Arquivo da tag: Incerteza

Arminio Fraga: Desafios globais trazem riscos e oportunidades para o Brasil (Folha de S.Paulo)

www1.folha.uol.com.br

23.mai.2022 às 12h43


O mundo vive um inferno astral de ameaças de curto e longo prazo. Em brilhante palestra recente, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, ministro sênior de Singapura, listou cinco riscos que, para ele, configuram uma “longa tempestade perfeita” para o planeta. Neste artigo, discutirei as implicações desse quadro para o Brasil, procurando também identificar as oportunidades disponíveis.

O pano de fundo é conhecido. Ao acordar do sonho do mundo pacífico e integrado do fim da história de Fukuyama, nos deparamos com crescentes tensões, que se manifestam em múltiplas esferas. A mais chocante de todas e primeiro tema da lista de Tharman é a tragédia ucraniana, que configura o rompimento de uma governança global que garantia a soberania e a integridade territorial de todas as nações.

A esse retorno da Guerra Fria original, de natureza ideológica (modificada) e militar, se soma a Guerra Fria.2 entre os Estados Unidos e a China, também ideológica, mas muito mais complexa em suas frentes de disputa.

O embate entre os dois gigantes caracteriza um período de ausência de uma liderança global hegemônica que, como bem diagnosticou Charles P. Kindleberger, tende a ser muito instável. Do ponto de vista econômico, as duas guerras frias forçosamente demandam um importante repensar de alianças e relações de produção e comércio globais.

Para o Brasil, será necessário retornar à política externa tradicional do Itamaraty, voltada para a busca do interesse nacional através de boas relações viabilizadas pelo nosso histórico apego a princípios universais e pela nossa natural vocação multilateral. Nos cabe primeiramente e o quanto antes uma defesa inequívoca da integridade de todas as nações. Temos também que zelar pela manutenção de relações mutuamente benéficas com a maior parte dos países.

Em seu segundo grande tema, o autor discute o perigo de uma prolongada estagflação. O epicentro do problema encontra-se nos Estados Unidos, onde uma economia superaquecida por políticas expansionistas vem sendo atingida pelos choques de oferta da pandemia e das guerras frias. Para o Brasil, o risco maior advém da real possibilidade de o banco central americano ter de elevar os juros bem além do que os mercados já antecipam. Nos faria lembrar da frase “quando o Norte espirra, o Sul pega pneumonia”.

Um cenário alternativo, também nada reconfortante, seria uma queda ainda maior das Bolsas, acompanhada de um novo colapso nos preços dos imóveis, hoje acima em termos reais dos níveis da bolha que estourou em 2008.

Do lado de cá, o quadro é ainda mais complicado do que nos Estados Unidos, pois mesmo em recessão a inflação atingiu dois dígitos. Não é difícil imaginar uma tempestade perfeita para o Brasil, onde desafios externos e internos se reforçam. O próximo presidente terá que conduzir a política econômica com coragem e competência, de preferência com o apoio qualitativo das respostas aos demais desafios, que discuto a seguir.

A ameaça existencial da mudança climática é o terceiro tema do discurso. Aqui o Brasil terá a oportunidade de promover uma guinada verdadeiramente alquímica: trocar uma posição de pária ambiental, decorrente de posturas que aumentaram o desmatamento e o crime organizado, por uma guinada que nos poria em uma posição de liderança global no tema, com consequências extremamente positivas fora e dentro do país.

A criação de um mercado de carbono, como vem sendo discutido no Congresso e prometido pelo Executivo, seria um passo essencial nessa direção. É fundamental que o mercado seja desenhado de forma a permitir a plena inserção do país no mercado global de carbono, alternativa não disponível no momento. Vejo amplo potencial para investimentos no setor, em ambiente de concorrência e plenamente alinhados com o interesse público (estou investindo nessa área).

O elevado risco de novas pandemias vem a seguir. A ciência recomenda todo cuidado com o tema. Aqui também vejo amplo espaço para um cavalo de pau. Será necessário reforçar sob todos os ângulos o SUS, que, com seus 4% do PIB de recursos, precisa urgentemente subir na escala de prioridades dos orçamentos de todas as esferas de governo.

Cabe também incluir nas prioridades da nação mais apoio à pesquisa. Fontes de recursos para tais esforços não faltam, como tenho argumentado aqui. Falta sim transparência orçamentária e vontade política.

Em último lugar na lista, mas não menos importante, são as desigualdades de crescimento e bem-estar dentro dos países e entre eles, os mais ricos em vantagem em ambos os casos. Essa situação vem se agravando com as “tempestades perfeitas” e representa um terreno fértil para populismos e autoritarismos. O Brasil tem muito a fazer nessa área.

Com sucesso nessas frentes, o Brasil se qualificaria para ser relevante na reconstrução de uma governança global ora em frangalhos. As vantagens seriam imensas, pois ajudaria a si próprio em tudo mais. No entanto, sem sucesso, os prejuízos para a população seriam enormes. Um futuro melhor só virá se e quando a nossa democracia não mais estiver ameaçada e um tanto disfuncional.

How a little-discussed revision of climate science could help avert doom (Washington Post)

washingtonpost.com

Mark Hertsgaard, Saleemul Huq, Michael E. Mann

Feb. 23, 2022

We can reduce global temperatures faster than we once thought — if we act now

One of the biggest obstacles to avoiding global climate breakdown is that so many people think there’s nothing we can do about it.

They point out that record-breaking heat waves, fires and storms are already devastating communities and economies throughout the world. And they’ve long been told that temperatures will keep rising for decades to come, no matter how many solar panels replace oil derricks or how many meat-eaters go vegetarian. No wonder they think we’re doomed.

But climate science actually doesn’t say this. To the contrary, the best climate science you’ve probably never heard of suggests that humanity can still limit the damage to a fraction of the worst projections if — and, we admit, this is a big if — governments, businesses and all of us take strong action starting now.

For many years, the scientific rule of thumb was that a sizable amount of temperature rise was locked into the Earth’s climate system. Scientists believed — and told policymakers and journalists, who in turn told the public — that even if humanity hypothetically halted all heat-trapping emissions overnight, carbon dioxide’s long lifetime in the atmosphere, combined with the sluggish thermal properties of the oceans, would nevertheless keep global temperatures rising for 30 to 40 more years. Since shifting to a zero-carbon global economy would take at least a decade or two, temperatures were bound to keep rising for at least another half-century.

But guided by subsequent research, scientists dramatically revised that lag time estimate down to as little as three to five years. That is an enormous difference that carries paradigm-shifting and broadly hopeful implications for how people, especially young people, think and feel about the climate emergency and how societies can respond to it.

This revised science means that if humanity slashes emissions to zero, global temperatures will stop rising almost immediately. To be clear, this is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Global temperatures will not fall if emissions go to zero, so the planet’s ice will keep melting and sea levels will keep rising. But global temperatures will stop their relentless climb, buying humanity time to devise ways to deal with such unavoidable impacts. In short, we are not irrevocably doomed — or at least we don’t have to be, if we take bold, rapid action.

The science we’re referencing was included — but buried — in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report, issued in August. Indeed, it was first featured in the IPCC’s landmark 2018 report, “Global warming of 1.5 C.”That report’s key finding — that global emissions must fall by 45 percent by 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate disruption — generated headlines declaring that we had “12 years to save the planet.” That 12-year timeline, and the related concept of a “carbon budget” — the amount of carbon that can be burned while still limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels — were both rooted in this revised science. Meanwhile, the public and policy worlds have largely neglected the revised science that enabled these very estimates.

Nonscientists can reasonably ask: What made scientists change their minds? Why should we believe their new estimate of a three-to-five-year lag time if their previous estimate of 30 to 40 years is now known to be incorrect? And does this mean the world still must cut emissions in half by 2030 to avoid climate catastrophe?

The short answer to the last question is yes. Remember, temperatures only stop rising once global emissions fall to zero. Currently, emissions are not falling. Instead, humanity continues to pump approximately 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere. The longer it takes to cut those 36 billion tons to zero, the more temperature rise humanity eventually will face. And as the IPCC’s 2018 report made hauntingly clear, pushing temperatures above 1.5 degrees C would cause unspeakable amounts of human suffering, economic loss and social breakdown — and perhaps trigger genuinely irreversible impacts.

Scientists changed their minds about how much warming is locked in because additional research gave them a much better understanding of how the climate system works. Their initial 30-to-40-year estimates were based on relatively simple computer models that treated the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a “control knob” that determines temperature levels. The long lag in the warming impact is due to the oceans, which continue to warm long after the control knob is turned up. More recent climate models account for the more dynamic nature of carbon emissions. Yes, CO2 pushes temperatures higher, but carbon “sinks,” including forests and in particular the oceans, absorb almost half of the CO2 that is emitted, causing atmospheric CO2 levels to drop, offsetting the delayed warming effect.

Knowing that 30 more years of rising temperatures are not necessarily locked in can be a game-changer for how people, governments and businesses respond to the climate crisis. Understanding that we can still save our civilization if we take strong, fast action can banish the psychological despair that paralyzes people and instead motivate them to get involved. Lifestyle changes can help, but that involvement must also include political engagement. Slashing emissions in half by 2030 demands the fastest possible transition away from today’s fossil-fueled economies in favor of wind, solar and other non-carbon alternatives. That can happen only if governments enact dramatically different policies. If citizens understand that things aren’t hopeless, they can better push elected officials to make such changes.

As important as minimizing temperature rise is to the United States, where last year’s record wildfires in California and the Pacific Northwest illustrated just how deadly climate change can be, it matters most in the highly climate-vulnerable communities throughout the global South. Countless people in Bangladesh, the Philippines, Madagascar, Africa’s Sahel nations, Brazil, Honduras and other low-income countries have already been suffering from climate disasters for decades because their communities tend to be more exposed to climate impacts and have less financial capacity to protect themselves. For millions of people in such countries, limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C is not a scientific abstraction.

The IPCC’s next report, due for release Feb. 28, will address how societies can adapt to the temperature rise now underway and the fires, storms and rising seas it unleashes. If we want a livable future for today’s young people, temperature rise must be kept as close as possible to 1.5 C. The best climate science most people have never heard of says that goal remains within reach. The question is whether enough of us will act on that knowledge in time.

6 Things You Need to Know About Climate Change Now (Columbia Magazine)

magazine.columbia.edu

With global warming no longer just a threat but a full-blown crisis, Columbia experts are on the frontlines, documenting the dangers and developing solutions.

By David J. Craig | Winter 2021-22

David Swanson / Reuters

1. More scientists are investigating ways to help people adapt

Over the past half century, thousands of scientists around the world have dedicated their careers to documenting the link between climate change and human activity. A remarkable amount of this work has been done at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in Palisades, New York. Indeed, one of the founders of modern climate science, the late Columbia geochemist Wally Broecker ’53CC, ’58GSAS, popularized the term “global warming” and first alerted the broader scientific community to the emerging climate crisis in a landmark 1975 paper. He and other Columbia researchers then set about demonstrating that rising global temperatures could not be explained by the earth’s natural long-term climate cycles. For evidence, they relied heavily on Columbia’s world-class collections of tree-ring samples and deep-sea sediment cores, which together provide a unique window into the earth’s climate history.

Today, experts say, the field of climate science is in transition. Having settled the question of whether humans are causing climate change — the evidence is “unequivocal,” according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — many scientists have been branching out into new areas, investigating the myriad ways that global warming is affecting our lives. Columbia scholars from fields as diverse as public health, agriculture, economics, law, political science, urban planning, finance, and engineering are now teaming up with climate scientists to learn how communities can adapt to the immense challenges they are likely to confront.

The University is taking bold steps to support such interdisciplinary thinking. Its new Columbia Climate School, established last year, is designed to serve as a hub for research and education on climate sustainability. Here a new generation of students will be trained to find creative solutions to the climate crisis. Its scholars are asking questions such as: How can communities best protect themselves from rising sea levels and intensifying storm surges, droughts, and heat waves? When extreme weather occurs, what segments of society are most vulnerable? And what types of public policies and ethical principles are needed to ensure fair and equitable adaptation strategies? At the same time, Columbia engineers, physicists, chemists, data scientists, and others are working with entrepreneurs to develop the new technologies that are urgently needed to scale up renewable-energy systems and curb emissions.

“The challenges that we’re facing with climate change are so huge, and so incredibly complex, that we need to bring people together from across the entire University to tackle them,” says Alex Halliday, the founding dean of the Columbia Climate School and the director of the Earth Institute. “Success will mean bringing the resources, knowledge, and capacity of Columbia to the rest of the world and guiding society toward a more sustainable future.”

For climate scientists who have been at the forefront of efforts to document the effects of fossil-fuel emissions on our planet, the shift toward helping people adapt to climate change presents new scientific challenges, as well as the opportunity to translate years of basic research into practical, real-world solutions.

“A lot of climate research has traditionally looked at how the earth’s climate system operates at a global scale and predicted how a given amount of greenhouse-gas emissions will affect global temperatures,” says Adam Sobel, a Columbia applied physicist, mathematician, and climate scientist. “The more urgent questions we face now involve how climate hazards vary across the planet, at local or regional scales, and how those variations translate into specific risks to human society. We also need to learn to communicate climate risks in ways that can facilitate actions to reduce them. This is where climate scientists need to focus more of our energy now, if we’re to maximize the social value of our work.”

A firefighter battles the Caldor Fire in Grizzly Flats, California in 2021
A firefighter battles the Caldor Fire in Grizzly Flats, California, last summer. (Fred Greaves / Reuters)
2. Big data will enable us to predict extreme weather

Just a few years ago, scientists couldn’t say with any confidence how climate change was affecting storms, floods, droughts, and other extreme weather around the world. But now, armed with unprecedented amounts of real-time and historical weather data, powerful new supercomputers, and a rapidly evolving understanding of how different parts of our climate system interact, researchers are routinely spotting the fingerprints of global warming on our weather.

“Of course, no individual weather event can be attributed solely to climate change, because weather systems are highly dynamic and subject to natural variability,” says Sobel, who studies global warming’s impact on extreme weather. “But data analysis clearly shows that global warming is tilting the scales of nature in a way that is increasing both the frequency and intensity of certain types of events, including heat waves, droughts, and floods.”

