Arquivo da categoria: poder

>On Climate Models, the Case For Living with Uncertainty

Yale Environment 360
05 Oct 2010: Analysis

As climate science advances, predictions about the extent of future warming and its effects are likely to become less — not more — precise. That may make it more difficult to convince the public of the reality of climate change, but it hardly diminishes the urgency of taking action.

by Fred Pearce

I think I can predict right now the headlines that will follow publication of the next report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due in 2013. “Climate scientists back off predicting rate of warming: ‘The more we know the less we can be sure of,’ says UN panel.”

That is almost bound to be the drift if two-time IPCC lead author Kevin Trenberth and others are right about what is happening to the new generation of climate models. And with public trust in climate science on the slide after the various scandals of the past year over e-mails and a mistaken forecast of Himalayan ice loss, it hardly seems likely scientists will be treated kindly.

It may not matter much who is in charge at the IPCC by then: Whether or not current chairman Rajendra Pachauri keeps his job, the reception will be rough. And if climate negotiators have still failed to do a deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which lapses at the end of 2012, the fallout will not be pretty, either diplomatically or climatically.

Clearly, concerns about how climate scientists handle complex issues of scientific uncertainty are set to escalate. They were highlighted in a report about IPCC procedures published in late August in response to growing criticism about IPCC errors. The report highlighted distortions and exaggerations in IPCC reports, many of which involved not correctly representing uncertainty about specific predictions.

“The latest climate modeling runs are trying to deal with a range of factors not dealt with in the past.”

But efforts to rectify the problems in the next IPCC climate-science assessment (AR5) are likely to further shake public confidence in the reliability of IPCC climate forecasts.

Last January, Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., published a little-noticed commentary in Nature online. Headlined “More Knowledge, Less Certainty,” it warned that “the uncertainty in AR5’s predictions and projections will be much greater than in previous IPCC reports.” He added that “this could present a major problem for public understanding of climate change.” He can say that again.

This plays out most obviously in the critical estimate of how much warming is likely between 1990, the baseline year for most IPCC work, and 2100. The current AR4 report says it will be between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius (3 to 7 degrees F). But the betting is now that the range offered next time will be wider, especially at the top end.

The public has a simple view about scientific uncertainty. It can accept that science doesn’t have all the answers, and that scientists try to encapsulate those uncertainties with devices like error bars and estimates of statistical significance. What even the wisest heads will have trouble with, though, is the notion that greater understanding results in wider errors bars than before.

Trenberth explained in his Nature commentary why a widening is all but certain. “While our knowledge of certain factors [responsible for climate change] does increase,” he wrote, “so does our understanding of factors we previously did not account for or even recognize.” The trouble is this sounds dangerously like what Donald Rumsfeld, in the midst of the chaos of the Iraq War, famously called “unknown unknowns.” I would guess that the IPCC will have even less luck than he did in explaining what it means by this.

The latest climate modeling runs are trying to come to grips with a range of factors ignored or only sketchily dealt with in the past. The most troubling is the role of clouds. Clouds have always been recognized as a ticking timebomb in climate models, because nobody can work out whether warming will change them in a way that amplifies or moderates warming — still less how much. And their influence could be very large. “Clouds remain one of the largest uncertainties in the climate system’s response to temperature changes,” says Bruce Wielicki, a scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center who is investigating the impact of clouds on the Earth’s energy budget.

An added problem in understanding clouds is the role of aerosols from industrial smogs, which dramatically influence the radiation properties of clouds. “Aerosols are a mess,” says Thomas Charlock, a senior scientist at the Langley Research Center and co-investigator in a NASA project known as Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES). “We don’t know how much is out there. We just can’t estimate their influence with calculations alone.”

“Despite much handwringing, the IPCC has never worked out how to make sense of uncertainty.”

Trenberth noted in Nature, “Because different groups are using relatively new techniques for incorporating aerosol effects into the models, the spread of results will probably be much larger than before.”

A second problem for forecasting is the potential for warming to either enhance or destabilize existing natural sinks of carbon dioxide and methane in soils, forests, permafrost, and beneath the ocean. Again these could slow warming through negative feedbacks or — more likely, according to recent assessments — speed up warming, perhaps rather suddenly as the planetary system crosses critical thresholds.

The next models will be working hard to take these factors into better account. Whether they go as far as some preliminary runs published in 2005, which suggested potential warming of 10 degrees C (18 degrees F) or more is not clear. Of course, uncertainty is to be expected, given the range of potential feedbacks that have to be taken into account. But it is going to be hard to explain why, when you put more and better information into climate models, they do not home in on a more precise answer.

Yet it will be more honest, says Leonard Smith, a mathematician and statistician at the University of Oxford, England, who warns about the “naive realism” of past climate modeling. In the past, he says, models have been “over-interpreted and misinterpreted. We need to drop the pretense that they are nearly perfect. They are getting better. But as we change our predictions, how do we maintain the credibility of the science?”

The only logical conclusion for a confused and increasingly wary public may be that if the error bars were wrong before, they cannot be trusted now. If they do not in some way encapsulate the “unknowns,” what purpose do they have?

Despite much handwringing, the IPCC has never worked out how to make sense of uncertainty. Take the progress of those errors bars in assessing warming between 1990 and 2100.

The panel’s first assessment, published back in 1990, predicted a warming of 3 degrees C by 2100, with no error bars. The second assessment, in 1995, suggested a warming of between 1 and 3.5 degrees C. The third, in 2001, widened the bars to project a warming of 1.4 to 5.8 degrees C. The fourth assessment in 2007 contracted them again, from 1.8 to 4.0 degrees C. I don’t think the public will be so understanding if they are widened again, but that now seems likely.

Trenberth is nobody’s idea of someone anxious to rock the IPCC boat. He is an IPCC insider, having been lead author on key chapters in both 2001 and 2007, and recently appointed as a review editor for AR5. Back in 2005 he made waves by directly linking Hurricane Katrina to global warming. But in the past couple of years he has taken a growing interest in highlighting uncertainties in the climate science.

Late last year, bloggers investigating the “climategate” emails highlighted a message he sent to colleagues in which he said it was a “travesty” that scientists could not explain cool years like 2008. His point, made earlier in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Stability, was that “it is not a sufficient explanation to say that a cool year is due to natural variability.” Such explanations, he said, “do not provide the physical mechanisms involved.” He wanted scientists to do better.

“Trenberth questioned if the IPCC wouldn’t be better off getting out of the prediction business.”

In his Nature commentary, Trenberth wondered aloud whether the IPCC wouldn’t be better off getting out of the prediction business. “Performing cutting edge science in public could easily lead to misinterpretation,” he wrote. But the lesson of climategate is that efforts to keep such discussion away from the public have a habit of backfiring spectacularly.

All scientific assessments have to grapple with how to present uncertainties. Inevitably they make compromises between the desire to convey complexity and the need to impart clear and understandable messages to a wider public. But the IPCC is caught on a particular dilemma because its founding purpose, in the late 1980s, was to reach consensus on climate science and report back to the world in a form that would allow momentous decisions to be taken. So the IPCC has always been under pressure to try to find consensus even where none exists. And critics argue that that has sometimes compromised its assessments of uncertainty.

The last assessment was replete with terms like “extremely likely” and “high confidence.” Critics charged that they often lacked credibility. And last August’s blue-chip review of the IPCC’s performance, by the InterAcademy Council, seemed to side with the critics.

The council’s chairman, Harold Shapiro of Princeton, said existing IPCC guidelines on presenting uncertainty “have not been consistently followed.” In particular, its analysis of the likely impacts of climate change “contains many statements that were assigned high confidence but for which there is little evidence.” The predictions were not plucked from the air. But the charge against the IPCC is that its authors did not always correctly portray the uncertainty surrounding the predictions or present alternative scenarios.

“We need to get used to greater uncertainty in imagining exactly how climate change will play out.”

The most notorious failure was the claim that the Himalayan glaciers could all have melted by 2035. This was an egregious error resulting from cut-and-pasting a non-peer reviewed claim from a report by a non-governmental organization. So was a claim that 55 percent of the Netherlands lies below sea level. But other errors were failures to articulate uncertainties. The study highlighted a claim that even a mild loss of rainfall over the Amazon could destroy 40 percent of the rainforest, though only one modeling study has predicted this.

Another headline claim in the report, in a chapter on Africa, was that “projected reductions in [crop] yield in some countries could be as much as 50 percent by 2020.” The only source was an 11-page paper by a Moroccan named Ali Agoumi that covered only three of Africa’s 53 countries (Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria) and had not gone through peer review. It simply asserted that “studies on the future of vital agriculture in the region have shown… deficient yields from rain-based agriculture of up to 50 percent during the 2000-2020 period.” No studies were named. And even Agoumi did not claim the changes were necessarily caused by climate change. In fact, harvests in North Africa already differ by 50 percent or more from one year to the next, depending on rainfall. In other words, Agoumi’s paper said nothing at all about how climate change might or might not change farm yields across Africa. None of this was conveyed by the report.

In general, the InterAcademy Council’s report noted a tendency to “emphasise the negative impacts of climate change,” many of which were “not supported sufficiently in the literature, not put into perspective, or not expressed clearly.” Efforts to eliminate these failings will necessarily widen the error bars on a range of predictions in the next assessment.

We are all — authors and readers of IPCC reports alike — going to have to get used to greater caution in IPCC reports and greater uncertainty in imagining exactly how climate change will play out. This is probably healthy. It is certainly more honest. But it in no way undermines the case that we are already observing ample evidence that the world is on the threshold of profound and potentially catastrophic warming. And it in no way undermines the urgent need to do something to halt the forces behind the warming.

Some argue that scientific uncertainty should make us refrain from action to slow climate change. The more rational response, given the scale of what we could face, is the precise opposite.

POSTED ON 05 Oct 2010 IN Biodiversity Climate Climate Policy & Politics Science & Technology Australia


>Negar para não mudar (Pesquisa Fapesp)

Política de C & T | Mudanças climáticas
Livro mostra como um trio de físicos se dedicou a combater a ideia do aquecimento global nos EUA

Marcos Pivetta, de San Diego*
Edição Impressa 175 – Setembro 2010

Nos tribunais, quando as evidências são enormes contra o réu e a condenação parece questão de tempo, os advogados de defesa sempre podem recorrer a uma derradeira tática: fomentar uma dúvida qualquer, às vezes sobre um aspecto secundário do delito, para turvar o raciocínio dos membros do júri e, assim, evitar ou ao menos postergar o quanto for possível a sentença. A partir do final dos anos 1980, uma versão desse clássico estratagema judicial – que, dentro e fora das cortes, fora usado eficazmente pela indústria do cigarro durante décadas para negar e minimizar os conhecidos malefícios do tabagismo – passou a ser empregada nos Estados Unidos para questionar a existência do aquecimento global e a contribuição das atividades humanas, em especial a queima de combustíveis fósseis emissores de gases de efeito estufa, no desencadeamento das mudanças climáticas.

Sempre que era divulgado um novo estudo de peso sobre a natureza do aquecimento global, três veteranos pesquisadores de enorme prestígio, abrigados numa entidade privada em Washington, o George C. Marshall Institute, saíam a campo para questionar os novos dados. “Primeiro, eles disseram que as mudanças climáticas não existiam, depois afirmaram que as variações de temperatura eram um fenômeno natural (tentaram atribuir a culpa a alterações na atividade solar) e então passaram a argumentar que, havendo as mudanças e mesmo sendo culpa nossa, isso não importava porque nós sempre poderíamos nos adaptar a elas”, afirmou a historiadora da ciência Naomi Oreskes, da Universidade da Califórnia em San Diego (UCSD), numa palestra realizada para jornalistas latino-americanos durante o 7o Taller Jack F. Ealy de Periodismo Científico, que ocorreu em julho nessa universidade. “Em todos os casos, eles negavam que havia um consenso científico sobre a questão, apesar de serem essencialmente eles mesmos os únicos que estavam contra.”

Ao lado do também historiador da ciência Erik Conway, que trabalha no Instituto de Tecnologia da Califórnia (Caltech), Naomi lançou em maio nos Estados Unidos o livro Merchants of doubt – How a handful of scientists obscured the thuth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming (“Mercadores da dúvida – Como uns poucos cientistas ocultaram a verdade em temas que vão do cigarro ao aquecimento global”, numa tradução livre para o português). Na obra, muito bem documentada e que recebeu elogios na imprensa leiga e nas revistas científicas, Naomi e Conway, um especialista na história da exploração do espaço, mostram que já existe, e não é de hoje, um consenso científico sobre o aquecimento global, detalham a trajetória dos líderes do instituto e suas táticas de negação das mudanças climáticas.

Nos Estados Unidos, país que historicamente é o maior emissor de gases de efeito estufa e também o maior refratário a adotar políticas para mitigar as mudanças climáticas, a ação dos céticos do aquecimento global foi encabeçada nas duas últimas décadas por uma trinca de influentes físicos aposentados ou semiaposentados, todos hoje mortos: o especialista em física da matéria sólida Frederick Seitz (1911-2008), que participou do projeto da construção da bomba atômica durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial e foi presidente da Academia Nacional de Ciências dos Estados Unidos na década de 1960; o astrofísico Robert Jastrow (1925-2008), fundador e diretor do God-dard Institute for Space Studies da Nasa nos anos 1960 e uma figura importante na condução de vários projetos da agência espacial; e William Nierenberg (1919-2000), pesquisador apaixonado pelo mar que foi durante mais de 20 anos diretor do prestigioso Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Nenhum deles era um especialista em modelos climáticos, mas esse detalhe não diminuía sua influência na mídia e na administração norte-americana, sobretudo em governos republicanos.

Em 1984 os três fundaram o George C. Marshall Institute, cujo slogan era (e é) “ciência para uma política pública melhor”. O think tank, expressão em inglês usada para denominar esse tipo de instituto, tinha como objetivo original fazer lobby a favor do polêmico projeto de construção de um escudo espacial capaz de defender os Estados Unidos de um eventual ataque de mísseis balísticos disparados pela União Soviética. Apelidada de Guerra nas Estrelas, a iniciativa de defesa, concebida durante a administração de Ronald Reagan, nunca saiu do papel. Com a derrocada do império soviético entre o fim dos anos 1980 e o início dos 1990, o projeto do escudo espacial foi arquivado e Seitz, Jastrow e Nierenberg redirecionaram a atuação do instituto para um tema mais atual: o combate ao ambientalismo em geral e à negação do aquecimento global. “Eles tinham aquela ideia de que os ambientalistas eram como melancias: verdes por fora e vermelhos por dentro”, disse Naomi.

Ozônio e DDT – A dupla que escreveu o livro se conheceu numa conferência sobre história da meteorologia em 2004 na Alemanha e logo ambos perceberam que haviam chegado à mesma constatação: os cientistas que mais ativamente combatiam nos Estados Unidos a ideia de que a temperatura global do planeta estava aumentando eram os mesmos que, no passado recente, tinham negado ou ainda negavam a existência do buraco na camada de ozônio, os perigos da chuva ácida, os malefícios do pesticida DDT e os problemas de saúde causados pelo tabaco em fumantes passivos. “Em todos esses temas científicos, eles sempre estiveram do lado errado”, afirmou Naomi, que já deu aulas em Harvard, em Stanford, na New York University e hoje dirige o Sixth College da UCSD. “Quando descobrimos que Seitz tinha coordenado entre 1979 e 1985 o programa de pesquisa da R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, que investiu US$ 45 milhões em estudos científicos, vimos que tínhamos uma boa história.”

A atuação dos membros do instituto visava (e visa) mostrar que não havia consenso científico sobre a existência das mudanças climáticas e muito menos certeza sobre quais seriam as suas causas. Logo, diziam os cientistas do George C. Marshall Institute, o debate nesse campo da ciência estava totalmente aberto e não fazia sentido os Estados Unidos adotarem qualquer medida legal ou prática para diminuir o consumo de combustíveis fósseis. Exatamente a mesma tática foi empregada durante décadas por pesquisadores e médicos ligados ou patrocinados pela indústria do cigarro, que, a despeito das crescentes evidências dos malefícios do tabaco, negavam e minimizavam as conclusões dos estudos científicos.

Posta dessa maneira, a negação do aquecimento global parece ter sido alvo de uma conspiração encabeçada por um grupo de cientistas conservadores. Os autores do livro, no entanto, se apressam em descartar qualquer insinuação nessa linha. Eles dizem que não encontraram nada de ilegal na atuação de Seitz, Jastrow e Nierenberg e que tudo foi feito mais ou menos às claras. Entre os estratagemas do instituto, estava o de invocar um princípio clássico da imprensa norte-americana e ocidental: lembrar os jornalistas de que eles sempre têm de ouvir e dar espaço equivalente a visões contrárias às dominantes. Nas reportagens sobre mudanças climáticas, os dirigentes do George C. Marshall Institute e outros céticos do aquecimento global eram com frequência o outro lado.

Merchants of doubt apresenta Seitz, Jastrow e Nierenberg como fervorosos defensores da desregulamentação da economia, anticomunistas convictos, “falcões” a serviço da indústria dos combustíveis fósseis e de interesses conservadores. “O lobby deles foi muito eficiente porque a cultura americana da finada Guerra Fria era permeada pela crença no fundamentalismo dos mercados, na ideia de que os mercados eram, sempre e em todo o lugar, bons e que a regulamentação é sempre ruim”, diz Conway. “Essa ideia permitiu que a negação do aquecimento global funcionasse tão bem. A propaganda é mais eficiente quando se assenta em algo que as pessoas já acreditam.”

Reação ao livro – A publicação do livro levou a uma reação dos atuais comandantes do George C. Marshall Institute. Num artigo divulgado em junho no site do think tank, William O’Keefe e Jeff Kueter, respectivamente CEO e presidente do instituto, dizem que a obra carece de fundamentação científica e distorce a realidade. Eles defendem os bons serviços prestados à ciência pelos fundadores do instituto, dizem que Seitz, Jastrow e Nierenberg sempre foram anticomunistas e defensores do livre mercado – e que isso está longe de ser um defeito nos Estados Unidos.

