The Country (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, with an area of 8.5 million square kilometers. It is the largest and most geographically diverse country in South America, occupying most of the northeast of the continent, and has a coastline of about 7,490 kilometers along the Atlantic Ocean. The country has a tropical or semitropical climate, with diverse natural vegetation dominated by tropical rain forests, dry forests, and savannas. Brazil is generally low lying, with elevations between 200 and 800 meters. Higher elevations, of about 1,200 meters, are limited to the south. Brazil has a drainage system dominated by the Amazon River, which originates in the Andes Mountains and has created an extensive lowland floodplain area in the northern part of the country.
Brazil’s economy is growing rapidly. It is the largest in South America and the eighth largest in the world. Its resource base has not been fully ascertained, but key resources so far exploited include iron ore, in the states of Minas Gerais (in the south-central region) and Pará (in the north); oil, mostly in offshore fields; timber, from extensive natural forests and plantations; and precious stones in various locations. Agriculture is most important in the south, where most of Brazil’s commercial crops are produced and where most cattle ranches are located. In the northeast and in the Amazon basin, agriculture tends to be subsistent and may involve shifting...
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Metals (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Brazil’s iron ore accounts for about 5 percent of its total exports, with approximately half going to China, Japan, and Germany. Reserves of iron ore are estimated at almost 20 billion metric tons, about 7 percent of the world total, ranking Brazil sixth in the world. However, in terms of iron content the reserves are the best in the world. Iron ore accounts for almost 58 percent of the value of Brazil’s mineral production. There are thirty-seven companies extracting iron and fifty-nine mines, all of which are open cast. The Brazilian mining company Vale S.A. (formerly Companhia Vale do Rio Doce) produces more than 60 percent of the iron ore in Brazil and about 15 percent of world iron ore, making it the world’s largest producer of iron ore. It is also the world’s second largest producer of nickel and is involved in the mining of bauxite, manganese, copper, kaolin, and potash.
Approximately 70 percent of Brazil’s iron reserves are in the state of Minas Gerais and 25 percent are in Pará. The ores occur as hematite (ferric oxide), and, in 2007, more than 300 million metric tons were produced. The Carajás Mine in Pará is the world’s largest iron-ore mine. Owned by Vale S.A., it is an open-cast mine with reserves of 1.4 billion metric tons, plus deposits of manganese, copper, tin, cobalt, and aluminum. In general, the Carajás District is exceptionally rich in minerals and has iron-ore reserves estimated at 16 billion...
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Fossil Fuels (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Brazil has substantial reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas. Brazil’s energy production is as follows: 38 percent from oil, 9.6 percent from natural gas, 6 percent from coal, and the remainder comprising hydroelectric power, ethanol from sugarcane, and nuclear power. Globally, itscoal reserves are not extensive (930 million metric tons compared to 271,000 million metric tons produced by the United States). More than 50 percent of Brazil’s coal comes from the state of Rio Grande do Sul, while 46 percent comes from Santa Catarina and 1.3 percent comes from Paraná, Brazil’s southernmost states. This coal is used within Brazil.
In relation to global oil reserves and production, Brazil is ranked sixteenth and fourteenth, respectively, and has about 1 percent of estimated global reserves. In 2006, production was about 90 million metric tons, an annual increase of more than 5 percent that was mainly due to raised output from offshore oil fields, notably the Campos and Santos basins located off the southeast coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro. These fields contain the vast majority of Brazil’s proven reserves. Such increases have made Brazil almost self sufficient in oil, though light crude is still imported because of refinery capacity. The state-owned company Petrobras controls about 95 percent of crude oil production, which amounts to about 2.277 million barrels per day. Brazil ranks fortieth for natural gas reserves and...
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Other Energy Resources (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Most of Brazil’s remaining energy needs are met by hydroelectric power and ethanol, a biofuel made from sugarcane. Brazil is the third largest producer of hydropower in the world. Approximately 27 percent of its potential could be exploited economically. Although just less than half has been realized, it provides about 84 percent of Brazil’s electricity. Much of this has been made possible by the vast Itaipu Dam constructed in the late 1980’s, which Brazil shares with neighboring Paraguay. Other large-scale schemes include the Tucurui Dam on the Tocantins River in Pará and Boa Esperança on the Parnaíba River near the city of Guadalupe. Another dam, the Belo Monte, is proposed on the Xingu River, also in the state of Pará. However, this project is controversial because of the adverse environmental and social impacts associated with such large-scale projects. Many small-scale dams also contribute to Brazil’s hydropower capacity.
Although Brazil is not the only nation to develop biofuels, it is unique insofar as ethanol became available as a fuel in the 1920’s. Ethanol rose to prominence in the mid-1970’s, when world oil crises prompted the Brazilian government to decree that all automobiles had to operate on a fuel that contained at least 10 percent ethanol. Brazil is a leading producer of ethanol and user of ethanol as a fuel; it has been described as having the world’s first sustainable biofuel...