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the total number of major weather-related disasters to hit the world annually has increased five-fold since the 1970s. In 2021, the US alone endured eighteen weather-related disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damages. Those included Hurricanes Ida and Nicholas; tropical storms Fred and Elsa; a series of thunderstorms that devastated broad swaths of the Midwest; floods that overwhelmed the coasts of Texas and Louisiana; and a patchwork of wildfires that destroyed parts of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Arizona. In 2020, twenty-two $1 billion events struck this country — the most ever.

“The pace and magnitude of the weather disasters we’ve seen over the past couple of years are just bonkers,” says Sobel, who studies the atmospheric dynamics behind hurricanes. (He notes that while hurricanes are growing stronger as a result of climate change, scientists are not yet sure if they are becoming more common.) “Everybody I know who studies this stuff is absolutely stunned by it. When non-scientists ask me what I think about the weather these days, I say, ‘If it makes you worried for the future, it should, because the long-term trend is terrifying.’”

The increasing ferocity of our weather, scientists say, is partly attributable to the fact that warmer air can hold more moisture. This means that more water is evaporating off oceans, lakes, and rivers and accumulating in the sky, resulting in heavier rainstorms. And since hot air also wicks moisture out of soil and vegetation, regions that tend to receive less rainfall, like the American West, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, are increasingly prone to drought and all its attendant risks. “Climate change is generally making wet areas wetter and dry regions drier,” Sobel says.

Rescue workers helping a flood victim in China’s Henan Province in July 2021
Flooding killed at least three hundred people in China’s Henan Province in July. (Cai Yang / Xinhua via Getty Images)

But global warming is also altering the earth’s climate system in more profound ways. Columbia glaciologist Marco Tedesco, among others, has found evidence that rising temperatures in the Arctic are weakening the North Atlantic jet stream, a band of westerly winds that influence much of the Northern Hemisphere’s weather. These winds are produced when cold air from the Arctic clashes with warm air coming up from the tropics. But because the Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the world, the temperature differential between these air flows is diminishing and causing the jet stream to slow down and follow a more wobbly path. As a result, scientists have discovered, storm systems and pockets of hot or cold air that would ordinarily be pushed along quickly by the jet stream are now sometimes hovering over particular locations for days, amplifying their impact. Experts say that the jet stream’s new snail-like pace may explain why a heavy rainstorm parked itself over Zhengzhou, China, for three days last July, dumping an entire year’s worth of precipitation, and why a heat wave that same month brought 120-degree temperatures and killed an estimated 1,400 people in the northwestern US and western Canada.

Many Columbia scientists are pursuing research projects aimed at helping communities prepare for floods, droughts, heat waves, and other threats. Sobel and his colleagues, for example, have been using their knowledge of hurricane dynamics to develop an open-source computer-based risk-assessment model that could help policymakers in coastal cities from New Orleans to Mumbai assess their vulnerability to cyclones as sea levels rise and storms grow stronger. “The goal is to create analytic tools that will reveal how much wind and flood damage would likely occur under different future climate scenarios, as well as the human and economic toll,” says Sobel, whose team has sought input from public-health researchers, urban planners, disaster-management specialists, and civil engineers and is currently collaborating with insurance companies as well as the World Bank, the International Red Cross, and the UN Capital Development Fund. “Few coastal cities have high-quality information of this type, which is necessary for making rational adaptation decisions.”

Radley Horton ’07GSAS, another Columbia climatologist who studies weather extremes; Christian Braneon, a Columbia civil engineer and climate scientist; and Kim Knowlton ’05PH and Thomas Matte, Columbia public-health researchers, are members of the New York City Panel on Climate Change, a scientific advisory body that is helping local officials prepare for increased flooding, temperature spikes, and other climate hazards. New York City has acted decisively to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in part by drawing on the expertise of scientists from Columbia and other local institutions, and its city council recently passed a law requiring municipal agencies to develop a comprehensive long-term plan to protect all neighborhoods against climate threats. The legislation encourages the use of natural measures, like wetland restoration and expansion, to defend against rising sea levels. “There’s a growing emphasis on attending to issues of racial justice as the city develops its adaptation strategies,” says Horton. “In part, that means identifying communities that are most vulnerable to climate impacts because of where they’re located or because they lack resources. We want to make sure that everybody is a part of the resilience conversation and has input about what their neighborhoods need.”

Horton is also conducting basic research that he hopes will inform the development of more geographically targeted climate models. For example, in a series of recent papers on the atmospheric and geographic factors that influence heat waves, he and his team discovered that warm regions located near large bodies of water have become susceptible to heat waves of surprising intensity, accompanied by dangerous humidity. His team has previously shown that in some notoriously hot parts of the world — like northern India, Bangladesh, and the Persian Gulf — the cumulative physiological impact of heat and humidity can approach the upper limits of human tolerance. “We’re talking about conditions in which a perfectly healthy person could actually die of the heat, simply by being outside for several hours, even if they’re resting and drinking plenty of water,” says Horton, explaining that when it is extremely humid, the body loses its ability to sufficiently perspire, which is how it cools itself. Now his team suspects that similarly perilous conditions could in the foreseeable future affect people who live near the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, or even the Great Lakes. “Conditions in these places probably won’t be quite as dangerous as what we’re seeing now in South Asia or the Middle East, but people who are old, sick, or working outside will certainly be at far greater risk than they are today,” Horton says. “And communities will be unprepared, which increases the danger.”

How much worse could the weather get? Over the long term, that will depend on us and how decisively we act to reduce our fossil-fuel emissions. But conditions are likely to continue to deteriorate over the next two to three decades no matter what we do, since the greenhouse gases that we have already added to the atmosphere will take years to dissipate. And the latest IPCC report states that every additional increment of warming will have a larger, more destabilizing impact. Of particular concern, the report cautions, is that in the coming years we are bound to experience many more “compound events,” such as when heat waves and droughts combine to fuel forest fires, or when coastal communities get hit by tropical storms and flooding rivers simultaneously.

“A lot of the extreme weather events that we’ve been experiencing lately are so different from anything we’ve seen that nobody saw them coming,” says Horton, who points out that climate models, which remain our best tool for projecting future climate risks, must constantly be updated with new data as real-world conditions change. “What’s happening now is that the conditions are evolving so rapidly that we’re having to work faster, with larger and more detailed data sets, to keep pace.”

Soybeans
Soybean yields in many parts of the world are expected to drop as temperatures rise. (Rory Doyle / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
3. The world’s food supply is under threat

“A warmer world could also be a hungry one, even in the rich countries,” writes the Columbia environmental economist Geoffrey Heal in his latest book, Endangered Economies: How the Neglect of Nature Threatens Our Prosperity. “A small temperature rise and a small increase in CO2 concentrations may be good for crops, but beyond a point that we will reach quickly, the productivity of our present crops will drop, possibly sharply.”

Indeed, a number of studies, including several by Columbia scientists, have found that staple crops like corn, rice, wheat, and soybeans are becoming more difficult to cultivate as the planet warms. Wolfram Schlenker, a Columbia economist who studies the impact of climate change on agriculture, has found that corn and soybean plants exposed to temperatures of 90°F or higher for just a few consecutive days will generate much less yield. Consequently, he has estimated that US output of corn and soybeans could decline by 30 to 80 percent this century, depending on how high average temperatures climb.

“This will reduce food availability and push up prices worldwide, since the US is the largest producer and exporter of these commodities,” Schlenker says.

There is also evidence that climate change is reducing the nutritional value of our food. Lewis Ziska, a Columbia professor of environmental health sciences and an expert on plant physiology, has found that as CO2 levels rise, rice plants are producing grains that contain less protein and fewer vitamins and minerals. “Plant biology is all about balance, and when crops suddenly have access to more CO2 but the same amount of soil nutrients, their chemical composition changes,” he says. “The plants look the same, and they may even grow a little bit faster, but they’re not as good for you. They’re carbon-rich and nutrient-poor.” Ziska says that the molecular changes in rice that he has observed are fairly subtle, but he expects that as CO2 levels continue to rise over the next two to three decades, the changes will become more pronounced and have a significant impact on human health. “Wheat, barley, potatoes, and carrots are also losing some of their nutritional value,” he says. “This is going to affect everybody — but especially people in developing countries who depend on grains like wheat and rice for most of their calories.”

Experts also worry that droughts, heat waves, and floods driven by climate change could destroy harvests across entire regions, causing widespread food shortages. A major UN report coauthored by Columbia climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig in 2019 described the growing threat of climate-induced hunger, identifying Africa, South America, and Asia as the areas of greatest susceptibility, in part because global warming is accelerating desertification there. Already, some eight hundred million people around the world are chronically undernourished, and that number could grow by 20 percent as a result of climate change in the coming decades, the report found.

In hopes of reversing this trend, Columbia scientists are now spearheading ambitious efforts to improve the food security of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. For example, at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), which is part of the Earth Institute, multidisciplinary teams of climatologists and social scientists are working in Ethiopia, Senegal, Colombia, Guatemala, Bangladesh, and Vietnam to minimize the types of crop losses that often occur when climate change brings more sporadic rainfall. The IRI experts, whose work is supported by Columbia World Projects, are training local meteorologists, agricultural officials, and farmers to use short-term climate-prediction systems to anticipate when an upcoming season’s growing conditions necessitate using drought-resistant or flood-resistant seeds. They can also suggest more favorable planting schedules. To date, they have helped boost crop yields in dozens of small agricultural communities.

“This is a versatile approach that we’re modeling in six nations, with the hope of rolling it out to many others,” says IRI director John Furlow. “Agriculture still dominates the economies of most developing countries, and in order to succeed despite increasingly erratic weather, farmers need to be able to integrate science into their decision-making.”

South Sudanese refugees gathering at a camp in Uganda
South Sudanese refugees gather at a camp in Uganda. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images)
4. We need to prepare for massive waves of human migration

For thousands of years,the vast majority of the human population has lived in a surprisingly narrow environmental niche, on lands that are fairly close to the equator and offer warm temperatures, ample fresh water, and fertile soils.

But now, suddenly, the environment is changing. The sun’s rays burn hotter, and rainfall is erratic. Some areas are threatened by rising sea levels, and in others the land is turning to dust, forests to kindling. What will people do in the coming years? Will they tough it out and try to adapt, or will they migrate in search of more hospitable territory?

Alex de Sherbinin, a Columbia geographer, is among the first scientists attempting to answer this question empirically. In a series of groundbreaking studies conducted with colleagues at the World Bank, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, New York University, Baruch College, and other institutions, he has concluded that enormous waves of human migration will likely occur this century unless governments act quickly to shift their economies away from fossil fuels and thereby slow the pace of global warming. His team’s latest report, published this fall and based on a comprehensive analysis of climatic, demographic, agricultural, and water-use data, predicts that up to 215 million people from Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America — mostly members of agricultural communities, but also some city dwellers on shorelines — will permanently abandon their homes as a result of droughts, crop failures, and sea-level rise by 2050.

“And that’s a conservative estimate,” says de Sherbinin, a senior research scientist at Columbia’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network. “We’re only looking at migration that will occur as the result of the gradual environmental changes occurring where people live, not massive one-time relocations that might be prompted by natural disasters like typhoons or wildfires.”

De Sherbinin and his colleagues do not predict how many climate migrants will ultimately cross international borders in search of greener pastures. Their work to date has focused on anticipating population movements within resource-poor countries in order to help governments develop strategies for preventing exoduses of their own citizens, such as by providing struggling farmers with irrigation systems or crop insurance. They also identify cities that are likely to receive large numbers of new residents from the surrounding countryside, so that local governments can prepare to accommodate them. Among the regions that will see large-scale population movements, the researchers predict, is East Africa, where millions of smallholder farmers will abandon drought-stricken lands and flock to cities like Kampala, Nairobi, and Lilongwe. Similarly, agricultural communities across Latin America, devastated by plummeting corn, bean, and coffee yields, will leave their fields and depart for urban centers. And in Southeast Asia, rice farmers and fishing families in increasingly flood-prone coastal zones like Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, home to twenty-one million people, will retreat inland.

But these migrations, if they do occur, do not necessarily need to be tragic or chaotic affairs, according to de Sherbinin. In fact, he says that with proper planning, and with input from those who are considering moving, it is even possible that large-scale relocations could be organized in ways that ultimately benefit everybody involved, offering families of subsistence farmers who would otherwise face climate-induced food shortages a new start in more fertile locations or in municipalities that offer more education, job training, health care, and other public services.

“Of course, wealthy nations should be doing more to stop climate change and to help people in developing countries adapt to environmental changes, so they have a better chance of thriving where they are,” he says. “But the international community also needs to help poorer countries prepare for these migrations. If and when large numbers of people do find that their lands are no longer habitable, there should be systems in place to help them relocate in ways that work for them, so that they’re not spontaneously fleeing droughts or floods as refugees but are choosing to safely move somewhere they want to go, to a place that’s ready to receive them.”

Man cooling off in a fire hydrant
Temperatures have become especially dangerous in inner cities as a result of the “urban heat island” effect. (Nina Westervelt / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
5. Rising temperatures are already making people sick

One of the deadliest results of climate change, and also one of the most insidious and overlooked, experts say, is the public-health threat posed by rising temperatures and extreme heat.

“Hot weather can trigger changes in the body that have both acute and chronic health consequences,” says Cecilia Sorensen, a Columbia emergency-room physician and public-health researcher. “It actually alters your blood chemistry in ways that make it prone to clotting, which can lead to heart attacks or strokes, and it promotes inflammation, which can contribute to a host of other problems.”

Exposure to severe heat, Sorensen says, has been shown to exacerbate cardiovascular disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arthritis, migraines, depression, and anxiety, among other conditions. “So if you live in a hot climate and lack access to air conditioning, or work outdoors, you’re more likely to get sick.”