De concreto, a resposta não desmente nenhum dos fatos centrais relatados no livro. Por exempo, O’ Keefe e Kueter admitem que Seitz realmente chefiou o programa de pesquisas da R.J. Reynolds depois de ter se aposentado do cargo de presidente da Universidade Rockefeller, algo que, segundo eles, não era segredo e estava na autobiografia do físico. Mas dizem que o intuito do programa não era gerar dados que questionassem os malefícios do cigarro. Pelo menos esse não era o objetivo de Seitz, ainda que pudesse ser o da indústria do tabaco.

Sobre a questão das mudanças climáticas, as respostas dos atuais dirigentes do instituto parecem dar mais razão a Naomi e Conway do que contradizê-los. “Na verdade, o único consenso (sobre o aquecimento global) que existe é entre aqueles que escrevem (o relatório do Painel Intergovernamental de Mudanças Climáticas, o IPCC, na sigla em inglês)”, afirmam O’Keefe, ex-vice presidente do Instituto Americano do Petróleo, e Kueter. Por isso, eles advogam mais pesquisas científicas sobre o tema e nenhuma ação imediata para diminuir as emissões de gases de efeito estufa: “Somos contra as políticas de reduções das emissões de poluentes e de mecanismos semelhantes ao Protocolo de Kyoto? Sim. Elas são caras e vão trazer pouco retorno ambiental”.

Para o climatologista Carlos Nobre, coordenador do Programa FAPESP de Pesquisa sobre Mudanças Climáticas Globais e do Centro de Ciência do Sistema Terrestre (CCST) do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe), a atuação de lobbies conservadores ligados à indústria dos combustíveis fósseis, como o realizado pelo George C. Marshall Institute, atrasa a obtenção de um grande acordo mundial para a redução das emissões de gases de efeito estufa. “Eles sabem que estão numa batalha perdida, a exemplo do que ocorreu com o debate em torno dos malefícios do tabaco”, argumenta Nobre, que faz parte do time de 600 cientistas de mais de 40 países que compõem o IPCC. “O que eles querem é atrasar o máximo possível a adoção de medidas que forcem a indústria americana a reduzir suas emissões de poluentes.”

O físico Paulo Artaxo, professor da Universidade de São Paulo (USP), outro representante do Brasil no IPCC, pensa de forma semelhante. “Eles querem ganhar tempo”, afirma Artaxo. “Em ciência, nunca há 100% de certeza. Mas os dados compilados pelo IPCC representam a melhor ciência disponível sobre a questão do aquecimento global.” Em seu último relatório, o IPCC atribuiu, com um grau de 95% de confiabilidade, as mudanças climáticas ao aumento das atividades humanas no planeta. Criado em 1988, o IPPC não é perfeito e está corrigindo suas imprecisões e a forma de trabalhar. Mas seus dados, diz a maior parte dos pesquisadores, são uma razão para agir – e não para o imobilismo como defendem os céticos das mudanças climáticas.

A visão de Washington sobre o aque­cimento global mudou com a chegada do democrata Barack Obama à Casa Branca? Para Conway, a atual administração parece aceitar a realidade de que as mudanças climáticas são reais e decorrem essencialmente das atividades humanas. “Mas os Estados Unidos não têm sido muito pró-ativos nessa questão”, reconhece Conway. “Somos os líderes mundiais em ciência do clima. No entanto, em termos práticos, de medidas mitigadoras do aquecimento, os países escandinavos estão muito na nossa frente.”

* O jornalista Marcos Pivetta participou do 7o Taller Jack F. Ealy de Periodismo Científico a convite do Institute of the Americas.

>Trump offers to buy site of controversial center (CNN)

By the CNN Wire Staff
September 9, 2010 — Updated 2140 GMT (0540 HKT)

Donald Trump said he wants to buy the space “because it will end a … highly divisive situation.”

(CNN) — Real estate mogul Donald Trump has offered to buy the lower Manhattan site where a Muslim group plans to build an Islamic community center for 25 percent more than the current owners paid for it.

Trump made the offer Thursday in a letter to Hisham Elzanaty, an investor in the Islamic center site.

“I am making this offer as a resident of New York and citizen of the United States, not because I think the location is a spectacular one (because it is not), but because it will end a very serious, inflammatory, and highly divisive situation that is destined, in my opinion, to only get worse,” he wrote.

Trump further stipulated, as part of the offer, that if a mosque is to be built, “it would be located at least five blocks further from the World Trade Center site.”

Trump said he would pay cash for the site “with an immediate closing.”

“Hopefully, something good can happen!” he concluded.

There was no immediate response from Elzanaty.

>Secretaria estuda recomendar criação de cotas raciais por decreto (Jornal da Ciência)

JC e-mail 4088, de 02 de Setembro de 2010.

(Mariana Oliveira, G1, 2/9/2010)

Universidades devem ser orientadas para criação de cotas raciais. Eloi Araujo informou que documento será apresentado até 20 de outubro.

O ministro da Secretaria de Políticas de Promoção da Igualdade Racial, Eloi Ferreira de Araujo, informou ao G1 que um grupo de trabalho da secretaria trabalha atualmente em nota técnica que deve recomendar ao presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva que crie cotas para negros em universidades federais por meio de decreto.

“Na nota técnica vamos tomar providências no sentido de buscar que pretos e pardos tenham direito de ingressar no ensino superior. A nota técnica poderá dizer que é necessário um decreto. Eu estou aguardando a finalização da nota técnica para marcar audiência com o presidente. Eu penso que um decreto é uma boa medida para adotar se não houver por parte de todo mundo a adoção da política de cotas”, afirmou o ministro.

“A nota técnica vai orientar inclusive como as cotas deverão ser observadas pelas instituições de ensino superior. Algumas organizações imaginam que haja uma autonomia universitária. A autonomia não é absoluta, é relativa”, completou o ministro.

De acordo com ele, a nota técnica será finalizada e entregue a Lula até o dia 20 de outubro, dia em que o estatuto entra em vigor. O texto foi sancionado pelo presidente no último dia 20 de julho e tem 90 dias para começar a vigorar.

Logo após a aprovação do estatuto no Senado, antes da sanção presidencial, Eloi Araujo falou ao G1 que o estatuto permitia a criação de cotas sem que uma lei sobre o tema fosse discutida e aprovada por deputados e senadores. Na ocasião, o senador Demóstenes Torres (DEM-GO) disse que isso era uma tentativa de “golpe”. “Isso é o que se chama de tentativa de fazer com que o Congresso brasileiro seja fechado ainda que esteja aberto. Essa matéria tão polêmica deve ser regulamentada evidentemente através de uma lei. (…) É o que se chama de falsa polêmica. O ministro se viu derrotado em uma posição e tenta dar um golpe”.

De acordo com Eloi Araujo, não se trata de golpe porque a lei é clara. “A lei é soberana. É dura, mas é a lei. E prevê a adoção de ações afirmativas. O Congresso aprovou essa lei.” Ele afirmou crer que uma definição sobre um eventual decreto para estabelecer cotas saia ainda neste governo.

Eloi explicou que o grupo de trabalho é formado por técnicos da secretária, como professores e advogados. Esse grupo será responsável pela nota técnica que vai dar uma diretriz sobre o que deve ser regulamentado no estatuto. Cinco temas devem ser priorizados: educação, trabalho, moradia, cultura e saúde.

“Nossa preocupação diz respeito ao propósito de contribuir com os amigos da Corte, aqueles que têm defesa de nossas ações. No Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) temos ações muito perversas contra a população negra, contra cotas, contra o Prouni e contra as comunidades quilombolas. (…) Esse grupo está debruçado em oferecer subsídios nesses casos com base no estatuto.”

Cotas sociais

O ministro afirmou ser contra universidades que privilegiam cotas sociais a cotas raciais. Estudo do Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Políticos (Iesp) divulgado no começo desta semana mostrou que 71% das universidades federais e estaduais já têm cotas com base em seus conselhos ou leis estaduais. A maioria das instituições, porém, favorece as cotas sociais, para quem vem de escola pública.

Segundo ele, ações afirmativas que só privilegiam o lado social, sem analisar a questão racial, devem ser revistas. “Essas medidas precisam ser revistas porque deveriam ser observados dados técnicos oferecidos pelo Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE). Se a população é composta por 80% de pessoas que ganham até cinco salários, então vamos fazer isso. Se for qualquer outro número, é só para dizer que está fazendo. É coisa para inglês ver. É como se não tivesse havido a grande ofensa da escravidão e houve. Qualquer informação que não leve em consideração a gravidade que foi a escravidão, não é sequer educativa. Deveria observar os dois aspectos, sociais e raciais.”

Para Eloi Araujo, no entanto, pode-se discutir por quanto tempo as cotas raciais seriam válidas. “Isso é justiça social e não precisa ser para sempre. Podemos estabelecer por um período, duas décadas, e depois analisar a evolução.”

>Science Scorned (Nature)

Nature, Volume 467:133 (09 September 2010)

The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge.

“The four corners of deceit: government, academia, science and media. Those institutions are now corrupt and exist by virtue of deceit. That’s how they promulgate themselves; it is how they prosper.” It is tempting to laugh off this and other rhetoric broadcast by Rush Limbaugh, a conservative US radio host, but Limbaugh and similar voices are no laughing matter.

There is a growing anti-science streak on the American right that could have tangible societal and political impacts on many fronts — including regulation of environmental and other issues and stem-cell research. Take the surprise ousting last week of Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent Republican senator for Alaska, by political unknown Joe Miller in the Republican primary for the 2 November midterm congressional elections. Miller, who is backed by the conservative ‘Tea Party movement’, called his opponent’s acknowledgement of the reality of global warming “exhibit ‘A’ for why she needs to go”.

“The country’s future crucially depends on education, science and technology.”

The right-wing populism that is flourishing in the current climate of economic insecurity echoes many traditional conservative themes, such as opposition to taxes, regulation and immigration. But the Tea Party and its cheerleaders, who include Limbaugh, Fox News television host Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin (who famously decried fruitfly research as a waste of public money), are also tapping an age-old US political impulse — a suspicion of elites and expertise.

Denialism over global warming has become a scientific cause célèbre within the movement. Limbaugh, for instance, who has told his listeners that “science has become a home for displaced socialists and communists”, has called climate-change science “the biggest scam in the history of the world”. The Tea Party’s leanings encompass religious opposition to Darwinian evolution and to stem-cell and embryo research — which Beck has equated with eugenics. The movement is also averse to science-based regulation, which it sees as an excuse for intrusive government. Under the administration of George W. Bush, science in policy had already taken knocks from both neglect and ideology. Yet President Barack Obama’s promise to “restore science to its rightful place” seems to have linked science to liberal politics, making it even more of a target of the right.

US citizens face economic problems that are all too real, and the country’s future crucially depends on education, science and technology as it faces increasing competition from China and other emerging science powers. Last month’s recall of hundreds of millions of US eggs because of the risk of salmonella poisoning, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, are timely reminders of why the US government needs to serve the people better by developing and enforcing improved science-based regulations. Yet the public often buys into anti-science, anti-regulation agendas that are orchestrated by business interests and their sponsored think tanks and front groups.

In the current poisoned political atmosphere, the defenders of science have few easy remedies. Reassuringly, polls continue to show that the overwhelming majority of the US public sees science as a force for good, and the anti-science rumblings may be ephemeral. As educators, scientists should redouble their efforts to promote rationalism, scholarship and critical thought among the young, and engage with both the media and politicians to help illuminate the pressing science-based issues of our time.

>Climate shifts ‘not to blame’ for African civil wars (BBC)

By Mark Kinver
Science and environment reporter, BBC News
6 September 2010

The Darfur conflict in Sudan was linked to climate shifts. Members of the Sudanese Liberation Army (Getty Images)

Climate change is not responsible for civil wars in Africa, a study suggests.

It challenges previous assumptions that environmental disasters, such as drought and prolonged heat waves, had played a part in triggering unrest.

Instead, it says, traditional factors – such as poverty and social tensions – were often the main factors behind the outbreak of conflicts.

The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the United States.

“Climate variability in Africa does not seem to have a significant impact on the risk of civil war,” said author Halvard Buhaug, senior researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo’s (Prio) Centre for the Study of Civil War.

“If you apply a number of different definitions of conflict and various different ways to measure climate variability, most of these measurements will turn out not to be associated with each other.

He added that it was not too hard to find examples of where politicians were publicly making the link between the projected impact of climate change and the associated security risks.

Margaret Beckett, when she held the post of British Foreign Secretary, tabled a debate on climate change at the UN Security Council in 2007.

Ahead of the gathering, the British delegation circulated a document that warned of “major changes to the world’s physical landmass during this century”, which would trigger border and maritime disputes.

In his paper, Dr Buhaug questioned the findings of research that appeared in PNAS in November last year.

The 2009 paper suggested that climate had been a major driver of armed conflict in Africa, and that future warming was likely to increase the number of deaths from war.

US researchers found that across the continent, conflict was about 50% more likely in unusually warm years.

‘Lack of research’

Dr Buhaug said it was too early to make such assertions.

Politicians and policymakers have often linked the threat of climate change to security. UN Security Council (Image: AP)

“It is not a misunderstanding as such, more a case of the research still being in its infancy – we still don’t know enough yet,” he told BBC News.

“My article points to the fact that there has been too much emphasis on single definitions of conflict and single definitions of climate.

“Even if you found that conflict, defined in a particular way, appeared to be associated with climate, if you applied a number of complementary measures – which you should do in order to determine the robustness of the apparent connection – then you would find, in almost all cases, the two were actually unrelated.”

Dr Buhaug explained that there were a variety of ways to define what constituted a civil war.

One methods requires the conflict to claim 1,000 lives overall. Another method says unrest can only be categorised as a civil war if it results in 1,000 deaths each year.

Other definitions have much lower thresholds, ranging between one casualty and 25 casualties per year.

“I tried quite a few different and complementary definitions of conflict,” said Dr Buhaug.

He found that that there was a strong correlation between civil wars and traditional factors, such as economic disparity, ethnic tensions, and historic political and economic instability.

“These factors seemed to matter, not so when it came to climate variability,” he observed.

He says that it will take a while yet, even taking into account his own paper, for academic research to converge on an agreed position.

‘Action still needed’

When it came to politicians and policymakers, many of the adopted positions were “speculative”, he added.

“It is partly a result of a lack of solid evidence in the first place,” the researcher explained.

“If you do not have any solid scientific evidence to base your assumptions, then you are going to have to speculate.”

He also said that the end of the Cold War also seemed to have had a impact on civil unrest in African nations.

“You did see a shift in the focus of quite a few conflicts during the 1990s, when the ending of the supply of arms saw some groups lay down their arms, while others sought alternative forms of funding, such as diamonds.”

However, he concluded, the uncertainty about the link between conflict and climate did not mean that global climate mitigation and adaptation measures did not matter.

“Targeted climate adaptation initiatives, such as those outlined in various UN (strategies), can have significant positive implications for social well-being and human security.

“But these initiatives should not be considered a replacement for traditional peace-building strategies.

“The challenges imposed by future global warming are too daunting to let the debate… be sidetracked by atypical, non-robust scientific findings and actors with vested interests.”

BBC News has approached a number of co-authors on the PNAS November 2009 paper, but we have yet to receive a response.

* * *

Climate ‘is a major cause’ of conflict in Africa

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Climate has been cited as a factor behind civil conflict in Darfur

Climate has been a major driver of armed conflict in Africa, research shows – and future warming is likely to increase the number of deaths from war.

US researchers found that across the continent, conflict was about 50% more likely in unusually warm years.

Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they suggest strife arises when the food supply is scarce in warm conditions.

Climatic factors have been cited as a reason for several recent conflicts.

One is the fighting in Darfur in Sudan that according to UN figures has killed 200,000 people and forced two million more from their homes.

“We need to do something around climate change, but more fundamentally we need to resolve the conflicts in the first place”. Professor Nana Poku, Bradford University

Previous research has shown an association between lack of rain and conflict, but this is thought to be the first clear evidence of a temperature link.

The researchers used databases of temperatures across sub-Saharan Africa for the period between 1981 and 2002, and looked for correlations between above average warmth and civil conflict in the same country that left at least 1,000 people dead.

Warm years increased the likelihood of conflict by about 50% – and food seems to be the reason why.

“Studies show that crop yields in the region are really sensitive to small shifts in temperature, even of half a degree (Celsius) or so,” research leader Marshall Burke, from the University of California at Berkeley, told BBC News.

“If the sub-Saharan climate continues to warm and little is done to help its countries better adapt to high temperatures, the human costs are likely to be staggering.”

Conflicting outcomes

If temperatures rise across the continent as computer models project, future conflicts are likely to become more common, researchers suggest.

Northwestern Kenya’s drought has brought conflict between pastoralists.

Their study shows an increase of about 50% over the next 20 years.

When projections of social trends such as population increase and economic development were included in their model of a future Africa, temperature rise still emerged as a likely major cause of increasing armed conflict.

“We were very surprised to find that when you put things like economic growth and better governance into the mix, the temperature effect remains strong,” said Dr Burke.

At next month’s UN climate summit in Copenhagen, governments are due to debate how much money to put into helping African countries prepare for and adapt to impacts of climate change.

“Our findings provide strong impetus to ramp up investments in African adaptation to climate change by such steps as developing crop varieties less sensitive to extreme heat and promoting insurance plans to help protect farmers from adverse effects of the hotter climate,” said Dr Burke.

Nana Poku, Professor of African Studies at the UK’s Bradford University, suggested that it also pointed up the need to improve mechanisms for avoiding and resolving conflict in the continent.

“I think it strengthens the argument for ensuring we compensate the developing world for climate change, especially Africa, and to begin looking at how we link environmental issues to governance,” he said.

“If the argument is that the trend towards rising temperatures will increase conflict, then yes we need to do something around climate change, but more fundamentally we need to resolve the conflicts in the first place.”

