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Why Our Brains Weren’t Made To Deal With Climate Change (NPR)

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April 19, 201612:00 AM ET

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, HOST:

This is HIDDEN BRAIN. I’m Shankar Vedantam. Last year, my family and I took a vacation to Alaska. This was a much needed long-planned break. The best part, I got to walk on the top of a glacier.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

VEDANTAM: The pale blue ice was translucent. Sharp ridges opened up into crevices dozens of feet deep. Every geological feature, every hill, every valley was sculpted in ice. It was a sunny day, and I spotted a small stream of melted water. I got on the ground and drank some. I wondered how long this water had remained frozen.

The little stream is not the only ice that’s melting in Alaska. The Mendenhall Glacier, one of the chief tourist attractions in Juneau, has retreated over one and a half miles in the last half-century. Today, you can only see a small sliver of the glacier’s tongue from a lookout. I caught up with John Neary, a forest service official, who tries to explain to visitors the scale of the changes that they’re witnessing.

JOHN NEARY: I would say that right now, we’re looking at a glacier that’s filling up. Out of our 180-degree view we have, we’re looking at maybe 10 or 15 degrees of it, whereas if we stood in this same place 100 years ago, it would have filled up about 160 degrees of our view.

VEDANTAM: You are kidding, 160 degrees of our view.

NEARY: Exactly. That’s the reality of how big this was, and it’s been retreating up this valley at about 40 or 50 feet a year, most recently 400 feet a year. And even more dramatically recently is the thinning and the narrowing as it’s just sort of collapsed in on itself in the bottom of this valley. Instead of dominating much of the valley and being able to see white as a large portion of the landscape, it’s now becoming this little ribbon that’s at the bottom.

VEDANTAM: John is a quiet, soft-spoken man. In recent years, as he’s watched the glacier literally recede before his eyes, he started to speak up, not just about what’s happening but what it means.

But as I was chatting with John, a visitor came up to talk to him. The man said he used to serve in the Air Force and had last seen the Mendenhall Glacier a quarter-century ago. There was a look in the man’s eyes. It was a combination of awe and horror. How could this have happened, the man asked John? Why is this happening?

NEARY: In many ways, people don’t want to grasp the reality. It’s a scary reality to try to grasp. And so what they naturally want to do is assume, well, this has always happened. It will happen in the future, and we’ll survive, won’t we? They want an assurance from me. But I don’t give give it to them. I don’t think it’s my job to give them that assurance.

I think they need to grasp the reality of the fact that we are entering into a time when, yes, glacial advance and retreat has happened 25 different times to North America over its long life but never at the rate and the scale that we see now. And in the very quick rapidity of it means that species probably won’t be able to adapt the way that they have in the past over a longer period of time.

VEDANTAM: To be clear, the Mendenhall Glacier’s retreat in and of itself is not proof of climate change. That evidence comes from a range of scientific measurements and calculations. But the glacier is a visible symbol of the changes that scientists are documenting.

It’s interesting I think when we – people think about climate change, it tends to be an abstract issue most of the time for most people, that you’re standing in front this magnificent glacier right now and to actually see it receding makes it feel real and visceral in a way that it just isn’t when I’m living in Washington, D.C.

NEARY: No, I agree. I think that for too many people, the issue is some Micronesian island that’s having an extra inch of water this year on their shorelines or it’s some polar bears far up in the Arctic that they’re really not connected with.

But when they realize, they come here and they’re on this nice day like we’re experiencing right now with the warm sun and they start to think about this glacier melting and why it’s receding, why it’s disappearing, why it doesn’t look like that photo just 30 years ago up in the visitor’s center, it becomes real for them, and they have to start grapple with the issues behind it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

VEDANTAM: I could see tourists turning these questions over in their minds as they watch the glacier. So even though I had not planned to do any reporting, I started interviewing people using the only device I had available, my phone.

DALE SINGER: I just think it’s a shame that we are losing something pretty precious and pretty different in the world.

VEDANTAM: This is Dale Singer (ph). She and her family came to Alaska on a cruise to celebrate a couple of family birthdays. This was her second trip to Mendenhall.

She came about nine years ago, but the weather was so foggy, she couldn’t get a good look. She felt compelled to come back. I asked Dale why she thought the glacier was retreating.

SINGER: Global warming, whether we like to admit it or not, it’s our fault. Or something we’re doing is affecting climate change.

VEDANTAM: Others are not so sure. For some of Dale’s fellow passengers on her cruise, this is a touchy topic.

SINGER: Somebody just said they went to a lecture and – on the ship, and the lecturer did not use the word global warming nor climate change because he didn’t want to offend passengers. So there are still people who refuse to admit it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

VEDANTAM: As I was standing next to John, one man carefully came up and listened to his account of the science of climate change. When John was done talking, the man told him that he wouldn’t trust scientists as far as he could throw them. Climate change was all about politics, he said.

I asked the man for an interview, but he declined. He said his company had contracts with the federal government. And if bureaucrats in the Obama administration heard his skeptical views on climate change, those contracts might mysteriously disappear. I caught up with another tourist. I asked Michael Bull (ph) if he believed climate change was real.

MICHAEL BULL: No, I think there’s global climate change, but I question whether it’s all due to human interaction with the Earth. Yes, you can’t deny that the climate is changing.

VEDANTAM: Yeah.

BULL: But the causation of that I’m not sold on as being our fault.

VEDANTAM: Michael was worried his tour bus might leave without him, so he answered my question about whether the glacier’s retreat was cause for alarm standing next to the idling bus.

BULL: So what’s the bad part of the glacier receding? And, you know, from what John said to me, if it’s the rate that which – and the Earth can’t adapt, that makes sense to me. But I think the final story is yet to be written.

VEDANTAM: Yeah.

BULL: I think Mother Earth pushes back. So I don’t think we’re going to destroy her because I think she’ll take care of us before we take care of her.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

VEDANTAM: Nugget Falls is a beautiful waterfall that empties into Mendenhall Lake. When John first came to Alaska in 1982, the waterfall was adjacent to the glacier. Today, there’s a gap of three-quarters of a mile between the waterfall and the glacier.

SUE SCHULTZ: The glacier has receded unbelievably. It’s quite shocking.

VEDANTAM: This is Sue Schultz. She said she lived in Juneau back in the 1980s. This was her first time back in 28 years. What did it look like 28 years ago?

SCHULTZ: The bare rock that you see to the left as you face the glacier was glacier. And we used to hike on the other side of it. And you could take a trail right onto the glacier.

VEDANTAM: And what about this way? I understand the glacier actually came significantly over to this side…

SCHULTZ: Yes.

VEDANTAM: …Close to Nugget Falls.

SCHULTZ: Yes, it – that’s true. It was really close. In fact, the lake was a lot smaller, obviously (laughter). I mean, yeah, it’s quite incredible.

VEDANTAM: And so what’s your reaction when you see it?

SCHULTZ: Global warming, we need to pay attention.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TERRY LAMBERT: Even if it all melts, it’s not going to be the end of the world, so I’m not worried.

VEDANTAM: Terry Lambert is a tourist from Southern California. He’s never visited Mendenhall before. He thinks the melting glacier is just part of nature’s plan.

LAMBERT: Well, it’s just like earthquakes and floods and hurricanes. They’re all just all part of what’s going on. You can’t control it. You can’t change it. And I personally don’t think it’s something that man’s doing that’s making that melt.

VEDANTAM: I mentioned to Terry some of the possible consequences of climate change on various species. They could be changes. Species could – some species could be advantaged. Some species could be disadvantaged.

The ecosystem is changing. You’re going to have flooding. You’re going to have weather events, right? There could be consequences that affect you and I.

LAMBERT: Yes, but like I say, it’s so far in the future I’m not worried about it.

VEDANTAM: I realized at that moment that the debate over climate change is no longer really about science unless the science you’re talking about is the study of human behavior.

I asked John why he thought so many people were unwilling to accept the scientific consensus that climate change was having real consequences.

NEARY: The inability to do anything about it themselves – because it’s threatening to think about giving up your car, giving up your oil heater in your house or giving up, you know, many of the things that you’ve become accustomed to. They seem very threatening to them.

And, you know, really, I’ve looked at some of the brain science, actually, and talked to folks at NASA and Earth and Sky, and they’ve actually talked about how when that fear becomes overriding for people, they use a part of their brain that’s the very primitive part that has to react.

It has to instantly come to a conclusion so that it can lead to an action, whereas what we need to think about is get rid of that fear and start thinking logically. Start thinking creatively. Allow a different part of the brain to kick in and really think how we as humans can reverse this trend that we’ve caused.

VEDANTAM: Coming up, we explore why the human brain might not be well-designed to grapple with the threat of climate change and what we can do about it. Stay with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

VEDANTAM: This is HIDDEN BRAIN. I’m Shankar Vedantam. While visiting the Mendenhall Glacier with my family last year, I started thinking more and more about the intersection between climate change and human behavior.

When I got back to Washington, D.C., I called George Marshall. He’s an environmentalist who, like John Neary, tries to educate people about global climate change.

GEORGE MARSHALL: I am the founder of Climate Outreach, and I’m the author of “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change.”

VEDANTAM: As the book’s title suggests, George believes that the biggest roadblock in the battle against climate change may lie inside the human brain. I call George at his home in Wales.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

VEDANTAM: You’ve spent some time talking with Daniel Kahneman, the famous psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in economics. And he actually presented a very pessimistic view that we would actually come to terms with the threat of climate change.

MARSHALL: He said to me that we are as humans very poor at dealing with issues further in the future. We tend to be very focused on the short term. We tend to discount would be the economic term that – to reduce the value of things happening in the future the further away they are.

He says we’re very cost averse. So that’s to say when there is a reward, we respond strongly. But when there’s a cost, we prefer to push it away just as, you know, I myself would try and leave until the very last minute, you know, filling in my tax return. I mean, it’s just I want to deal with these things. And he says, well, we’re reluctant to deal with uncertainty.