By destabilizing the natural environment and our relationship to it, climate change is endangering human health in numerous ways. Researchers at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, which launched its innovative Climate and Health Program in 2010, have shown that rising temperatures are making air pollution worse, in part because smog forms faster in warmer weather and because wildfires are spewing enormous amounts of particulate matter into the atmosphere. Global warming is also contributing to food and drinking-water shortages, especially in developing countries. And it is expected to fuel transmission of dengue fever, Lyme disease, West Nile virus, and other diseases by expanding the ranges of mosquitoes and ticks. But experts say that exposure to extreme heat is one of the least understood and fastest growing threats.

“Health-care professionals often fail to notice when heat stress is behind a patient’s chief complaint,” says Sorensen, who directs the Mailman School’s Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education, an initiative launched in 2017 to encourage other schools of public health and medicine to train practitioners to recognize when environmental factors are driving patients’ health problems. “If I’m seeing someone in the ER with neurological symptoms in the middle of a heat wave, for example, I need to quickly figure out whether they’re having a cerebral stroke or a heat stroke, which itself can be fatal if you don’t cool the body down quickly. And then I need to check to see if they’re taking any medications that can cause dehydration or interfere with the body’s ability to cool itself. But these steps aren’t always taken.”

Sorensen says there is evidence to suggest that climate change, in addition to aggravating existing medical conditions, is causing new types of heat-related illnesses to emerge. She points out that tens of thousands of agricultural workers in Central America have died of an enigmatic new kidney ailment that has been dubbed Mesoamerican nephropathy or chronic kidney disease of unknown origin (CKDu), which appears to be the result of persistent heat-induced inflammation. Since CKDu was first observed among sugarcane workers in El Salvador in the 1990s, Sorensen says, it has become endemic in those parts of Central America where heat waves have grown the most ferocious.

“It’s also been spotted among rice farmers in Sri Lanka and laborers in India and Egypt,” says Sorensen, who is collaborating with physicians in Guatemala to develop an occupational-health surveillance system to spot workers who are at risk of developing CKDu. “In total, we think that at least fifty thousand people have died of this condition worldwide.”

Heat waves are now also killing hundreds of Americans each year. Particularly at risk, experts say, are people who live in dense urban neighborhoods that lack trees, open space, reflective rooftops, and other infrastructure that can help dissipate the heat absorbed by asphalt, concrete, and brick. Research has shown that temperatures in such areas can get up to 15°F hotter than in surrounding neighborhoods on summer days. The fact that these so-called “urban heat islands” are inhabited largely by Black and Latino people is now seen as a glaring racial inequity that should be redressed by investing in public-infrastructure projects that would make the neighborhoods cooler and safer.

“It isn’t a coincidence that racially segregated neighborhoods in US cities are much hotter, on average, than adjacent neighborhoods,” says Joan Casey, a Columbia epidemiologist who studies how our natural and built environments influence human health. In fact, in one recent study, Casey and several colleagues showed that urban neighborhoods that lack green space are by and large the same as those that in the 1930s and 1940s were subject to the racist practice known as redlining, in which banks and municipalities designated minority neighborhoods as off-limits for private lending and public investment. “There’s a clear link between that history of institutionalized racism and the subpar public infrastructure we see in these neighborhoods today,” she says.

Extreme heat is hardly the only environmental health hazard faced by residents of historically segregated neighborhoods. Research by Columbia scientists and others has shown that people in these areas are often exposed to dirty air, partly as a result of the large numbers of trucks and buses routed through their streets, and to toxins emanating from industrial sites. But skyrocketing temperatures are exacerbating all of these other health risks, according to Sorensen.

“A big push now among climate scientists and public-health researchers is to gather more street-by-street climate data in major cities so that we know exactly where people are at the greatest risk of heat stress and can more effectively advocate for major infrastructure upgrades in those places,” she says. “In the meantime, there are relatively small things that cities can do now to save lives in the summer — like providing people free air conditioners, opening community cooling centers, and installing more water fountains.”

Workers installing solar panels on the roof of a fish-processing plant in Zhoushan, China
Workers install solar panels on the roof of a fish-processing plant in Zhoushan, China. (Yao Feng / VCG via Getty Images)
6. We’re curbing emissions but need to act faster

Since the beginning ofthe industrial revolution, humans have caused the planet to warm 1.1°C (or about 2°F), mainly by burning coal, oil, and gas for energy. Current policies put the world on pace to increase global temperatures by about 2.6°C over pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. But to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change, we must try to limit the warming to 1.5°C, scientists say. This will require that we retool our energy systems, dramatically expanding the use of renewable resources and eliminating nearly all greenhouse-gas emissions by mid-century.

“We’ll have to build the equivalent of the world’s largest solar park every day for the next thirty years to get to net zero by 2050,” says Jason Bordoff, co-dean of the Columbia Climate School. A leading energy-policy expert, Bordoff served on the National Security Council of President Barack Obama ’83CC. “We’ll also have to ramp up global investments in clean energy R&D from about $2 trillion to $5 trillion per year,” he adds, citing research from the International Energy Agency. “The challenge is enormous.”

Over the past few years, momentum for a clean-energy transition has been accelerating. In the early 2000s, global emissions were increasing 3 percent each year. Now they are rising just 1 percent annually, on average, with some projections indicating that they will peak in the mid-2020s and then start to decline. This is the result of a variety of policies that countries have taken to wean themselves off fossil fuels. European nations, for example, have set strict limits on industrial emissions. South Africa, Chile, New Zealand, and Canada have taken significant steps to phase out coal-fired power plants. And the US and China have enacted fuel-efficiency standards and invested in the development of renewable solar, wind, and geothermal energy — which, along with hydropower, account for nearly 30 percent of all electricity production in the world.

“It’s remarkable how efficient renewables have become over the past decade,” says Bordoff, noting that the costs of solar and wind power have dropped by roughly 90 percent and 70 percent, respectively, in that time. “They’re now competing quite favorably against fossil fuels in many places, even without government subsidies.”

But in the race to create a carbon-neutral global economy, Bordoff says, the biggest hurdles are ahead of us. He points out that we currently have no affordable ways to decarbonize industries like shipping, trucking, air travel, and cement and steel production, which require immense amounts of energy that renewables cannot yet provide. “About half of all the emission reductions that we’ll need to achieve between now and 2050 must come from technologies that aren’t yet available at commercial scale,” says Bordoff.

In order to fulfill the potential of solar and wind energy, we must also improve the capacity of electrical grids to store power. “We need new types of batteries capable of storing energy for longer durations, so that it’s available even on days when it isn’t sunny or windy,” he says.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, Bordoff says, will be scaling up renewable technologies quickly enough to meet the growing demand for electricity in developing nations, which may otherwise choose to build more coal- and gas-fueled power plants. “There are large numbers of people around the world today who have almost no access to electricity, and who in the coming years are going to want to enjoy some of the basic conveniences that we often take for granted, like refrigeration, Internet access, and air conditioning,” he says. “Finding sustainable ways to meet their energy needs is a matter of equity and justice.”

Bordoff, who is co-leading the new Climate School alongside geochemist Alex Halliday, environmental geographer Ruth DeFries, and marine geologist Maureen Raymo ’89GSAS, is also the founding director of SIPA’s Center on Global Energy Policy, which supports research aimed at identifying evidence-based, actionable solutions to the world’s energy needs. With more than fifty affiliate scholars, the center has, since its creation in 2013, established itself as an intellectual powerhouse in the field of energy policy, publishing a steady stream of definitive reports on topics such as the future of coal; the potential for newer, safer forms of nuclear energy to help combat climate change; and the geopolitical ramifications of the shift away from fossil fuels. One of the center’s more influential publications, Energizing America, from 2020, provides a detailed roadmap for how the US can assert itself as an international leader in clean-energy systems by injecting more federal money into the development of technologies that could help decarbonize industries like construction, transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing. President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law in November, incorporates many of the report’s recommendations, earmarking tens of billions of dollars for scientific research in these areas.

“When we sat down to work on that project, my colleagues and I asked ourselves: If an incoming administration wanted to go really big on climate, what would it do? How much money would you need, and where exactly would you put it?” Bordoff says. “I think that’s one of our successes.”

Which isn’t to say that Bordoff considers the climate initiatives currently being pursued by the Biden administration to be sufficient to combat global warming. The vast majority of the climate-mitigation measures contained in the administration’s first two major legislative packages — the infrastructure plan and the more ambitious Build Back Better social-spending bill, which was still being debated in Congress when this magazine went to press — are designed to reward businesses and consumers for making more sustainable choices, like switching to renewable energy sources and purchasing electric vehicles. A truly transformative climate initiative, Bordoff says, would also discourage excessive use of fossil fuels. “Ideally, you’d want to put a price on emissions, such as with a carbon tax or a gasoline tax, so that the biggest emitters are forced to internalize the social costs they’re imposing on everyone else,” he says.

Bordoff is a pragmatist, though, and ever mindful of the fact that public policy is only as durable as it is popular. “I think the American people are more divided on this than we sometimes appreciate,” he says. “Support for climate action is growing in the US, but we have to be cognizant of how policy affects everyday people. There would be concern, maybe even outrage, if electric or gas bills suddenly increased. And that would make it much, much harder to gain and keep support during this transition.”

Today, researchers from across the entire University are working together to pursue a multitude of strategies that may help alleviate the climate crisis. Some are developing nanomaterials for use in ultra-efficient solar cells. Others are inventing methods to suck CO2 out of the air and pump it underground, where it will eventually turn into chalk. Bordoff gets particularly excited when describing the work of engineers at the Columbia Electrochemical Energy Center who are designing powerful new batteries to store solar and wind power. “This is a team of more than a dozen people who are the top battery experts in the world,” he says. “Not only are they developing technologies to create long-duration batteries, but they’re looking for ways to produce them without having to rely on critical minerals like cobalt and lithium, which are in short supply.”

In his own work, Bordoff has recently been exploring the geopolitical ramifications of the energy transition, with an eye toward helping policymakers navigate the shifting international power dynamics that are likely to occur as attention tilts away from fossil fuels in favor of other natural resources.

But he believes the best ideas will come from the next generation of young people, who, like the students in the Climate School’s inaugural class this year, are demanding a better future. “When I see the growing sense of urgency around the world, especially among the younger demographics, it gives me hope,” he says. “The pressure for change is building. Our climate policies don’t go far enough yet, so something is eventually going to have to give — and I don’t think it’s going to be the will and determination of the young people. Sooner or later, they’re going to help push through the more stringent policies that we need. The question is whether it will be in time.” 

Dia da Marmota: Phil prevê que frio vai continuar nos Estados Unidos (Folha de S.Paulo)

f5.folha.uol.com.br

2.fev.2019

Tradição acontece desde 1887 em pequena cidade da Pensilvânia

A marmota Phil prevê que frio vai continuar nos Estados Unidos – Alan Freed/Reuters

Na manhã desta quarta (2), a marmota Phil viu a sua própria sombra e voltou para a sua toca. Segundo a tradição americana do Dia da Marmota, o movimento do animal significa que o frio continuará por mais seis semanas nos Estados Unidos.

Se Phil não tivesse visto a própria sombra, significaria que o calor da primavera estaria a caminho.

A previsão feita pela marmota é uma tradição que acontece desde 1887, sempre no dia 2 de fevereiro, na pequena cidade de Punxsutawney, na Pensilvânia. Após uma edição virtual em 2021 por causa da pandemia, neste ano o evento reuniu milhares de pessoas.

O roedor —que é substituído e rebatizado a cada vez que um animal titular morre— acertou 50% das vezes nos últimos dez anos —ou seja, índice de acerto igual ao de uma previsão aleatória, segundo o Noaa (Centros Nacionais de Informação Ambiental, na sigla em inglês),

O evento do Dia da Marmota foi retratado na comédia “Feitiço do Tempo“, de 1993, no qual um repórter de TV, vivido por Bill Murray, fica “preso” neste dia e é obrigado a reviver a mesma data inúmeras vezes, em sequência. Com isso, Dia da Marmota passou a ser uma forma de se referir à sensação de que os dias se repetem, situação comum na pandemia.

A marmota Punxsutawney Phil é mostrada ao público após sair da sua toca. Alan Freed/Reuters

The new normal is already here. Get used to it (The Economist)

economist.com

The Economist


IS IT NEARLY over? In 2021 people have been yearning for something like stability. Even those who accepted that they would never get their old lives back hoped for a new normal. Yet as 2022 draws near, it is time to face the world’s predictable unpredictability. The pattern for the rest of the 2020s is not the familiar routine of the pre-covid years, but the turmoil and bewilderment of the pandemic era. The new normal is already here.

Remember how the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 began to transform air travel in waves. In the years that followed each fresh plot exposed an unforeseen weakness that required a new rule. First came locked cockpit doors, more armed air marshals and bans on sharp objects. Later, suspicion fell on bottles of liquid, shoes and laptops. Flying did not return to normal, nor did it establish a new routine. Instead, everything was permanently up for revision.

The world is similarly unpredictable today and the pandemic is part of the reason. For almost two years people have lived with shifting regimes of mask-wearing, tests, lockdowns, travel bans, vaccination certificates and other paperwork. As outbreaks of new cases and variants ebb and flow, so these regimes can also be expected to come and go. That is the price of living with a disease that has not yet settled into its endemic state.

And covid-19 may not be the only such infection. Although a century elapsed between the ravages of Spanish flu and the coronavirus, the next planet-conquering pathogen could strike much sooner. Germs thrive in an age of global travel and crowded cities. The proximity of people and animals will lead to the incubation of new human diseases. Such zoonoses, which tend to emerge every few years, used to be a minority interest. For the next decade, at least, you can expect each new outbreak to trigger paroxysms of precaution.

Covid has also helped bring about today’s unpredictable world indirectly, by accelerating change that was incipient. The pandemic has shown how industries can be suddenly upended by technological shifts. Remote shopping, working from home and the Zoom boom were once the future. In the time of covid they rapidly became as much of a chore as picking up the groceries or the daily commute.

Big technological shifts are nothing new. But instead of taking centuries or decades to spread around the world, as did the printing press and telegraph, new technologies become routine in a matter of years. Just 15 years ago, modern smartphones did not exist. Today more than half of the people on the planet carry one. Any boss who thinks their industry is immune to such wild dynamism is unlikely to last long.