>A Human Disaster (An interview with Steve Picou)

Q&A: A Human Disaster

By Barry Yeoman
August 26, 2010
Nature & Wildlife Frontlines Fall 2010

Sweet Home Alabama: Steve Picou saw oil wash up 400 yards from his home. Photograph for OnEarth by Cedric Angeles

Gushing pipes, surface slicks, and oiled pelicans — the visible impact of the BP spill was all too apparent. But the invisible toll on people may be every bit as pernicious.

An interview with Steve Picou

In June, when oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill washed up on Orange Beach, Alabama, 400 yards from Steve Picou’s house, the irony couldn’t have been more bitter. A sociology professor at the University of South Alabama, Picou is an expert on the human impact of technological disasters that cause massive environmental contamination. After the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, he spent two decades studying Cordova, Alaska, a commercial fishing village whose residents have suffered from depression, family conflict, and a host of other woes. In late June, two months after the BP spill, he spoke with Barry Yeoman, a journalist and former Louisianan.

You’ve talked about how a natural disaster can make a community more cohesive, whereas a man-made disaster causes it to become more fragmented. Why is that so?

If you look at the traditional natural-disaster model, people generally quit blaming God for their misfortune within a week and come back to rebuild the community better than it was before. However, with technological disasters, there is a principal responsible party. There’s never an “all-clear” that the disaster is over. People are permanent victims. This becomes a continuous, corrosive source of distress and fragmentation over time.

Helping Hand

The Gulf Coast Resource Center in Buras, Louisiana, provides a space for communities affected by the BP oil disaster to collect and exchange important information. The center, founded by NRDC and its partners, will help share local residents’ stories with a wider audience, incubate investigative journalism, and connect NRDC’s advocates, media staff, and other experts with Gulf residents and journalists. The center will also support local and national initiatives to respond to the oil spill’s impact on public health, wildlife, the local ecology, and the economy.

Tell me about your work in Cordova after the Exxon Valdez spill.

I flew to Cordova in August 1989 with my friend and colleague Duane Gill, who is a sociologist. With such a small community we mapped literally all the residences, and then randomly selected houses, knocked on the doors, and asked people if they would give a face-to-face interview. It may have been the pity factor: two Southern guys walking around in the rain with questionnaires. But we got over 200 interviews. With those in hand, I applied for a National Science Foundation grant and put together an entire research team.

What did you find? And what were the long-term impacts?

In 1993 the former mayor of Cordova, Bobby Van Brocklin, committed suicide. He left a note that partially blamed the spill. By 1994 it was obvious that the community was having serious problems. A grassroots organization called the Cordova Family Resource Center was created to provide shelter for battered women. This wonderful little community had never had that need before. There were a lot of mental health problems. We’re talking about commercial fishermen who are self-reliant, hardworking, and supportive of one another in times of distress at sea. It’s just not their fashion to drive their pickup truck to the mental health center, where everybody sees it, and say, “Look, I need help.” Even though the majority of people who needed help were not receiving it, the center was overrun. Counselors were burning out. Directors were overwhelmed. The caseloads were very, very heavy.

How about the impact at the broader social level?

There was a loss of trust, a breakdown of family and friendship networks. People weren’t talking to one another. Professor Kai Erikson of Yale University talks about “collective trauma.” For example, people would rather not go to the bar—which in Alaska is like the pub in Ireland. They said, “I don’t want to hear all of the venting and anger about this oil spill. So I will go to the liquor store and make my purchase and stay home.” Then, as the litigation dragged on, there were still a lot of people suffering. The primary source of stress had moved from the oil spill to this incredibly complex process that was going back and forth in the courts. So litigation became the second disaster.

I imagine that process must have created a lot of cynicism.

We saw the complete distrust of institutions. Corporations: certainly no trust. Federal government: totally unreliable. State government: How can you believe anything they say? And the legal system: one commercial fisher told us, “I can’t even say the Pledge of Allegiance anymore, because at the very end it says, ‘with liberty and justice for all.’ “

It’s easy for me to understand how all of this causes the social fabric to fragment. Does it also create actual conflict between people?

Yes. For example, some people get their boats leased and some people get to work on the cleanup, but others don’t. There’s no logic to who is selected. That drives a stake through the heart of a community, because you have some people who are fortunate enough to be making money and other people who are hoping to be able to pay their mortgage next month. In Alaska, they called the winners “spillionaires.” But I also heard another term: “Exxon whores.”

Let’s turn to the Gulf. Is it too early to gauge what’s happening there?

I have to be honest with you: what I’m observing is like the Exxon Valdez fast-forwarded. In Alaska we started seeing devastating impacts emerge three, four, five years after the spill. Here, we’ve already had our first suicide [a charter boat captain named Allen Kruse]. It took four years before a suicide occurred in Prince William Sound. I heard the mayor of Bayou La Batre, Alabama, say on local television that calls to his police department have doubled in one month. He also said there’s been a spike in domestic violence. It took time before that happened up in Alaska. But we learned from the Exxon Valdez that this is a marathon. This is not a 100-meter dash.

In dealing with mental health issues, have the Gulf Coast communities been able to draw directly on the techniques that were developed after the Exxon Valdez?

We’re just beginning. Some people came down from Alaska—fishermen and Alaska natives. They did not want any fanfare, but they met with people in South Louisiana and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I know St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, has already developed a peer-to-peer listening program based on a program we started in Cordova. People are getting trained to recognize clinical levels of anger, symptoms of PTSD, depression, and suicidal ideation, and to provide a constant source of friendship.

You talked about Exxon whores. Are we now going to see BP whores?

I think that will unfold over time. Right now, everyone wants to be a BP whore. There are going to be some winners and some losers.You’ve said that although Prince William Sound and the Gulf Coast seem different on the surface, there are also some striking similarities. They’re both made up of small fishing communities, and the Cajuns in South Louisiana have traditions that are very similar in many ways to those of Alaska natives. The communities are entirely dependent on the harvest of renewable resources and are proud to pass this heritage on to the next generation. The children are not prepped to go to college. They are raised to work on their grandfather’s boat.

Unlike the Exxon Valdez, this spill has had a direct impact on you, living right here on the Gulf. What was your first reaction when it happened?

When they said there was no oil coming out after the rig exploded, I said, “I know that’s not true.” So the first feeling was: I don’t trust them. I do not trust BP, and I do not trust the relationship they have with the Coast Guard. It seems too cozy. Then the information came out about the Minerals Management Service and the environmental impact assessment that was written to save walruses and sea lions and sea otters. Even my 8-year-old granddaughter knows there are no walruses and sea lions and sea otters in the Gulf of Mexico. So I have a real understanding of why the people in Cordova can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance.

You can actually walk down to the beach from your house and watch the oil washing up. How does that make you feel?

I had a very emotional response when I saw all these people coming out with cameras to take pictures of the oil. People come from all over the country because of our pristine sugar-sand beaches. Now they’re taking pictures of this poison on my beach. We went out there just one day. We’re not going back. Too much pain.

>A Monsanto e os transgênicos: uma história de horror (da Vanity Fair)


Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear

Monsanto already dominates America’s food chain with its genetically modified seeds. Now it has targeted milk production. Just as frightening as the corporation’s tactics–ruthless legal battles against small farmers–is its decades-long history of toxic contamination.

By Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele
Vanity Fair
May 2008

Go to the article:

No thanks: An anti-Monsanto crop circle made by farmers and volunteers in the Philippines. By Melvyn Calderon/Greenpeace HO/A.P. Images.

>A controvérsia ao redor da construção de uma mesquita nas proximidades do Marco Zero, em Nova York

A obra da discórdia

Por Daniel Barros
Olhar Virtual – Coordenadoria de Comunicação Social da UFRJ
Coluna Ponto de Vista

Ilustração: Caio Monteiro

A construção de um centro comunitário islâmico de 15 andares a duas quadras do Marco Zero, monumento construído no local dos atentados de 11 de setembro de 2001, divide opiniões na mais cosmopolita cidade do Ocidente. O antropólogo da UFRJ, Renzo Taddei, que morava em Nova Iorque quando ocorreram os atentados, explica que a obra — aprovada pelo Conselho Municipal da cidade no dia 25 de maio — pode sinalizar uma importante transformação na sociedade americana se a cidade conseguir trabalhar bem a questão da construção desse enorme templo mulçumano. Mas uma manifestação contrária, no dia 6 de junho, que contou com cerca de 5 mil participantes mostra que esse trabalho não será fácil.

Apesar das demonstrações de insatisfação de alguns novaiorquinos, o projeto conta com o apoio do prefeito da cidade, Michael Bloomberg e foi aprovado por 29 votos a um (10 abstenções) no conselho. Taddei explica que o respaldo governamental é inevitável, devido ao apreço que a sociedade americana tem pelas idéias de liberdade religiosa e de que não deve haver interferência pública no espaço privado – e, nesse caso, os interessados em erguer a mesquita são os proprietários legais do edifício onde ela deve ser instalada. Já o fato de os parentes e amigos das vítimasse sentirem ofendidos com a construção da mesquita tem, de acordo com o antropólogo, uma explicação bem mais complexa.

Renzo Taddei, que lecionava em 2001 no Borough of Manhattan Community College, também a duas quadras do World Trade Center, explica que a resistência ao projeto da mesquita, para alguns americanos, passa por duas questões fundamentais: como os eventos de 11 de setembro afetaram a forma como a população da cidade se relaciona com aquele espaço urbano? E como os americanos, na era Bush, passam a se relacionar com o islamismo?

Transformação do espaço em Nova Iorque

Para explicar a transformação no espaço, Taddei recorre ao antropólogo brasileiro Roberto DaMatta. Em seu livro “A Casa e a Rua”, DaMatta diz que a “casa” é o lugar onde estão concentradas as relações de afeto familiares – família e casa aqui usadas em sentido amplo -, e “rua” é o ambiente dos trânsitos, fluxos e, de certo modo, da impessoalidade. E ele ainda menciona a existência do “outro mundo”, que remete à morte e à religiosidade. Na “rua” as pessoas seriam mais liberais. Já a afetividade relacionada a “casa” gera posições mais conservadoras. De certa forma, a idéia de que Nova York é uma cidade cosmopolita, centro econômico mundial, gera a percepção de que Nova Iorque seria apenas “rua”. É como se não existissem razões para as pessoas manifestarem sentimentos conservadores típicos do espaço doméstico. Mas as sociedades têm sempre os dois lados, e o debate em torno da mesquita evidencia isso.

Nesse contexto surge o Ground Zero, como chamam os americanos o espaço onde ocorreram os atentados em 11 de setembro, em Nova Iorque. Taddei afirma que esse é o lugar de um massacre onde muitos corpos jamais foram encontrados, o que, simbolicamente, o transforma em um cemitério a céu aberto, especialmente para as famílias dos mortos. Ele lembra que o governo dos Estados Unidos investiu dinheiro e tempo buscando minuciosamente corpos, ou mesmo pedaços minúsculos de corpos, nessa região.

Para o antropólogo e professor da Escola de Comunicação (ECO) da UFRJ, as sociedades ocidentais têm dificuldade em lidar com o fim da existência. A morte evidencia os limites do pensamento racional. Os rituais de passagem, como velórios e missas de sétimo dia para as comunidades católicas, por exemplo, são fundamentais para organizar o pensamento e as emoções dos que continuam vivos. Mas como muitas famílias não conseguiram achar os corpos dos seus mortos, o Marco Zero adquiriu um enorme valor sentimental. A separação entre “casa” e “rua”, que segundo DaMatta organiza nossa percepção do espaço, e portanto nossa vida social, deixa de existir para muitas das famílias envolvidas. “A proposta de construção da mesquita ocorre, desta forma, num contexto de enorme confusão simbólica, o que naturalmente gera muita ansiedade”, explica Taddei.

Relação dos americanos com o islamismo

O outro aspecto relevante na questão da resistência à construção do centro comunitário muçulmano, que se chamará Córdoba House, é o significado que o islamismo assume ao longo do governo George W. Bush. “Bush quis dividir o mundo em categorias estanques, como, por exemplo, quando usa a expressão ‘eixo do mal’”, diz o antropólogo. Taddei menciona que houve um silencio estratégico, por parte da Casa Branca, a respeito dos negócios da família Bush na Arábia Saudita, inclusive com a família Bin Laden. Tal engajamento comercial no mundo islâmico denota a compreensão de Bush de que “muçulmano não é tudo igual”. No entanto, explica Taddei, o esforço de preparar o país para a guerra (invasão do Afeganistão e posteriormente do Iraque) passou pela demonização e desumanização do inimigo, e isso pode ter gerado percepções coletivas do mundo islâmico muito negativas junto à população americana. O fato de Bush se declarar renascido na fé (encontrou a fé protestante depois de adulto) e dizer que se comunicava com Deus nos corredores da Casa Branca só reforçou as polarizações radicais na percepção das relações entre religião e política.

Além disso, mais do que uma questão meramente diplomática, o então presidente dos Estados Unidos conclamou o país à guerra e adotou um discurso que ressaltava a necessidade dos americanos serem fortes e patriotas, o que os levou a negligenciarem emoções traumáticas, advindas da experiência dos ataques de 11 de setembro. Renzo Taddei conta que a mídia americana embarcou nesse esquema, aceitando, por exemplo, o pedido do Pentágono para que não fossem mostrados caixões de soldados americanos vindos do Afeganistão e do Iraque. E, além disso, os principais veículos de comunicação não deram o espaço devido para que os vários líderes muçulmanos americanos pudessem participar de forma efetiva dos debates públicos, oferecendo discursos de contraposição às polarizações simplistas e à associação direta dos ataques às torres ao islamismo.

Se no contexto do Bush as pessoas não puderam manifestas suas fraquezas e sentimentos, estes acabam ressurgindo em outro momento. “Uma das características do ritual da morte [é] a necessidade de se viver o processo do luto”, esclarece Taddei. Ele explica que Bush interrompe esse processo para muita gente e, hoje, com a proposta de construção da mesquita a duas quadras do Marco Zero, algumas pessoas estão botando para fora essas emoções.

Conquista islâmica

Na opinião do antropólogo, o que se configurará na região é um conflito necessário. Nas audiências do Conselho Municipal, vários manifestantes chegaram a dizer que os muçulmanos podem enxergar a construção da mesquita de 15 andares perto do Marco Zero como uma vitória do islã, algo como “atacamos e conquistamos”. “É claro que isso é uma visão muito conservadora e tendenciosa, e mostra que, em termos simbólicos, o desafio é enorme”, diz Taddei.

Ele destaca, no entanto, que não se pode desconsiderar de forma arrogante o sentimento das pessoas que se posicionam contra a construção. Para o professor, é preciso ouvir os dois lados, sem correções políticas nem moralismos, e efetivamente pluralizar o debate. “A construção da mesquita é de fato uma boa idéia, no sentido de desenterrar esses sentimentos. Ela pode marcar uma nova fase na história americana, da desmontagem desses estereótipos, uma das heranças perversas da era Bush, e da reconstrução de uma esfera pública efetivamente aberta e plural. Mas esses sentimentos precisam ser devidamente trabalhados, para que essa situação não se transforme em mais um barril de pólvora”, prevê o antropólogo.

>Blame: the hidden (and difficult) side of the climate change debate

By Renzo Taddei (State University of Campinas, Brazil)
Anthropology News – November 2008

Between 1877 and 1879, Northeast Brazil was crippled by one of the region’s most historically significant droughts. Around half million people may have died due to drought-related famine and epidemic outbreaks. Many of the region’s Catholic-majority inhabitants believed the drought was a form of divine punishment for the moral corruption of society, an idea reinforced in an epistle issued by the local bishop. More than a century later, in January 2004, when I was carrying out fieldwork in the region, extremely intense rains flooded the region, displacing over 100 thousand people. During interviews, some of the impacted echoed earlier beliefs that the disaster was the result of divine punishment. This time they pointed to television headlines — animal cloning, NASA’s expedition to Mars, the war in Iraq, among other things – as causes for divine discontent. Humans were going beyond their proper sphere of action, they said.

This research called my attention to the role of blame in cultural models about climate. The main international debates on climate change focus almost exclusively on the phenomenon’s physical causes, while at the same time there is an enormous ethnographic literature that reveals “blame” to be integral to how societies deal with crises in general (and climate related ones in particular). This reveals a conceptual gap where anthropology can effectively make critical contributions.

Indeed, it seems that the association between climate events and supposed human misdeeds is culturally pervasive and enduring. Of course in some places these beliefs may not to be the dominant, but they tend to reappear as a strong paradigm in moments of crisis. For instance, Mary Douglas, in Risk and Blame, provides ample evidence that this way of dealing with crises is not restricted to tribal and traditional societies, but marks Western societies alike. If she is right (and I believe she is), it makes the topic of blame politically relevant to our analyses of societal reactions to climate events and uncertainties.

One example of how blame is associated with climate can be seen in the rejection of climate modeling in water management. As Steve Rayner and his collaborators demonstrated in California and as I witnessed in Brazil, water managers resist incorporating new technologies that increase uncertainty, even if in the aggregate there are gains in efficiency. As an illustration, imagine a situation where two individuals are in conflict for the water stored in a reservoir: both want the water, but they also want to keep a certain volume saved for future needs. If a climate forecast predicts high probability of heavy rains in the upcoming rainy season, they may use more water in the present, thus resolving the conflict. But since climate forecasts are probabilistic, due to the extreme complexity of the atmosphere, the hydrological models will also become probabilistic. In the long run, a forecast will fail resulting in a water crisis. The public and most politicians don’t see the inherent uncertainties of modeling, and in a situation of crisis, there is a general expectation that someone is accountable. Not unlike the search for divine causation, the inherent uncertainty of climate modeling may produce an atmosphere where blame is politically expedient (and water managers risk losing their jobs). This context means that it is extremely difficult to convince water managers to use climate-based technologies.

Understanding how blame is present in cultural models about climate, in climate politics, and in the local institutionalized ways of addressing crises is, from an anthropological perspective, necessary if the discipline is to make effective contributions to the international debate on climate change. While international debates discuss how much certainty we need to enable political action, a second, equally important question, is how much uncertainty our political systems can take before triggering blaming and scapegoating rituals. Similarly, if culturally embedded models frame the idea of climate change as a situation where nature is “punishing” humanity for its misdeeds – carbon emissions, pollution, destruction of forests, reduction of biodiversity, and the like -individuals may take this punishment as deserved, which may induce them to assume a posture of resignation and inaction. Naturally, this is a hypothesis to be tested ethnographically.