If things aren’t certain, we – or we perceive them to be, we just say, well, come back and tell me when they’re certain. What he said to me was in his view that climate change is the worst possible combination because it’s not only in the future but it’s also in the future and uncertain, and it’s in the future uncertain and involving costs.

And his own experiments – and he’s done many, many of these over the years – show that in this combination, we have a very strong tendency just to push things on one side. And I think this in some ways explains how so many people if you ask them will say, yes, I regard climate change to be a threat.

But if you go and you ask them – and this happens every year in surveys – what are the most important issues, what are the – strangely, almost everybody seems to forget about climate change. So when we focus on it, we know it’s there, but we can somehow push it away.

VEDANTAM: You tell an amusing story in your book about some colleagues who were worried about a cellphone tower being erected in their neighborhood…

MARSHALL: (Laughter).

VEDANTAM: …And the very, very different reaction of these colleagues to the cellphone tower then to it’s sort of the amorphous threat of climate change.

MARSHALL: They were my neighbors, my entire community. I was living at that time in Oxford, which is – many of your listeners know is a university town. So it would be like living in, you know, Harvard or Berkeley or somewhere where most of the people were in various ways involved in the university, highly educated. A mobile phone master is being set up in the middle alongside actually, a school playground, enormous outcry. Everybody mobilized.

Down to the local church hall, they were all going to stop it. People were even going to play lay themselves down in front of a bulldozers to prevent it because it was here. It was now. There was an enemy, which was this external mobile phone company. We’re going to come, and they were going to put up this mast. It brings in the threat psychologists would call the absolute fear of radiation. This is what’s called a dread fear and so on.

Now, the science, if we go back to the core science, says that this mobile phone master is as far as we could possibly say harmless. You know, the amount of radiation or – of any kind you get off a single mobile phone mast has never been found to have the slightest impact on anyone. But they were very mobilized. At the same – oh, thank you for having me on. None of them would come. It simply didn’t have those qualities.

VEDANTAM: You have a very revealing anecdote in your book about the economist Thomas Schelling, who was once in a major traffic jam.

MARSHALL: So Schelling, again, a Nobel prize-winning economist, and he’s wondering what’s going on. The traffic is moving very, very, very slowly, and then they’re creeping along and creeping along, and half an hour along the road, they finally realized what had happened.

But there’s a mattress lying right in the middle of the middle lane of the road. What happens, he notices – and he does the same – is what when they reach the mattress, people will simply drive past it and keep going. In other words, the thing that had caused them to become delayed was not something that anyone was prepared to stop and remove from the road.

They just leave the mattress there, and then they keep driving past. Because in a way, why would they remove that mattress from the road because they have already paid the price of getting there? They’ve already had the delay. It’s something where the benefit goes to other people. The argument being that, of course, it’s very hard, especially when people are motivated largely through personal rewards, to get them to do things.

VEDANTAM: It’s interesting that the same narrative affects the way we talk about climate change internationally. There are many countries who now say, look, you know, I’ve already paid the price. I’m paying the price right now for the actions of other people for the, you know, things that other people have or have not done.

I’m bearing that cost, and you’re asking me now to get out of my car, pull the mattress off the road to bear an additional cost. And the only people who will benefit from that are people who are not me. The collective problems in the end have personal consequences.

MARSHALL: I have to say that the way what one talks about this also shows a way that interpretation is biased by your own politics or your own view. This has been labeled for a long time the tragedy of the commons, the idea being that unless – that people will – if it’s in their own self-interest, destroy the very thing that sustains them because it’s not in their personal interest to do something if they don’t see other people doing it. And in a way, it’s understandable.

But of course, that depends on a view of a world where you see people as being motivated entirely by their own personal rewards. We also know that people are motivated by their sense of identity and their sense of belonging. And we know very well not least of all in times of major conflict or war that people are prepared to make enormous personal sacrifices from which they personally derive nothing except loss, but they’re making that in the interests of the greater good.

For a long time with climate change, we’ve made a mistake of talking about this solely in terms of something which is economic. What are the economic costs, and what are the economic benefits? And we still do this. But of course, really, the motivations for why we want to act on this is what we want to defend the world what we care about and a world we love, and we want to do so for ourselves and for the people who are then to come.

VEDANTAM: So, George, there obviously is one domain in life where you can see people constantly placing these sacred values above their selfish self-interest. You know, I’m thinking here about the many, many religions we have in the world that get people to do all kinds of things that an economist would say is not in their rational self-interest.

People give up food. People give up water. People have, you know, suffer enormous personal privations. People sometimes choose chastity for life, I mean, huge costs No, people are willing to bear. And they’re not doing it because someone says, at the end of the year, I’m going to give you an extra 200 bucks in your paycheck or an extra $2,000 in your paycheck. They’re doing it because they believe these are sacred values that are not negotiable.

MARSHALL: No, well, and not just economists would find those behaviors strange, but Professor Kahneman or kind of pure cognitive psychology might as well because these are people who are struggling with and – but also believe passionately in things which are in the long-term extremely uncertain and require personal cost. And yet people do so.

It’s very important to stress that, you know, when we try and when we talk about climate change and religion that there’s absolutely no sense at all that climate change is or can or should ever be like a religion. It’s not. It’s grounded in science. But we can also learn

I think a great deal from religions about how to approach these issues, these uncertain issues and how to create I think a community of shared belief and shared conviction that something is important.

VEDANTAM: Right. I mean, if you look at sort of human history with sort of the broad view, you know, you don’t actually have to be a religious person to acknowledge that religion has played a very, very important role in the lives of millions of people over thousands of years.

And if it’s done so, then a scientific approach would say, there is something about the nature of religious belief or the practice of religion that harnesses what our brains can accommodate, that they harness our yearning to be part of a tribe, our yearning to be connected to deeper and grander values than ourselves, our yearning in some ways to do things for our fellow person in a way that might not be tangible in the here and now but might actually pay off as you say not just for future generations but even in the hereafter.

MARSHALL: Well, and the faiths that dominate, the half a dozen faiths which are the strongest ones in the world, are the ones that have been best at doing that. There’s a big mistake with climate change because it comes from science, what we assume it just somehow soaks into us.

It’s very clear that just hitting people over the head with more and more and more data and graphs isn’t working. On my Internet feed – I’m on all of the main scientific feeds – there is a new paper every day that says that not only is it bad, but it’s worse than we thought, and it’s extremely, extremely serious, so serious, actually, that we’re finding it very hard to even to find the words to describe it. That doesn’t move people. In fact, actually, it tends to push them away.

However, if we can understand that there are other things which bind us together, I think that we can find yet new language. I think it’s also very important to recognize that the divides that are on climate change are social, not scientific. They’re social and political, that the single biggest determinants of whether you accept it or you don’t accept it is your political values.

And that suggests for the solutions to this are not scientific and maybe psychology. They’re cultural. We have to find ways of saying, sure, you know, we are going to disagree on things politically, but we have things in common that we all care about that are going to have to bring us together.

VEDANTAM: George Marshall is the author of “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change.” George, thank you for joining me today on HIDDEN BRAIN.

MARSHALL: You’re very welcome. I enjoyed it. Thank you.

VEDANTAM: The HIDDEN BRAIN podcast is produced by Kara McGuirk-Alison, Maggie Penman and Max Nesterak. Special thanks this week to Daniel Schuken (ph). To continue the conversation about human behavior and climate change, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

If you liked this episode, consider giving us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcasts so others can find us. I’m Shankar Vedantam, and this is NPR.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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Eight key takeaways from the IPCC report that prove we need to put in the work to fight climate change (Technology News, Firstpost)

firstpost.com


The new IPCC report is “a code red for humanity.”

Aug 13, 2021 20:25:56 IST

The new IPCC report is “a code red for humanity”, says UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Established in 1988 by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assesses climate change science. Its new report is a warning sign for policy makers all over the world.

On 26 October 2014, Peia Kararaua, 16, swims in the flooded area of Aberao village in Kiribati. Kiribati is one of the countries most affected by sea level rise. During high tides many villages become inundated making large parts of them uninhabitable.....On 22 March 2017, a UNICEF report projects that some 600 million children – or 1 in 4 children worldwide – will be living in areas where water demand far outstrips supply by 2040. Climate change is one of the key drivers of water stress, which occurs when more than 80 per cent of the water available for agriculture, industry and domestic use is withdrawn annually. According to the report “Thirsting for a Future”, warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, increased floods, droughts and melting ice affect the quality and availability of water. Population growth, increased water consumption, and an even higher demand for water largely due to industrialization, are also draining water resources worldwide, forcing children to use unsafe water, which exposes them to potentially deadly diseases like cholera and diahrroea. The poorest and most vulnerable children will be most impacted, as millions of them already live in areas with low access to safe water and sanitation. The impact of climate change on water sources is not inevitable, the report says, citing a series of recommendations that can help curb its effect on the lives of children.

In this picture taken on 26 October, 2014, Peia Kararaua, 16, swims in the flooded area of Aberao village in Kiribati. Kiribati is one of the countries worst hit by the sea level rise since high tides mean many villages are inundated, making them uninhabitable. Image credit: UNICEF/Sokhin

This was the first time the approval meeting for the report was conducted online. There were 234 authors from the world over who clocked in 186 hours working together to get this report released.

For the first time, the report offers an interactive atlas for people to see what has already happened and what may happen in the future to where they live.

“This report tells us that recent changes in the climate are widespread, rapid and intensifying, unprecedented in thousands of years,” said IPCC Vice-Chair Ko Barrett.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen that scientists have been issuing these messages for more than three decades, but the world hasn’t listened.

Here are the most important takeaways from the report:

Humans are to be blamed

Human activity is the cause of climate change and this is an unequivocal fact. All the warming caused in the pre-industrial times had been generated by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, wood, and natural gas.

Global temperatures have already risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius since the 19th century. They have reached their highest in over 100,000 years, and only a fraction of that increase has come from natural forces.