The pandemic may also have ended the era of low global inflation that began in the 1990s and was ingrained by economic weakness after the financial crisis of 2007-09. Having failed to achieve a quick recovery then, governments spent nearly $11trn trying to ensure that the harm caused by the virus was transient.

They broadly succeeded, but fiscal stimulus and bunged-up supply chains have raised global inflation above 5%. The apparent potency of deficit spending will change how recessions are fought. As they raise interest rates to deal with inflation, central banks may find themselves in conflict with indebted governments. Amid a burst of innovation around cryptocoins, central-bank digital currencies and fintech, many outcomes are possible. A return to the comfortable macroeconomic orthodoxies of the 1990s is one of the least likely.

The pandemic has also soured relations between the world’s two great powers. America blames China’s secretive Communist Party for failing to contain the virus that emerged from Wuhan at the end of 2019. Some claim that it came from a Chinese laboratory there—an idea China has allowed to fester through its self-defeating resistance to open investigations. For its part, China, which has recorded fewer than 6,000 deaths, no longer bothers to hide its disdain for America, with its huge death toll. In mid-December this officially passed 800,000 (The Economist estimates the full total to be almost 1m). The contempt China and America feel for each other will heighten tensions over Taiwan, the South China Sea, human rights in Xinjiang and the control of strategic technologies.

In the case of climate change, the pandemic has served as an emblem of interdependence. Despite the best efforts to contain them, virus particles cross frontiers almost as easily as molecules of methane and carbon dioxide. Scientists from around the world showed how vaccines and medicines can save hundreds of millions of lives. However, hesitancy and the failure to share doses frustrated their plans. Likewise, in a world that is grappling with global warming, countries that have everything to gain from working together continually fall short. Even under the most optimistic scenarios, the accumulation of long-lasting greenhouse gases in the atmosphere means that extreme and unprecedented weather of the kind seen during 2021 is here to stay.

The desire to return to a more stable, predictable world may help explain a 1990s revival. You can understand the appeal of going back to a decade in which superpower competition had abruptly ended, liberal democracy was triumphant, suits were oversized, work ended when people left the office, and the internet was not yet disrupting cosy, established industries or stoking the outrage machine that has supplanted public discourse.

Events, dear boy, events

That desire is too nostalgic. It is worth notching up some of the benefits that come with today’s predictable unpredictability. Many people like to work from home. Remote services can be cheaper and more accessible. The rapid dissemination of technology could bring unimagined advances in medicine and the mitigation of global warming.

Even so, beneath it lies the unsettling idea that once a system has crossed some threshold, every nudge tends to shift it further from the old equilibrium. Many of the institutions and attitudes that brought stability in the old world look ill-suited to the new. The pandemic is like a doorway. Once you pass through, there is no going back. ■

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “The new normal”

Geoengineering: Symmetric precaution (Science)

science.org

Edward A. Parson


As alarm about climate change and calls for action intensify, solar geoengineering (SG) is seeing increased attention and controversy. Views on whether it should or will ever be used diverge, but the evidentiary basis for these views is thin. On such a high-stakes, knowledge-limited issue, one might expect strong support for research, but even research has met opposition. Opponents’ objections are grounded in valid concerns but impossible to fully address, as they are framed in ways that make rejecting research an axiom, not a conclusion based on evidence.

Supporters of SG research argue that it can inform future decisions and prepare for likely future calls for deployment. A US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report earlier this year lent thoughtful support to this view. Opponents raise well-known concerns about SG such as its imperfect climate correction, its time-scale mismatch with greenhouse gases (GHGs), and the potential to over-rely on it or use it recklessly or unjustly. They oppose research based on the same concerns, arguing that usage can never be acceptable so research is superfluous; or that sociopolitical lock-in will drive research toward deployment even if unwarranted. Both support and opposition are often implicit, embedded in debates over additional governance of SG research beyond peer review, program management, and regulatory compliance.

At present, potential SG methods and claimed benefits and harms are hypothetical, not demonstrated. The strongest objections to research invoke potential consequences that are indirect, mediated by imprudent or unjust policy decisions. Because the paths from research to these bad outcomes involve political behavior, claims that these “could” happen cannot be fully refuted. Understanding and limiting these risks require the same research and governance-building activities that opponents reject as causing the risks.

To reject an activity based on harms that might follow is to apply extreme precaution. This can be warranted when there is risk of serious, unmitigable harm and the alternative is known to be acceptable. That is not the case here. Rejecting SG research means taking the alternative trajectory of uncertain but potentially severe climate impacts, reduced by whatever emissions cuts, GHG removals, and adaptation are achieved. But these other responses needed to meet prudent climate targets carry their own risks: of falling short and suffering more severe climate change, and of collateral environmental and socioeconomic harms from deployment at the required transformative, even revolutionary, scale.

Suppressing research on SG might reduce risks from its future use, but this is not assured: Rather than preventing use in some future crisis, blocking research might make such use less informed, cruder, and more dangerous. Even if these risks are reduced, this would shift increased risks onto climate change and crash pursuit of other responses. Total climate-related risk may well increase—and be more unjustly distributed, because the largest benefits of SG appear likely to flow to the most vulnerable people and communities.

Yet the concerns that motivate opposition to research are compelling. SG use would be an unprecedented step, affecting climate response, international governance, sustainability, and global justice. Major concerns—about reckless or rivalrous use, or over-reliance weakening emissions cuts—are essential to address, even if they cannot be avoided with certainty. A few directions show promise for doing so. Research should be in public programs, in jurisdictions with cultures of public benefit and research accountability. The NASEM call for a US federal program is sound. Other national programs should be established. Research governance should be somewhat stronger than for less controversial research, including scale limits on field experiments and periodic program reassessments. Exploration of governance needs for larger-scale interventions should begin well before these are considered. Research and governance should seek broad international cooperation—promptly, but not as a precondition to national programs. Broad citizen consultations are needed on overall climate response and the role of SG. These should link to national research and governance programs but not have veto power over specific activities.

Precaution is appropriate, even necessary. But precaution cannot selectively target risks from one climate response while ignoring its linkages to other responses and risks. Suppressing SG research is likely to make the harms and injustices that opponents fear more likely, not less.

Volume 374 • Issue 6569 • 12 November 2021

Copyright © 2021 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.

Published online: 11 November 2021

‘Não há linha clara que separe ciência da pseudociência’, diz professor de Princeton (BBC News Brasil)

bbc.com


Carlos Serrano – @carliserrano

BBC News Mundo

12 dezembro 2021

Frenologia
A relação entre o conhecimento genuíno e as doutrinas marginais é mais próxima do muitos querem aceitar, diz historiador especialista em história da ciência

Terraplanistas, antivacinas, criacionistas, astrólogos, telepatas, numerólogos, homeopatas…

Para as instituições científicas, essas práticas e movimentos enquadram-se na categoria das “pseudociências”. Ou seja, doutrinas baseadas em fundamentos que seus adeptos consideram científicas e, a partir daí, criam uma corrente que se afasta do que é normalmente aceito pelo mundo acadêmico.

Mas como distinguir o que é ciência daquilo que se faz passar por ciência?

Essa tarefa é muito mais complicada do que parece, segundo Michael Gordin, professor da Universidade Princeton, nos Estados Unidos, e especialista em história da ciência. Gordin é autor do livro On the Fringe: Where Science Meets Pseudoscience (“Na Fronteira: Onde a Ciência Encontra a Pseudociência”, em tradução livre).

Seu livro detalha como operam as pseudociências e como, do seu ponto de vista, são uma consequência inevitável do progresso científico.

Em entrevista à BBC News Mundo (o serviço em espanhol da BBC), Gordin detalha a complexa relação entre o que se considera ciência verdadeira e o que ele chama de doutrinas marginais.

Michael Gordin
Michael Gordin, autor do livro “Na Fronteira: Onde a Ciência Encontra a Pseudociência” (em tradução livre do inglês)

BBC News Mundo – O senhor afirma que não existe uma linha definida separando a ciência da pseudociência, mas a ciência tem um método claro e comprovável. Esta não seria uma diferença clara com relação à pseudociência?

Michael Gordin – Acredita-se normalmente que a ciência tem um único método, mas isso não é verdade. A ciência tem muitos métodos. Os geólogos fazem seu trabalho de forma muito diferente dos físicos teóricos, e os biólogos moleculares, dos neurocientistas. Alguns cientistas trabalham no campo, observando o que acontece. Outros trabalham em laboratório, sob condições controladas. Outros fazem simulações. Ou seja, a ciência tem muitos métodos, que são heterogêneos. A ciência é dinâmica, e esse dinamismo dificulta a definição dessa linha. Podemos tomar um exemplo concreto e dizer que se trata de ciência ou de pseudociência. É fácil com um exemplo concreto.

O problema é que essa linha não é consistente e, quando você observa uma maior quantidade de casos, haverá coisas que antes eram consideradas ciência e agora são consideradas pseudociências, como a astrologia. Existem temas como a deriva dos continentes, que inicialmente era considerada uma teoria marginal e agora é uma teoria básica da geofísica.

Quase tudo o que hoje se considera pseudociência já foi ciência no passado, que foi refutada com o passar do tempo e os que continuam a apoiá-la são considerados lunáticos ou charlatães. Ou seja, a definição do que é ciência ou pseudociência é dinâmica ao longo do tempo. Esta é uma das razões da dificuldade desse julgamento.

astrología
Considerada ciência no passado, a astrologia encontra-se hoje no rol das pseudociências – ou doutrinas marginais, segundo Michael Gordin

BBC News Mundo – Mas existem coisas que não se alteram ao longo do tempo. Por exemplo, 2+2 sempre foi igual a 4. Isso quer dizer que a ciência trabalha com base em princípios que não permitem interpretações…

Gordin – Bem, isso não é necessariamente certo. Dois óvnis mais dois óvnis são quatro óvnis.

É interessante que você tenha escolhido a matemática que, de fato, não é uma ciência empírica, pois ela não se refere ao mundo exterior. É uma série de regras que usamos para determinar certas coisas.

Uma das razões pelas quais é muito complicado fazer a distinção é o fato de que as doutrinas marginais observam o que é considerado ciência estabelecida e adaptam a elas seus argumentos e suas técnicas.

Um exemplo é o “criacionismo científico”, que defende que o mundo foi criado em sete dias, 6.000 anos atrás. Existem publicações de criacionismo científico que incluem gráficos matemáticos sobre as razões de decomposição de vários isótopos, para tentar comprovar que a Terra tem apenas 6.000 anos.

Seria genial afirmar que usar a matemática e apresentar gráficos é ciência, mas a realidade é que quase todas as doutrinas marginais usam a matemática de alguma forma.

Os cientistas discordam sobre o tipo de matemática utilizada, mas existem, por exemplo, pessoas que defendem que a matemática avançada utilizada na teoria das cordas já não é científica, porque perdeu a verificação empírica. Trata-se de matemática de alto nível, feita por doutores das melhores universidades, mas existe um debate interno na ciência, entre os físicos, que discutem se ela deve ou não ser considerada ciência.

Não estou dizendo que todos devem ser criacionistas, mas, quando a mecânica quântica foi proposta pela primeira vez, algumas pessoas diziam: “isso parece muito estranho”, “ela não se atém às medições da forma em que acreditamos que funcionem” ou “isso realmente é ciência?”

Terra plana
Nos últimos anos, popularizou-se entre alguns grupos a ideia de que a Terra é plana

BBC News Mundo – Então o sr. afirma que as pseudociências ou doutrinas marginais têm algum valor?

Gordin – A questão é que muitas coisas que consideramos inovadoras provêm dos limites do conhecimento ortodoxo.

O que quero dizer são basicamente três pontos: primeiro, que não existe uma linha divisória clara; segundo, que compreender o que fica de cada lado da linha exige a compreensão do contexto; e, terceiro, que o processo normal da ciência produz doutrinas marginais.

Não podemos descartar essas doutrinas, pois elas são inevitáveis. Elas são um produto derivado da forma como as ciências funcionam.

BBC News Mundo – Isso significa que deveríamos ser mais tolerantes com as pseudociências?

Gordin – Os cientistas, como qualquer outra pessoa, têm tempo e energia limitados e não podem pesquisar tudo.

Por isso, qualquer tempo que for dedicado a refutar ou negar a legitimidade de uma doutrina marginal é tempo que deixa de ser usado para fazer ciência — e talvez nem surta resultados.

As pessoas vêm refutando o criacionismo científico há décadas. Elas trataram de desmascarar a telepatia por ainda mais tempo e ela segue rondando à nossa volta. Existem diversos tipos de ideias marginais. Algumas são muito politizadas e chegam a ser nocivas para a saúde pública ou o meio ambiente. É a estas, a meu ver, que precisamos dedicar atenção e recursos para sua eliminação ou pelo menos explicar por que elas estão erradas.

Mas não acho que outras ideias, como acreditar em óvnis, sejam especificamente perigosas. Acredito que nem mesmo o criacionismo seja tão perigoso como ser antivacinas, ou acreditar que as mudanças climáticas são uma farsa.

Devemos observar as pseudociências como algo inevitável e abordá-las de forma pragmática. Temos uma quantidade de recursos limitada e precisamos escolher quais doutrinas podem causar danos e como enfrentá-las.

Devemos simplesmente tratar de reduzir os danos que elas podem causar? Esse é o caso da vacinação obrigatória, cujo objetivo é evitar os danos, mas sem necessariamente convencer os opositores que eles estão equivocados. Devemos persuadi-los de que estão equivocados? Isso precisa ser examinado caso a caso.

Antivacuna
Existem em várias partes do mundo grupos que se opõem às vacinas contra a covid-19

BBC News Mundo – Como então devemos lidar com as pseudociências?

Gordin – Uma possibilidade é reconhecer que são pessoas interessadas na ciência.

Um terraplanista, por exemplo, é uma pessoa interessada na configuração da Terra. Significa que é alguém que teve interesse em pesquisar a natureza e, por alguma razão, seguiu a direção incorreta.

Pode-se então perguntar por que isso aconteceu. Pode-se abordar a pessoa, dizendo: “se você não acredita nesta evidência, em qual tipo de evidência você acreditaria?” ou “mostre-me suas evidências e vamos conversar”.