>Essay Review: The Climate Change Debates (Science)

Philip Kitcher
Department of Philosophy, Columbia University

Originally published in Science Express on 27 May 2010
Science 4 June 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5983, pp. 1230 – 1234 – DOI: 10.1126/science.1189312

In one of the earliest and most eloquent pleas for open discussion and debate, John Milton wrote:

And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter. (1)

Two centuries after Milton, in the same year in which Charles Darwin published the Origin, John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty (2) added further arguments for the free exchange of ideas, suggesting that such exchange is vital for intellectual and social health. Although both Milton and Mill stand behind our current acquiescence in the value of extensive free discussion, both of them knew that they were opposing ancient suspicions about the viability of democracy. The political theorists and philosophers of the Greco-Roman world viewed ordinary folk as vulnerable to deception and exploitation. Allowed to determine the direction of the state, the folk would be easily seduced into believing falsehoods aligned with the interests of charismatic leaders, so that the popular voice would enthusiastically clamor for disastrous policies. Better, then, to entrust the ship of state to wise navigators, whose wisdom embraced both depth of understanding and moral integrity.

The contrast between these two perspectives on public discussion and policy bears on our own times, although the risks may affect our species as a whole and the stakes may be far higher. For three decades, prominent climate scientists have been warning of the dangerous effects of the continual emission of greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. They have been attempting to identify and to explain just what those effects are likely to be—for ourselves, our children, and our more remote descendants. And they have been urging a variety of measures that might prevent some of the disasters whose possibility they claim to foresee. Yet it is evident that substantial disagreement remains about the consequences for humans and for other species. This is so even in those countries where citizens have largely accepted the conclusions that anthropogenic global warming exists and is likely to raise the average temperature on our planet at least 2°C by the end of the century. In the United States, the state of discussion is less advanced: Denying the reality of human-caused climate change continues to figure as a serious possibility in public debates. And a large fraction of the populace believes that scientists’ warnings about the impact of any increases in global temperatures are exaggerated.

For those who play the role of Cassandra in this drama, such as climatologists James Hansen (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies) and Stephen Schneider (Stanford University), a 30-year effort to alert policy-makers, politicians, and the public to what they perceive as significant dangers can only be seen as frustrating. They have been moved to write books, accessible to a general readership, that will record the ways in which their warnings have been ignored—and their voices sometimes muffled. In Storms of My Grandchildren, Hansen attempts to combine the story of his own efforts with (yet another) attempt to explain the pertinent parts of climate science as clearly as he can. Science as a Contact Sport presents Schneider’s insider account of the struggles to understand and moderate human-induced atmospheric changes. Other climate scientists, like Mike Hulme (University of East Anglia), who live in societies where the level of discussion has usually been more informed, are inclined to see matters differently. They hold that continued debate reflects the genuine difficulties of the underlying issues and sometimes explicitly chide their colleagues (as Hulme does in Why We Disagree About Climate Change) for a tendency to “apocalyptic” pronouncements. So, in reflections on the debates of the past decades, there opens up a genuine dispute about the role of scientists in influencing public policy, with some urging a stronger voice for expert testimony and others recommending reticence and even quietism.

In part, the differences between Hansen and Schneider, on the one hand, and Hulme, on the other, stem from their concerns with rather different controversies. It is useful to differentiate three questions. First is the issue of whether human activities, specifically actions that increase the emission of greenhouse gases, are contributing to a significant average warming of Earth. (As all the expert authors point out very clearly, there is no suggestion that the temperature of every region will rise during the next decades.) Second are questions about the probabilities with which various phenomena (complete melting of ice sheets, for example) will occur and about their consequences for human beings and other species. Third are considerations about what might be done to halt (or even reverse) the warming and to limit the damaging consequences. Hulme emphasizes the complexity of the third set of issues. He notes how they are intertwined with difficulties about understanding economic trends and changes, about global justice, about the values assigned to things that are hard to assess in economic terms (ecosystems, the continuation of particular forms of human social life), about practical geopolitics, and even about religious perspectives. Focusing on this intricate web of problems, he elaborates an extensive case for the naturalness of continued disagreement.

For Hansen and Schneider, however, the first two questions are primary (although Hansen ventures some proposals about the third as well). Both contributed to repeated attempts to persuade successive American administrations of the existence and importance of anthropogenic global warming, and Schneider participated in lengthy discussions during the preparation of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports—discussions in which voices representing political interests seem to have forced compromising the eventual presentation of the pertinent scientific ideas. Their experiences incline them to emphasize the importance of expert judgment, effectively renewing the ancient worries about the dangers of democracy. Both believe that genuine democratic participation in the issues can only begin when citizens are in a position to understand what kinds of policies promote their interests. To achieve that requires a far clearer and unmistakable communication of the consensus views of climate scientists, with respect to the existence of anthropogenic global warming and to the chances of various effects, than has hitherto been available. In his choice of title, Hansen implicitly questions the frequent assumption that effects on future generations are subject to some “deep discount.” He explicitly notes that people’s common concern for the fates of their children and grandchildren provides a shared starting point for responding to the changes that might threaten them. Consequently, if citizens are to be able to express their views about things that matter most to them, they need informed views about the planet on which their descendants will live. Serious democracy requires reliance on expert opinion.

It is all too easy to be beguiled by an opposite thought: that democracy demands that there be extensive public discussion, even on technical matters, discussion in which all participants operate as equals. Those in the grip of this idea will view Hansen and Schneider as hysterical and arrogant people who aim to short-circuit the proper airing of alternative views. (Although sympathetic critics might also ponder the fact that these two eminent scientists have been rebutting the same “alternatives” for decades). Perhaps continued discussion could be tolerated, were there no urgency about the issue under debate. If they saw no compulsion to act soon—and if they were convinced that the fight were fair—Hansen and Schneider might share Milton’s confidence that truth would ultimately emerge as victor. Yet the stories they tell in their gripping narratives reveal all too many points at which messages have been distorted and suppressed because of the short-term interests of economic and political agents. They also demonstrate many ways in which the arena of public discussion has been set up to block the widespread acceptance of conclusions based on an increasing body of evidence.

The insiders’ stories of ways in which crucial information has effectively been withheld from voters, particularly in the United States, should give us pause about the functioning of our democracy. Even more powerful is the account provided by two outstanding historians who have reviewed a sequence of controversies around topics of public concern. In their fascinating and important study, Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway offer convincing evidence for a surprising and disturbing thesis. Opposition to scientifically well-supported claims about the dangers of cigarette smoking, the difficulties of the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”), the effects of acid rain, the existence of the ozone hole, the problems caused by secondhand smoke, and—ultimately—the existence of anthropogenic climate change was used in “the service of political goals and commercial interests” to obstruct the transmission to the American public of important information. Amazingly, the same small cadre of obfuscators figured in all these episodes.

Oreskes (University of California, San Diego) and Conway (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) painstakingly trace the ways in which a few scientists, with strong ties to particular industries and with conservative political connections, have played a disproportionate role in debates about controversial questions, influencing policy-makers and the general public alike. Typically, these scientists have obtained their stature in fields other than those most pertinent to the debated question. Yet they have been able to cast enough doubt on the consensus views arrived at by scientists within the relevant disciplines to delay, often for a substantial period, widespread public acceptance of consequential hypotheses. They have used their stature in whatever areas of science they originally distinguished themselves to pose as experts who express an “alternative view” to the genuinely expert conclusions that seem problematic to the industries that support them or that threaten the ideological directions in which their political allies hope to lead.

The extraordinary story of deliberate obfuscation that Oreskes and Conway document begins with the delight of the tobacco companies in recruiting Fred Seitz and with Seitz’s own connections to “scientists in their twilight years who had turned to fields in which they had no training or experience.” It moves through the forging of a network of industrial and political alliances, and the creation of a variety of institutes and think-tanks devoted to challenging various forms of expert consensus, to a brilliant chapter in which the authors analyze the reasons why, as of 2009, a significant percentage of Americans (43%) continued to dissent from the minimal claim that there is “solid evidence the Earth is warming.” As Oreskes and Conway conclude:

There are many reasons why the United States has failed to act on global warming, but at least one is the confusion raised by Bill Nierenberg, Fred Seitz, and Fred Singer.

This apparently harsh claim is thoroughly justified through a powerful dissection of the ways in which prominent climate scientists, such as Roger Revelle and Ben Santer, were exploited or viciously attacked in the press.

None of this would have been possible without a web of connections among aging scientists, conservative politicians, and executives of companies (particularly those involved in fossil fuels) with a short-term economic interest in denying the impact of the emission of carbon into the atmosphere. But it also could not have produced the broad public skepticism about climate change without help from the media. As Oreskes and Conway point out, “balanced coverage” has become the norm in the dissemination of scientific information. Pitting adversaries against one another for a few minutes has proven an appealing strategy for television news programs to pursue in attracting and retaining viewers. Nor is the idea of “fair and balanced” coverage, in which the viewer (or reader) is allowed to decide, confined to Fox News. Competing “experts” have become common on almost all American radio and television programs, the Internet is awash in adversarial exchanges among those who claim to know, and newspapers, too, “sell” science by framing it as a sport (preferably as much of a contact sport as possible). Oreskes and Conway identify the ways in which the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal have nourished the public sense that anthropogenic climate change is a matter of dispute, how they have given disproportionately large space to articles and opinion pieces from the “merchants of doubt,” and how they have sometimes censored the attempts of serious climate scientists to set the record straight. Even the New York Times, the American newspaper that takes science reporting most seriously, typically “markets” scientific research by imposing a narrative based on competition among dissenting scientists.

Media contributions to public confusion—what Schneider labels “mediarology”—are elaborated in a number of these books. There is a serious question as to whether American science journalists have conspicuously failed to discharge what might have seemed their central function: to enlighten the public about topics of concern, in areas where an expert consensus has been reached. Howard Friel’s The Lomborg Deception offers a careful analysis of the ways in which the “skeptical environmentalist,” Bjørn Lomborg, has selectively used (and sometimes distorted) the available evidence. Friel (an independent scholar whose previous books have critiqued the foreign and Middle East coverage of the New York Times) shows how Lomborg’s claims and his status as an expert were uncritically accepted. Apparently, the idea of framing environmental science in terms of a duel between rival “expert perspectives” was too seductive to resist.

For half a century, since the pioneering work of Thomas Kuhn (3), scholars who study the resolution of major scientific debates have understood how complex and difficult judgments about the probative value of data or the significance of unresolved problems can be. The major transitions in the history of the sciences, from the 16th and 17th centuries to the present, have involved intricate debates among competing research programs, among well-informed scientists who gave different weight to particular sorts of evidence. It is an absurd fantasy to believe that citizens who have scant backgrounds in the pertinent field can make responsible decisions about complex technical matters, on the basis of a few five-minute exchanges among more-or-less articulate speakers or a small number of articles outlining alternative points of view. Democratic ideals have their place in the conduct of inquiry, for it is arguable that there should be more communication between scientists and outsiders in the construction of research agendas, in the discussion of standards of acceptable risk, and in the articulation of policies based on scientific consensus. Genuine democracy, however, requires a division of labor, in which particular groups are charged with the responsibility of resolving questions that bear on the interests of individuals and societies. Other groups, those covering such questions in the media, have the duty to convey the results so that citizens can cast their votes as an enlightened expression of freedom, justifiably aimed at the outcomes for which they hope. Staging a brief disagreement between speakers with supposedly equal credentials, especially when it is not disclosed that one of them is answering to the economic aspirations of a very small segment of the society, is a cynical abnegation of that duty.

Because it is so thorough in disclosing how major policy decisions have been delayed or distorted, Merchants of Doubt deserves a wide readership. It is tempting to require that all those engaged in the business of conveying scientific information to the general public should read it. And that science journalists should abandon the obfuscating practice of presenting alternatives with inferior justification as if they were on a par with the scientific consensus.

* * *

Even if American public opinion were reformed overnight, so that virtually all citizens were convinced that anthropogenic global warming is likely to raise the average temperature of the planet by at least 2°C, that would be only the beginning. Beyond that minimal acceptance lie the difficult issues of deciding just what the consequences of a warmer planet will be and what can be done about them. Here, too, denial can easily be induced. Those who want to resist regulatory actions contend that the difficulties that are likely to arise for our descendants have been greatly exaggerated, that whatever problems arise will be addressed by people in a better economic position than we are today, that human beings have shown an admirable ability to adapt to changing environments, and so on and on and on. In countries that have long taken anthropogenic climate change as a settled question, agreeing on the expected consequences and the appropriate response has not proved easy. American discussions are likely to be haunted by the long denial, so that suspicions about alarmism linger. As psychologists have repeatedly discovered, those who are misinformed and later corrected often lapse into versions of their original error.

Scientists who believe that there are grave consequences for Earth and its future inhabitants face a difficult dilemma. They can talk in probabilistic terms—typically very imprecise probabilistic terms—about possible scenarios. If those potential futures are to be made vivid in ways that might engage citizens and inspire them to action, then the scenarios need to be given in some detail. Yet, as they become more specific, the precision about probabilities goes down, even to the extent that it is only responsible to declare that some outcome lies within the range of possibilities. Occasionally, those who raise the alarm are more definite. If the Arctic ice (including the Greenland ice sheet) melts, polar bears will lose their habitat and the species will go extinct; if sea levels rise in the most probable ways, low-lying islands (and many coastal areas, such as the Ganges delta) will be submerged. Outcomes like these are often met with an uncomfortable shrug. They are to be regretted, of course, but if avoiding them really requires a serious modification of civilized life, then it seems better to adapt: relocate some polar bears to artificially cooled preserves; transport the unfortunate flood victims to higher ground.

Concentration on scenarios that can be presented in detail and also justified as likely entails a serious cost. For it encourages a public perception that these are the only outcomes the Cassandras of climate science fear. A stereotype easily follows. The movement toward action derives from an ideology, one centered in a dislike of competitive market capitalism, a fondness for regulation, a tendency to give priority to the needs of the poor, and an overemphasis on environmental conservation. Global warming is a device used by Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging, business-hating liberal intellectuals for advancing their political aims.

“Ideology” is a word that appears relatively frequently in Hulme’s Why We Disagree About Climate Change (although he never explains what he means by it). A climatologist who has devoted some serious time to studying history and social studies of science, Hulme aims to offer a broader perspective on the debates that arise once the initial question of the reality of human-caused global warming has been settled. His book is valuable for its diagnosis of the many different levels at which disagreement can arise and the variety of political stances and value judgments that can incline people to divergent conclusions about what is likely to happen and what might be done. In delineating that diversity, he moves the discussion beyond any appeal to polarized stereotypes: on this side, the captains of industry, their tools, and their dupes; on the other, the flower children in sandals.

Yet Hulme’s book invites misreading. His immersion in the language of various domains of social studies leads him to write as if the theoretical conceptions he deploys in classifying various positions were as reliably grounded as the scientific findings he so clearly and concisely explains. Sometimes, there is even a fashionable indulgence in skeptical distancing, the use of inverted commas (scare quotes) to raise a knowing eyebrow. He announces, for example, that he will tell the story of “how we ‘discovered’ that physical climates could change,” before going on to give a lucid account of how the discovery (real discovery) occurred. In a similar vein, he tells us that the “‘post-normal’ character of climate change” requires a wider range of expert voices, that scientists must concede ground to “other ways of knowing,” and that climate change can become “a mirror into which we can look and see exposed both our individual selves and our collective societies.” The concerned environmentalist who presses on through Hulme’s discussions of the “opportunities” provided for “us” by climate change may eventually give up when he tells his readers to “change our position and examine climate change as an idea of the imagination rather than as a problem to be solved.” Tell it to the Maldives!

That response, however, is too impatient. Hulme’s ideas are more subtle than the (often maladroit) jargon in which he expresses them. If his book more explicitly differentiated areas in which particular groups of people might have greater authority, it would be possible to recognize the value of his diagnoses of the difficulties that attend debates about climate change without supposing that he is advocating the narcissistic quietism his words often suggest. He could accept, for example, the judgment common to Hansen, Schneider, and Oreskes and Conway: that conclusions about the reality of anthropogenic climate change and about the risks that attend some scenarios for the future are matters that can be—and have been—authoritatively decided by a scientific community to which he himself belongs. He should then agree with the implication that, in this domain, it would be foolish to introduce “other ways of knowing.” Hulme could reasonably suppose that the public becomes properly engaged at the moment when risks have been specified—to the extent that they can be specified—and that citizens’ judgments are crucial to decisions about what risks count as acceptable. He could emphasize, as he comments in one of his best discussions, that any decision as to whether a possible future can be tolerated (or even welcomed) should be informed by economic considerations, even though ethical values are crucial to any serious assessment. Finally, his apparently passive recommendation to see ourselves in “the mirror” of climate change—like his Kennedyesque injunction to ask “what climate change can do for us”—can be interpreted more sympathetically as a call for a more systematic investigation of the global challenges that confront us today and those that our descendants will face, one that formulates strategies for safeguarding the future without sacrificing the interests of those currently living.

To make progress on these issues, there will be a need for generally accessible accounts of the likely impact that various levels of global warming will produce. Both Hansen and Schneider describe potential futures, with Schneider being particularly insistent on the important point that scientists owe the public a specification of probabilities (to the extent that that is possible). Two other recent books—The Climate Solutions Consensus from the National Council for Science and the Environment and Climate Change Science and Policy (for which Schneider served as one of its editors)—offer some helpful and relatively nontechnical information for concerned citizens. The organization of Climate Change Science and Policy is particularly valuable, because of the volume’s focus on specific types of changes that would affect the lives of future people. It breaks free of the stereotypical concerns about marooned polar bears and dispossessed islanders to emphasize facts about rising sea levels and melting glaciers that are not sufficiently appreciated. Thus Peter Gleick’s chapter on water concisely identifies the likely disruption of water supplies and the serious chances of flood-induced pollution. Similarly, Kristie Ebi delivers a useful summary of a variety of ways in which our descendants will probably be more vulnerable to infectious diseases and respiratory conditions. (Although she omits concerns about the possible effects of environmental change on the evolution of disease vectors and cross-species transmission—perhaps because, in assessing these events, the chances are unspecifiable.)