Michael Mann told the Independent the effects of climate change will be felt in all corners of the world and will worsen, especially since “the IPCC has connected the dots on climate change and the increase in severe extreme weather events… considerably more directly than previous assessments.”

We will overshoot the 1.5 C mark

According to the report’s highly optimistic-to-reckless scenarios, even if we do everything right and start reducing emissions now, we will still overshoot the 1.5C mark by 2030. But, we will see a drop in temperatures to around 1.4 C.

Control emissions, Earth will do the rest

According to the report, if we start working to bring our emissions under control, we will be able to decrease warming, even if we overshoot the 1.5C limit.

The changes we are living through are unprecedented; however, they are reversible to a certain extent. And it will take a lot of time for nature to heal. We can do this by reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While we might see some benefits quickly, “it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilise” says the IPCC.

Sea level rise

Global oceans have risen about 20 centimetres (eight inches) since 1900, and the rate of increase has nearly tripled in the last decade. Crumbling and melting ice sheets atop Antarctica (especially in Greenland) have replaced glacier melt as the main drivers.

If global warming is capped at 2 C, the ocean watermark will go up about half a metre over the 21st century. It will continue rising to nearly two metres by 2300 — twice the amount predicted by the IPCC in 2019.

Because of uncertainty over ice sheets, scientists cannot rule out a total rise of two metres by 2100 in a worst-case emissions scenario.

CO2 is at all-time high

CO2 levels were greater in 2019 than they had been in “at least two million years.”  Methane and nitrous oxide levels, the second and third major contributors of warming respectively, were higher in 2019 than at any point in “at least 800,000 years,” reported the Independent.

Control methane

The report includes more data than ever before on methane (CH4), the second most important greenhouse gas after CO2, and warns that failure to curb emissions could undermine Paris Agreement goals.

Human-induced sources are roughly divided between leaks from natural gas production, coal mining and landfills on one side, and livestock and manure handling on the other.

CH4 lingers in the atmosphere only a fraction as long as CO2, but is far more efficient at trapping heat. CH4 levels are their highest in at least 800,000 years.

Natural allies are weakened

Since about 1960, forests, soil and oceans have absorbed 56 percent of all the CO2 humanity has released into the atmosphere — even as those emissions have increased by half. Without nature’s help, Earth would already be a much hotter and less hospitable place.

But these allies in our fight against global heating — known in this role as carbon sinks — are showing signs of saturatation, and the percentage of human-induced carbon they soak up is likely to decline as the century unfolds.

Suck it out

The report suggests that warming could be brought back down via “negative emissions.” We could cool down the planet by sucking out or sequestering the carbon from the atmosphere. While this is a viable suggestion that has been thrown around and there have been small-scale studies that have tried to do this, the technology is not yet perfect. The panel said that could be done starting about halfway through this century but doesn’t explain how, and many scientists are skeptical about its feasibility.

Cities will bear the brunt

Experts warn that the impact of some elements of climate change, like heat, floods and sea-level rise in coastal areas, may be exacerbated in cities. Furthermore, IPCC experts warn that low-probability scenarios, like an ice sheet collapse or rapid changes in ocean circulation, cannot be ruled out.

Also read: Leaders and experts speak up after the release of the new IPCC report

Análise: Ricardo Abramovay – A Amazônia se torna maior que o Brasil na luta pelo desenvolvimento (UOL)

tab.uol.com.br

29.07.2021


Não tem precedentes na história da democracia brasileira o papel que a Amazônia está desempenhando na vida política nacional. É lá que está nascendo o primeiro Plano de Recuperação Verde (PRV), iniciativa do Consórcio dos Governadores da Amazônia, hoje presidido pelo Governador Flavio Dino (PSB) e que representa o mais importante documento programático voltado a resolver os problemas brasileiros. O texto, elaborado sob a competente coordenação de Laura Carvalho, economista do Departamento de Economia da FEA/USP, tem duas virtudes fundamentais.

A primeira é que ele consegue agregar vertentes políticas diferentes — e mesmo opostas — em torno de um objetivo comum. É a demonstração prática de que a racionalidade, a informação qualificada e a discussão de conteúdos podem ter mais força do que as agressões, os estereótipos e os preconceitos cujo sucesso na arena pública (e não só brasileira) é crescente. Se em Brasília o presidente da República confirma sua repulsiva condição de pária global ao receber a líder do partido alemão vinculado ao nazismo, na Amazônia os nove governadores credenciam-se como atores internacionais relevantes ao formularem um Plano de Recuperação Verde. É algo cujo alcance vai muito além de uma região, por mais importante que ela seja.

A segunda virtude é que o PRV reinsere o Brasil no mundo. Ele pretende zerar o desmatamento na Amazônia — cujo avanço coloca o Brasil na contramão do esforço global contra a crise climática. Para isso, é fundamental resgatar o valor do multilateralismo democrático que havia resultado no Fundo Amazônia, onde duas nações democráticas (Noruega e Alemanha) apoiam o País com base em resultados (e não em promessas) na luta contra o desmatamento.

O plano rejeita a obscena postura — típica da cultura miliciana — de chantagem contida na ideia de que se não vier dinheiro de fora, o desmatamento continua. No seu lugar, o PRV sinaliza para o fato de que os serviços ecossistêmicos prestados pela floresta à humanidade podem e devem ser remunerados a partir de mecanismos pactuados internacionalmente, por governos, setor privado, organizações da sociedade civil e povos da floresta. A expansão das áreas protegidas e sua defesa contra os ataques que vêm sofrendo do crime organizado é parte decisiva deste primeiro objetivo de proteção da floresta.

Além desta meta, o plano tem um conjunto de diretrizes para enfrentar um dos maiores paradoxos brasileiros que é o fato de que ali onde está a mais importante sociobiodiversidade do País também se reúnem seus piores indicadores sociais. E este desafio só poderá ser vencido por modelos de crescimento econômico e por tecnologias que fortaleçam o vigor da floresta e dos rios da Amazônia, mas que também estimulem o desenvolvimento sustentável de suas cidades, onde está a maior parte de seus 30 milhões de habitantes.

E claro que, da mesma forma que está ocorrendo no mundo todo, isso vai exigir que se discuta a natureza das infraestruturas necessárias para o desenvolvimento da Amazônia. Contemplar as necessidades das populações da Amazônia em saúde, educação, habitação, mobilidade, energia e, sobretudo, conexão de alta qualidade à Internet, nas cidades e no meio rural, é decisivo para que se interrompa a destruição atual. No lugar de hidrelétricas caras, ineficientes e fontes de corrupção, estradas que se tornam vetores de desmatamento e garimpo clandestino e poluidor, a Amazônia precisa de inovações tecnológicas capazes de promover bem-estar para suas populações florestais, rurais e urbanas.

Mas além do PRV, é também em torno da Amazônia que duzentos cientistas de imenso prestígio internacional se reuniram de forma virtual, durante dezoito meses, produzindo um diagnóstico e um conjunto de propostas destinadas a “Salvar a Amazônia“. A iniciativa, liderada pelo economista norte-americano Jeffrey Sachs, pelo climatologista brasileiro Carlos Nobre e pela bióloga equatoriana Andrea Encalada, resultou num denso relatório, lançado para consulta pública no último dia 14 de julho com a presença de Juan Manuel Santos, ex-presidente da Colômbia.

Nenhuma região do mundo jamais recebeu tanta atenção da comunidade científica e, como ressaltou Jeffrey Sachs durante seu lançamento, já há negociações para que o modelo do Painel Científico para a Amazônia seja replicado para as duas outras grandes florestas tropicais do planeta: a da Indonésia e a da Bacia do Congo. Neste momento, os 33 capítulos do Painel ainda estão em inglês, mas dentro de alguns dias os textos (e seus sumários executivos) estarão disponíveis em português e espanhol. O documento, após esta consulta pública, será lançado na Conferência Climática de Glasgow em novembro deste ano.

Além destas poderosas mobilizações políticas e científicas, é na Amazônia que um importante e diversificado grupo de empresários, ativistas, representantes de povos da floresta, cientistas e dirigentes políticos se reúnem, desde o início de 2020, na Concertação pela Amazônia. Destas discussões emergem documentos sobre diferentes temas referentes ao desenvolvimento da Amazônia — publicados regularmente pela Revista Página 22.

O Plano de Recuperação Verde, o relatório do Painel Científico para a Amazônia, as discussões e os textos da Concertação mostram que a Amazônia, tornou-se maior que o Brasil num sentido que não é apenas geográfico. É de lá que está emergindo a reflexão coletiva e diversificada sobre o mais importante desafio do país e talvez do continente: como podemos fazer de nossa biodiversidade o vetor fundamental para nossa inserção na vanguarda da inovação científica e tecnológica global e, ao mesmo tempo, em fator decisivo de luta contra a pobreza e as desigualdades?

Global warming begets more warming, new paleoclimate study finds (Science Daily)

Date: August 11, 2021

Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Summary: Global warming begets more, extreme warming, new paleoclimate study finds. Researchers observe a ‘warming bias’ over the past 66 million years that may return if ice sheets disappear.


It is increasingly clear that the prolonged drought conditions, record-breaking heat, sustained wildfires, and frequent, more extreme storms experienced in recent years are a direct result of rising global temperatures brought on by humans’ addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. And a new MIT study on extreme climate events in Earth’s ancient history suggests that today’s planet may become more volatile as it continues to warm.

The study, appearing today in Science Advances, examines the paleoclimate record of the last 66 million years, during the Cenozoic era, which began shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs. The scientists found that during this period, fluctuations in the Earth’s climate experienced a surprising “warming bias.” In other words, there were far more warming events — periods of prolonged global warming, lasting thousands to tens of thousands of years — than cooling events. What’s more, warming events tended to be more extreme, with greater shifts in temperature, than cooling events.

The researchers say a possible explanation for this warming bias may lie in a “multiplier effect,” whereby a modest degree of warming — for instance from volcanoes releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — naturally speeds up certain biological and chemical processes that enhance these fluctuations, leading, on average, to still more warming.