É algo que poderíamos fazer, mas vale a pena fazê-lo? É uma doutrina que não considero perigosa. Seria um problema se todos os governos do mundo pensassem que a Terra é plana, mas não vejo esse risco.

A versão contemporânea do terraplanismo surgiu há cerca de 15 anos. Acredito que os acadêmicos ainda não compreendem muito bem como aconteceu, nem por que aconteceu tão rápido.

Outra coisa que podemos fazer é não necessariamente persuadi-los de que estão equivocados, porque talvez eles não aceitem, mas tentar entender como esse movimento surgiu e se expandiu. Isso pode nos orientar sobre como enfrentar ameaças mais sérias.

cálculos
As pessoas que acreditam nas doutrinas marginais muitas vezes tomam elementos da ciência estabelecida para traçar suas conclusões

BBC News Mundo – Ameaças mais sérias como os antivacinas…

Gordin – As vacinas foram inventadas no século 18, sempre houve pessoas que se opusessem a elas, em parte porque todas as vacinas apresentam risco, embora seja muito baixo.

Ao longo do tempo, a forma como se lidou com a questão foi a instituição de um sistema de seguro que basicamente diz o seguinte: você precisa receber a vacina, mas se você receber e tiver maus resultados, nós compensaremos você por esses danos.

Tenho certeza de que isso ocorrerá com a vacina contra a covid, mas ainda não conhecemos todo o espectro, nem a seriedade dos danos que ela poderá causar. Mas os danos e a probabilidade de sua ocorrência parecem ser muito baixos.

Com relação aos antivacinas que acreditam, por exemplo, que a vacina contra a covid contém um chip, a única ação que pode ser tomada para o bem da saúde pública é torná-la obrigatória. Foi dessa forma que se conseguiu erradicar a pólio na maior parte do mundo, mesmo com a existência dos opositores à vacina.

BBC News Mundo – Mas torná-la obrigatória pode fazer com que alguém diga que a ciência está sendo usada com propósitos políticos ou ideológicos…

Gordin – Tenho certeza de que, se o Estado impuser uma vacina obrigatória, alguém dirá isso. Mas não se trata de ideologia. O Estado já obriga tantas coisas e já existem vacinas que são obrigatórias.

E o Estado faz todo tipo de afirmações científicas. Não é permitido o ensino do criacionismo nas escolas, por exemplo, nem a pesquisa de clonagem de seres humanos. Ou seja, o Estado já interveio muitas vezes em disputas científicas e procura fazer isso segundo o consenso científico.

BBC News Mundo – As pessoas que adotam as pseudociências o fazem com base no ceticismo, que é exatamente um dos valores fundamentais da ciência. É um paradoxo, não?

Gordin – Este é um dos motivos por que acredito que não haja uma linha divisória clara entre a ciência e a pseudociência. O ceticismo é uma ferramenta que todos nós utilizamos. A questão é sobre qual tipo de assuntos você é cético e o que pode convencê-lo de um fato específico.

No século 19, havia um grande debate se os átomos realmente existiam ou não. Hoje, praticamente nenhum cientista duvida da sua existência. É assim que a ciência funciona. O foco do ceticismo se move de um lado para outro com o passar do tempo. Quando esse ceticismo se dirige a assuntos que já foram aceitos, às vezes ocorrem problemas, mas há ocasiões em que isso é necessário.

A essência da teoria da relatividade de Einstein é que o éter — a substância através da qual as ondas de luz supostamente viajavam — não existe. Para isso, Einstein concentrou seu ceticismo em um postulado fundamental, mas o fez dizendo que poderiam ser preservados muitos outros conhecimentos que já eram considerados estabelecidos.

Portanto, o ceticismo deve ter um propósito. Se você for cético pelo simples fato de sê-lo, este é um processo que não produz avanços.

Mulher
O ceticismo é um dos princípios básicos da ciência

BBC News Mundo – É possível que, no futuro, o que hoje consideramos ciência seja descartado como pseudociência?

Gordin – No futuro, haverá muitas doutrinas que serão consideradas pseudociências, simplesmente porque existem muitas coisas que ainda não entendemos.

Existem muitas coisas que não entendemos sobre o cérebro ou o meio ambiente. No futuro, as pessoas olharão para muitas teorias e dirão que estão erradas.

Não é suficiente que uma teoria seja incorreta para que seja considerada pseudociência. É necessário que existam pessoas que acreditem que ela é correta, mesmo que o consenso afirme que se trata de um equívoco e que as instituições científicas considerem que, por alguma razão, ela é perigosa.

Como ciência tenta prever os eventos ‘cisnes negros’ (BBC News Brasil)

bbc.com


Analía Llorente

BBC News Mundo

4 outubro 2021

Cena do filme 'Cisne Negro'

O que o surgimento da internet, os ataques de 11 de setembro de 2001 e a crise econômica de 2008 têm em comum?

Foram eventos extremamente raros e surpreendentes que tiveram um forte impacto na história.

Acontecimentos deste tipo costumam ser chamados de “cisnes negros”.

Alguns argumentam que a recente pandemia de covid-19 também pode ser considerada um deles, mas nem todo mundo concorda.

A “teoria do cisne negro” foi desenvolvida pelo professor, escritor e ex-operador da bolsa libanês-americano Nassim Taleb em 2007.

E possui três componentes, como o próprio Taleb explicou em um artigo no jornal americano The New York Times no mesmo ano:

– Em primeiro lugar, é algo atípico, já que está fora do âmbito das expectativas habituais, porque nada no passado pode apontar de forma convincente para sua possibilidade.

– Em segundo lugar, tem um impacto extremo.

– Em terceiro lugar, apesar de seu status atípico, a natureza humana nos faz inventar explicações para sua ocorrência após o fato em si, tornando-o explicável e previsível.

A tese de Taleb está geralmente associada à economia, mas se aplica a qualquer área.

E uma vez que as consequências costumam ser catastróficas, é importante aceitar que a ocorrência de um evento”cisne negro” é possível — e por isso é necessário ter um plano para lidar com o mesmo.

Em suma, o “cisne negro” representa uma metáfora para algo imprevisível e muito estranho, mas não impossível.

Por que são chamados assim?

No fim do século 17, navios europeus embarcaram na aventura de explorar a Austrália.

Em 1697, enquanto navegava nas águas de um rio desconhecido no sudoeste da Austrália Ocidental, o capitão holandês Willem de Vlamingh avistou vários cisnes negros, sendo possivelmente o primeiro europeu a observá-los.

Como consequência, Vlamingh deu ao rio o nome de Zwaanenrivier (Rio dos Cisnes, em holandês) por causa do grande número de cisnes negros que havia ali.

Tratava-se de um acontecimento inesperado e novo. Até aquele momento, a ciência só havia registrado cisnes brancos.

A primeira referência conhecida ao termo “cisne negro” associado ao significado de raridade vem de uma frase do poeta romano Décimo Júnio Juvenal (60-128).

Desesperado para encontrar uma esposa com todas as “qualidades certas” da época, ele escreveu em latim que esta mulher era rara avis in terris, nigroque simillima cygno (“uma ave rara nestas terras, como um cisne negro”), detalha o dicionário de Oxford.

Porque naquela época e até cerca de 1,6 mil anos depois, para os europeus, não existiam cisnes negros.

Prevendo os ‘cisnes negros’

Um grupo de cientistas da Universidade de Stanford, nos Estados Unidos, está trabalhando para prever o imprevisível.

Ou seja, para se antecipar aos “cisnes negros” — não às aves, mas aos estranhos eventos que acontecem na história.

Embora sua análise primária tenha sido baseada em três ambientes diferentes na natureza, o método computacional que eles criaram pode ser aplicado a qualquer área, incluindo economia e política.

“Ao analisar dados de longo prazo de três ecossistemas, pudemos demonstrar que as flutuações que ocorrem em diferentes espécies biológicas são estatisticamente iguais em diferentes ecossistemas”, afirmou Samuel Bray, assistente de pesquisa no laboratório de Bo Wang, professor de bioengenharia na Universidade de Stanford.

“Isso sugere que existem certos processos universais que podemos utilizar para prever esse tipo de comportamento extremo”, acrescentou Bray, conforme publicado no site da universidade.

Para desenvolver o método de previsão, os pesquisadores procuraram sistemas biológicos que vivenciaram eventos “cisne negro” e como foram os contextos em que ocorreram.

Eles se basearam então em ecossistemas monitorados de perto por muitos anos.

Os exemplos incluíram: um estudo de oito anos do plâncton do Mar Báltico com níveis de espécies medidos duas vezes por semana; medições de carbono de um bosque da Universidade de Harvard, nos EUA, que foram coletadas a cada 30 minutos desde 1991; e medições de cracas (mariscos), algas e mexilhões na costa da Nova Zelândia, feitas mensalmente por mais de 20 anos, detalha o estudo publicado na revista científica Plos Computational Biology.

Os pesquisadores aplicaram a estas bases de dados a teoria física por trás de avalanches e terremotos que, assim como os “cisnes negros”, mostram um comportamento extremo, repentino e de curto prazo.

A partir desta análise, os especialistas desenvolveram um método para prever eventos “cisne negro” que fosse flexível entre espécies e períodos de tempo e também capaz de trabalhar com dados muito menos detalhados e mais complexos.

Posteriormente, conseguiram prever com precisão eventos extremos que ocorreram nesses sistemas.

Até agora, “os métodos se baseavam no que vimos para prever o que pode acontecer no futuro, e é por isso que não costumam identificar os eventos ‘cisne negro'”, diz Wang.

Mas este novo mecanismo é diferente, segundo o professor de Stanford, “porque parte do pressuposto de que estamos vendo apenas parte do mundo”.

“Extrapola um pouco do que falta e ajuda enormemente em termos de previsão”, acrescenta.

Então, os “cisnes negros” poderiam ser detectados em outras áreas, como finanças ou economia?

“Aplicamos nosso método às flutuações do mercado de ações e funcionou muito bem”, disse Wang à BBC News Mundo, serviço de notícias em espanhol da BBC, por e-mail.

Os pesquisadores analisaram os índices Nasdaq, Dow Jones Industrial Average e S&P 500.

“Embora a principal tendência do mercado seja o crescimento exponencial de longo prazo, as flutuações em torno dessa tendência seguem as mesmas trajetórias e escalas médias que vimos nos sistemas ecológicos”, explica.

Mas “embora as semelhanças entre as variações na bolsa e ecológicas sejam interessantes, nosso método de previsão é mais útil nos casos em que os dados são escassos e as flutuações geralmente vão além dos registros históricos (o que não é o caso do mercado de ações)”, adverte Wang.

Por isso, temos que continuar atentos para saber se o próximo “cisne negro” vai nos pegar de surpresa… ou talvez não.

What next? 22 emerging technologies to watch in 2022 (The Economist)

economist.com

[Solar radiation management is listed first. Calling it “controversial” is bad journalism. It is extremely dangerous and there is not a lot of controversy about this aspect of the thing.]

Nov 8th 2021


The astonishingly rapid development and rollout of coronavirus vaccines has been a reminder of the power of science and technology to change the world. Although vaccines based on new mRNA technology seemed to have been created almost instantly, they actually drew upon decades of research going back to the 1970s. As the saying goes in the technology industry, it takes years to create an overnight success. So what else might be about to burst into prominence? Here are 22 emerging technologies worth watching in 2022

Solar geoengineering

It sounds childishly simple. If the world is getting too hot, why not offer it some shade? The dust and ash released into the upper atmosphere by volcanoes is known to have a cooling effect: Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991 cooled the Earth by as much as 0.5°C for four years. Solar geoengineering, also known as solar radiation management, would do the same thing deliberately.

This is hugely controversial. Would it work? How would rainfall and weather patterns be affected? And wouldn’t it undermine efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions? Efforts to test the idea face fierce opposition from politicians and activists. In 2022, however, a group at Harvard University hopes to conduct a much-delayed experiment called SCoPEX. It involves launching a balloon into the stratosphere, with the aim of releasing 2kg of material (probably calcium carbonate), and then measuring how it dissipates, reacts and scatters solar energy.

Proponents argue that it is important to understand the technique, in case it is needed to buy the world more time to cut emissions. The Harvard group has established an independent advisory panel to consider the moral and political ramifications. Whether the test goes ahead or not, expect controversy.

Heat pumps

Keeping buildings warm in winter accounts for about a quarter of global energy consumption. Most heating relies on burning coal, gas or oil. If the world is to meet its climate-change targets, that will have to change. The most promising alternative is to use heat pumps—essentially, refrigerators that run in reverse.

Instead of pumping heat out of a space to cool it down, a heat pump forces heat in from the outside, warming it up. Because they merely move existing heat around, they can be highly efficient: for every kilowatt of electricity consumed, heat pumps can deliver 3kW of heat, making them cheaper to run than electric radiators. And running a heat pump backwards cools a home rather than heating it.

Gradient, based in San Francisco, is one of several companies offering a heat pump that can provide both heating and cooling. Its low-profile, saddle-bag shaped products can be mounted in windows, like existing air conditioners, and will go on sale in 2022.

Hydrogen-powered planes

Electrifying road transport is one thing. Aircraft are another matter. Batteries can only power small aircraft for short flights. But might electricity from hydrogen fuel cells, which excrete only water, do the trick? Passenger planes due to be test-flown with hydrogen fuel cells in 2022 include a two-seater being built at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. ZeroAvia, based in California, plans to complete trials of a 20-seat aircraft, and aims to have its hydrogen-propulsion system ready for certification by the end of the year. Universal Hydrogen, also of California, hopes its 40-seat plane will take off in September 2022.

Direct air capture

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes global warming. So why not suck it out using machines? Several startups are pursuing direct air capture (DAC), a technology that does just that. In 2022 Carbon Engineering, a Canadian firm, will start building the world’s biggest DAC facility in Texas, capable of capturing 1m tonnes of CO2 per year. ClimeWorks, a Swiss firm, opened a DAC plant in Iceland in 2021, which buries captured CO2 in mineral form at a rate of 4,000 tonnes a year. Global Thermostat, an American firm, has two pilot plants. DAC could be vital in the fight against climate change. The race is on to get costs down and scale the technology up.