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Agricultural Resources (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Brazil is a world leader in the export of agricultural products, and the agricultural sector contributes more than 5 percent to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). Of Brazil’s total land area (almost 8.5 million square kilometers), about 2.6 million square kilometers are used for crop production. Apart from sugarcane, soybeans, maize, rice, coffee, wheat, and cotton are significant economic crops. Beef production is also important in Brazil; the country has extensive cattle ranches in the hinterland of São Paulo. According to statistics compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization, soybeans and maize are grown on 20.6 and 13.8 million hectares, respectively, crops that produce about 58 and 50 million metric tons, respectively. Soybean cultivation has increased significantly but is no longer dominant in São Paulo’s hinterland, having expanded into central western and northeastern regions (where its and sugarcane’s spread occurs at the expense of savanna and forest ecosystems). This expansion is partly associated with increased demand for biofuels. Brazil is the world’s biggest exporter of soybeans, sending 25 million metric tons to markets in Asia and Europe.
Rice is produced on about 3 million hectares, though the 11 million metric tons produced are mainly consumed within Brazil. Similarly, the 3.9 million metric tons of cotton grown on 1.1 million hectares of land support Brazil’s significant...
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Wood and Wood Products (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
As well as being home to the world’s largest extent of tropical forest in the Amazon basin, Brazil has 6.2 million hectares of plantation forests, comprising fast-growing pine and eucalyptus. These were planted mainly between 1967 and 1987, a process stimulated by tax incentives, as some 70 percent of the land used is publicly owned. The plantations produce all of Brazil’s pulp and paper, which generated about $3 billion, or 40 percent of the total GDP earned by the forest sector. Most sawn wood is produced from natural forests, of which Brazil has lost an area the size of France.
A conflict of interest between conservation and forestry has arisen, especially in relation to the serious problem of illegal felling. Approximately 30 percent of the Amazon forest has protected status, and most wood is removed from the 25 percent that is privately owned. Prior to extraction, landowners must have a management plan and a permit from Brazil’s environment agency. Only 5 percent of wood is approved by the international Forest Stewardship Council. Amazonian forests, especially those in the states of Pará, Mato Grosso, and Rondônia, generate more timber than any other forests in the world. Most of this wood is used within Brazil itself. Many other forest products are significant resources, including charcoal, fuelwood, nuts, fruits, oil plants, and rubber.
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Other Resources (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Brazil produces a range of precious and semiprecious stones, including diamond, emerald, topaz, tourmaline, beryl, and amethyst. These come mainly from the states of Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Sul, Bahia, Goiás, Pará, Tocantins, Paraíba, and Piauí. Both raw and cut stones are exported, especially to the United States, and they also support an internal jewelry industry.
Brazil is a significant producer of graphite, magnesite, and potash and has abundant sand and gravel deposits. It has almost 30 percent of the world’s graphite reserves, which are widely distributed. The richest deposits are in Minas Gerais, Ceará, and Bahia. About 22 percent is exported, and the remainder is used domestically in the steel industry and for battery production. Reserves of magnesite are also extensive, ranking Brazil fourth in the world. The deposits occur in the Serra das Éguas, in the state of Bahia. About 30 percent is exported and 70 percent is used in a variety of Brazil’s industries, especially steel manufacture. In 2005, some 403 metric tons of potash were produced from Sergipe and Amazonas, where deposits of silvinite are located. This makes Brazil the world’s ninth largest producer, though it continues to import most of its potassium fertilizer. Phosphate deposits also supply fertilizer, and in 2006, Brazil’s production comprised almost 6 million metric tons, making it the twelfth largest producer in the world. It...
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Brazilian Development Bank and Center for Strategic Studies and Management Science, Technology, and Innovation. Sugarcane Bioethanol: Energy for Sustainable Development. Rio de Janeiro: Author, 2008.
Goulding, Michael, Ronaldo Barthem, and Efrem Jorge Gondim Ferreira. Smithsonian Atlas of the Amazon. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2003.
Lusty, Paul. South America Mineral Production, 1997-2006: A Product of the World Mineral Statistics Database. Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England: British Geological Survey, 2008.
Energy Information Administration. Country Analysis Briefs: Brazil. http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Brazil/Oil.html
Infomine. Brazil: Great Potential. http://www.infomine.com/publications/docs/InternationalMining/IMMay2006a.pdf
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Historical and Political Context (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Settled by Portugal in 1500, Brazil developed as a colony (1500-1822), then as an independent empire (1822-1889), and finally as a republic (1889-present). Of continental proportions, Brazil extends east across South America from the Andes Mountains and south from the equator to well below the Tropic of Capricorn. Slave labor, supporting mineral and agricultural plantation exports, forged the socioeconomic axis of the country for nearly four centuries (slavery was abolished in 1888). Several million Africans were forcibly transported to Brazil, one-third of all people shipped in the transatlantic slave trade. Brazil has the second-largest population of African descent in the world after Nigeria. The population is largely multiracial, and there is a vibrant Afro-Brazilian culture.