Interestingly, the team observed that this warming bias disappeared about 5 million years ago, around the time when ice sheets started forming in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s unclear what effect the ice has had on the Earth’s response to climate shifts. But as today’s Arctic ice recedes, the new study suggests that a multiplier effect may kick back in, and the result may be a further amplification of human-induced global warming.

“The Northern Hemisphere’s ice sheets are shrinking, and could potentially disappear as a long-term consequence of human actions” says the study’s lead author Constantin Arnscheidt, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “Our research suggests that this may make the Earth’s climate fundamentally more susceptible to extreme, long-term global warming events such as those seen in the geologic past.”

Arnscheidt’s study co-author is Daniel Rothman, professor of geophysics at MIT, and co-founder and co-director of MIT’s Lorenz Center.

A volatile push

For their analysis, the team consulted large databases of sediments containing deep-sea benthic foraminifera — single-celled organisms that have been around for hundreds of millions of years and whose hard shells are preserved in sediments. The composition of these shells is affected by the ocean temperatures as organisms are growing; the shells are therefore considered a reliable proxy for the Earth’s ancient temperatures.

For decades, scientists have analyzed the composition of these shells, collected from all over the world and dated to various time periods, to track how the Earth’s temperature has fluctuated over millions of years.

“When using these data to study extreme climate events, most studies have focused on individual large spikes in temperature, typically of a few degrees Celsius warming,” Arnscheidt says. “Instead, we tried to look at the overall statistics and consider all the fluctuations involved, rather than picking out the big ones.”

The team first carried out a statistical analysis of the data and observed that, over the last 66 million years, the distribution of global temperature fluctuations didn’t resemble a standard bell curve, with symmetric tails representing an equal probability of extreme warm and extreme cool fluctuations. Instead, the curve was noticeably lopsided, skewed toward more warm than cool events. The curve also exhibited a noticeably longer tail, representing warm events that were more extreme, or of higher temperature, than the most extreme cold events.

“This indicates there’s some sort of amplification relative to what you would otherwise have expected,” Arnscheidt says. “Everything’s pointing to something fundamental that’s causing this push, or bias toward warming events.”

“It’s fair to say that the Earth system becomes more volatile, in a warming sense,” Rothman adds.

A warming multiplier

The team wondered whether this warming bias might have been a result of “multiplicative noise” in the climate-carbon cycle. Scientists have long understood that higher temperatures, up to a point, tend to speed up biological and chemical processes. Because the carbon cycle, which is a key driver of long-term climate fluctuations, is itself composed of such processes, increases in temperature may lead to larger fluctuations, biasing the system towards extreme warming events.

In mathematics, there exists a set of equations that describes such general amplifying, or multiplicative effects. The researchers applied this multiplicative theory to their analysis to see whether the equations could predict the asymmetrical distribution, including the degree of its skew and the length of its tails.

In the end, they found that the data, and the observed bias toward warming, could be explained by the multiplicative theory. In other words, it’s very likely that, over the last 66 million years, periods of modest warming were on average further enhanced by multiplier effects, such as the response of biological and chemical processes that further warmed the planet.

As part of the study, the researchers also looked at the correlation between past warming events and changes in Earth’s orbit. Over hundreds of thousands of years, Earth’s orbit around the sun regularly becomes more or less elliptical. But scientists have wondered why many past warming events appeared to coincide with these changes, and why these events feature outsized warming compared with what the change in Earth’s orbit could have wrought on its own.

So, Arnscheidt and Rothman incorporated the Earth’s orbital changes into the multiplicative model and their analysis of Earth’s temperature changes, and found that multiplier effects could predictably amplify, on average, the modest temperature rises due to changes in Earth’s orbit.

“Climate warms and cools in synchrony with orbital changes, but the orbital cycles themselves would predict only modest changes in climate,” Rothman says. “But if we consider a multiplicative model, then modest warming, paired with this multiplier effect, can result in extreme events that tend to occur at the same time as these orbital changes.”

“Humans are forcing the system in a new way,” Arnscheidt adds. “And this study is showing that, when we increase temperature, we’re likely going to interact with these natural, amplifying effects.”

This research was supported, in part, by MIT’s School of Science.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Original written by Jennifer Chu. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Constantin W. Arnscheidt, Daniel H. Rothman. Asymmetry of extreme Cenozoic climate–carbon cycle events. Science Advances, 2021; 7 (33): eabg6864 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg6864

Crise do clima aprofunda desigualdades e viola direitos humanos, diz ONG (Folha de S.Paulo)

Anistia Internacional aponta efeitos desproporcionais da mudança climática, que prejudica mais grupos vulneráveis

13.ago.2021 às 3h00

Fernanda Mena – São Paulo

A crise climática é uma crise de direitos humanos, cujas emergências já estão afetando de maneira desproporcional os países mais vulneráveis e os grupos sociais mais discriminados e marginalizados, aprofundando desigualdades.

É isso o que indica o relatório “Parem de Queimar Nossos Direitos”, lançado nesta sexta-feira (13) globalmente pela Anistia Internacional.

O documento detalha como emergências climáticas têm consequências injustas entre países, entre diferentes populações e entre gerações e de que maneira elas comprometem a garantia de uma série de direitos fundamentais, como o direito à vida, à água, à alimentação, à moradia, à saúde, ao trabalho e à autodeterminação, entre outros.

O primeiro e mais elementar desses direitos é a face mais evidente e trágica da escalada de emergências climáticas que tomaram o noticiário ao longo do último ano. Tempestades devastadoras, recorde de furacões, ondas de calor e incêndios sem precedentes mataram pessoas da Austrália à Alemanha, passando por Bahamas, China e Canadá.

Segundo o documento, mais de 20 milhões de pessoas foram deslocadas internamente, em média, a cada ano entre 2008 e 2019 por causa de eventos relacionados ao clima. Parte desses eventos afetou a vida de milhões de pessoas ao destruir plantações e casas e queimar florestas e cidades inteiras, além de secar rios. O Brasil, por exemplo, vive a pior estiagem dos últimos 91 anos, o que compromete o abastecimento da população e o fornecimento de energia elétrica.

A ONG internacional reitera um alerta da comunidade científica: a temperatura do planeta já subiu, em média, 1,1ºC desde tempos pré-industriais, e os países precisam evitar que essa elevação dos termômetros ultrapasse 1,5º C. Para isso, precisam reduzir ao máximo, chegando a zero, suas emissões de carbono.

O Painel Intergovernamental sobre Mudanças Climáticas (IPCC) estimou que manter o aumento da temperatura média global em 1,5°C, e não em 2°C, resultaria na proteção de 420 milhões de pessoas em relação a ondas de calor extremas e na redução de 50% no número de pessoas expostas ao estresse hídrico induzido pelo clima, além de diminuir o risco de inundações costeiras.

Estudo publicado na revista Nature calculou que, em 2050, a elevação do nível do mar por conta do derretimento de gelo nos pólos do planeta pode afetar mais de 1 milhão de brasileiros que vivem em regiões costeiras.

“As autoridades públicas no Brasil têm contribuído para que haja um desmonte da agenda ambiental, mas não há mais espaço para o negacionismo. A vida de brasileiros e brasileiras deve vir em primeiro lugar”, explica Jurema Werneck, diretora executiva da Anistia Internacional Brasil.

Segundo Werneck, os Estados têm obrigações legais de enfrentar a crise do clima, de acordo com a normativa internacional dos direitos humanos. “Exigimos que o governo do presidente Jair Bolsonaro e o Congresso Nacional ajam para atenuar os efeitos das mudanças climáticas sobre a população brasileira e implementem políticas públicas de conservação da natureza e proteção dos direitos humanos.”

Para ela, o governo do Brasil não está fazendo o que é preciso para enfrentar a crise climática. “Muito pelo contrário, temos visto decisões equivocadas, perigosas e muita negligência. O governo não se coloca ao lado da proteção do ambiente natural nem dos sujeitos de grupos populacionais como indígenas, quilombolas e moradores das periferias das cidades para mitigar e superar os impactos da crise climática.”

Embora as mudanças climáticas sejam um fenômeno global, elas atingem países pobres e em desenvolvimento de maneira desproporcional, o que configura um aspecto injusto desse fenômeno.

O relatório afirma que os países e blocos que mais emitiram CO2 na história —EUA, União Europeia, China, Rússia e Japão— têm uma responsabilidade histórica e precisam agir em seu território e no exterior, mas não são os únicos que devem responder ao imperativo de mudanças.

“Para resolver essa crise, que é global, é preciso que a responsabilidade de agir seja compartilhada por todos e todas. Todos os países precisam fazer alguma coisa urgente, sejam os países mais ricos do mundo, sejam aqueles em desenvolvimento, como o Brasil, sejam os países mais pobres do mundo. Todo mundo tem o que fazer, todo mundo deve fazer. Se omitir nesse momento é extremamente violador dos direitos humanos”, afirma a diretora-executiva da Anistia no Brasil.

Neste sentido, o relatório da organização aponta que a omissão de países em tomar medidas audaciosas para enfrentar a crise do clima é, em si, uma violação de direitos humanos porque tem impactos concretos sobre direitos com um escopo ainda maior que outros tipos de violações.

Isso porque, além do desequilíbrio entre nações, os efeitos das emergências climáticas também estão ligados às desigualdades e privilégios de parcelas da população mundial.

De acordo com o relatório da Anistia, de 1990 a 2015, os 10% mais ricos da população mundial (cerca de 630 milhões de pessoas) foram responsáveis por mais da metade das emissões acumuladas de carbono, enquanto os 50% mais pobres (cerca de 3,1 bilhões de pessoas) foram responsáveis por apenas 7% das emissões acumuladas.

Estudos já identificaram que existem recortes étnicos, raciais e de gênero nas pessoas mais afetadas, entre elas, mulheres, pessoas negras e povos indígenas, além de outros grupos que vivem em moradias mais precárias, em localidades de risco ou em áreas mais expostas à poluição e menos servidas de saneamento, por exemplo.

