feel, as a scientist, that you and your colleagues are getting the support that you need to better protect this
rainforest? This is not a question to answer. Days later, Germany and Norway cut millions of dollars of environmental
funding to Brazil. The funding was originally set up to reward Brazil’s
success at reducing deforestation, something that’s clearly not happening
anymore. We have a serious situation, right now, politically. No, I will not speak it for the camera. And I will not speak it for the microphone. What was clear from our journey to the tallest heights of the Amazon, was that it’s all under threat, not just the rainforest, but
also the science that could help steer us out of the climate crisis. The scientists
here are sounding the distress call, but it doesn’t feel like anyone’s listening. hey everyone its Guillory thank you so
much for watching the final dispatch of goodbye earth from Brazil it’s been an
intense journey but such an honor to bring these stories to you I’d love to
know what kind of climate-related stories you want us to cover in the next
series so please leave a comment

45 thoughts on “How Brazil’s Government Is Silencing Scientists”

  1. Hey everyone, thanks for watching Goodbye Earth’s final dispatch from the Amazon. What climate-crisis issue should we be covering next?

  2. This is a farce. Look what's really going on around the world. Hang tight these media losers are going to pay the price for their complicit lies

  3. Scientists have been historically silenced by gov'ts that are funded by corporate interests. WE can start changing this here in the US by voting accordingly in 2020. #VoteBlueProgressive

  4. I wish we could say this is something of a certain part of the world or less fortunate societies/countries. Regrettably, it's practiced to the fullest extent even in our White House, as we witness in shock today and not confined to the scientists!

  5. of course no one is listening, if they weren't when I learned about this stuff in grade school then it sure isn't happening now.

  6. This was a brilliant presentation on the effects of climate change and increased atmospheric CO2 on the health of the Amazon rainforest. For future presentation, I think it may be striking for the audience to hear about the impact of climate change, vis a vis, the burning of fossil fuels, and the effects on human health. I think, for those who may see rainforest health as too abstract may find it quite shocking to see a story on the effects on their own health. I think such a presentation may drive these points home even further and, hopefully, reduce the total amount of climate change denial we see running rampant in The Americas today.

  7. Honestly, as a Brazilian I get extremely mad with this video. European after stealing all from us and literally destroy our country want to say how we have to behave, meanwhile China is producing a lot of poluation, but no one will say anything about them, because all the world production is made there, and if something happen there the European countries economy are going get worst

  8. It's not Bolsonaro that's silencing the science it's left idiots that have been brainwashing kids…. so now you're stuck with 90 IQ scientists whose thesis are easily beaten by kids that are entering high school off course not the western high school!

  9. Not just Brazil, but everywhere else too where Scieentist are speaking out about Global warming being a hoax. Who have proven that global warming is a political agenda keep getting silenced

  10. The Amazon is waving a white flag: driven primarily by cattle agriculture and a climate denying political party, Brazil's forestfires are releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than the remainder of the rainforest sinks … all these fires are reducing the amount of rain produced by the rainforest, increasing the burning … when another 20% of the rainforest burns, a tipping point will be crossed and the Amazon will invariably turn into a savannah, then a desert … that will be the beginning of the end … https://www.newsweek.com/amazon-rain-forest-fires-co2-trees-atmosphere-1458536 + https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/23/amazon-rainforest-close-to-irreversible-tipping-point

  11. We need to preserve the Amazon but losing 1/5th will not cause it to burn up…get real. 70% of Europe’s forests are gone, basically 100% in China and they are not burning. It burns when someone starts a fire (slash and burn technique) they don’t just start spontaneously. Even in drier climates like California there is almost always a source to the fire

  12. Not only the Amazon. The Pantanal, the Cerrado… We have incredibly diverse and important biomes that are being destroyed by agriculture and ignorance and that's supported by the president and all these lunatics who support him. (Probably they will hit the comment section questioning the facts and writing nonsense). Also, the country is being ruled by companies that make big money exploring and destroying nature or introducing industrialized foods that substitute traditional fresh and natural diet. People and nature are in danger.

  13. I mean this is good but it's AL Jazeera reporting on climate change will always seem disingenuous to me considering how much I'd their funding comes from Qatar's fossil fuel extraction.

  14. The best part is, when we destroy the planet, everyone is going to die.
    That includes the people that say nothing is wrong.

  15. Brace yourselves! Here comes a barrage of attacks in the comments section from the supporters of both the Bolsonaro family and the insane astrologer Olavo de Carvalho, that influences them, and far-right fanatics in general…

  16. I love these videos so much. Rn in my climate class we were just talking about how the trees are a carbon sink and how they collect carbon and everything

  17. I hear Lula is finally free; hopefully, he will beat the snot out of Boltonaro the Brazilian Dracula in the next elections and if it is not too late undo the damage that the real-life Captain Planet villain has done to the world.

  18. We are having people in politics who are stupid and dumb and are ignorant of science …and who are interested in only being rich ..there must be a balance between agriculture clearing and saving the foresr

  19. Fake news, 5:40. The President never said that, on the contrary he said that preserving as much as possible is a mission of his government, just the opposite.

    In fact, all of us Brazilians know that the Amazon is much more valuable preserved than for agriculture.

    First, why you can't plant anything in practically the entire Amazon because of the soil type.

    And second, we are already the largest beef producer in the world and the largest soy producer as well.

    So believe me, there's no shortage of lobbyists, Americans and Europeans who want to hurt our products.

    NASA study demonstrates that Brazil protects and conserves native vegetation in over 66% of its territory and cultivates a mere 7.6% of lands.

    Denmark cultivates 76.8%, ten times as much as Brazil; and Ireland, 74.7%; the Netherlands, 66.2%; the United Kingdom, 63.9%; and Germany, 56.9%.

    Finally, 80% of Brazil's energy from a country of 210 million people is renewable.

    Source: https://www.embrapa.br/en/busca-de-noticias/-/noticia/30972114/nasa-confirma-dados-da-embrapa-sobre-area-plantada-no-brasil

  20. Global warming is a hoax. Only people who are adherents of Scientism, could actually believe global warming actually exists, those people might as well as believe in the Loch Ness Monster or pagan deities.

  21. It's not that nobody's listening – lots of people are listening, just not the sociopaths we've allowed to take power over us.

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