Vertical farming

A new type of agriculture is growing. Vertical farms grow plants on trays stacked in a closed, controlled environment. Efficient LED lighting has made the process cheaper, though energy costs remain a burden. Vertical farms can be located close to customers, reducing transport costs and emissions. Water use is minimised and bugs are kept out, so no pesticides are needed.

In Britain, the Jones Food Company will open the world’s largest vertical farm, covering 13,750 square metres, in 2022. AeroFarms, an American firm, will open its largest vertical farm, in Daneville, Virginia. Other firms will be expanding, too. Nordic Harvest will enlarge its facility just outside Copenhagen and construct a new one in Stockholm. Plenty, based in California, will open a new indoor farm near Los Angeles. Vertical farms mostly grow high-value leafy greens and herbs, but some are venturing into tomatoes, peppers and berries. The challenge now is to make the economics stack up, too.

Container ships with sails

Ships produce 3% of greenhouse-gas emissions. Burning maritime bunker fuel, a dirty diesel sludge, also contributes to acid rain. None of this was a problem in the age of sail—which is why sails are making a comeback, in high-tech form, to cut costs and emissions.

In 2022 Michelin of France will equip a freighter with an inflatable sail that is expected to reduce fuel consumption by 20%. MOL, a Japanese shipping firm, plans to put a telescoping rigid sail on a ship in August 2022. Naos Design of Italy expects to equip eight ships with its pivoting and foldable hard “wing sails”. Other approaches include kites, “suction wings” that house fans, and giant, spinning cylinders called Flettner rotors. By the end of 2022 the number of big cargo ships with sails of some kind will have quadrupled to 40, according to the International Windship Association. If the European Union brings shipping into its carbon-trading scheme in 2022, as planned, that will give these unusual technologies a further push.

VR workouts

Most people do not do enough exercise. Many would like to, but lack motivation. Virtual reality (VR) headsets let people play games and burn calories in the process, as they punch or slice oncoming shapes, or squat and shimmy to dodge obstacles. VR workouts became more popular during the pandemic as lockdowns closed gyms and a powerful, low-cost headset, the Oculus Quest 2, was released. An improved model and new fitness features are coming in 2022. And Supernatural, a highly regarded VR workout app available only in North America, may be released in Europe. Could the killer app for virtual reality be physical fitness?

Vaccines for HIV and malaria

The impressive success of coronavirus vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA) heralds a golden era of vaccine development. Moderna is developing an HIV vaccine based on the same mRNA technology used in its highly effective coronavirus vaccine. It entered early-stage clinical trials in 2021 and preliminary results are expected in 2022. BioNTech, joint-developer of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, is working on an mRNA vaccine for malaria, with clinical trials expected to start in 2022. Non-mRNA vaccines for HIV and malaria, developed at the University of Oxford, are also showing promise.

3D-printed bone implants

For years, researchers have been developing techniques to create artificial organs using 3D printing of biological materials. The ultimate goal is to take a few cells from a patient and create fully functional organs for transplantation, thus doing away with long waiting-lists, testing for matches and the risk of rejection.

That goal is still some way off for fleshy organs. But bones are less tricky. Two startups, Particle3D and ADAM, hope to have 3D-printed bones available for human implantation in 2022. Both firms use calcium-based minerals to print their bones, which are made to measure based on patients’ CT scans. Particle3D’s trials in pigs and mice found that bone marrow and blood vessels grew into its implants within eight weeks. ADAM says its 3D-printed implants stimulate natural bone growth and gradually biodegrade, eventually being replaced by the patient’s bone tissue. If all goes well, researchers say 3D-printed blood vessels and heart valves are next.

Flying electric taxis

Long seen as something of a fantasy, flying taxis, or electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, as the fledgling industry calls them, are getting serious. Several firms around the world will step up test flights in 2022 with the aim of getting their aircraft certified for commercial use in the following year or two. Joby Aviation, based in California, plans to build more than a dozen of its five-seater vehicles, which have a 150-mile range. Volocopter of Germany aims to provide an air-taxi service at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Other contenders include eHang, Lilium and Vertical Aerospace. Keep an eye on the skies.

Space tourism

After a stand-out year for space tourism in 2021, as a succession of billionaire-backed efforts shot civilians into the skies, hopes are high for 2022. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic just beat Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin to the edge of space in July, with both billionaires riding in their own spacecraft on suborbital trips. In September Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, sent four passengers on a multi-day orbital cruise around the Earth.

All three firms hope to fly more tourists in 2022, which promises to be the first year in which more people go to space as paying passengers than as government employees. But Virgin Galactic is modifying its vehicle to make it stronger and safer, and it is not expected to fly again until the second half of 2022, with commercial service starting in the fourth quarter. Blue Origin plans more flights but has not said when or how many. For its part, SpaceX has done a deal to send tourists to the International Space Station. Next up? The Moon.

Delivery drones

They are taking longer than expected to get off the ground. But new rules, which came into effect in 2021, will help drone deliveries gain altitude in 2022. Manna, an Irish startup which has been delivering books, meals and medicine in County Galway, plans to expand its service in Ireland and into Britain. Wing, a sister company of Google, has been doing test deliveries in America, Australia and Finland and will expand its mall-to-home delivery service, launched in late 2021. Dronamics, a Bulgarian startup, will start using winged drones to shuttle cargo between 39 European airports. The question is: will the pace of drone deliveries pick up—or drop off?

Quieter supersonic aircraft

For half a century, scientists have wondered whether changes to the shape of a supersonic aircraft could reduce the intensity of its sonic boom. Only recently have computers become powerful enough to run the simulations needed to turn those noise-reduction theories into practice.

In 2022 NASA’s X-59 QueSST (short for “Quiet Supersonic Technology”) will make its first test flight. Crucially, that test will take place over land—specifically, Edwards Air Force Base in California. Concorde, the world’s first and only commercial supersonic airliner, was not allowed to travel faster than sound when flying over land. The X-59’s sonic boom is expected to be just one-eighth as loud as Concorde’s. At 75 perceived decibels, it will be equivalent to a distant thunderstorm—more of a sonic “thump”. If it works, NASA hopes that regulators could lift the ban on supersonic flights over land, ushering in a new era for commercial flight.

3D-printed houses

Architects often use 3D printing to create scale models of buildings. But the technology can be scaled up and used to build the real thing. Materials are squirted out of a nozzle as a foam that then hardens. Layer by layer, a house is printed—either on site, or as several pieces in a factory that are transported and assembled.

In 2022 Mighty Buildings, based in California, will complete a development of 15 eco-friendly 3D-printed homes at Rancho Mirage. And ICON, based in Texas, plans to start building a community of 100 3D-printed homes near Austin, which would be the largest development of its kind.

Sleep tech

It’s become a craze in Silicon Valley. Not content with maximising their productivity and performance during their waking hours, geeks are now optimising their sleep, too, using an array of technologies. These include rings and headbands that record and track sleep quality, soothing sound machines, devices to heat and cool mattresses, and smart alarm clocks to wake you at the perfect moment. Google launched a sleep-tracking nightstand tablet in 2021, and Amazon is expected to follow suit in 2022. It sounds crazy. But poor sleep is linked with maladies from heart disease to obesity. And what Silicon Valley does today, everyone else often ends up doing tomorrow.

Personalised nutrition

Diets don’t work. Evidence is growing that each person’s metabolism is unique, and food choices should be, too. Enter personalised nutrition: apps that tell you what to eat and when, using machine-learning algorithms, tests of your blood and gut microbiome, data on lifestyle factors such as exercise, and real-time tracking of blood-sugar levels using coin-sized devices attached to the skin. After successful launches in America, personalised-nutrition firms are eyeing other markets in 2022. Some will also seek regulatory approval as treatments for conditions such as diabetes and migraine.

Wearable health trackers

Remote medical consultations have become commonplace. That could transform the prospects for wearable health trackers such as the Fitbit or Apple Watch. They are currently used primarily as fitness trackers, measuring steps taken, running and swimming speeds, heart rates during workouts, and so forth. But the line between consumer and medical uses of such devices is now blurring, say analysts at Gartner, a consultancy.

Smart watches can already measure blood oxygenation, perform ECGs and detect atrial fibrillation. The next version of the Apple Watch, expected in 2022, may include new sensors capable of measuring levels of glucose and alcohol in the blood, along with blood pressure and body temperature. Rockley Photonics, the company supplying the sensor technology, calls its system a “clinic on the wrist”. Regulatory approval for such functions may take a while, but in the meantime doctors, not just users, will be paying more attention to data from wearables.

The metaverse

Coined in 1992 by Neal Stephenson in his novel “Snow Crash”, the word “metaverse” referred to a persistent virtual world, accessible via special goggles, where people could meet, flirt, play games, buy and sell things, and much more besides. In 2022 it refers to the fusion of video games, social networking and entertainment to create new, immersive experiences, like swimming inside your favourite song at an online concert. Games such as Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite are all stepping-stones to an emerging new medium. Facebook has renamed itself Meta to capitalise on the opportunity—and distract from its other woes.

Quantum computing

An idea that existed only on blackboards in the 1990s has grown into a multi-billion dollar contest between governments, tech giants and startups: harnessing the counter-intuitive properties of quantum physics to build a new kind of computer. For some kinds of mathematics a quantum computer could outperform any non-quantum machine that could ever be built, making quick work of calculations used in cryptography, chemistry and finance.

But when will such machines arrive? One measure of a quantum computer’s capability is its number of qubits. A Chinese team has built a computer with 66 qubits. IBM, an American firm, hopes to hit 433 qubits in 2022 and 1,000 by 2023. But existing machines have a fatal flaw: the delicate quantum states on which they depend last for just a fraction of a second. Fixing that will take years. But if existing machines can be made useful in the meantime, quantum computing could become a commercial reality much sooner than expected.

Virtual influencers

Unlike a human influencer, a virtual influencer will never be late to a photoshoot, get drunk at a party or get old. That is because virtual influencers are computer-generated characters who plug products on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

The best known is Miquela Sousa, or “Lil Miquela”, a fictitious Brazilian-American 19-year-old with 3m Instagram followers. With $15bn expected to be spent on influencer marketing in 2022, virtual influencers are proliferating. Aya Stellar—an interstellar traveller crafted by Cosmiq Universe, a marketing agency—will land on Earth in February. She has already released a song on YouTube.

Brain interfaces

In April 2021 the irrepressible entrepreneur Elon Musk excitedly tweeted that a macaque monkey was “literally playing a video game telepathically using a brain chip”. His company, Neuralink, had implanted two tiny sets of electrodes into the monkey’s brain. Signals from these electrodes, transmitted wirelessly and then decoded by a nearby computer, enabled the monkey to move the on-screen paddle in a game of Pong using thought alone.

In 2022 Neuralink hopes to test its device in humans, to enable people who are paralysed to operate a computer. Another firm, Synchron, has already received approval from American regulators to begin human trials of a similar device. Its “minimally invasive” neural prosthetic is inserted into the brain via blood vessels in the neck. As well as helping paralysed people, Synchron is also looking at other uses, such as diagnosing and treating nervous-system conditions including epilepsy, depression and hypertension.

Artificial meat and fish

Winston Churchill once mused about “the absurdity of growing a whole chicken to eat the breast or wing”. Nearly a century later, around 70 companies are “cultivating” meats in bioreactors. Cells taken from animals, without harming them, are nourished in soups rich in proteins, sugars, fats, vitamins and minerals. In 2020 Eat Just, an artificial-meat startup based in San Francisco, became the first company certified to sell its products, in Singapore.

It is expected to be joined by a handful of other firms in 2022. In the coming year an Israeli startup, SuperMeat, expects to win approval for commercial sales of cultivated chicken burgers, grown for $10 a pop—down from $2,500 in 2018, the company says. Finless Foods, based in California, hopes for approval to sell cultivated bluefin tuna, grown for $440 a kilogram—down from $660,000 in 2017. Bacon, turkey and other cultivated meats are in the pipeline. Eco-conscious meat-lovers will soon be able to have their steak—and eat it.

By the Science and technology correspondents of The Economist

This article appeared in the What next? section of the print edition of The World Ahead 2022 under the headline “What next?”

India Should Demand International, Political Oversight for Geoengineering R&D (The Wire)

thewire.in

Some ‘high-level’ scientific pronouncements have assumed stewardship of climate geoengineering in the absence of other agents. This is dangerous, as effects on the Indian monsoons will show.

Prakash Kashwan – 28/Dec/2018


Multilateral climate negotiations led by the UN have ended on disappointing notes of late. This has prompted climate scientists to weigh the pros and cons of climate geoengineering. Indian scientists, policymakers, and the public must also engage in these debates, especially given the potentially major implications of geoengineering for the monsoons in South Asia and Africa.

But while a proper scientific and technological assessment of potential risks is important, it wouldn’t be enough.

Since 2016, an academic working group (AWG) of 14 global governance experts (including the author) has deliberated on the wisdom and merits of geoengineering. In a report, we argue that we ought to develop ‘anticipatory governance mechanisms’.

While people often equate governance with top-down regulations, the AWG’s vision emphasises a combination of regulatory and voluntary strategies adopted by diverse state and non-state actors.

In the same vein, it’s also important to unpack the umbrella terminology of ‘geoengineering’. It comprises two sets of technologies with different governance implications: carbon geoengineering and solar geoengineering.

Carbon geoengineering, or carbon-dioxide removal, seeks to remove large quantities of the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. The suite of options it presents include bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). This would require planting bioenergy crops over an area up to five times the size of India by 2100. Obviously such large-scale and rapid land-use change will strain the already precarious global food security and violate the land, forest and water rights of hundreds of millions.

The second cluster of geoengineering technologies, solar geoengineering, a.k.a. solar radiation management (SRM), seeks to cool the planet by reflecting a fraction of sunlight back into space. While this could help avoid some of the more severe effects of climate change, SRM doesn’t help reduce the stock of carbon already present in the atmosphere. Scientists also caution that geoengineering may distract us from investing in emissions reduction. But we know from experience that policymakers could ignore such cautions in the policymaking process.