Por isso, ao mesmo tempo que o relatório convoca os países a reduzir drasticamente a queima de combustíveis fósseis e a acelerarem suas transições para matrizes energéticas limpas, a Anistia chama a atenção para a necessidade de cuidar das pessoas mais vulneráveis. Para tanto, recomenda a criação de mecanismos de financiamento internacional para que se adote medidas de mitigação da crise e de adaptação das populações a emergências climáticas.

Além disso, de acordo com a ONG, esses projetos de mitigação e de adaptação muitas vezes ocorrem em contextos de violação de direitos, seja no campo do trabalho ou da alimentação, no caso das monoculturas de biocombustíveis.

“Há uma profunda injustiça permeando toda essa crise climática. Porque é uma minoria das pessoas do mundo e dos países do mundo que produzem um excesso de gases de efeito estufa, que estão na origem da crise climática. E são aqueles que são excluídos e marginalizados que já estão pagando o preço mais alto dessa crise”, avalia Werneck.

“Portanto, a resposta à crise precisa ser coordenada e ter enfoque em direitos humanos. Precisa garantir que as medidas de reparação e de correção de rota sejam rápidas, mas também sejam justas.”

Joe Biden’s splurge on infrastructure moves a step closer (The Economist)

economist.com

Aug 11th 2021


Bridge and tunnel
Joe Biden’s splurge on infrastructure moves a step closer
And on the climate and the safety-net, too. Congress works, maybe?

“THE ICEMAN COMETH” is a play about the downtrodden patrons of Harry Hope’s saloon, who exchange reveries for one another’s pipe dreams. For a while President Joe Biden’s aspirations for a gargantuan infrastructure and social-services package—spending $4trn in order to “build back better”—resembled those of a misbegotten Eugene O’Neill character. The weeks dragged on and negotiations appeared fruitless. Yet in the usually soporific month of August, Mr Biden finds that his pipe dream might in fact yield some actual pipes, plus extra sending on the safety net and climate change too.

On August 10th the Senate passed a bipartisan infrastructure package spanning 2,700 pages, which contains plans to spend $550bn, or 2.5% of GDP, most of it on bridges, roads and railway lines. And then in the early hours of August 11th, the Senate fired the starting gun for the drafting of a budget resolution—a $3.5trn package stuffed with all of Mr Biden’s other partisan aims, the details of which will be negotiated in the months to come.

The White House has made greater headway than many expected. Yet turning this into actual spending will require still more effort. To mollify antsy progressives, neither bill is expected to arrive on the president’s desk without the other. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, has pledged as much and is not known for bluffing.

So success for Mr Biden continues to depend on an odd-couple strategy: yoking the bipartisan bits of his agenda (traditional spending on roads, bridges, broadband and waterways, largely unmatched by tax increases) to the purely Democratic wish-list (enormous spending on climate-change mitigation and a safety-net expansion, along with much higher taxes on wealthy people and corporations). This approach withstood early defections by Republicans who feared they had been had. Now it must prove itself capable of delivering the remaining legislation, which will be mostly an exercise in Democratic cohesion. If all this works, it will probably become the defining accomplishment of the Biden presidency.

Securing both bills will be hard. To pass their other policy aspirations without any Republican votes, Democrats will now employ a procedure known as budgetary reconciliation, which sidesteps a filibuster if certain conditions are met. Shepherding such a package through Congress requires co-ordinating efforts from a score of committees. That task can now begin: in the early hours of August 11th Democrats passed a budget resolution, a skeletal framing document that gives each committee instructions on how much it can spend. This marks the true start of the hard work: drafting legislative text, collating it into one mega-package and passing it without any Democratic defections—for anything less, in the face of unified Republican opposition, would spell defeat.

Reconciliation is not pretty. Since its use is limited to budgetary matters, it cannot be resorted to often. And since Democrats fear that they will lose their slim majorities in the coming mid-term elections, they have an incentive to hitch any partisan priority that they want to become law onto this omnibus bill.

This bill will be stuffed therefore. Committees will draw up plans to spend hundreds of billions on climate-change research, electric-vehicle charging stations and a Civilian Climate Corps; more than $1trn on various safety-net enhancements like extended child-tax credits, subsidised child care and family leave; and educational benefits from pre-kindergarten to community college. There will be a parallel effort to pay for this by raising the taxes on corporate profits, especially of the overseas variety, and high personal incomes.

These legislative schemes would almost certainly increase American deficits and debts beyond their already eye-popping levels. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a non-partisan scorekeeper, estimates that America will run a $3trn deficit in Mr Biden’s first year—much of that is the result of the $1.9trn stimulus measure that the president signed into law soon after assuming office. At 13.4% of GDP, the deficit will be the highest in the first year of any modern president (see chart).

The proposed spending on infrastructure and the safety-net would be spread over ten years, not concentrated in just one. Still, it is remarkable that, if Mr Biden gets his way, he could sign legislation authorising the spending of just under $6trn, almost 30% of GDP, in his first year in office. More of the infrastructure spending will be covered by revenue than was the case for the covid-19 relief measure, but a substantial portion will not be.

The CBO‘s assessment of the bipartisan package passed by the Senate found that it would add $256bn to the federal debt. The budget resolution recently passed by Democrats would allow $1.75trn to be added to the tab—suggesting that only half of their proposal could be paid for (and belying the White House’s repeated insistence that it would be fully funded). Already, Janet Yellen, the treasury secretary, warns that the debt ceiling will need to be raised by October 1st to accommodate the current pace of spending.

Almost none of the legislating over the next few months will appeal to Republicans. But that is the point of the segmentation strategy that Mr Biden has chosen. He has pulled off a surprising victory in the bipartisan campaign. The partisan battle promises to be every bit as arduous. ■

For more coverage of Joe Biden’s presidency, visit our dedicated hub

This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Function in Washington”

Negacionismo de sapatênis (Folha de S.Paulo)

Não é com desinformação que o jornalismo contribuirá ao tema do clima

Thiago Amparo – artigo original aqui.

11.ago.2021 às 22h05

A perversidade do negacionismo recai em jurar que se está dizendo o contrário do que de fato se diz. Nesta novilíngua, negacionismo veste o sapatênis do antialarmismo. Chega a ser tedioso, posto que mofado, o argumento de Leandro Narloch nesta Folha na terça (10). Mofado pois —como relata Michael Mann em “The New Climate War”— não passa da mesma retórica negacionista 2.0.

Em essência, Narloch defende que há atividades nocivas ao clima que devem ser “celebradas e difundidas” por nos tornar “menos vulneráveis à natureza”. Narloch está cientificamente errado. E o faz subscrevendo a uma das formas mais nefárias de negacionismo: mascara-o, vendendo soluções que não só não são capazes de mitigar e adaptar as sociedades à crise climática como possuem o efeito adverso. Implode-se a Amazônia para salvá-la, eis o argumento.

Esses e outros discursos negacionistas já tinham sido mapeados na revista Global Sustaintability, de Cambridge, em julho de 2020: não são novos. Em vez de mexer em tabus do século 21, vendem-se inverdades como se ciência fosse. Narloch erra no conceito de vulnerabilidade: dos incêndios florestais na Califórnia às inundações na Alemanha, não estamos protegidos contra a natureza porque nela estamos inseridos. Ignora, ademais, a vasta literatura do Painel do Clima sobre vulnerabilidade.

Narloch desconsidera o conceito da ciência climática de “feedback loops”: a crise climática aciona uma série de gatilhos de dimensão incalculável, uma reação de cadeia nunca vista. Destruir o clima não nos protegerá do clima, porque é a ausência de uma mudança drástica energética que tem aprofundado a crise climática. É ineficiente o investir no contrário.

Se o relatório do Painel do Clima acendeu o sinal vermelho, não é com desinformação que o jornalismo contribuirá ao tema. Pluralismo é um rio onde as ideias se movem dentro das margens da verdade e da ciência. Não reclamem quando o rio secar, implodindo as margens que o jornalismo deveria ter protegido.

Clima nos apavora justamente quando conseguimos sobreviver a ele (Folha de S.Paulo)

Luta contra o aquecimento global precisa de inovadores, e não de ativistas obcecados com o apocalipse

Leandro Narloch – artigo original aqui.

11.ago.2021 às 8h56

Na sua opinião, o que aconteceu nos últimos cem anos com o número total de mortes causadas por furacões, inundações, secas, ondas de calor e outros desastres climáticos? Peço que escolha uma destas alternativas:

  • a) Aumentou mais de 800%
  • b) Aumentou cerca de 50%
  • c) Manteve-se constante
  • d) Diminuiu cerca de 50%
  • e) Diminuiu mais de 80%

Como a população mundial cresceu de 1,8 bilhão em 1921 para 8 bilhões em 2021, é razoável cravar as respostas B ou C, pois o fato de haver mais pessoas resultaria em mais vítimas. Muitos leitores devem ter escolhido a primeira opção, tendo em vista as notícias assustadoras do relatório do IPCC desta semana.

A alternativa correta, porém, é a última. As mortes por desastres naturais diminuíram 87% desde a década de 1920 até os anos 2010, segundo dados coletados pelo Our World in Data.

Passaram de 540 mil por ano para 68 mil. A taxa em relação à população teve picos de 63 mortes por 100 mil habitantes em 1921, e 176 em 1931. Hoje está em 0,15.

Esses números levam a dois paradoxos interessantes sobre a relação entre o homem e o clima. O primeiro lembra o Paradoxo de Spencer –referência a Herbert Spencer, para quem “o grau de preocupação pública sobre um problema ou fenômeno social varia inversamente a sua incidência”.

Assim como os ingleses se deram conta da pobreza quando ela começava a diminuir, durante a Revolução Industrial, a humanidade está apavorada com os infortúnios do clima justamente depois de conseguir sobreviver a eles.

O segundo paradoxo: ao mesmo tempo em que emitimos muito (mas muito mesmo) carbono na atmosfera e causamos um grave problema de efeito estufa, também nos tornamos menos vulneráveis à natureza. Na verdade, proteger-se do clima foi um dos principais motivos para termos poluído tanto.

