The inauguration of Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has triggered fears that rates of deforestation in the Amazon will increase. There are indeed good reasons for concern about Bolsonaro’s administration but several factors, both domestic and transnational, could constrain its ability to wreak environmental havoc.
First, some bad news: Mr. Bolsonaro and his cabinet do seem to view environmental concerns as an obstacle to development. For instance, the new Environment Minister, Ricardo Salles, said that the debate over climate change was a “secondary issue” and he was recently convicted of fraudulently favoring mining companies when he was state secretary for the environment in São Paulo. Under Mr. Salles’ leadership, the ministry will probably suffer budget cuts, and it has already lost key departments.