This means problems like air pollution and ocean acidification will continue unabated in the absence of profound climate mitigation actions. On the other hand, by altering atmospheric temperature, SRM could significantly disrupt the hydrological cycle and affect the monsoons.

Just being interested in minimising disruptions to the monsoons should encourage India to help develop international geoengineering governance.

But before we can get into into the nitty-gritty, there’s a question that must be answered. Why should the global community think about  governing climate engineering at this stage when all that exists of SRM are computer simulations of its pros and cons?

Some reasons follow:

First, the suggestion that geoengineering technologies merely fill a void left open by a “lack of political will” doesn’t capture the full array of possibilities. The IPCC Special Report on the effects on a world warming by 1.5°C includes a scenario in which the Paris Agreement’s goals are secured by 2050. This pathway banks on social, business and technological innovations, and doesn’t require resorting to radical climate responses or sacrificing improvements in basic living standards in the developing world.

On the other hand, $8 trillion’s worth of investments have already been redirected away from fossil fuel operations. These successes owe thanks to a global divestment movement led by environmental activists and student groups. (Such an outcome was thought to be politically infeasible only a few years ago.)

Second, recent research has shown that some geoengineering technologies, such as BECCS, could compete against the pursuits of more “ ecologically sound, economical, and scalable” methods (source) for enhancing natural climate sinks.

Third, despite a lot of progress in recent years, we don’t know enough to support a full assessment of the intended and unintended effects of geoengineering.

Decisions about which unresolved questions of geoengineering deserve public investment can’t be left only to  the scientists and policymakers. The community of climate engineering scientists tends to frame geoengineering in certain ways over other equally valid alternatives.

This includes considering the global average surface temperature as the central climate impact indicator and ignoring vested interests linked to capital-intensive geoengineering infrastructure. This could bias future R&D trajectories in this area.

And these priorities, together with the assessments produced by eminent scientific bodies, have contributed to the rise of a de facto form of governance. In other words, some ‘high-level’ scientific pronouncements have assumed stewardship of climate geoengineering in the absence of other agents.

Such technocratic modes of governance don’t enjoy broad-based social or political legitimacy.

Individual research groups (e.g. Harvard University’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program) have opened themselves up to public scrutiny. They don’t support commercial work on solar geoengineering and have decided not to patent technologies being developed in their labs. While this is commendable, none of this can substitute more politically legitimate arrangements.

The case of the Indian monsoons illustrates these challenges well. Various models of the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project have shown that SRM in use will likely cause the net summer monsoon precipitation to decline from 6.4% to 12.7%. (These predictions are based on average changes in atmospheric temperature, which means bigger or smaller variations could occur over different parts of India.)

So politically legitimate international governance is important to ensure global responses to climate change account for these and other domestic consequences.

As a first step, the AWG report recommends the UN secretary-general establish a high-level representative body to engage in international dialogue on various questions of governing SRM R&D, supported by a General Assembly resolution. Among other things, the mandate of this ‘World Commission’ could include debating whether, and to what end, SRM should be researched and developed and how it could fit within broader climate response strategies.

Then again, debates over solar geoengineering can’t be limited to global bodies and commissions. So the AWG also recommends the UN create a global forum for stakeholder dialogue to facilitate discussions on solar geoengineering. Such a forum could engage a variety of stakeholders, including local governments, communities, indigenous peoples and other climate-vulnerable groups, youth organisations and women’s groups. Only such a process is likely to effectively represent Indian peasants and farmers at the receiving end of a longstanding agrarian crisis.

These proposals for geoengineering governance build on various precedents. For example, from the 1990s, the World Commission on Dams demonstrated the feasibility and value of an extensive multi-level governance arrangement.

In 2018, policy experts have finally recognised  that global climate governance can’t ignore the general public’s concerns. It would be best to avoid rediscovering this wheel in the international governance domain of climate geoengineering.

Prakash Kashwan is an associate professor at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, and was a member of the AWG. The South Asia edition of his book Democracy in the Woods (2017) is due out later this month.

Also read: Geoengineering: Should India Tread Carefully or Go Full Steam Ahead?

Also read: Should We Engineer the Climate? A Social Scientist and Natural Scientist Discuss

Also read: UAE Wants to Build a ‘Rainmaking Mountain’ – Are We All Okay With That?

What to expect in year three of the pandemic (The Economist)

economist.com

New antibody and antiviral treatments, and better vaccines, are on the way

The Economist – Nov 8th 2021



IN THE WELL-VACCINATED wealthier countries of the world, year three of the pandemic will be better than year two, and covid-19 will have much less impact on health and everyday activities. Vaccines have weakened the link between cases and deaths in countries such as Britain and Israel (see chart). But in countries that are poorer, less well vaccinated or both, the deleterious effects of the virus will linger. A disparity of outcomes between rich and poor countries will emerge. The Gates Foundation, one of the world’s largest charities, predicts that average incomes will return to their pre-pandemic levels in 90% of advanced economies, compared with only a third of low- and middle-income economies.

Although the supply of vaccines surged in the last quarter of 2021, many countries will remain under-vaccinated for much of 2022, as a result of distribution difficulties and vaccine hesitancy. This will lead to higher rates of death and illness and weaker economic recoveries. The “last mile” problem of vaccine delivery will become painfully apparent as health workers carry vaccines into the planet’s poorest and most remote places. But complaints about unequal distribution will start to abate during 2022 as access to patients’ arms becomes a larger limiting factor than access to jabs. Indeed, if manufacturers do not scale back vaccine production there will be a glut by the second half of the year, predicts Airfinity, a provider of life-sciences data.

Booster jabs will be more widely used in 2022 as countries develop an understanding of when they are needed. New variants will also drive uptake, says Stanley Plotkin of the University of Pennsylvania, inventor of the rubella vaccine. Dr Plotkin says current vaccines and tweaked versions will be used as boosters, enhancing protection against variants.

The vaccination of children will also expand, in some countries to those as young as six months. Where vaccine hesitancy makes it hard for governments to reach their targets they will be inclined to make life difficult for the unvaccinated—by requiring vaccine passports to attend certain venues, and making vaccination compulsory for groups such as health-care workers.

Immunity and treatments may be widespread enough by mid-2022 to drive down case numbers and reduce the risk of new variants. At this point, the virus will become endemic in many countries. But although existing vaccines may be able to suppress the virus, new ones are needed to cut transmission.

Stephane Bancel, the boss of Moderna, a maker of vaccines based on mRNA technology, says his firm is working on a “multivalent” vaccine that will protect against more than one variant of covid-19. Beyond that he is looking at a “pan-respiratory” vaccine combining protection against multiple coronaviruses, respiratory viruses and strains of influenza.

Other innovations in covid-19 vaccines will include freeze-dried formulations of mRNA jabs, and vaccines that are given via skin patches or inhalation. Freeze-dried mRNA vaccines are easy to transport. As the supply of vaccines grows in 2022, those based on mRNA will be increasingly preferred, because they offer higher levels of protection. That will crimp the global market for less effective vaccines, such as the Chinese ones.

In rich countries there will also be greater focus on antibody treatments for people infected with covid-19. America, Britain and other countries will rely more on cocktails such as those from Regeneron or AstraZeneca.

Most promising of all are new antiviral drugs. Pfizer is already manufacturing “significant quantities” of its protease inhibitor. In America, the government has agreed to buy 1.2bn courses of an antiviral drug being developed by Merck, known as molnupiravir. This has shown its efficacy in trials, and the company has licensed it for widespread, affordable production.

There are many other antivirals in the pipeline. Antiviral drugs that can be taken in pill form, after diagnosis, are likely to become blockbusters in 2022, helping make covid-19 an ever more treatable disease. That will lead, in turn, to new concerns about unequal access and of misuse fostering resistant strains.

The greatest risk to this more optimistic outlook is the emergence of a new variant capable of evading the protection provided by existing vaccines. The coronavirus remains a formidable foe.

Natasha Loder: Health-policy editor, The Economist

This article appeared in the Science and Technology section of the print edition of The World Ahead 2022 under the headline “From pandemic to endemic”

How to think about weird things (AEON)

From discs in the sky to faces in toast, learn to weigh evidence sceptically without becoming a closed-minded naysayer

by Stephen Law

Stephen Law is a philosopher and author. He is director of philosophy at the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Oxford, and editor of Think, the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal. He researches primarily in the fields of philosophy of religion, philosophy of mind, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and essentialism. His books for a popular audience include The Philosophy Gym (2003), The Complete Philosophy Files (2000) and Believing Bullshit (2011). He lives in Oxford.

Edited by Nigel Warburton

10 NOVEMBER 2021

Many people believe in extraordinary hidden beings, including demons, angels, spirits and gods. Plenty also believe in supernatural powers, including psychic abilities, faith healing and communication with the dead. Conspiracy theories are also popular, including that the Holocaust never happened and that the terrorist attacks on the United States of 11 September 2001 were an inside job. And, of course, many trust in alternative medicines such as homeopathy, the effectiveness of which seems to run contrary to our scientific understanding of how the world actually works.

Such beliefs are widely considered to be at the ‘weird’ end of the spectrum. But, of course, just because a belief involves something weird doesn’t mean it’s not true. As science keeps reminding us, reality often is weird. Quantum mechanics and black holes are very weird indeed. So, while ghosts might be weird, that’s no reason to dismiss belief in them out of hand.

I focus here on a particular kind of ‘weird’ belief: not only are these beliefs that concern the enticingly odd, they’re also beliefs that the general public finds particularly difficult to assess.

Almost everyone agrees that, when it comes to black holes, scientists are the relevant experts, and scientific investigation is the right way to go about establishing whether or not they exist. However, when it comes to ghosts, psychic powers or conspiracy theories, we often hold wildly divergent views not only about how reasonable such beliefs are, but also about what might count as strong evidence for or against them, and who the relevant authorities are.

Take homeopathy, for example. Is it reasonable to focus only on what scientists have to say? Shouldn’t we give at least as much weight to the testimony of the many people who claim to have benefitted from homeopathic treatment? While most scientists are sceptical about psychic abilities, what of the thousands of reports from people who claim to have received insights from psychics who could only have known what they did if they really do have some sort of psychic gift? To what extent can we even trust the supposed scientific ‘experts’? Might not the scientific community itself be part of a conspiracy to hide the truth about Area 51 in Nevada, Earth’s flatness or the 9/11 terrorist attacks being an inside job?

Most of us really struggle when it comes to assessing such ‘weird’ beliefs – myself included. Of course, we have our hunches about what’s most likely to be true. But when it comes to pinning down precisely why such beliefs are or aren’t reasonable, even the most intelligent and well educated of us can quickly find ourselves out of our depth. For example, while most would pooh-pooh belief in fairies, Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the quintessentially rational detective Sherlock Holmes, actually believed in them and wrote a book presenting what he thought was compelling evidence for their existence.

When it comes to weird beliefs, it’s important we avoid being closed-minded naysayers with our fingers in our ears, but it’s also crucial that we avoid being credulous fools. We want, as far as possible, to be reasonable.

I’m a philosopher who has spent a great deal of time thinking about the reasonableness of such ‘weird’ beliefs. Here I present five key pieces of advice that I hope will help you figure out for yourself what is and isn’t reasonable.

Let’s begin with an illustration of the kind of case that can so spectacularly divide opinion. In 1976, six workers reported a UFO over the site of a nuclear plant being constructed near the town of Apex, North Carolina. A security guard then reported a ‘strange object’. The police officer Ross Denson drove over to investigate and saw what he described as something ‘half the size of the Moon’ hanging over the plant. The police also took a call from local air traffic control about an unidentified blip on their radar.

The next night, the UFO appeared again. The deputy sheriff described ‘a large lighted object’. An auxiliary officer reported five lighted objects that appeared to be burning and about 20 times the size of a passing plane. The county magistrate described a rectangular football-field-sized object that looked like it was on fire.

Finally, the press got interested. Reporters from the Star newspaper drove over to investigate. They too saw the UFO. But when they tried to drive nearer, they discovered that, weirdly, no matter how fast they drove, they couldn’t get any closer.

This report, drawn from Philip J Klass’s book UFOs: The Public Deceived (1983), is impressive: it involves multiple eyewitnesses, including police officers, journalists and even a magistrate. Their testimony is even backed up by hard evidence – that radar blip.

Surely, many would say, given all this evidence, it’s reasonable to believe there was at least something extraordinary floating over the site. Anyone who failed to believe at least that much would be excessively sceptical – one of those perpetual naysayers whose kneejerk reaction, no matter how strong the evidence, is always to pooh-pooh.

What’s most likely to be true: that there really was something extraordinary hanging over the power plant, or that the various eyewitnesses had somehow been deceived? Before we answer, here’s my first piece of advice.NEED TO KNOWTHINK IT THROUGHKEY POINTSWHY IT MATTERSLINKS & BOOKS

Think it through

1. Expect unexplained false sightings and huge coincidences

Our UFO story isn’t over yet. When the Star’s two-man investigative team couldn’t get any closer to the mysterious object, they eventually pulled over. The photographer took out his long lens to take a look: ‘Yep … that’s the planet Venus all right.’ It was later confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt that what all the witnesses had seen was just a planet. But what about that radar blip? It was a coincidence, perhaps caused by a flock of birds or unusual weather.

What moral should we draw from this case? Not, of course, that because this UFO report turned out to have a mundane explanation, all such reports can be similarly dismissed. But notice that, had the reporters not discovered the truth, this story would likely have gone down in the annals of ufology as one of the great unexplained cases. The moral I draw is that UFO cases that have multiple eyewitnesses and even independent hard evidence (the radar blip) may well crop up occasionally anyway, even if there are no alien craft in our skies.

We tend significantly to underestimate how prone to illusion and deception we are when it comes to the wacky and weird. In particular, we have a strong tendency to overdetect agency – to think we are witnessing a person, an alien or some other sort of creature or being – where in truth there’s none.