Veja o caso da construção. Produzir cimento consiste grosseiramente em queimar calcário e liberar dióxido de carbono.

Se a indústria de cimento fosse um país, seria o terceiro maior emissor de gases do efeito estufa. Mas essa indústria poluidora permitiu que as pessoas deixassem casas de pau-a-pique ou madeira para dormirem abrigadas em estruturas mais seguras.

Já a fome originada pela seca, principal causa de morte por desastres naturais nos anos 1920, foi resolvida com a criação dos fertilizantes químicos, sistemas de irrigação e a construção de represas e redes de saneamento.

Todas essas atividades causaram aquecimento global –mas não deixam de ser grandes conquistas humanas, que merecem ser celebradas e difundidas entre os pobres que ainda vivem sob risco de morrer durante furacões, secas ou inundações.

Será que a queda histórica das mortes por desastres naturais vai se reverter nos próximos anos, tornando realidade os vaticínios apocalípticos de Greta Thunberg, para quem “bilhões de pessoas morrerão se não tomarmos medidas urgentes”?

O ativista climático Michael Shellenberger, autor do brilhante “Apocalipse Nunca”, que será lançado este mês no Brasil pela editora LVM, acha que não.

Pretendo falar mais sobre o livro de Shellenberger em outras colunas, mas já adianto um dos argumentos: o alarmismo ambiental despreza a capacidade humana de se adaptar e resolver problemas.

“Os Países Baixos, por exemplo, tornaram-se uma nação rica mesmo tendo um terço de suas terras abaixo do nível do mar, incluindo áreas que estão nada menos do que sete metros abaixo do mar”, diz ele.

A luta contra o aquecimento global não precisa de ativistas obcecados com o apocalipse (que geralmente desprezam soluções óbvias, como a energia nuclear). Precisa de tecnologia, de inovadores, de gente que dê mais conforto e segurança à humanidade interferindo na natureza cada vez menos.

We read the 4000-page IPCC climate report so you don’t have to (Quartz)

qz.com

Amanda Shendruk, Tim McDonnell, David Yanofsky, Michael J. Coren

Published August 10, 2021

[Check the original publication here for the text of the report with most important parts highlighted.]


The most important takeaways from the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report are easily summarized: Global warming is happening, it’s caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, and the impacts are very bad (in some cases, catastrophic). Every fraction of a degree of warming we can prevent by curbing emissions substantially reduces this damage. It’s a message that hasn’t changed much since the first IPCC report in 1990.

But to reach these conclusions (and ratchet up confidence in their findings), hundreds of scientists from universities around the globe spent years combing through the peer-reviewed literature—at least 14,000 papers—on everything from cyclones to droughts.

The final Aug. 9 report is nearly 4,000 pages long. While much of it is written in inscrutable scientific jargon, if you want to understand the scientific case for man-made global warming, look no further. We’ve reviewed the data,  summarized the main points, and created an interactive graphic showing a “heat map” of scientists’ confidence in their conclusions. The terms describing statistical confidence range from very high confidence (a 9 out of 10 chance) to very low confidence (a 1 in 10 chance). Just hover over the graphic [here] and click to see what they’ve written.

Here’s your guide to the IPCC’s latest assessment.

CH 1: Framing, context, methods

The first chapter comes out swinging with a bold political charge: It concludes with “high confidence” that the plans countries so far have put forward to reduce emissions are “insufficient” to keep warming well below 2°C, the goal enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement. While unsurprising on its own, it is surprising for a document that had to be signed off on by the same government representatives it condemns. It then lists advancements in climate science since the last IPCC report, as well as key evidence behind the conclusion that human-caused global warming is “unequivocal.”

Highlights

👀Scientists’ ability to observe the physical climate system has continued to improve and expand.

📈Since the last IPCC report, new techniques have provided greater confidence in attributing changes in extreme events to human-caused climate change.

🔬The latest generation of climate models is better at representing natural processes, and higher-resolution models that better capture smaller-scale processes and extreme events have become available.

CH 2: Changing state of the climate system

Chapter 2 looks backward in time to compare the current rate of climate changes to those that happened in the past. That comparison clearly reveals human fingerprints on the climate system. The last time global temperatures were comparable to today was 125,000 years ago, the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is higher than anytime in the last 2 million years, and greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than anytime in the last 800,000 years.

Highlights

🥵Observed changes in the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere, and biosphere provide unequivocal evidence of a world that has warmed. Over the past several decades, key indicators of the climate system are increasingly at levels unseen in centuries to millennia, and are changing at rates unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years

🧊Annual mean Arctic sea ice coverage levels are the lowest since at least 1850. Late summer levels are the lowest in the past 1,000 years.

🌊Global mean sea level (GMSL) is rising, and the rate of GMSL rise since the 20th century is faster than over any preceding century in at least the last three millennia. Since 1901, GMSL has risen by 0.20 [0.15–0.25] meters, and the rate of rise is accelerating.

CH 3: Human influence on the climate system

Chapter 3 leads with the IPCC’s strongest-ever statement on the human impact on the climate: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the global climate system since pre-industrial times” (the last IPCC report said human influence was “clear”). Specifically, the report blames humanity for nearly all of the 1.1°C increase in global temperatures observed since the Industrial Revolution (natural forces played a tiny role as well), and the loss of sea ice, rising temperatures, and acidity in the ocean.

🌍Human-induced greenhouse gas forcing is the main driver of the observed changes in hot and cold extremes.

🌡️The likely range of warming in global-mean surface air temperature (GSAT) in 2010–2019 relative to 1850–1900 is 0.9°C–1.2°C. Of that, 0.8°C–1.3°C is attributable to human activity, while natural forces contributed −0.1°C–0.1°C.

😬Combining the attributable contributions from melting ice and the expansion of warmer water, it is very likely that human influence was the main driver of the observed global mean sea level rise since at least 1970.

CH 4: Future global climate: Scenario-based projections and near-term information

Chapter 4 holds two of the report’s most important conclusions: Climate change is happening faster than previously understood, and the likelihood that the global temperature increase can stay within the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5°C is extremely slim. The 2013 IPCC report projected that temperatures could exceed 1.5°C in the 2040s; here, that timeline has been advanced by a decade to the “early 2030s” in the median scenario. And even in the lowest-emission scenario, it is “more likely than not” to occur by 2040.

Highlights

🌡️By 2030, in all future warming scenarios, globally averaged surface air temperature in any individual year could exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850–1900.

🌊Under all scenarios, it is virtually certain that global mean sea level will continue to rise through the 21st century.

💨Even if enough carbon were removed from the atmosphere that global emissions become net negative, some climate change impacts, such as sea level rise, will be not reversed for at least several centuries.

CH 5: Global carbon and other biochemical cycles and feedbacks

Chapter 5 quantifies the level by which atmospheric CO2 and methane concentrations have increased since 1750 (47% and 156% respectively) and addresses the ability of oceans and other natural systems to soak those emissions up. The more emissions increase, the less they can be offset by natural sinks—and in a high-emissions scenario, the loss of forests from wildfires becomes so severe that land-based ecosystems become a net source of emissions, rather than a sink (this is already happening to a degree in the Amazon).

Highlights

🌲The CO2 emitted from human activities during the decade of 2010–2019 was distributed between three Earth systems: 46% accumulated in the atmosphere, 23% was taken up by the ocean, and 31% was stored by vegetation.

📉The fraction of emissions taken up by land and ocean is expected to decline as the CO2 concentration increases.

💨Global temperatures rise in a near-linear relationship to cumulative CO2 emissions. In other words, to halt global warming, net emissions must reach zero.

CH 6: Short-lived climate forcers

Chapter 6 is all about methane, particulate matter, aerosols, hydrofluorocarbons, and other non-CO2 gases that don’t linger very long in the atmosphere (just a few hours, in some cases) but exert a tremendous influence on the climate while they do. In cases, that influence might be cooling, but their net impact has been to contribute to warming. Because they are short-lived, the future abundance and impact of these gases are highly variable in the different socioeconomic pathways considered in the report. These gases have a huge impact on the respiratory health of people around the world.

Highlights

⛽The sectors most responsible for warming from short-lived climate forcers are those dominated by methane emissions: fossil fuel production and distribution, agriculture, and waste management.

🧊In the next two decades, it is very likely that emissions from short-lived climate forcers will cause a warming relative to 2019, in addition to the warming from long-lived greenhouse gases like CO2.

🌏Rapid decarbonization leads to air quality improvements, but on its own is not sufficient to achieve, in the near term, air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organization, especially in parts of Asia and in some other highly polluted regions.

CH 7: The Earth’s energy budget, climate feedbacks, and climate sensitivity

Climate sensitivity is a measure of how much the Earth responds to changes in greenhouse gas concentrations. For every doubling of atmospheric CO2, temperatures go up by about 3°C, this chapter concludes. That’s about the same level scientists have estimated for several decades, but over time the range of uncertainty around that estimate has narrowed. The energy budget is a calculation of how much energy is flowing into the Earth system from the sun. Put together these metrics paint a picture of the human contribution to observed warming.

🐻‍❄️The Arctic warms more quickly than the Antarctic due to differences in radiative feedbacks and ocean heat uptake between the poles.

🌊Because of existing greenhouse gas concentrations, energy will continue to accumulate in the Earth system until at least the end of the 21st century, even under strong emissions reduction scenarios.

☁️The net effect of changes in clouds in response to global warming is to amplify human-induced warming. Compared to the last IPCC report, major advances in the understanding of cloud processes have increased the level of confidence in the cloud feedback cycle.

CH 8: Water cycle changes

This chapter catalogs what happens to water in a warming world. Although instances of drought are expected to become more common and more severe, wet parts of the world will get wetter as the warmer atmosphere is able to carry more water. Total net precipitation will increase, yet the thirstier atmosphere will make dry places drier. And within any one location, the difference in precipitation between the driest and wettest month will likely increase. But rainstorms are complex phenomenon and typically happen at a scale that is smaller than the resolution of most climate models, so specific local predictions about monsoon patterns remains an area of relatively high uncertainty.