Even though discussions of the predicaments people will face in the future do not exhaust the relevant considerations for deciding what actions we should take now, it is wise to bring them to the fore. Citizens need to understand the challenges with respect to shelter, food supply, water supply, and disease that are likely to arise for their descendants. Hansen’s clear perception that an overwhelming majority of the world’s population can share a concern about the kinds of lives that will be available to their children and grandchildren is echoed in the decision by the distinguished social theorist Anthony Giddens (London School of Economics) to ground his recommendations in the thesis that “objects in nature can only have value through us” (4). Although some environmentalists would demur, Giddens’s approach in The Politics of Climate Change has the advantage of increasing the chances for consensus. Like Hulme, he is much concerned to recognize the connections among global problems, insisting, from the beginning, that the challenges of responding to climate change and of meeting the energy needs of the human population must be faced in tandem. He differs from Hulme in not attempting any wide survey of sources of disagreement, and, as readers of his previous works might expect, he is lucid and precise in outlining potential courses of social action. If his book, conceived as a guide for the perplexed citizen, has a flaw, that lies in the breadth and number of the ideas he explores. Those ideas are offered in response to threats he views as profoundly serious:

It will be a colossal task to turn around a society whose whole way of life is constructed around mobility and a ‘natural right’ to consume energy in a profligate way. Yet it isn’t as hopeless an endeavour as it looks.

* * *

All the books reviewed here were written before climate change deniers exultantly exposed the mistakes made by the IPCC in announcing the imminent demise of the Himalayan glaciers and the “conspiratorial e-mails” from the East Anglia climate center. In the wake of these “important revelations,” the merchants of doubt were back in business. In December 2009, Reuters published a discussion by Singer in which he claimed that the IPCC report was based on “distorted raw data” and algorithms that were not shared with other scientists (5). Few readers of Singer’s presentation, or those given by other longstanding climate-change deniers, learned that there is significant independent evidence for Himalayan glacier melt, although not as rapid as the erroneous sentence implied. Probably still fewer understood that the competitive-cooperative interactions among scientists often involve unguarded remarks about the work of rival “teams,” and that references to “tricks” frequently advert to strategies for simplifying complicated mathematical problems or (as in this case) graphical methods of presenting a conclusion perspicuously, rather than to stratagems for deceiving the public. Captured by a naïve and oversimplified image of what “objective science” is like, it is easy for citizens to reject claims of scientific authority when they discover that scientific work is carried out by human beings.

These revelations probably retarded any serious American consensus even on the minimal judgment that is the preliminary to the longer and more difficult debate. Meanwhile, the disappointment at Copenhagen can be seen as evidence that the world is lapsing into a state of resignation. The emissions, of course, do not take a break from the hard decisions.

Nevertheless, there are grounds for the hope expressed by Giddens. Among them is the fact that serious scholars from a variety of crucial disciplines have written valuable books on which future deliberations can build. Those deliberations will require a new synthesis that involves scientists, social scientists, historians—and others, too. It is an embarrassment (at least for me) that philosophers have not contributed more to this necessary conversation. We might clarify some of the methodological issues—for instance, those concerning the variety of risks involved in model-building. Perhaps more important, we could use recent ethical work on responsibilities to future generations and to distant people to articulate a detailed ethical framework that might help a planet’s worth of policy-makers find their way to consensus. With luck, a broader group of dedicated scholars may be galvanized by the books discussed here, so that the potential disasters Hansen and Schneider have been warning us about for 30 years will be averted. Perhaps, in the end, truth—and wisdom—will prevail.

References and Notes

* 1. J. Milton, Areopagitica (London, 1644);
* 2. J. S. Mill, On Liberty (London, 1859);
* 3. T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 1962).
* 4. Giddens derives this view about values from the political philosopher Robert Goodin [see, for example, (6)].
* 5.
* 6. R. Goodin, Green Political Theory (Polity, Cambridge, 1992).

Books Discussed

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming
By Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. Bloomsbury, New York, 2010. 365 pp. $27, £25. ISBN 9781596916104.

Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity
By Mike Hulme. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2009. 432 pp. $80, £45. ISBN 9780521898690. Paper, $29.99, £15.99. ISBN 9780521727327.

Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity
By James Hansen. Bloomsbury, New York, 2009. 320 pp. $25, £18. ISBN 9781608192007.

Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate
By Stephen H. Schneider. National Geographic, Washington, DC, 2009. 303 pp. $28, C$35, £16.99. ISBN 9781426205408.

The Lomborg Deception: Setting the Record Straight About Global Warming
By Howard Friel. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2010. 270 pp. $28, £18.99. ISBN 9780300161038.

The Climate Solutions Consensus
By David E. Blockstein and Leo Wiegman. Island Press, Washington, DC, 2010. 328 pp. $50, £31. ISBN 9781597266369. Paper, $30, £18.99. ISBN 9781597266741.

Climate Change Science and Policy
Stephen H. Schneider, Armin Rosencranz, Michael D. Mastrandrea, and Kristin Kuntz-Duriseti, Eds. Island Press, Washington, DC, 2010. 542 pp. $95, £59. ISBN 9781597265669. Paper, $49.50, £37. ISBN 9781597265676.

The Politics of Climate Change
By Anthony Giddens. Polity, Cambridge, 2009. 272 pp. $69.95, £55. ISBN 9780745646923. Paper, $22.95, £12.99. ISBN 9780745646930.

Comments posted on the essay review here.

>Society to review climate message

By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News
27 May 2010

The UK’s Royal Society is reviewing its public statements on climate change after 43 Fellows complained that it had oversimplified its messages.

They said the communications did not properly distinguish between what was widely agreed on climate science and what is not fully understood.

The society’s ruling council has responded by setting up a panel to produce a consensus document.

The panel should report in July and the report is to be published in September.

It is chaired by physicist John Pethica, vice-president of the Royal Society.

Its deliberations are reviewed by two critical sub-groups, each believed to comprise seven members.

Each of these groups contains a number of society Fellows who are doubtful in some way about the received view of the risks of rising CO2 levels.
Continue reading the main story

It’s not clear to me how we are going to get precise agreement on the wording – Review member

One panel member told me: “The timetable is very tough – one draft has already been rejected as completely inadequate.”

The review member said it might not be possible for the document to be agreed at all. “This is a very serious challenge to the way the society operates,” I was told. “In the past we have been able to give advice to governments as a society without having to seek consensus of all the members.

“There is very clear evidence that governments are right to be very worried about climate change. But in any society like this there will inevitably be people who disagree about anything – and my fear is that the society may become paralysed on this issue.”

Another review member told me: “The sceptics have been very strident and well-organised. It’s not clear to me how we are going to get precise agreement on the wording – we are scientists and we’re being asked to do a job of public communication that is more like journalism.”

But both members said they agreed that some of the previous communications of the organisation in the past were poorly judged.

Question everything

A Royal Society pamphlet Climate Change Controversies is the main focus of the criticism. A version of it is on the organisation’s website. It was written in response to attacks on mainstream science which the Royal Society considered scurrilous.

It reads: “This is not intended to provide exhaustive answers to every contentious argument that has been put forward by those who seek to distort and undermine the science of climate change…”

One Fellow who said he was not absolutely convinced of the dangers of CO2 told me: “This appears to suggest that anyone who questions climate science is malicious. But in science everything is there to be questioned – that should be the very essence of the Royal Society. Some of us were very upset about that.

“I can understand why this has happened – there is so much politically and economically riding on climate science that the society would find it very hard to say ‘well, we are still fairly sure that greenhouse gases are changing the climate’ but the politicians simply wouldn’t accept that level of honest doubt.”

Another society protester said he wanted to be called a climate agnostic rather than a sceptic. He said he wanted the society’s website to “do more to question the accuracy of the science on climate feedbacks” (in which a warming world is believed to make itself warmer still through natural processes).

“We sent an e-mail round our friends, mainly in physical sciences,” he said.

“Then when we had got 43 names we approached the council in January asking for the website entry on climate to be re-written. I don’t think they were very pleased. I don’t think this sort of thing has been done before in the history of the society.

“But we won the day, and the work is underway to re-write it. I am very hopeful that we will find a form of words on which we can agree.

“I know it looks like a tiny fraction of the total membership (1,314) but remember we only emailed our friends – we didn’t raise a general petition.”

Precautionary principle

He said the agnostics were also demanding a “more even-handed” bibliography.

The first “climate agnostic” also said he was angry at previous comments from the previous president Lord May who declared: “The debate on climate change is over.”

Lord May was once quoted as saying: “‘On one hand, you have the entire scientific community and on the other you have a handful of people, half of them crackpots.”

One source strongly criticised the remarks.

Lord May’s comments were made at a time when world scientists were reaching a consensus (not unanimity) that CO2 had warmed the planet and would probably warm it more – maybe dangerously so.

Lobbyists funded by the fossil fuel industry were fighting to undermine that consensus and science academies were concerned that public doubt might deter governments from taking precautionary action to reduce emissions of CO2.

Climate change doubters among the society’s Fellows say that in their anxiety to support government action, the academies failed to distinguish between “hired guns” and genuine scientific agnostics wanting to explore other potential causes of climate change.

The remit of the society panel is to produce a new public-facing document on what scientists know, what they think they know and which aspects they do not fully understand. The task is to make the document strong and robust.

It should answer the complaint that previous communications have failed to properly explain uncertainties in climate science.

Language of risk

At the Heartland Institute climate sceptics conference in Chicago, Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), criticised the current society president Lord Rees for what he described as exaggerating the certainty in a joint public letter with Ralph Cicerone, president of the US National Academy of Sciences.

The letter, published by the Financial Times newspaper, states: “Something unprecedented is now happening. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising and climate change is occurring, both due to human actions…. Uncertainties in the future rate of (temperature) rise, stemming largely from the ‘feedback’ effects on water vapour and clouds, are topics of current research.”

Professor Lindzen says the “unprecedented” statement is misleading because neither the current warming nor the CO2 level are unprecedented. He complains that the statement on uncertainties is also misleading because it does not reveal that uncertainties about future climate projections are, in his view, immense.

A spokesman for the society defended the letter, saying that the rise in man-made CO2 was indeed unprecedented. But Professor Lindzen told me: “This is part of an inflation of a scientific position which has sadly become rather routine for spokesmen for scientific bodies.”

The forthcoming Royal Society publication – if it can be agreed by the review panel – will be scrutinised closely because the society carries huge weight in global science. Under Lord May it was prime mover of a joint letter of international academies stating that climate change was a major concern.

The comments from the current president Lord Rees in his first Reith lecture next week are rather carefully measured and couched in the language of risk rather than certainty – but even in this speech, critics are likely to say that in some particulars he does not sufficiently distinguish between what is certain and what is very widely believed.

>Naomi Oreskes on Merchants of Doubt (WNYC Radio)

Science and Speech
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Naomi Oreskes reveals how a small but powerful group of scientists has managed to obscure the truth about issues from the dangers of smoking to the causes of climate change. And we’ll hear about the origins of the New York accent and how the accent is changing.

Anthropology and Climate Science Controversies

Brad Walters (Mount Allison U.)
Anthropology News (American Association of Anthropology), vol. 51(5):36-37 (May 2010)

Enormous research effort has been invested in the study of climate change. Many scientists reveled in the acclaim that followed last-year’s awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This year, some of these same scientists have faced an onslaught of criticism as a result of a few mistakes found in published reports of the IPCC and leaked emails from an eminent, UK-based science group that revealed an all-too-human side of the scientific endeavor (so-called “climate-gate”).

The editors of the pre-eminent science journal Nature commented that these supposedly explosive revelations would be laughable were it not for their policy consequences. Like many, they recognize that the real scandal has little to do with climate change science, but everything to do with its political ramifications.

The scientific consensus on climate change is rock solid on the most critical issues: greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are now warming the earth’s climate at a rate that is extremely rapid by historical and recent geological standards and this poses increasingly serious risks our well being (Union of Concerned Scientists, March 2010, “U.S. scientists and economists’ call for swift and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions,” The evidence for this general conclusion is so broad, diverse and compelling that virtually no reputable scientist doubts it.

Yet, large swaths of the American public and many opinion leaders continue to doubt the reality of climate change. A major reason for this is that the controversies over the credibility of climate science are to a large degree intentionally contrived by people and organizations with vested interests in the economic status-quo and fear of government regulation, particularly members of the oil, gas and coal industries. What we are witnessing today, according to authors James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore (Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming) and George Monbiot (Heat), is a similar but much more ambitious replay of the tobacco industries’ campaign in the 1980s and 1990s to sew doubt about the scientific consensus on the health risks of smoking. These climate deniers understand what many social scientists do: where there is uncertainty in the minds of the electorate, the political cost of inaction falls while the cost of decisive action rises.

These climate controversies raise intriguing questions for anthropologists who may have interests in issues of public knowledge formation, risk perception, and the application of expert and non-expert knowledge in policy making. But, what motivated me to write this column is a different question: do many anthropologists also not trust the credibility of the scientific “experts” on the matter of climate change?

I came to this question as a result of recent exchanges on the Environmental Anthropology (E-Anth) List-serve that revealed a far less solid consensus on the matter than is found within the mainstream climate science community, which is dominated by natural scientists. Specifically, postings by some list members revealed a surprising lack of trust in the credibility of scientific bodies like the IPCC and the National Academy of Sciences. Even more troubling was their referencing of scientifically un-credible sources—climate skeptics’ blogs, for example—as the basis for their opinions on the status of climate science.

Anthropologists are not alone in having within their ranks credentialed scientists who espouse views on climate change that are totally unsupportable in any reasonable scientific sense. But is it possible that anthropologists are particularly vulnerable to this kind of anti-scientific way of thinking about the issue? Has the disciplines’ deep emersion in subjects like the social construction of knowledge produced social scientists with so little trust and respect for the work of natural scientists that they won’t (or can’t!) distinguish between peer-reviewed research and politically-motivated blog postings?

There is a point reached—and we are now well passed it in climate science—where theoretical arguments and empirical evidence are so overwhelmingly compelling that positions contrary to the scientific consensus are simply untenable. Perhaps it is time for the AAA to step-up as a body and officially state their position on this most critical of issues.

>The Climategate Chronicle (Spiegel Online)

How the Science of Global Warming Was Compromised

By Axel Bojanowski
14 May 2010 – Spiegel Online

To what extent is climate change actually occuring? Late last year, climate researchers were accused of exaggerating study results. SPIEGEL ONLINE has since analyzed the hacked “Climategate” e-mails and provided insights into one of the most unprecedented spats in recent scientific history.

Is our planet warming up by 1 degree Celsius, 2 degrees, or more? Is climate change entirely man made? And what can be done to counteract it? There are myriad possible answers to these questions, as well as scientific studies, measurements, debates and plans of action. Even most skeptics now concede that mankind — with its factories, heating systems and cars — contributes to the warming up of our atmosphere.

But the consequences of climate change are still hotly contested. It was therefore something of a political bombshell when unknown hackers stole more than 1,000 e-mails written by British climate researchers, and published some of them on the Internet. A scandal of gigantic proportions seemed about to break, and the media dubbed the affair “Climategate” in reference to the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon. Critics claimed the e-mails would show that climate change predictions were based on unsound calculations.

Although a British parliamentary inquiry soon confirmed that this was definitely not a conspiracy, the leaked correspondence provided in-depth insight into the mechanisms, fronts and battles within the climate-research community. SPIEGEL ONLINE has analyzed the more than 1,000 Climategate e-mails spanning a period of 15 years, e-mails that are freely available over the Internet and which, when printed out, fill five thick files. What emerges is that leading researchers have been subjected to sometimes brutal attacks by outsiders and become bogged down in a bitter and far-reaching trench war that has also sucked in the media, environmental groups and politicians.

SPIEGEL ONLINE reveals how the war between climate researchers and climate skeptics broke out, the tricks the two sides used to outmaneuver each other and how the conflict could be resolved.

Part 2: From Staged Scandal to the Kyoto Triumph

The fronts in the climate debate have long been etched in the sand. On the one side there is a handful of highly influential climate researchers, on the other a powerful lobby of industrial associations determined to trivialize the dangers of global warming. This latter group is supported by the conservative wing of the American political spectrum, conspiracy theorists as well as critical scientists.

But that alone would not suffice to divide the roles so neatly into good and evil. Most climate researchers were somewhere between the two extremes. They often had difficulty drawing clear conclusions from their findings. After all, scientific facts are often ambiguous. Although it is generally accepted that there is good evidence to back forecasts of coming global warming, there is still considerable uncertainty about the consequences it will have.

Both sides — the leading climate researchers on the one hand and their opponents in industry and smaller groups of naysayers on the other — played hardball from the very beginning. It all started in 1986, when German physicists issued a dramatic public appeal, the first of its kind. They warned about what they saw as a “climatic disaster.” However, their avowed goal was to promote nuclear power over carbon dioxide-belching coal-fired power stations.

The First Scandal

At the time, there was certainly clear scientific evidence of a dangerous increase in temperatures, prompting the United Nations to form the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 to look into the matter. However, the idea didn’t take hold in the United States until the country was hit by an unusually severe drought in the summer of 1988. Politicians in Congress used the dry spell to listen to NASA scientist James Hansen, who had been publishing articles in trade journals for years warning about the threat of man-made climate change.

When Washington instructed Hansen to put more emphasis on the uncertainties in his theory, Senator and later Vice President Al Gore cried foul. Gore notified the media about the government’s alleged attempted cover-up, forcing the government’s hand on the matter.

The oil companies reacted with alarm and forged alliances with companies in other sectors who were worried about a possible rise in the price of fossil fuels. They even managed to rope in a few shrewd climate researchers like Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia.

