The world’s fourth-largest democracy swore in a new (and old) president after kicking its own second-rate Trumpian demagogue to the curb. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, better known simply as Lula, was sworn in Jan. 1, his second time at the helm of the diverse and massive nation, squeaking out a thin victory over Jair Bolsonaro.
The transition of power is itself a monumental relief for the country and the world, after Bolsonaro spent weeks toying with the idea of staging some kind of self-coup before ending up trundling off to Florida with his tail between his legs (sound familiar?). Yet Lula taking the reins is a development with significance much beyond the interest of 217 million Brazilians.
It is an event with planetary consequence for one key reason: Brazil hosts the majority of the Amazon rainforest, the lungs of the Earth, the globe’s richest biodiversity and 150-200 metric gigatons of carbon that would otherwise get released into the atmosphere and supercharge climate change. A disappearing Amazon doesn’t just release existing carbon but stops capturing the carbon released from other sources.
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Bolsonaro seemed unbothered by this catastrophe in the making. Lula understands that no narrow commercial interests are worth the immeasurable costs and future devastation of a planet with a depleted Amazon.
The new president has already appointed a team with a real record of reversing deforestation, and has pledged to reinstate enforcement and regulatory actions that his corrupt predecessor relaxed. The whole Earth is watching the leader’s approach to the rainforest.