Highlights

🌎Increased evapotranspiration will decrease soil moisture over the Mediterranean, southwestern North America, south Africa, southwestern South America, and southwestern Australia.

🌧️Summer monsoon precipitation is projected to increase for the South, Southeast and East Asian monsoon domains, while North American monsoon precipitation is projected to decrease. West African monsoon precipitation is projected to increase over the Central Sahel and decrease over the far western Sahel.

🌲Large-scale deforestation has likely decreased evapotranspiration and precipitation and increased runoff over the deforested regions. Urbanization has increased local precipitation and runoff intensity.

CH 9: Ocean, cryosphere, and sea level change

Most of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases is ultimately absorbed by the oceans. Warmer water expands, contributing significantly to sea level rise, and the slow, deep circulation of ocean water is a key reason why global temperatures don’t turn on a dime in relation to atmospheric CO2. Marine animals are feeling this heat, as scientists have documented that the frequency of marine heatwaves has doubled since the 1980s. Meanwhile, glaciers, polar sea ice, the Greenland ice sheet, and global permafrost are all rapidly melting. Overall sea levels have risen about 20 centimeters since 1900, and the rate of sea level rise is increasing.

Highlights

📈Global mean sea level rose faster in the 20th century than in any prior century over the last three millennia.

🌡️The heat content of the global ocean has increased since at least 1970 and will continue to increase over the 21st century. The associated warming will likely continue until at least 2300 even for low-emission scenarios because of the slow circulation of the deep ocean.

🧊The Arctic Ocean will likely become practically sea ice–free during the seasonal sea ice minimum for the first time before 2050 in all considered SSP scenarios.

CH 10: Linking global to regional climate change

Since 1950, scientists have clearly detected how greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are changing regional temperatures. Climate models can predict regional climate impacts. Where data are limited, statistical methods help identify local impacts (especially in challenging terrain such as mountains). Cities, in particular, will warm faster as a result of urbanization. Global warming extremes in urban areas will be even more pronounced, especially during heatwaves. Although global models largely agree, it is more difficult to consistently predict regional climate impacts across models.

Highlights

⛰️Some local-scale phenomena such as sea breezes and mountain wind systems can not be well represented by the resolution of most climate models.

🌆The difference in observed warming trends between cities and their surroundings can partly be attributed to urbanization. Future urbanization will amplify the projected air temperature change in cities regardless of the characteristics of the background climate.

😕Statistical methods are improving to downscale global climate models to more accurately depict local or regional projections.

CH 11: Weather and climate extreme events in a changing climate

Better data collection, modeling, and means scientists are more confident than ever in understanding the role of rising greenhouse gas concentration in weather and climate extremes.  We are virtually certain humans are behind observed temperature extremes.

Human activity is more making extreme weather and temperatures more intense and frequent, especially rain, droughts, and tropical cyclones. While even 1.5°C of warming will make events more severe, the intensity of extreme events is expected to at least double with 2°C of global warming compared today’s conditions, and quadruple with 3°C of warming. As global warming accelerates, historically unprecedented climatic events are likely to occur.

Highlights

🌡️It is an established fact that human-induced greenhouse gas emissions have led to an increased frequency and/or intensity of some weather and climate extremes since pre-industrial time, in particular for temperature extremes.

🌎Even relatively small incremental increases in global warming cause statistically significant changes in extremes.

🌪️The occurrence of extreme events is unprecedented in the observed record, and will increase with increasing global warming.

⛈️Relative to present-day conditions, changes in the intensity of extremes would be at least double at 2°C, and quadruple at 3°C of global warming.

CH 12: Climate change information for regional impact and for risk assessment

Climate models are getting better, more precise, and more accurate at predicting regional impacts. We know a lot more than we did in 2014 (the release of AR5). Our climate is already different compared ti the early or mid-20th century and we’re seeing big changes to mean temperatures, growing season, extreme heat, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation, and Arctic sea ice loss. Expect more changes by mid-century: more rain in the northern hemisphere, less rain in a few regions (the Mediterranean and South Africa), as well as sea-level rise along all coasts. Overall, there is high confidence that mean and extreme temperatures will rise over land and sea. Major widespread damages are expected, but also benefits are possible in some places.

Highlights

🌏Every region of the world will experience concurrent changes in multiple climate impact drivers by mid-century.

🌱Climate change is already resulting in significant societal and environmental impacts and will induce major socio-economic damages in the future. In some cases, climate change can also lead to beneficial conditions which can be taken into account in adaptation strategies.

🌨️The impacts of climate change depend not only on physical changes in the climate itself, but also on whether humans take steps to limit their exposure and vulnerability.


What we did:

The visualization of confidence is only for the executive summary at the beginning of each chapter. If a sentence had a confidence associated with it, the confidence text was removed and a color applied instead. If a sentence did not have an associated confidence, that doesn’t mean scientists do not feel confident about the content; they may be using likelihood (or certainty) language in that instance instead. We chose to only visualize confidence, as it is used more often in the report. Highlights were drawn from the text of the report but edited and in some cases rephrased for clarity.

Capitalism is in crisis. To save it, we need to rethink economic growth. (MIT Technological Review)

technologyreview.com

The failure of capitalism to solve our biggest problems is prompting many to question one of its basic precepts.

David Rotman


This story was part of our November 2020 issue

October 14, 2020

No wonder many in the US and Europe have begun questioning the underpinnings of capitalism—particularly its devotion to free markets and its faith in the power of economic growth to create prosperity and solve our problems. 

The antipathy to growth is not new; the term “degrowth” was coined in the early 1970s. But these days, worries over climate change, as well as rising inequality, are prompting its reemergence as a movement. 

Calls for “the end of growth” are still on the economic fringe, but degrowth arguments have been taken up by political movements as different as the Extinction Rebellion and the populist Five Star Movement in Italy. “And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” thundered Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate activist, to an audience of diplomats and politicians at UN Climate Week last year.

At the core of the degrowth movement is a critique of capitalism itself. In Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World, Jason Hickel writes: “Capitalism is fundamentally dependent on growth.” It is, he says, “not growth for any particular purpose, mind you, but growth for its own sake.”

That mindless growth, Hickel and his fellow degrowth believers contend, is very bad both for the planet and for our spiritual well-being. We need, Hickel writes, to develop “new theories of being” and rethink our place in the “living world.” (Hickel goes on about intelligent plants and their ability to communicate, which is both controversial botany and confusing economics.) It’s tempting to dismiss it all as being more about social engineering of our lifestyles than about actual economic reforms. 

Though Hickel, an anthropologist, offers a few suggestions (“cut advertising” and “end planned obsolescence”), there’s little about the practical steps that would make a no-growth economy work. Sorry, but talking about plant intelligence won’t solve our woes; it won’t feed hungry people or create well-paying jobs. 

Still, the degrowth movement does have a point: faced with climate change and the financial struggles of many workers, capitalism isn’t getting it done. 

Slow growth

Even some economists outside the degrowth camp, while not entirely rejecting the importance of growth, are questioning our blind devotion to it. 

One obvious factor shaking their faith is that growth has been lousy for decades. There have been exceptions to this economic sluggishness—the US during the late 1990s and early 2000s and developing countries like China as they raced to catch up. But some scholars, notably Robert Gordon, whose 2016 book The Rise and Fall of American Growth triggered much economic soul-searching, are realizing that slow growth might be the new normal, not some blip, for much of the world. 

Gordon held that growth “ended on October 16, 1973, or thereabouts,” write MIT economists Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, who won the 2019 Nobel Prize, in Good Economics for Hard Times. Referencing Gordon, they single out the day when the OPEC oil embargo began; GDP growth in the US and Europe never fully recovered. 

The pair are of course being somewhat facetious in tracing the end of growth to a particular day. Their larger point: robust growth seemingly disappeared almost overnight, and no one knows what happened.

Duflo and Banerjee offer possible explanations, only to dismiss them. They write: “The bottom line is that despite the best efforts of generations of economists, the deep mechanisms of persistent economic growth remain elusive.” Nor do we know how to revive it. They conclude: “Given that, we will argue, it may be time to abandon our profession’s obsession with growth.”

In this perspective, growth is not the villain of today’s capitalism, but—at least as measured by GDP—it’s an aspiration that is losing its relevance. Slow growth is nothing to worry about, says Dietrich Vollrath, an economist at the University of Houston, at least not in rich countries. It’s largely the result of lower birth rates—a shrinking workforce means less output—and a shift to services to meet the demands of wealthier consumers. In any case, says Vollrath, with few ways to change it, we might as well embrace slow growth. “It is what it is,” he says. 

Vollrath says when his book Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy Is a Sign of Success came out last January, he “was adopted by the degrowthers.” But unlike them, he’s indifferent to whether growth ends or not; rather, he wants to shift the discussion to ways of creating more sustainable technologies and achieving other social goals, whether the changes boost growth or not. “There is now a disconnect between GDP and whether things are getting better,” he says.

Living better

Though the US is the world’s largest economy as measured by GDP, it is doing poorly on indicators such as environmental performance and access to quality education and health care, according to the Social Progress Index, released late this summer by a Washington-based think tank. In the annual ranking (done before the covid pandemic), the US came in 28th, far behind other wealthy countries, including ones with slower GDP growth rates.

“You can churn out all the GDP you want,” says Rebecca Henderson, an economist at Harvard Business School, “but if the suicide rates go up, and the depression rates go up, and the rate of children dying before they’re four goes up, it’s not the kind of society you want to build.” We need to “stop relying totally on GDP,” she says. “It should be just one metric among many.”

Part of the problem, she suggests, is “a failure to imagine that capitalism can be done differently, that it can operate without toasting the planet.”

In her perspective, the US needs to start measuring and valuing growth according to its impact on climate change and access to essential services like health care. “We need self-aware growth,” says Henderson. “Not growth at any cost.” 