The abolition of slavery brought a wave of immigrants to Brazil from southern Europe. A nucleus of salaried labor emerged, producing a core of consumer demand that stimulated the country’s industrial, capital, and urban development during the twentieth century. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Brazil rose as the major economy of the region. However, its historical roots of inequality had produced a society with extreme divisions of wealth and poverty.
Subject to political instability and sporadic authoritarian regimes, Brazil achieved a democratic equilibrium around the turn of the twenty-first century. It is a...
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Impact of Brazilian Policies on Climate Change (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Although Brazil ranks among the leading emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the world, in no way does it contribute on the scale of the United States or China. However, Brazilian emissions are significant because of their unique mix. Brazil is the largest industrial economy in South America and is home to major automobile, steel, cement, electronics, communications, and aviation manufacturers. It has vast mineral-extraction operations, and its abundant reserves of iron ore are shipped to all parts of the world. Moreover, it is a major cattle producer: The national herd approaches nearly 200 million head and grows at about 2 percent per year. Furthermore, Brazil is the home of the largest tropical rain forest in the world, the Amazon, with vast stretches being burned or cut down for logging or for agricultural or pasture land.
Long an underdeveloped country, Brazil has resolutely and energetically engaged in development. Its populist, labor government has worked to bring the benefits of economic growth to all classes of society, with annual GDP growth averaging 4 percent in the early twenty-first century. Such development intensified GHG emissions through expanded manufacturing, construction, and transportation; enlarged farming and pasture areas; and deforestation.
In some ways, Brazil has been able to limit its GHG emissions. Its extensive hydroelectric resources allow it to economize...
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Brazil as a GHG Emitter (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Although Brazil is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, as a developing country it is not among the Annex I nations. Thus, it is not required to provide regular, standardized accountings of its GHG emissions to the United Nations. The Brazilian Institute for Tropical Agriculture calculates Brazil’s total GHG inventory as more than one-half billion metric tons. This amount places Brazil among the top ten emitters in the world. However, such emissions account for less than 2 percent of the world total, ranking Brazil with countries such as the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Mexico.
The U.N. Statistics Division reports that one-third of Brazil’s GHG emissions are carbon dioxide (CO2) resulting from fossil fuel burning and deforestation. During the initial years of the twenty-first century, more than 20,000 square kilometers of rain forest (about the size of New York State) were being destroyed annually, contributing 200 million metric tons of CO2. The nation’s extraordinarily large livestock herd also produces significant methane emissions, and the fertilizers employed in ever-expanding agricultural areas emit nitrous oxide.
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Summary and Foresight (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Brazil is a unique country of tropical and subtropical abundance and diversity. Its forests and mineral resources offer the promise of development, both for itself and for numerous other regions. The global growth of commodities markets has resulted in a singular phase of Brazilian prosperity. This growth came after years of political and economic instability. In 2002, a union leader who headed the Workers’ Party, Luis Inácio da Silva, won the presidency, bringing an unprecedented populist yet market-friendly party to power. Da Silva helped drive a political will to exploit Brazil’s natural resources for the benefit of all classes.
The energy requirements for such development, however, result in GHG emissions that contribute to environmental degradation. Brazil is acutely aware of the dilemma it faces and the responsibility it has for maintaining the integrity of its tropical environment, especially the Amazon. With its ethanol programs and satellite vigilance of the rain forest, it has made some guarded progress in controlling its GHG emissions. The Kyoto Protocol was prefigured by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, convened in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, which issued the Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development.
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Andersen, Lykke E. The Dynamics of Deforestation and Economic Growth in the Brazilian Amazon. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Provides comparative econometric models of deforestation in the Amazon River basin and economic growth as a means for formulating economic policy.
Barbosa, Luiz C. The Brazilian Amazon Rainforest: Global Ecopolitics, Development, and Democracy. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2000. Examines the political issues in Brazil related to Amazon deforestation in order to formulate viable environmental policy for sustainable development.
Hudson, Rex A., ed. Brazil: A Country Study. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 1998. The section on Brazil’s economy includes data on resources, production, and other factors affecting the nation’s contribution to global climate change.
Wood, Charles R., and Roberto Porro, eds. Deforestation and Land Use in the Amazon. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002. Collection of articles reviewing historical phases of Amazon deforestation and contemporary patterns of economic and geographic use.
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