The aim of the industrial lobby was to focus as much as possible on the doubts about the scientific findings. According to a strategy paper by the Global Climate Science Team, a crude-oil lobby group, “Victory will be achieved when average citizens recognize uncertainties in climate science.” In the meantime, scientists found themselves on the defensive, having to convince the public time and again that their warnings were indeed well-founded.

Industrial Propaganda for the ‘Less Educated’

A dangerous dynamic had been set in motion: Any climate researcher who expressed doubts about findings risked playing into the hands of the industrial lobby. The leaked e-mails show how leading scientists reacted to the PR barrage by the so-called “skeptics lobby.” Out of fear that their opponents could take advantage of ambiguous findings, many researchers tried to simply hide the weaknesses of their findings from the public.

The lobby spent millions on propaganda campaigns. In 1991, the Information Council on the Environment (ICE) issued a strategy paper aimed at what it called “less-educated people.” This proposed a campaign that would “reposition global warming as a theory (not fact).” However, the skeptics also wanted to address better educated sectors of society. The Global Climate Coalition, for example, an alliance of energy companies, specifically tried to influence UN delegates. The advice of skeptical scientists was also given considerable credence in the US Congress.

Nonetheless, the lobbyists had less success on the international stage. In 1997, the international community agreed on the first-ever climate protection treaty: the Kyoto Protocol. “Scientists had issued a warning, the media amplified it and the politicians reacted,” recalls Peter Weingart, a science sociologist at Bielefeld University in Germany, who researched the climate debate.

But just as numerous industrial firms began to acknowledge the need for climate protection and left the Global Climate Coalition, some scientists began getting too cozy with environmental organizations.

Part 3: How Climate Researchers Plotted with Interest Groups

Even before the UN climate conference in Kyoto in 1997, environmentalist groups and leading climate researchers began joining forces to put pressure on industry and politicians. In August 1997, Greenpeace sent a letter to The Times newspaper in London, appealing on behalf of British researchers. All the climatologists had to do was sign on the dotted line. In October of that year, other climate researchers — ostensibly acting on behalf of the World Wildlife Fund, or WWF — e-mailed hundreds of colleagues calling on them to sign an appeal to the politicians in connection with the Kyoto conference.

The tactic was controversial. Whereas German scientists immediately put their names on the list, others had their doubts. In a leaked e-mail dated Nov. 25, 1997, renowned American paleoclimatologist Tom Wigley told a colleague he was worried that such appeals were almost as “dishonest ” as the propaganda employed by the skeptics’ lobby. Personal views, Wigley said, should not be confused with scientific facts.

Researchers ‘Beef Up’ Appeals by Environmental Groups
Wigley’s calls fell on deaf ears, and many of his colleagues unthinkingly fell in line with the environmental lobby. Asked to comment by WWF, climate researchers in Australia and Britain, for example, made particularly pessimistic predictions. What’s more, the experts said they had been fully aware that the WWF wanted to have the warnings “beefed up,” as it had stated in an e-mail dated July 1999. One Australian climatologist wrote to colleagues on July 28, 1999, that he would be “very concerned” if environmental protection literature contained data that might suggest “large areas of the world will have negligible climate change.”

Two years later, German climate researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and from the Hamburg-based Max Planck Institute for Meteorology also drew up a position paper together with WWF. Germany’s Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy scientific research institute was a pioneer in this respect. It was very open about working together with the environmental group BUND, the German chapter of Friends of the Earth, in developing climate protection strategy recommendations in the mid-1990s.

Part 4: Industry and Researchers Fight for Media Supremacy

From then on, the battle was all about dominance of the media. The media are often accused of giving climate-change skeptics too much attention. Indeed theories that cast doubt over global warming with little scientific backing regularly appeared in the press. These included so-called “information brochures” sent to journalists by oil industry lobbyists.

This is partly because the US media, in particular, are extremely keen to ensure what they see as balanced reporting — in other words, giving both sides in a debate a chance to air their views. This has meant that even more outlandish theories by climate-change skeptics have been given just as much airtime as the findings of established experts.

Media researchers believe the phenomenon of newsworthiness is another reason why anti-climate-change theories are reported so widely. The more unambiguous the warnings about an impending disaster, the more interesting critical viewpoints become. The media debate about the issue also focused on the potentially scandalous question of whether climatologists had speculated about nightmare scenarios simply in order to obtain access to research grants.

Renowned climate researcher Klaus Hasselmann of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology rebuffed these accusations in a much-quoted article in the German newspaper Die Zeit in 1997. Hasselmann pointed out that scientific findings suggest that there is an extremely high likelihood that man was indeed responsible for climate change. “If we wait until the very last doubts have been overcome, it will be too late to do anything about it,” he wrote.

‘Climatologists Tend Not to Mention their More Extreme Suspicions’
Hasselmann blamed the media for all the hype. In fact, sociologists have identified “one-up debates” in the media in which darker and darker pictures were painted of the possible consequences of global warming. “Many journalists don’t want to hear about uncertainty in the research findings,” Max Planck Institute researcher Martin Claussen complains. Sociologist Peter Weingart criticizes not just journalists but also scientists. “Climatologists tend not to mention their more extreme suspicions,” he bemoans.
Whereas the debate flared up time and again in the US, “the skeptics in Germany were quickly marginalized again,” recalls sociologist Hans Peter Peters of the Forschungszentrum Jülich research center, who analyzed climate-related reporting in Germany. Peters believes that the communication strategy of leading researchers has proven successful in the long run. “The announced climate problem has been taken seriously by the media,” he says. He even sees signs of a “strong alignment of scientists and journalists in reporting about climate change.”

Nonetheless, scientists have tried to apply pressure on the media if they disagreed with the way stories were reported. Editorial offices have been inundated with protest letters whenever news stories said that the dangers of runaway climate change appeared to be diminishing. E-mails show that climate researchers coordinated their protests, targeting specific journalists to vent their fury on. For instance, when an article entitled “What Happened to Global Warming?” appeared on the BBC website in October 2009, British scientists first discussed the matter among themselves by e-mail before demanding that an apparently balanced editor explain what was going on.

Social scientists are well aware that good press can do wonders for a person’s career. David Philips, a sociologist at the University of San Diego, suggests that the battle for supremacy in the mass media is not only a means to mobilize public support, but also a great way to gain kudos within the scientific community.

Part 5: Scientific Opinion Becomes Entrenched

The leaked e-mails show that some researchers use tactics that are every bit as ruthless as those employed by critics outside the scientific community. Under attack from global-warming skeptics, the climatologists took to the barricades. Indeed, the criticism only seemed to increase the scientists’ resolve. And worried that any uncertainties in their findings might be pounced upon, the scientists desperately tried to conceal such uncertainties.

“Don’t leave anything for the skeptics to cling on to,” wrote renowned British climatologist Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia (UEA) in a leaked e-mail dated Oct. 4, 2000. Jones, who heads UEA’s Climate Research Unit (CRU), is at the heart of the e-mail scandal. But there have always been plenty of studies that critics could quote because the research findings continue to be ambiguous.

At times scientists have been warned by their own colleagues that they may be playing into the enemy’s hands. Kevin Trenberth from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US, for example, came under enormous pressure from oil-producing nations while he was drawing up the IPCC’s second report in 1995. In January 2001, he wrote an e-mail to his colleague John Christy at the University of Alabama complaining that representatives from Saudi Arabia had quoted from one of Christy’s studies during the negotiations over the third IPCC climate report. “We are under no gag rule to keep our thoughts to ourselves,” Christy replied.

‘Effective Long-Term Strategies’
Paleoclimatologist Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University also tried to rein in his colleagues. In an e-mail dated Sept. 17, 1998, he urged them to form a “united front” in order to be able to develop “effective long-term strategies.” Paleoclimatologists try to reconstruct the climate of the past. Their primary source of data is found in old tree trunks whose annual rings give clues about the weather in years gone by.

No one knows better than the researchers themselves that tree data can be very unreliable, and an exchange of e-mails shows that they discussed the problems at length. Even so, meaningful climate reconstructions can be made if the data are analyzed carefully. The only problem is that you get different climate change graphs depending on which data you use.

Mann and his colleagues were pioneers in this field. They were the first to draw up a graph of average temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere over the past 1,000 years. That is indisputably an impressive achievement. Because of its shape, his diagram was dubbed the “hockey stick graph.” According to this, the climate changed little for about 850 years, then temperatures rose dramatically (the blade of the stick). However, a few years later, it turned out that the graph was not as accurate as first assumed.

‘I’d Hate to Give It Fodder’
In 1999, CRU chief Phil Jones and fellow British researcher Keith Briffa drew up a second climate graph. Perhaps not surprisingly, this led to a row between the two groups about which graph should be published in the summary for politicians at the front of the IPCC report.

The hockey stick graph was appealing on account of its convincing shape. After all, the unique temperature rise of the last 150 years appeared to provide clear proof of man’s influence on our climate. But Briffa cautioned about overestimating the significance of the hockey stick. In an e-mail to his colleagues in September 1999, Briffa said that Mann’s graph “should not be taken as read,” even though it presented “a nice tidy story.”

In contrast to Mann et al’s hockey stick, Briffa’s graph contained a warm period in the High Middle Ages. “I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1,000 years ago,” he wrote. Fortunately for the researchers, the hefty dispute that followed was quickly defused when they realized they were better served by joining forces against the common

. Climate-change skeptics use Briffa’s graph to cast doubt over the assertion that man’s activities have affected our climate. They claim that if our atmosphere is as warm now as it was in the Middle Ages — when there was no man-made pollution — carbon dioxide emissions can’t possibly be responsible for the rise in temperatures.

“I don’t think that doubt is scientifically justified, and I’d hate to be the one to have to give it fodder,” Mann wrote to his colleagues. The tactic proved a successful one. Mann’s hockey stick graph ended up at the front of the UN climate report of 2001. In fact it became the report’s defining element.

An Innocent Phrase Seized by Republicans
In order to get unambiguous graphs, the researchers had to tweak their data slightly. In probably the most infamous of the Climategate e-mails, Phil Jones wrote that he had used Mann’s “trick” to “hide the decline” in temperatures. Following the leaking of the e-mails, the expression “hide the decline” was turned into a song about the alleged scandal and seized upon by Republican politicians in the US, who quoted it endlessly in an attempt to discredit the climate experts.

But what appeared at first glance to be fraud was actually merely a face-saving fudge: Tree-ring data indicates no global warming since the mid-20th century, and therefore contradicts the temperature measurements. The clearly erroneous tree data was thus corrected by the so-called “trick” with the temperature graphs.

The row grew more and more bitter as the years passed, as the leaked e-mails between researchers shows. Since the late 1990s, several climate-change skeptics have repeatedly asked Jones and Mann for their tree-ring data and calculation models, citing the legal right to access scientific data.

‘I Think I’ll Delete the File’
In 2003, mineralogist Stephen McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick published a paper that highlighted systematic errors in the statistics underlying the hockey stick graph. However Michael Mann rejected the paper, which he saw as part of a “highly orchestrated, heavily funded corporate attack campaign,” as he wrote in September 2009.

More and more, Mann and his colleagues refused to hand out their data to “the contrarians,” as skeptical researchers were referred to in a number of e-mails. On Feb. 2, 2005, Jones went so far as to write, “I think I’ll delete the file rather than send it to anyone.”

Today, Mann defends himself by saying his university has looked into the e-mails and decided that he had not suppressed data at any time. However, an inquiry conducted by the British parliament came to a very different conclusion. “The leaked e-mails appear to show a culture of non-disclosure at CRU and instances where information may have been deleted to avoid disclosure,” the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee announced in its findings on March 31.

Sociologist Peter Weingart believes that the damage could be irreparable. “A loss of credibility is the biggest risk inherent in scientific communication,” he said, adding that trust can only be regained through complete transparency.

Part 6: From Deserved Reputations to Illegitimate Power

The two sides became increasingly hostile toward one another. They debated about whom they could trust, who was a part of their “team” — and who among them might secretly be a skeptic. All those who were between the two extremes or even tried to maintain links with both sides soon found themselves under suspicion.

This distrust helped foster a system of favoritism, as the hacked e-mails show. According to these, Jones and Mann had a huge influence over what was published in the trade press. Those who controlled the journals also controlled what entered the public arena — and therefore what was perceived as scientific reality.

All journal articles are checked anonymously by colleagues before publication as part of what is known as the “peer review” process. Behind closed doors, researchers complained for years that Mann, who is a sought-after reviewer, acted as a kind of “gatekeeper” in relation to magazine articles on paleoclimatology. It’s well-known that renowned scientists can gain influence within journals. But it’s a risky business. “The danger that deserved reputations become illegitimate power is the greatest risk that science faces,” Weingart says.

From Peer Review to Connivance
In an e-mail to SPIEGEL ONLINE, Mann rejected the claims that he exercised undue influence. He said the editors of scientific journals — not he — chose the reviewers. However, as Weingart points out, in specialist areas like paleoclimatology, which have only a handful of experts, certain scientists can gain considerable power — provided they have a good connection to the publishers of the relevant journals.

The “hockey team,” as the group around Mann and Jones liked to call itself, undoubtedly had good connections to the journals. The colleagues coordinated and discussed their reviews among themselves. “Rejected two papers from people saying CRU has it wrong over Siberia,” CRU head Jones wrote to Mann in March 2004. The articles he was referring to were about tree data from Siberia, a basis of the climate graphs. In fact, it later turned out that Jones’ CRU group probably misinterpreted the Siberian data, and the findings of the study rejected by Jones in March 2004 were actually correct.

However, Jones and Mann had the backing of the majority of the scientific community in another case. A study published in Climate Research in 2003 looked into findings on the current warm period and the medieval one, concluding that the 20th century was “probably not the warmest nor a uniquely extreme climactic period of the last millennium.” Although climate skeptics were thrilled, most experts thought the study was methodologically flawed. But if the pro-climate-change camp controlled the peer review process, then why was it ever published?

Plugging the Leak
In an e-mail dated March 11, 2003, Michael Mann said there was only one possibility: Skeptics had taken over the journal. He therefore demanded that the enemy be stopped in its tracks. The “hockey team” launched a powerful counterattack that shook Climate Research magazine to its foundations. Several of its editors resigned. Vociferous as they were, though, the skeptics did not have that much influence. If it turned out that alarmist climate studies were flawed — and this was the case on several occasions — the consequences of the climate catastrophe would not be as dire as had been predicted.

Yet there were also limits to the influence had by Mann and Jones, as became apparent in 2005, when relentless hockey stick critics Ross McKitrick and Stephen McIntyre were able to publish studies in the most important geophysical journal, Geophysical Research Letters (GRL). “Apparently, the contrarians now have an ‘in’ with GRL,” Mann wrote to his colleagues in a leaked e-mail. “We can’t afford to lose GRL.”

Mann discovered that one of the editors of GRL had once worked at the same university as the feared climate skeptic Patrick Michaels. He therefore put two and two together: “I think we now know how various papers have gotten published in GRL,” he wrote on January 20, 2005. At the same time, the scientists discussed how to get rid of GRL editor James Saiers, himself a climate researcher. Saiers quit his post a year later — allegedly of his own accord. “The GRL leak may have been plugged up now,” a relieved Mann wrote in an e-mail to the “hockey team.”

Internal Conflict and the External Façade
Climategate appears to confirm the criticism that scientific systems always benefit cartels. However, Sociologist Hans Peter Peters cautions against over-interpreting the affair. He says alliances are commonplace in every area of the scientific world. “Internal communication within all groups differs from the facade,” Peters says.

Weingart also believes the inner workings of a group should not be judged by the criteria of the outside world. After all, controversy is the very basis of science, and “demarcation and personal conflict are inevitable.” Even so, he says the extent to which camps have built up in climate research is certainly unusual.

Part 7: Conclusive Proof Is Impossible

Weingart says the political ramifications only fuelled the battle between the two sides in the global warming debate. He believes that the more an issue is politicized, the deeper the rifts between opposing stances.

Immense public scrutiny made life extremely difficult for the scientists. On May 2, 2001, paleoclimatologist Edward Cook of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory complained in an e-mail: “This global change stuff is so politicized by both sides of the issue that it is difficult to do the science in a dispassionate environment.” The need to summarize complex findings for a UN report appears only to have exacerbated the problem. “I tried hard to balance the needs of the science and the IPCC, which were not always the same,” Keith Briffa wrote in 2007. Max Planck researcher Martin Claussen says too much emphasis was put on consensus in an attempt to satisfy politicians’ demands.

And even scientists are not always interested solely in the actual truth of the matter. Weingart notes that public debate is mostly “only superficially about enlightenment.” Rather, it is more about “deciding on and resolving conflicts through general social agreement.” That’s why it helps to present unambiguous findings.

The Time for Clear Answers Is Over
However, it seems all but impossible to provide conclusive proof in climate research. Scientific philosopher Silvio Funtovicz foresaw this dilemma as early as 1990. He described climate research as a “postnormal science.” On account of its high complexity, he said it was subject to great uncertainty while, at the same time, harboring huge risks.

The experts therefore face a dilemma: They have little chance of giving the right advice. If they don’t sound the alarm, they are accused of not fulfilling their moral obligations. However, alarmist predictions are criticized if the predicted changes fail to materialize quickly.

Climatological findings will probably remain ambiguous even if further progress is made. Weingart says it’s now up to scientists and society to learn to come to terms with this. In particular, he warns, politicians must understand that there is no such thing as clear results. “Politicians should stop listening to scientists who promise simple answers,” Weingart says.

Translated from the German by Jan Liebelt

A colorful oracle: A visitor watches an animation demonstrating oceanic acidity levels at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

Red colors equals a warmer future: Climate prognoses forecast a noticeable warming of the planet if greenhouse-gas emissions are not curtailed.

Several climate researchers are calling for the resignation of Rajendra Pachauri, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, because he took too long to acknowledge that the panel published inaccurate research on climate change.

The German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ) in Hamburg uses supercomputers to predict future climates.

>Climate sceptics rally to expose ‘myth’ (BBC)

By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News
21 May 2010

In the Grand Ballroom Of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Hotel, dinner was over.

Beef, of course. A great pink hunk of it from the American Mid-West.