Daron Acemoglu, another MIT economist, is calling for a “new growth strategy” aimed at creating technologies needed to solve our most pressing problems. Acemoglu describes today’s growth as being driven by large corporations committed to digital technologies, automation, and AI. This concentration of innovation in a few dominant companies has led to inequality and, for many, wage stagnation. 

People in Silicon Valley, he says, often acknowledge to him that this is a problem but argue, “It’s what technology wants. It’s the path of technology.” Acemoglu disagrees; we make deliberate choices about which technologies we invent and use, he says.

Acemoglu argues that growth should be directed by market incentives and by regulation. That, he believes, is the best way to make sure we create and deploy technologies that society needs, rather than ones that simply generate massive profits for a few. 

Which technologies are those? “I don’t know exactly,” he says. “I’m not clairvoyant. It hasn’t been a priority to develop such technologies, and we’re not aware of the capabilities.”

Turning such a strategy into reality will depend on politics. And the reasoning of academic economists like Acemoglu and Henderson, one fears, is not likely to be popular politically—ignoring as it does the loud calls for the end of growth from the left and the self-confident demands for continued unfettered free markets on the right. 

But for those not willing to give up on a future of growth and the vast promise of innovation to improve lives and save the planet, expanding our technological imagination is the only the real choice.

Rewriting capitalism: some must-reads

  • Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire, BY REBECCA HENDERSON
    The Harvard Business School economist argues that companies can play an important role in improving the world.
  • Good Economics for Hard Times, BY ABHIJIT V. BANERJEE AND ESTHER DUFLO
    The MIT economists and 2019 Nobel laureates explain the challenges of boosting growth both in rich countries and in poor ones, where they do much of their research.
  • Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy Is a Sign of Success, BY DIETRICH VOLLRATH
    The University of Houston economist argues that slow growth in rich countries like the United States is just fine, but we need to make the benefits from it more inclusive.
  • Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World, BY JASON HICKEL
    A leading voice in the degrowth movement provides an overview of the argument for ending growth. It’s a convincing diagnosis of the problems we’re facing; how an end to growth will solve any of them is less clear.

With More Freedom, Young Women in Albania Shun Tradition of ‘Sworn Virgins’ (New York Times)

nytimes.com

Text by Andrew Higgings


Gjystina Grishaj, known by her male nickname, Duni, declared herself a man nearly 40 years ago in order to avoid a forced marriage at a young age. 

Gjystina Grishaj, known by her male nickname, Duni, declared herself a man nearly 40 years ago in order to avoid a forced marriage at a young age.

A centuries-old tradition in which women declared themselves men so they could enjoy male privilege is dying out as young women have more options available to them to live their own lives.

Andrew Higgins

Photographs by Laura Boushnak

LEPUSHE, Albania — As a teenager locked in a patriarchal and tradition-bound mountain village in the far north of Albania, Gjystina Grishaj made a drastic decision: She would live the rest of her life as a man.

She did not want to be married off at a young age, nor did she like cooking, ironing clothes or “doing any of the things that women do,” so she joined a gender-bending Albanian fraternity of what are known as “burrneshat,” or “female-men.” She adopted a male nickname — Duni.

“I took a personal decision and told them: I am a man and don’t want to get married,” Duni recalled telling her family.

Few women today want to become what anthropologists call Albania’s “sworn virgins,” a tradition that goes back centuries. They take an oath of lifelong celibacy and enjoy male privileges, like the right to make family decisions, smoke, drink and go out alone.

Duni said her choice was widely accepted, though her mother kept trying to get her to change her mind until the day she died in 2019. Like other burrneshat, Duni — who remains Gjystina Grishaj in official documents — is still universally referred to in a traditional way, with female pronouns and forms of address, and does not consider herself transgender.

Duni working in a field in the mountain village of Lepushe, in northern Albania. 

The fraternity that Duni joined nearly 40 years ago is dying out as change comes to Albania and its paternalistic rural areas, allowing younger women more options. Her village, which is Christian, like much of the northern part of the country, has in recent years started to shed its claustrophobic isolation, thanks to the construction of a winding road through the mountains that attracts visitors, but that also provides a way out for strong-willed local women who want to live their own lives.

Many, like Duni, took the oath so that they could escape forced marriages; some so that they could take on traditional male roles — like running a farm — in families where all of the men had died in blood feuds that plagued the region; and others because they just felt more like men.

“Society is changing, and burrneshat are dying out,” said Gjok Luli, an expert on the traditions of northern Albania. There are no precise figures for how many remain, but of the dozen or so who do, most are elderly. Duni, at 56, is perhaps the youngest, he said.

“It was an escape from the role given to women,” Mr. Luli said, “but there is no desperate need to escape anymore.”

Among those now able to choose different paths in life is Duni’s niece, Valerjana Grishaj, 20, who decided as a teenager to leave the mountains and move to Tirana, Albania’s relatively modern-minded capital. The village, Ms. Grishaj explained over coffee in a Tirana cafe, “is not a place for me.”

“All my friends there have been married since they were 16,” she said.

But Ms. Grishaj said she understood why her aunt made the decision she did. “There were no strong, independent women up there,” she said. “To be one, you had to become a man.”

She praised her parents for letting her make her own choices. “I was very lucky, but parents like mine are rare,” Ms. Grishaj said, noting that most still pressure their daughters to marry as teenagers.

Albania, which was isolated under a communist dictatorship until 1991, has seen its economy and social mores develop rapidly in recent years, and the country has become increasingly connected to the rest of Europe. But Tirana, to which Ms. Grishaj moved at 17 to study theater directing, can still be a difficult place for a young woman trying to make her own way.

“The patriarchy still exists, even here in Tirana,” Duni’s niece said. Young women who live alone, she lamented, stir nasty gossip and “are often seen as whores.”

The difference now though, she said, is that “women today have much more freedom than before, and you don’t need to become a man to live your own life.”

By declaring herself a man, Duni was not striking at conventional gender norms, but submitting to them. She also shares the strongly transphobic and homophobic views that are prevalent in Albania.

Men, everyone in her remote alpine hamlet of Lepushe believed, would always have more power and respect, so the best way for a woman to share their privilege was to join them, rather than trying to beat them.

“As a man, you get a special status in society and in the family,” Duni said, looking back on nearly four decades of dressing, behaving and being treated like a man. “I have never worn a skirt and never had any regrets about my decision,” she said.

Underpinning this tradition was the firm grip in northern Albania of “the Kanun,” a set of rules and social norms that classify women as chattel whose purpose was to serve men.

The low status afforded women did give them one advantage, though: It exempted them from the battles that for centuries decimated northern Albanian families as men from feuding clans died in a never-ending cycle of vengeance killings. Parents whose sons had all been killed often urged a daughter to take on a male identity so there would be a man to represent the family at village meetings and to manage its property.

A woman who became a sworn virgin was viewed as not entirely male, did not count in blood feuds and therefore escaped being targeted for murder by a rival clan.

Mr. Luli, the expert on local traditions, said one of his cousins, who went by the nickname Cuba instead of her original name, Tereza, was an only child and became a sworn virgin so she could avoid being married off and leaving her parents to fend for themselves. She died of old age in 1982.

He compared Cuba with a “woman who decides to become a nun.”

“It is the same kind of devotion,” Mr. Luli said, “only to the family instead of God.”

For Albanians pushing for gender equality, such devotion stirs mixed feelings. “Saying I will not take orders from a man is feminist,” said Rea Nepravishta, a women’s rights activist in Tirana. “Saying I own myself and will not be owned by a man is feminist.”

But, she added, “being forced to be a man instead of a woman is totally anti-feminist — it is horrible.”

Inequalities enshrined by the Kanun, Ms. Nepravishta said, gave women a choice “between either living like a semi-animal or having some freedom by becoming a man.” While still strong, patriarchy, she added, has lost some power and no longer confronts women with such stark choices.

Some burrneshat said they declared themselves men simply because they never felt like women. Diana Rakipi, 66, a burrnesha in the coastal city of Durres, said, “I always felt like a man, even as a boy.”

Aggressively masculine in manner, Ms. Rakipi delights in being bossy. On a stroll near her tiny one-room apartment, she kept stopping passers-by who she thought were acting improperly — like a boy she saw hitting his brother — and berated them.

Ms. Rakipi, who was raised in the north before moving south to Durres, said she took an oath of celibacy as a teenager in front of dozens of relatives and vowed to serve the family as a man. Born after her parents’ only son died from illness, Ms. Rakipi said she had grown up being told she had been sent by God to replace her dead brother.

“I was always considered the male of the family. They were all so upset by the death of my brother,” she said, sitting in a cafe where all of the other customers were men. She wore a black military beret, a red tie, men’s trousers and a safari vest, its pockets stuffed with talismans of her eclectic beliefs, including a Christian cross and a medallion with the face of Albania’s onetime dictator, Enver Hoxha.

Ms. Rakipi snorted with contempt when asked about people who undergo transition surgery. “It is not normal,” she said. “If God made you a woman, you are a woman.”

Duni, from Lepushe village, also has strong views on the subject, saying that altering the body goes “against God’s will,” and that people “should be put in jail” for doing so.

“I have not lived as a burrnesha because I want to be a man in any physical way. I have done this because I want to take on the role played by men and to get the respect of a man,” she said. “I am a man in my spirit, but having male genitals is not what makes you a man.”

Locals in Lepushe, including Manushaqe Shkoza, a server at a cafe in the village, said Duni’s decision to become a man initially came as a surprise, but it was accepted long ago. “Everyone sees it as normal,” Ms. Shkoza said.

Duni said she was sad that the tradition of sworn virgins would soon die out, but noted that her niece in Tirana had shown that there were now less drastic ways for a woman to live a full and respected life.

“Society is changing, but I think I made the right decision for my time,” Duni said. “I can’t resign from the role I have chosen. I took an oath to my family. This is a path you cannot go back on.”

Fatjona Mejdini contributed reporting.