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JEAN-JACQUES CORNISH: The convenient incoherence around climate change

OPINION

Of course President Donald Trump would back his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.

They both put the short-term political benefit of climate change denialism above the long-term interests of generations too young to vote for them. And the man known as the Trump of the Tropics showed at the G7 summit in Biarritz last weekend that he shares the American leader’s convenient incoherence.

Without regard for the ten other countries in the Amazon region, Bolsanaro refused to accept the $22 million from the group of seven richest nations on Earth to help fight the thousands of forest fires threatening the area known as the planet’s tree lung.

Then he said he would take the money if French President Emmanuel Macron withdrew the statement calling him a liar and hoping Brazil would get a better leader.

Finally, he cast aside the need for an apology and agreed to accept the G7 help, provided Brazil was given a free hand to determine how it would be spent.

Macron spoke at the meeting he hosted of the need to address the fires raging around Africa’s rain forests which are second largest lung on Earth.

There was no reticence expressed by any of the five African leaders - President Cyril Ramaphosa included - invited to the G7 summit. They have yet to hear details, most importantly the magnitude of the help.

Experts advise against making too easy a comparison between the fires in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo showing up on Nasa maps and actually out-numbering those in the conflagration in the Amazon basin.

The African fires are not actually in the rain forest. They are a seasonal phenomenon caused by farmers conducting slash-and-burn agriculture.

Denis Maclean of UN Disaster Risk Reduction says the damage from fires is unacceptably high on both sides of the Atlantic.

An estimated 155,000 square kilometres of rain forest have been lost to fire in the last decade , commercial logging and palm oil cultivation. West Africa has lost 90% of its forest coverage in the past century. Forest fires kill 300,000 people a year.

With population growth projected to increase five-fold by the end of the century, it impacts dramatically on the sustainability of the planet.

Any money directed to Africa should be used not only to immediately fight the fires, but on educating people on their relationship with their environment.

Jean-Jacques Cornish is an Africa correspondent at Eyewitness News. Follow him on Twitter: @jjcornish

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