At the world’s biggest gathering of climate change sceptics, organised by the right-wing Heartland Institute, vegetarians were an endangered species.

Wine flowed and blood coursed during a rousing address from Heartland’s libertarian president Joseph Bast. Climate change is being used by governments to oppress the people, he believes.

After years of opposing government rules on smoking and the environment, Mr Bast now aims to forge a global movement of climate sceptics to end the “myth” that humans are endangering the atmosphere.

He urged the audience to spread the word among their families, friends and work colleagues that climate science is too uncertain to guide government policy, and that plans for climate laws in the US would bankrupt the nation.

“We just didn’t realise in those days how important and controversial this would all become” – Professor Roy Spencer, University of Alabama

In turn, he introduced an all-American hero, Harrison Schmitt, one of the last people to walk on the Moon and still going strong.

Mr Schmitt trained as a geologist and like some other geologists believes that climate change is part of a natural fluctuation. He’s also a former Republican Senator and he made the case that the American constitution contains no powers for government to legislate CO2.

The audience, containing some international faces, but mostly American libertarians and Republicans, loved the small-government message.

They cheered when a member of the audience demanded that the “Climategate criminals” – the scientists behind the University of East Anglia (UEA) hacked emails – should be jailed for fraud.


And the fervour reached a peak when the reluctant hero, Steve McIntyre, shambled on to the stage.

Mr McIntyre is the retired mining engineer who started enquiring into climate statistics as a hobby and whose requests for raw data from the UEA led to a chain of events which have thrown climate science into turmoil.

The crowd rose to applaud him to the stage in recognition of his extraordinary statistical battle to disprove the “Hockey Stick” graph that had become an emblem of man-made global warming.

There was a moment of anticipation as Mr McIntyre stood nervously before the podium – a lugubrious bear of a man resembling a character from Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon.

Steve McIntyre has worked to “break” the hockey stick

“I’m not used to speaking in front of such big crowds,” he mumbled. And he winced a little when one emotional admirer blurted that he had travelled 10,000 miles from South Africa for the thrill of hearing him speak.

But then came a sudden and unexpected anti-climax. Mr McIntyre urged the audience to support the battle for open source data on climate change – but then he counselled them to stop clamouring for the blood of the e-mailers. McIntyre does not want them jailed, or even punished. He just wants them to say they are sorry.

The audience disappointment was tangible – like a houndpack denied the kill.

Mr McIntyre then advised sceptics to stop insisting that the Hockey Stick is a fraud. It is understandable for scientists to present their data in a graphic way to “sell” their message, he said. He understood why they had done it. But their motives were irrelevant.

The standard of evidence required to prove fraud over the Hockey Stick was needlessly high, he said. All that was needed was an acknowledgement by the science authorities that the Hockey Stick was wrong.

Political associations

This was clearly not the sort of emollient message the sceptics expected from one of their heavy hitters. And the speech slipped further into climate pacifism when Mr McIntyre confessed that he did not share the libertarian tendencies of many in the ballroom.

As a Canadian, he said, he was brought up to believe that governments should govern on behalf of the people – so if CO2 were reckoned to be dangerous, it would be the duty of politicians to make laws to cut emissions.

The quiet man said he thought that the work of his climate-statistical website was probably done. He sat down to one-handed applause.

Not so much of a call to arms as a whispered advice to the adversary to lay down his weapons and depart the battlefield.

His message of climate conciliation was reinforced by Tom Harris, founder of the International Climate Science Coalition.

He says he’s not a right-winger, and he told the conference that many scientists sharing his political views had misgivings about establishment climate theory, but would not speak out for fear of being associated with their political opponents or with the fossil fuel industry.

Indeed some moderate climate sceptics told me they have shunned this conference for fear of being publicly associated with a highly-politicised group.

And Sonia Boehmer Christiansen, the British-based climate agnostic (her term), brought to a juddering halt an impassioned anti-government breakfast discussion with a warning to libertarians that they would never win the policy argument on climate unless they could carry people from the Left with them.

Governments needed taxes, she said – and energy taxes – were an efficient way of gathering them.

Cloud effect

Even some right-wingers agreed the need to review the language of scam and fraud. Professor Roy Spencer, for instance, is a climate sceptic scientist from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

But when I asked him about the future of Professor Phil Jones, the man of the heart of the UEA e-mail affair, he said he had some sympathy.

“He says he’s not very organised. I’m not very organised myself,” said Professor Spencer. “If you asked me to find original data from 20 years ago I’d have great difficulty too.

“We just didn’t realise in those days how important and controversial this would all become – now it would just all be stored on computer. Phil Jones has been looking at climate records for a very long time. Frankly our data set agrees with his, so unless we are all making the same mistake we’re not likely to find out anything new from the data anyway.”

Professor Spencer admits that he is regarded by orthodox climate scientists as a renegade. But as a very conservative Christian he is at home here, and his views carry weight at this meeting.

Like most climate sceptic scientists, he accepts that CO2 is a warming gas – this is basic physics, he says, and very hard to dispute.

But he says his studies on incoming and outgoing Earth radiation measured by satellites suggest that changes in cloudiness are mitigating warming caused by CO2.

He thinks all the world’s climate modellers are wrong to assume that the Earth’s natural systems will augment warming from CO2, and he hopes that a forthcoming paper will prove his case.

He admits that he has been wrong often enough to know it’s easy to be wrong on a subject as complex as the climate. But he says that means the modellers can all be wrong, too.

The key question for the future, he said, was the one that has been asked for the past 30 years with inconclusive answers – how sensitive will the climate be to a doubling of CO2?

‘Climate resilience’

The godfather of climate scepticism Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been pre-occupied with this question for decades.

He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a former lead author for the IPCC. But he is immensely controversial and his views run directly counter to those of his institute, which, he says, is looking forward to his retirement.

He has been accused of ignoring recent developments in science.

He believes CO2 is probably keeping the Earth warmer than it would otherwise be, but says he is more convinced than ever that the climate will prove increasingly resilient to extra CO2.

He thinks that this greenhouse gas will not increase temperature much more than 1C in total because the positive feedbacks predicted by computer models will not occur.

The final word of this conference – part counter-orthodox science brainstorm, part political rally – was left to a man who is not a scientist at all, Christopher Monckton, former adviser to Mrs Thatcher, now the darling of climate sceptics worldwide.

In a bravura performance he had the audience roaring at his mocking impersonation of “railway engineer Rajendra Pachauri – the Casey Jones of climate change”; hissing with pantomime fury at the “scandal” of Climategate, then emotionally applauding the American troops who have given their lives for the freedom that their political masters are surrendering to the global socialist tyranny of global warming.

His closing words were delivered in a weeping whisper, a soft prayer of praise to the American constitution and individual liberty.

As the ecstatic crowd filtered out I pointed one delegate to a copy of the Wall Street Journal on the table. A front page paragraph noted that April had been the warmest on record.

“So what?” he shrugged. “So what?”

>Política incerta, economia incerta, clima incerto

A sucessão de catástrofes é casual ou causal?

Por Mario Soares*
IPS/Envolverde – 21/05/2010 – 10h05

Lisboa, maio/2010 – Até o próprio Pangloss, famoso personagem de Candide de Voltaire, apesar de seu imperturbável otimismo, se veria em dificuldades para enfrentar o mundo contemporâneo. A natureza e a humanidade deram rédeas aos seus respectivos demônios e ninguém pode detê-los. Em diferentes lugares, a Terra reage e nos assesta, sucessivamente: ciclones, maremotos, terremotos, inundações e, ultimamente, a erupção vulcânica na insular Islândia, que paralisou os aeroportos do norte e centro da Europa. Um espetáculo triste e jamais visto.

Trata-se de fenômenos naturais normais, dirão alguns, os menos avisados. Contudo, para aqueles que têm mais de oito décadas vividas, como é meu caso, e nunca viram nem tiveram conhecimento de nada semelhante a esta conjugação sucessiva de catástrofes, é prudente expor a dúvida: será que a mão inconsciente e imprevista do homem, que agride e maltrata o planeta e compromete seu equilíbrio natural, não tem uma boa dose de responsabilidade nestes fatos?

A recente Conferência de Cúpula sobre Mudança Climática em Copenhague, em dezembro passado, que deveria condenar e enfrentar o aquecimento global, resultou em fracasso devido ao suspeito acordo traçado na última hora por China e Estados Unidos. Por uma coincidência – ou talvez não –, estas duas grandes potências são os maiores contaminadores da Terra. A verdade é que conseguiram paralisar o grupo europeu – ao qual não deram a menor importância – e várias delegações procedentes de outros continentes, que esperavam resultados positivos da Conferência Mundial.

Talvez seja mais preocupante a aparição de alguns cientistas que adotam posturas abertamente contrárias ao pensamento e às advertências da esmagadora maioria dos ecologistas, já que afirmam que o aquecimento global não é causado pelas atividades humanas nem pelo abusivo emprego de combustíveis derivados dos hidrocarbonos. Afirmam e reiteram que se trata de um fato natural. Isto me faz pensar que há pessoas capazes de perseguir a todo custo a ganância e sobrepor a qualquer outra consideração a defesa de seus interesses imediatos sem que isso afete suas boas consciências… Se é que as têm.

Estou convencido de que na próxima Conferência Mundial sobre Mudança Climática a verdade científica prevalecerá e que as grandes potências serão obrigadas a respeitar as regras que objetivam conter radicalmente o aquecimento global.

Os riscos que pairam sobre o planeta não são apenas as catástrofes consideradas naturais que se sucedem com inquestionável e preocupante frequência. O terrorismo global continua causando estragos desde 2001, e atualmente são numerosas (excessivas, segundo meu ponto de vista) as nações que dispõem de armamento nuclear. É indispensável colocar um limite a isto. Neste sentido, o acordo que o presidente norte-americano, Barack Obama, conseguiu estabelecer com Rússia e China para reduzir os respectivos arsenais atômicos e obstruir a proliferação por parte de nações que ainda não os possuem – como é o caso do Irã – é um acontecimento notável e de projeções políticas e geoestratégicas extremamente positivas.

Em um mundo tão perigoso como o que nos cabe viver – basta pensar em todos os conflitos armados não resolvidos em todos os continentes –, é preciso reduzir drasticamente a venda livre de armas e propagar a Cultura de Paz, da qual é incansável promotor o ex-diretor-geral da Unesco, Federico Mayor Zaragoza. Ao mesmo tempo, deve-se evitar e controlar até onde for possível todas as formas de incitação à violência que os meios de comunicação, as televisões em particular, propagam constantemente (inconscientemente, ou não), no que não é exagerado qualificar como uma escalada inaceitável.

Todos os governos do mundo que se consideram Estados de Direito e que, portanto, devem respeitar e proteger os direitos humanos têm a consequente obrigação de adotar políticas e medidas para difundir a Cultura de Paz e repudiar, pedagógica e sistematicamente, todas as formas de violência que entram todos os dias em nossas casas para o bem de nossos descendentes e do futuro da humanidade.

Realmente, as ameaças que enfrentamos em nossa época provêm de diversas fontes: de uma política incerta e sem rumo claro, de uma economia sem regras e à espera de melhores dias – não sabemos quantos – para superar a crise, de uma sucessão de calamidades. Já é hora de a cidadania global abrir os olhos, reagir e exigir soluções. IPS/Envolverde

* Mário Soares é ex-presidente e ex-primeiro-ministro de Portugal.

>Justiça e jurisprudencia no Brasil imperial

Da resistência aos crimes miúdos


Por Alex Sander Alcântara

Agência FAPESP – Quando se discutem os crimes cometidos por escravos, geralmente se discutem os chamados “crimes de resistência”, como as insurreições e rebeliões contra a situação de cativeiro. Mas um estudo publicado na revista História (São Paulo) indica que, no Brasil Imperial (1822-1889), diversos crimes cotidianos eram cometidos tanto pela população livre como por escravos.

O trabalho foca em delitos como briga de vizinhos, conflitos em tabernas, conflitos conjugais e crimes contra a pessoa e aponta que muitas foram as situações jurídicas em que não era feita distinção entre réus livres e escravos.

De acordo com Ricardo Alexandre Ferreira, professor do Departamento de História da Universidade Estadual do Centro-Oeste, em Guarapuava (PR), e recém-aprovado no concurso para docente no Departamento de História da Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp) no campus de Franca, o estudo busca entender o conceito de criminalidade escrava, com base na análise dos códigos penais e nos relatórios emitidos anualmente pelos ministros de justiça no período em questão.

“Com base nessa documentação, procurei entender a criminalidade escrava, que é um tema vinculado às insurreições, mas verifiquei que também havia um conjunto muito grande de crimes cometidos por escravos que não eram ligados a esse conceito porque foram somados aos problemas mais amplos da criminalidade no Império”, disse à Agência FAPESP.

O artigo é um apanhado das pesquisas que desenvolveu na iniciação científica, mestrado e doutorado, com Bolsa FAPESP nas três modalidades. Sua pesquisa de mestrado “Escravidão, criminalidade e cotidioano: Franca 1830-1888”, foi selecionada com uma das melhores dissertações no ano na Unesp e publicada no livro Senhores de Poucos Escravos – o cativeiro e criminalidade num ambiente rural (1830-1888), pela editora da universidade em 2005.

De acordo com o pesquisador, ao analisar a documentação se percebe que o maior volume de crimes cometidos, principalmente nas regiões de pequenas e médias propriedades no interior do Brasil, estava muito mais vinculado ao cotidiano de uma população livre e pobre.

“Havia uma prática enraizada entre as autoridades de reunir, em seus relatórios, os criminosos escravos, libertos e livres com expressões genéricas como ‘classes menos favorecidas’, ‘classes inferiores’ ou ‘classes ínfimas da sociedade’. Além de reforçar o estereótipo de vadiagem, o que se percebe é uma incapacidade do Estado de coletar, organizar e analisar os registros de criminalidade produzidos em todo o país”, afirmou Ferreira.

Não havia no Império um código criminal exclusivo para julgar e punir os escravos. Segundo o autor, há uma omissão sobre o termo “escravo” na Constituição de 1824. “A ideia era a de que os escravos não faziam parte do contrato social e que, portanto, não existiam”, disse.

Havia no código apenas um artigo – de número 60 – que tratava das punições dos cativos condenados a penas que não fossem de morte ou galés e, pelo menos em teoria, o escravo era julgado e tinha os mesmos direitos a recursos que uma pessoa livre.

“O escravo tinha direito a advogado pago, em muitos casos pelo próprio proprietário. A diferença estava na hora de se aplicar a lei. Ao confirmar a culpa e impor a sentença, o juiz estabelecia uma diferença para o escravo, cuja punição poderia ser açoites ou mesmo carregar ferro no pé ou no pescoço pelo período determinado pelo juiz”, disse.

A única exceção era se o escravo cometesse homicídio a superiores, insurreição e roubo com morte; nesses casos, era condenado à pena de morte. No restante, segundo Ferreira, todos os casos de infração que valiam para o livre eram válidos também para o escravo.

“Analiso o artigo 60 como uma espécie de exceção. Isso se dava porque o Brasil herdou de Portugal uma tradição de não ter códigos específicos para os escravos. Nas colônias francesas, havia o chamado Código Negro (Code Noir)”, destacou Ferreira.

Outro artigo – de número 115 – também punia todos aqueles que participassem da insurreição, incitando ou ajudando os escravos a se rebelar e “fornecendo-lhes armas, munições ou outros meios para o mesmo fim”.

Mesmo julgados culpados por crimes punidos com a morte, cidadãos livres e escravos condenados em primeira instância só subiriam ao patíbulo após terem sido negados todos os recursos jurídicos previstos, como apelação, protesto por novo julgamento e revista.

“Ainda assim, antes da forca era facultado ao condenado o direito de recorrer à Imperial Clemência que, por meio de uma das atribuições do Poder Moderador, podia perdoá-lo, mudar a pena (comutação) ou mandar executar a sentença”, ressaltou Ferreira.

Segundo ele, o Código Criminal do Império, criado em 1830, contemplou também o “mundo da segurança individual”, como disputas por divisas que acabavam em brigas e tiros, conflitos matrimoniais, brigas de rua, entre outros conflitos, como assunto de Estado.

Substituição da pena de morte

A partir da criação do Código, houve um primeiro esforço na produção de um “perfil dos delitos praticados” no país. No relatório de 1837, o então ministro da justiça Bernardo Pereira Vasconcelos argumentou que, diante da recorrente reclamação contra a impunidade que se espalhava por todo o território, ela só poderia ser adequadamente avaliada quando os mapas com os perfis de crimes e criminosos fossem produzidos a partir das informações enviadas pelas províncias.

“No perfil apresentado pelo ministro destaca-se um aumento maior do número de crimes contra a pessoa em relação aos cometidos contra a propriedade e, consequentemente, a impunidade”, disse.

Uma das dificuldades alegadas pelos ministros para obter informações a respeito de homicídios e ferimentos se referia à deficiência das comunicações entre vilas e a capital do Império, o que impedia o estudo dos padrões de criminalidade individual.

A recorrente queixa a respeito da ineficiente integração das autoridades da Corte com as das diferentes províncias figurou, segundo Ferreira, na base dos principais argumentos que conduziram às reformas sofridas pela justiça criminal do Império.

“A reforma do Judiciário de 1840 promoveu uma série de iniciativas para impedir em parte a atuação localizada dos juízes de paz e também dos jurados. Como desdobramento, em 1842 foi criada a figura do delegado de polícia. Na prática, a ideia era acabar com a impunidade nas pequenas vilas e promover uma centralização do judiciário”, disse.

Com as sucessivas modificações de 1840 a 1850, a pena de morte na prática foi abolida e a lei passou a conceder aos escravos a possibilidade dos mesmos recursos que os livres.

“Embora o Código ainda não esteja modificado, na prática o Imperador D. Pedro II, a partir das décadas finais do Império, começou a substituir penas de morte por penas de prisão perpétua”, apontou Ferreira.

Segundo ele, havia um conceito de criminalidade no Brasil Colônia (1500-1822) típico do antigo regime no qual o crime estava vinculado a posições sociais e à relação que as pessoas mantinham com o rei.

“Já no Império vigorou a ideia de liberdade e igualdade entre os homens, apesar da manutenção da escravidão. A grande questão era como criar um conceito moderno de criminalidade em um país que mantinha a escravidão. Os códigos criminais modernos operaram a concepção de que os crimes são os mesmos e as penas deveriam ser as mesmas para todos. Essa é uma forma de conceber crime e punição que, em muitos aspectos, continuou vigente pelo Período Republicano até os nossos dias”, disse.

Para ler o artigo Livres, escravos e a construção de um conceito moderno de criminalidade no Brasil Imperial, disponível na biblioteca on-line SciELO (Bireme/FAPESP), clique aqui.

>Should geoengineering tests be governed by the principles of medical ethics?

Rules for Planet Hackers

By Eli Kintisch
Thu Apr. 22, 2010 1:00 AM PDT

[Image: Flickr/indigoprime (Creative Commons)]

Nearly 200 scientists from 14 countries met last month at the famed Asilomar retreat center outside Monterey, California, in a very deliberate bid to make history. Their five-day meeting focused on setting up voluntary ground rules for research into giant algae blooms, cloud-brightening, and other massive-scale interventions to cool the planet. It’s unclear how significant the meeting will turn out to be, but the intent of its organizers was unmistakable: By choosing Asilomar, they hoped to summon the spirit of a groundbreaking meeting of biologists that took place on the same site in 1975. Back then, scientists with bushy sideburns and split collars—the forefathers of the molecular revolution, it turned out—established principles for the safe and ethical study of deadly pathogens.

The planners of Asilomar II, as they called it, hoped to accomplish much the same for potentially dangerous experiments in geoengineering. Instead of devising new medical treatments for people, the scientists involved in planet-hacking research are after novel ways to treat the Earth. The analogy of global warming to a curable disease was central to the discussions at the meeting. Climate scientist Steve Schneider of Stanford talked about administering “planetary methadone to get over our carbon addiction.” Others debated what “doses” of geoengineering would be necessary. Most crucially, the thinkers at Asilomar focused on the idea that medical ethics might provide a framework for balancing the risks and benefits of all this new research.

What would it mean to apply the established principles of biomedical research to the nascent field of geoengineering? The ethicists at Asilomar—particularly David Winickoff from Berkeley and David Morrow from the University of Chicago—began with three pillars laid out in the landmark 1979 Belmont Report. The first, respect for persons, says that biomedical scientists should obtain “informed consent” from their test subjects. The second, beneficence, requires that scientists assess the risks and benefits of a given test before they start. The third, justice, invokes the rights of research subjects to whatever medical advances result from the testing. (The people who are placed at risk should be the same ones who might benefit from a successful result.)

Then Winickoff and Morrow proposed applying the Belmont principles to the study of the most aggressive forms of geoengineering—the ones that would block the sun, like a volcanic eruption does, with a spray of sulfur or other particles into the stratosphere. Before we could embark on a radical intervention like that, we’d need to run smaller-scale tests that might themselves pose a risk to the environment. In much the way that a clinical drug trial might produce adverse reactions, so might a real-world trial of, say, the Pinatubo Option. Instead of causing organ failure or death in its subjects, a botched course of geoengineering might damage the ozone layer or reduce rainfall.

The problem, admitted the ethicists, is how to go about applying the Belmont rules outside of medicine. In clinical drug trials, researchers obtain consent from individuals, and they can precisely define the worse-case outcome (like death). But a trial run of hazing up the stratosphere wouldn’t affect specific, identifiable people in any one town, city, or state. The climate is interconnected in many ways, some still mysterious to scientists, and so the risks of even a small-scale test in a particular location might apply across the globe. If everyone on Earth could be affected, how do you figure out whom to ask for informed consent?

One possibility would be to require that all nations of the world agree ahead of time on any tests of consequence. To many gathered at Asilomar, however, this seemed naive; speakers repeatedly invoked the failure of all-inclusive talks to cut global carbon emissions, and it would presumably be much tougher to secure an agreement on work that might damage crop yields or open a hole in the ozone. A more pragmatic approach would be to set up something like a United Nations Planet Hacking Security Council, comprising 15 or so powerful nations whose oversight of research tests would take into account the concerns of a broad swath of countries. But that undemocratic approach would surely face howls of protest.

The principle of beneficence may be just as difficult to follow. Under the Belmont guidelines, doctors must balance the particular risks of a clinical trial with the potential benefit to any individual who might participate. Since it would be impossible to make such a calculation for every person on Earth, planet hackers could at best choose the experiments that minimize harm to the most vulnerable communities—like people living on the coasts of Southeast Asia. But we may not know enough about the risks of geoengineering to make any such credible calculation when the time comes. Consider the Pinatubo Option, by which scientists would mimic the cooling effect of volcanoes. Putting particles in the stratosphere could reduce the total amount of energy that strikes the Earth. Some climate modelers say this would disrupt rainfall by reducing moisture in the atmosphere obtained by evaporation. Others say that geoengineering’s droughts and famines would be less harmful than those caused by unchecked warming. Right now, no one can agree on the nature of the risks, let alone the degree to which they would apply to particular communities.

And what about justice? Among the disruptions that could result from testing the Pinatubo Option is a weakening of the Asian monsoon, a source of water for hundreds of millions of people in India. Those in developing countries will “eat the risk” of geoengineering trials, shouted one of the Asilomar speakers. If representatives from just a small set of countries were appointed as doctors to the planet, then the less powerful nations might end up as the world’s guinea pigs. Of course, the citizens of those nations also would seem to have the most to lose from uninterrupted global warming. These two dangers would have to be measured one against the other—and compensation as part of the experimental program could be one way of making tests more fair.

If medical ethics aren’t quite up to the task of guiding our forays into geoengineering, what other sort of principles should we keep in mind? One important danger to be aware of is the moral hazard that might come with successful trials. That’s the idea that protective circumstances or actions can encourage people to take undue risks—government insurance of banks led to risky investments that caused the savings-and-loan crisis in the 1980s, for example. Moral hazard looms particularly large for geoengineering studies since medium-scale field tests could prematurely give us the sense that we have a low-cost technical fix for global warming, no emissions cuts needed. (Moral hazard isn’t quite as potent in medical research. The availability of cholesterol-lowering drugs may well discourage people from maintaining healthy diets, but it’s unlikely that mere clinical trials would have the same effect.)

Another ethical principle that might apply to geoengineering is minimization—the idea that, a priori, it’s better to tinker at the smallest possible scale necessary to answer vital scientific questions. This notion comes from the ethics of animal experimentation; now we might apply it to planetary systems and the environment more broadly. Up until now, the medical ethics frame for geoengineering has guided discussions of how geoengineering might affect people in various countries. Perhaps we should be talking about how it affects the planet itself.

By that token, we might gain something by thinking of the Earth as a patient on its own terms. The rules and regulations we come up with for tests of geoengineering should take into account the way those experiments might affect ecosystems and nonhuman animals, both under threat from warming. And so maybe the most famous piece of medical ethics ought to apply: the Hippocratic Oath. “First, do no harm” is the crux of the original, but an updated version exhorts doctors to avoid “the twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.” The climate crisis may force us to act despite myriad ethical challenges, for our benefit and for the planet’s.

This piece was produced by Slate as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Eli Kintisch is a reporter at Science and author of a new book on geoengineering, Hack the Planet.

>Marcelo Leite: Águas turvas (FSP)

“Preconceitos, estridência, falácias, invenções e estatísticas, aliás, transformam todo o debate público numa bacia amazônica de turbidez. Não é privilégio da questão indígena. Tome a usina hidrelétrica de Belo Monte. Ou o tema explosivo da disponibilidade de terras para o agronegócio”

Marcelo Leite
Folha de S.Paulo, 09/05/2010 – reproduzido no Jornal de Ciência (JC e-mail 4006)

Por uma dessas coincidências sintomáticas que a época produz, duas frases que abrem a reportagem de capa da presente edição do caderno Mais! – “No Brasil todo mundo é índio, exceto quem não é” e “Só é índio quem se garante” – estão no centro de um bate-boca entre seu autor, o antropólogo Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, e a revista “Veja”.

A abertura foi escrita antes do quiproquó, mas pouco importa. Se ela e todo o texto sobre educação indígena forem recebidos como tomada de posição, tanto melhor.

De qualquer maneira, é instrutivo ler a reportagem da revista que deu origem a tudo, assim como as réplicas e tréplicas que se seguiram. Permite vislumbrar a profundidade dos preconceitos anti-indígenas e da estridência jornalística que turvam essa vertente de discussão no país.

Preconceitos, estridência, falácias, invenções e estatísticas, aliás, transformam todo o debate público numa bacia amazônica de turbidez. Não é privilégio da questão indígena. Tome a usina hidrelétrica de Belo Monte. Ou o tema explosivo da disponibilidade de terras para o agronegócio, epicentro da indigitada reportagem da revista “Veja”.

“Áreas de preservação ecológica, reservas indígenas e supostos antigos quilombos abarcam, hoje, 77,6% da extensão do Brasil”, afirmam seus autores, sem citar a fonte. “Se a conta incluir também os assentamentos de reforma agrária, as cidades, os portos, as estradas e outras obras de infraestrutura, o total alcança 90,6% do território nacional.”

É provável que a origem omitida seja o estudo “Alcance Territorial da Legislação Ambiental e Indigenista”, encomendado à Embrapa Monitoramento por Satélite pela Presidência da República e encampado pela Confederação Nacional da Agricultura e Pecuária do Brasil (CNA, leia-se senadora Kátia Abreu, DEM-TO). Seu coordenador foi o então chefe da unidade da Embrapa, Evaristo Eduardo de Miranda. A estimativa terminou bombardeada por vários especialistas, inclusive do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe).

Nesta semana veio à luz, graças às repórteres Afra Balazina e Andrea Vialli, mais um levantamento que contradiz a projeção alarmante. O novo estudo foi realizado por Gerd Sparovek, da Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz (Esalq-USP), em colaboração com a Universidade de Chalmers (Suécia).

Para Miranda, se toda a legislação ambiental, fundiária e indigenista fosse cumprida à risca, faltariam 334 mil km2 – 4% do território do Brasil – para satisfazer todas as suas exigências. O valor dá quase um Mato Grosso do Sul de deficit.

Para Sparovek, mesmo que houvesse completa obediência ao Código Florestal ora sob bombardeio de ruralistas, sobraria ainda 1 milhão de km2, além de 600 mil km2 de pastagens poucos produtivas usadas para pecuária extensiva (um boi por hectare). Dá 4,5 Mato Grosso do Sul de superavit.

A disparidade abissal entre as cifras deveria bastar para ensopar as barbas de quem acredita em neutralidade científica, ou a reivindica. Premissas, interpretações da lei e fontes de dados diversas decerto explicam o hiato.

Mas quem as examina a fundo, entrando no mérito e extraindo conclusões úteis para o esclarecimento do público e a tomada de decisão? Faltam pessoas e instituições, no Brasil, com autoridade para decantar espuma e detritos, clarificando as águas para que se possa enxergar o fundo. De blogueiros e bucaneiros já estamos cheios.

>Militares pedem ao STF a punição dos torturadores

15/04/2010 – 10h04

Por Redação Agência Carta Maior

Grupo de militares que não apoiaram o golpe de 1964, e por isso foram punidos, consideram que “os crimes comuns e de tortura praticados pelos agentes do Estado e da Repressão durante o regime militar brasileiro são atos absolutamente nulos e impassíveis também de anistia”. Os postulantes usam argumentos com base na legislação nacional e internacional para afirmar que a Lei da Anistia não a não pode provocar um esquecimento artificial dos fatos ocorridos. STF adia julgamento sobre o caso que estava marcado para esta quarta-feira.

O Major Brigadeiro Rui Moreira Lima – um dos três heróis de guerra remanescentes da Força Expedicionária Brasileira combatente do nazi-fascismo, durante a II Guerra Mundial – protocolou segunda-feira (12), no Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) um pedido para que a lei de Anistia não abarque os crimes de tortura. O documento, assinado pelo Brigadeiro como presidente da Associação Democrática e Nacionalista de Militares (ADNAM), afirma:

“Pede-se a este Pretório Excelso uma interpretação da Lei 6.683/79 conforme a Constituição de tal modo que a anistia concedida pela referida lei aos crimes políticos e conexos não abarque os crimes comuns praticados pelos agentes repressores da oposição ao regime militar à época vigente (1964/1985), devendo, assim, a presente ADPF ser julgada integralmente procedente.”

A petição, protocolada pelos militares, requer ingresso, como amicus curiae na ação de Argüição de Descumprimento de Preceito Fundamental proposta pela Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil. A ação da OAB questiona quais tipos de violação podem ser classificadas como crimes comuns e quais continuam a ser entendidos como ações políticas, – o que as enquadra dentro da Lei de Anistia. A lei concede perdão a todos os envolvidos com crimes políticos entre 1961 e 1979. Com quase dois anos de atraso, foi marcado, de forma repentina, para quarta-feira (14), o julgamento da referida ação pelo STF. Esse julgamento foi adiado nesta terça-feira (ver abaixo).

Segundo a petição assinada por Moreira Lima, “anistia não pode significar que atos de terror cometidos pelo Estado através de seus agentes e que ensejaram verdadeiros crimes contra a humanidade não possam ser revistos”. A Associação Democrática e Nacionalista de Militares congrega militares das três forças armadas, policiais militares e corpos de bombeiros que se comprometem com a manutenção da democracia no país e lutam pela preservação do patrimônio nacional. A ADNAM visa também a promoção e a defesa dos direitos dos seus associados nas esferas executiva, legislativa e judiciária e dos militares punidos com fundamento nos Atos Institucionais e complementares ou outros diplomas legais emitidos durante o período de 1964-1985, sob o qual o país foi governado por sucessivos governos militares.

Na peça jurídica de 26 páginas os militares que não apoiaram o golpe de 1964, e por isso foram punidos, consideram que “os crimes comuns e de tortura praticados pelos agentes do Estado e da Repressão durante o regime militar brasileiro são atos absolutamente nulos e impassíveis também de anistia”. Os postulantes usam argumentos com base na legislação nacional e internacional para afirmar que:

“Anistia não é esquecimento. (…) A Lei de Anistia não pode provocar um esquecimento artificial dos fatos ocorridos. (…) Anistia não é perdão. (…) A questão que se coloca, é se a Lei da Anistia significa o auto-perdão, ou seja, o Estado na condição de perpetrador da violência deve ser por ele mesmo perdoado? Se anistia não se confunde com perdão, muito menos pode significar auto-perdão”.

Sobre a alegação de que a anistia foi um pacto político, escrevem os militares:

“Não se pode justificar o Estado Democrático de Direito atual sob o esquecimento e negação da violação de direitos perpetrada pelo regime militar. Não há acordo, pacificação, reconciliação, perdão e/ou reconstrução se a uma das partes é vedada o conhecimento do que efetivamente se passou e quem foram os responsáveis”.

Julgamento adiado
A Arguição de Descumprimento de Preceito Fundamental (ADPF) 153, que contesta a Lei da Anistia (Lei nº 6.683/79), não entrará na pauta da sessão ordinária desta quarta-feira (14) como estava previsto. Embora haja o quórum mínimo exigido para análise de matéria constitucional (oito ministros), a Presidência do STF decidiu adiar o julgamento alegando que “a importância e complexidade da questão recomendam a análise do processo com quórum completo”. Ainda não há previsão acerca da nova data para julgamento do processo.

A norma, que completou 30 anos em agosto de 2009, é questionada na Suprema Corte pela Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil (OAB). O relator da ADPF é o ministro Eros Grau. A OAB contesta o artigo 1º da Lei da Anistia, defendendo uma interpretação mais clara quanto ao que foi considerado como perdão aos crimes conexos “de qualquer natureza” quando relacionados aos crimes políticos ou praticados por motivação política.

Segundo a OAB, a lei “estende a anistia a classes absolutamente indefinidas de crime” e, nesse contexto, a anistia não deveria alcançar os autores de crimes comuns praticados por agentes públicos acusados de homicídio, abuso de autoridade, lesões corporais, desaparecimento forçado, estupro e atentado violento ao pudor, contra opositores ao regime político da época.

Com informações do STF e da Comissão de Anistia.

>Google, China and hacktivism (N.Y.Times)

Google Links Web Attacks to Vietnam Mine Dispute

The New York Times, March 31, 2010

HONG KONG — Google, fresh off a dispute with China over censorship and intrusion from hackers, says it has identified cyber-attacks aimed at silencing critics of a controversial, Chinese-backed bauxite mining project in Vietnam.

In attacks it described as similar to but less sophisticated than those at the core of its spat with China, Google said malicious software was used to infect “potentially tens of thousands of computers,” broadly targeting Vietnamese speaking computer users around the world.

Infected machines had been used to spy on their owners and to attack blogs containing messages of political dissent, wrote Neel Mehta of the company’s security team in a post late Tuesday on Google’s online security blog.

McAfee, the computer security firm, said in a separate blog posting that it believed “the perpetrators may have political motivations and may have some allegiance to the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

It added: “This incident underscores that not every attack is motivated by data theft or money. This is likely the latest example of hacktivism and politically motivated cyberattacks, which are on the rise.”

Google said that while the malware itself was not especially sophisticated, “it has nonetheless been used for damaging purposes.”

“Specifically, these attacks have tried to squelch opposition to bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam, an important and emotionally charged issue in the country.”

Bauxite is a key mineral in making aluminum and one of Vietnam’s most valuable natural resources. Plans by the Vietnamese government to exploit bauxite in the Central Highlands region, in partnership with a Chinese state-run company, have generated much local criticism, including from a well-known war hero, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap.

General Giap and other opponents say the project will be ruinous to the environment, displace ethnic minority populations and threaten the south-east Asian country’s national security with an influx of Chinese workers and economic leverage.

The role of China in the bauxite project also has stirred up anger in a nation that still fears its bigger neighbor: Vietnam was a tributary state of China for 1,000 years and was invaded by China in 1979, and the two countries continue to joust for sovereignty in the South China Sea.