Psychologists have developed theories to account for this tendency to overdetect agency, including that we have evolved what’s called a hyperactive agency detecting device. Had our ancestors missed an agent – a sabre-toothed tiger or a rival, say – that might well have reduced their chances of surviving and reproducing. Believing an agent is present when it’s not, on the other hand, is likely to be far less costly. Consequently, we’ve evolved to err on the side of overdetection – often seeing agency where there is none. For example, when we observe a movement or pattern we can’t understand, such as the retrograde motion of a planet in the night sky, we’re likely to think the movement is explained by some hidden agent working behind the scenes (that Mars is actually a god, say).

One example of our tendency to overdetect agency is pareidolia: our tendency to find patterns – and, in particular, faces – in random noise. Stare at passing clouds or into the embers of a fire, and it’s easy to interpret the randomly generated shapes we see as faces, often spooky ones, staring back.

And, of course, nature is occasionally going to throw up the face-like patterns just by chance. One famous illustration was produced in 1976 by the Mars probe Viking Orbiter 1. As the probe passed over the Cydonia region, it photographed what appeared to be an enormous, reptilian-looking face 800 feet high and nearly 2 miles long. Some believe this ‘face on Mars’ was a relic of an ancient Martian civilisation, a bit like the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt. A book called The Monuments of Mars: A City on the Edge of Forever (1987) even speculated about this lost civilisation. However, later photos revealed the ‘face’ to be just a hill that looks face-like when lit a certain way. Take enough photos of Mars, and some will reveal face-like features just by chance.

The fact is, we should expect huge coincidences. Millions of pieces of bread are toasted each morning. One or two will exhibit face-like patterns just by chance, even without divine intervention. One such piece of toast that was said to show the face of the Virgin Mary (how do we know what she looked like?) was sold for $28,000. We think about so many people each day that eventually we’ll think about someone, the phone will ring, and it will be them. That’s to be expected, even if we’re not psychic. Yet many put down such coincidences to supernatural powers.

2. Understand what strong evidence actually is

When is a claim strongly confirmed by a piece of evidence? The following principle appears correct (it captures part of what confirmation theorists call the Bayes factor; for more on Bayesian approaches to assessing evidence, see the link at the end):

Evidence confirms a claim to the extent that the evidence is more likely if the claim is true than if it’s false.

Here’s a simple illustration. Suppose I’m in the basement and can’t see outside. Jane walks in with a wet coat and umbrella and tells me it’s raining. That’s pretty strong evidence it’s raining. Why? Well, it is of course possible that Jane is playing a prank on me with her wet coat and brolly. But it’s far more likely she would appear with a wet coat and umbrella and tell me it’s raining if that’s true than if it’s false. In fact, given just this new evidence, it may well be reasonable for me to believe it’s raining.

Here’s another example. Sometimes whales and dolphins are found with atavistic limbs – leg-like structures – where legs would be found on land mammals. These discoveries strongly confirm the theory that whales and dolphins evolved from earlier limbed, land-dwelling species. Why? Because, while atavistic limbs aren’t probable given the truth of that theory, they’re still far more probable than they would be if whales and dolphins weren’t the descendants of such limbed creatures.

The Mars face, on the other hand, provides an example of weak or non-existent evidence. Yes, if there was an ancient Martian civilisation, then we might discover what appeared to be a huge face built on the surface of the planet. However, given pareidolia and the likelihood of face-like features being thrown up by chance, it’s about as likely that we would find such face-like features anyway, even if there were no alien civilisation. That’s why such features fail to provide strong evidence for such a civilisation.

So now consider our report of the UFO hanging over the nuclear power construction site. Are several such cases involving multiple witnesses and backed up by some hard evidence (eg, a radar blip) good evidence that there are alien craft in our skies? No. We should expect such hard-to-explain reports anyway, whether or not we’re visited by aliens. In which case, such reports are not strong evidence of alien visitors.

Being sceptical about such reports of alien craft, ghosts or fairies is not knee-jerk, fingers-in-our-ears naysaying. It’s just recognising that, though we might not be able to explain the reports, they’re likely to crop up occasionally anyway, whether or not alien visitors, ghosts or fairies actually exist. Consequently, they fail to provide strong evidence for such beings.

3. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

It was the scientist Carl Sagan who in 1980 said: ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.’ By an ‘extraordinary’ claim, Sagan appears to have meant an extraordinarily improbable claim, such as that Alice can fly by flapping her arms, or that she can move objects with her mind. On Sagan’s view, such claims require extraordinarily strong evidence before we should accept them – much stronger than the evidence required to support a far less improbable claim.

Suppose for example that Fred claims Alice visited him last night, sat on his sofa and drank a cup of tea. Ordinarily, we would just take Fred’s word for that. But suppose Fred adds that, during her visit, Alice flew around the room by flapping her arms. Of course, we’re not going to just take Fred’s word for that. It’s an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence.

If we’re starting from a very low base, probability-wise, then much more heavy lifting needs to be done by the evidence to raise the probability of the claim to a point where it might be reasonable to believe it. Clearly, Fred’s testimony about Alice flying around the room is not nearly strong enough.

Similarly, given the low prior probability of the claims that someone communicated with a dead relative, or has fairies living in their local wood, or has miraculously raised someone from the dead, or can move physical objects with their mind, we should similarly set the evidential bar much higher than we would for more mundane claims.

4. Beware accumulated anecdotes

Once we’ve formed an opinion, it can be tempting to notice only evidence that supports it and to ignore the rest. Psychologists call this tendency confirmation bias.

For example, suppose Simon claims a psychic ability to know the future. He can provide 100 examples of his predictions coming true, including one or two dramatic examples. In fact, Simon once predicted that a certain celebrity would die within 12 months, and they did!

Do these 100 examples provide us with strong evidence that Simon really does have some sort of psychic ability? Not if Simon actually made many thousands of predictions and most didn’t come true. Still, if we count only Simon’s ‘hits’ and ignore his ‘misses’, it’s easy to create the impression that he has some sort of ‘gift’.

Confirmation bias can also create the false impression that a therapy is effective. A long list of anecdotes about patients whose condition improved after a faith healing session can seem impressive. People may say: ‘Look at all this evidence! Clearly this therapy has some benefits!’ But the truth is that such accumulated anecdotes are usually largely worthless as evidence.

It’s also worth remembering that such stories are in any case often dubious. For example, they can be generated by the power of suggestion: tell people that a treatment will improve their condition, and many will report that it has, even if the treatment actually offers no genuine medical benefit.

Impressive anecdotes can also be generated by means of a little creative interpretation. Many believe that the 16th-century seer Nostradamus predicted many important historical events, from the Great Fire of London to the assassination of John F Kennedy. However, because Nostradamus’s prophecies are so vague, nobody was able to use his writings to predict any of these events before they occurred. Rather, his texts were later creatively interpreted to fit what subsequently happened. But that sort of ‘fit’ can be achieved whether Nostradamus had extraordinary abilities or not. In which case, as we saw under point 2 above, the ‘fit’ is not strong evidence of such abilities.

5. Beware ‘But it fits!’

Often, when we’re presented with strong evidence that our belief is false, we can easily change our mind. Show me I’m mistaken in believing that the Matterhorn is near Chamonix, and I’ll just drop that belief.

However, abandoning a belief isn’t always so easy. That’s particularly the case for beliefs in which we have invested a great deal emotionally, socially and/or financially. When it comes to religious and political beliefs, for example, or beliefs about the character of our close relatives, we can find it extraordinarily difficult to change our minds. Psychologists refer to the discomfort we feel in such situations – when our beliefs or attitudes are in conflict – as cognitive dissonance.

Perhaps the most obvious strategy we can employ when a belief in which we have invested a great deal is threatened is to start explaining away the evidence.

Here’s an example. Dave believes dogs are spies from the planet Venus – that dogs are Venusian imposters on Earth sending secret reports back to Venus in preparation for their imminent invasion of our planet. Dave’s friends present him with a great deal of evidence that he’s mistaken. But, given a little ingenuity, Dave finds he can always explain away that evidence:

‘Dave, dogs can’t even speak – how can they communicate with Venus?’

‘They can speak, they just hide their linguistic ability from us.’

‘But Dave, dogs don’t have transmitters by which they could relay their messages to Venus – we’ve searched their baskets: nothing there!’

‘Their transmitters are hidden in their brain!’

‘But we’ve X-rayed this dog’s brain – no transmitter!’

‘The transmitters are made from organic material indistinguishable from ordinary brain stuff.’

‘But we can’t detect any signals coming from dogs’ heads.’

‘This is advanced alien technology – beyond our ability to detect it!’

‘Look Dave, Venus can’t support dog life – it’s incredibly hot and swathed in clouds of acid.’

‘The dogs live in deep underground bunkers to protect them. Why do you think they want to leave Venus?!’

You can see how this conversation might continue ad infinitum. No matter how much evidence is presented to Dave, it’s always possible for him to cook up another explanation. And so he can continue to insist his belief is logically consistent with the evidence.

But, of course, despite the possibility of his endlessly explaining away any and all counterevidence, Dave’s belief is absurd. It’s certainly not confirmed by the available evidence about dogs. In fact, it’s powerfully disconfirmed.

The moral is: showing that your theory can be made to ‘fit’ – be consistent with – the evidence is not the same thing as showing your theory is confirmed by the evidence. However, those who hold weird beliefs often muddle consistency and confirmation.

Take young-Earth creationists, for example. They believe in the literal truth of the Biblical account of creation: that the entire Universe is under 10,000 years old, with all species being created as described in the Book of Genesis.

Polls indicate that a third or more of US citizens believe that the Universe is less than 10,000 years old. Of course, there’s a mountain of evidence against the belief. However, its proponents are adept at explaining away that evidence.

Take the fossil record embedded in sedimentary layers revealing that today’s species evolved from earlier species over many millions of years. Many young-Earth creationists explain away this record as a result of the Biblical flood, which they suppose drowned and then buried living things in huge mud deposits. The particular ordering of the fossils is supposedly accounted for by different ecological zones being submerged one after the other, starting with simple marine life. Take a look at the Answers in Genesis website developed by the Bible literalist Ken Ham, and you’ll discover how a great deal of other evidence for evolution and a billions-of-years-old Universe is similarly explained away. Ham believes that, by explaining away the evidence against young-Earth creationism in this way, he can show that his theory ‘fits’ – and so is scientifically confirmed by – that evidence:

Increasing numbers of scientists are realising that when you take the Bible as your basis and build your models of science and history upon it, all the evidence from the living animals and plants, the fossils, and the cultures fits. This confirms that the Bible really is the Word of God and can be trusted totally.
[my italics]

According to Ham, young-Earth creationists and evolutionists do the same thing: they look for ways to make the evidence fit the theory to which they have already committed themselves:

Evolutionists have their own framework … into which they try to fit the data.
[my italics]

But, of course, scientists haven’t just found ways of showing how the theory of evolution can be made consistent with the evidence. As we saw above, that theory really is strongly confirmed by the evidence.

Any theory, no matter how absurd, can, with sufficient ingenuity be made to ‘fit’ the evidence: even Dave’s theory that dogs are Venusian spies. That’s not to say it’s reasonable or well confirmed.

Of course, it’s not always unreasonable to explain away evidence. Given overwhelming evidence that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at 1 atmosphere, a single experiment that appeared to contradict that claim might reasonably be explained away as a result of some unidentified experimental error. But as we increasingly come to rely on explaining away evidence in order to try to convince ourselves of the reasonableness of our belief, we begin to drift into delusion.

Key points – How to think about weird things

  1. Expect unexplained false sightings and huge coincidences. Reports of mysterious and extraordinary hidden agents – such as angels, demons, spirits and gods – are to be expected, whether or not such beings exist. Huge coincidences – such as a piece of toast looking very face-like – are also more or less inevitable.
  2. Understand what strong evidence is. If the alleged evidence for a belief is scarcely more likely if the belief is true than if it’s false, then it’s not strong evidence.
  3. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If a claim is extraordinarily improbable – eg, the claim that Alice flew round the room by flapping her arms – much stronger evidence is required for reasonable belief than is required for belief in a more mundane claim, such as that Alice drank a cup of tea.
  4. Beware accumulated anecdotes. A large number of reports of, say, people recovering after taking an alternative medicine or visiting a faith healer is not strong evidence that such treatments actually work.
  5. Beware ‘But it fits!’ Any theory, no matter how ludicrous (even the theory that dogs are spies from Venus), can, with sufficient ingenuity, always be made logically consistent with the evidence. That’s not to say it’s confirmed by the evidence.

Why it matters

Sometimes, belief in weird things is pretty harmless. What does it matter if Mary believes there are fairies at the bottom of her garden, or Joe thinks his dead aunty visits him occasionally? What does it matter if Sally is a closed-minded naysayer when it comes to belief in psychic powers? However, many of these beliefs have serious consequences.

Clearly, people can be exploited. Grieving parents contact spiritualists who offer to put them in contact with their dead children. Peddlers of alternative medicine and faith healing charge exorbitant fees for their ‘cures’ for terminal illnesses. If some alternative medicines really work, casually dismissing them out of hand and refusing to properly consider the evidence could also cost lives.

Lives have certainly been lost. Many have died who might have been saved because they believed they should reject conventional medicine and opted for ineffective alternatives.

Huge amounts of money are often also at stake when it comes to weird beliefs. Psychic reading and astrology are huge businesses with turnovers of billions of dollars per year. Often, it’s the most desperate who will turn to such businesses for advice. Are they, in reality, throwing their money away?

Many ‘weird’ beliefs also have huge social and political implications. The former US president Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy were reported to have consulted an astrologer before making any major political decision. Conspiracy theories such as QAnon and the Sandy Hook hoax shape our current political landscape and feed extremist political thinking. Mainstream religions are often committed to miracles and gods.

In short, when it comes to belief in weird things, the stakes can be very high indeed. It matters that we don’t delude ourselves into thinking we’re being reasonable when we’re not.

The Atlantic article ‘The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain’ (2018) by Ben Yagoda provides a great introduction to thinking that can lead us astray, including confirmation bias.

The UK-based magazine The Skeptic provides some high-quality free articles on belief in weird things. Well worth a subscription.

The Skeptical Inquirer magazine in the US is also excellent, and provides some free content.

The RationalWiki portal provides many excellent articles on pseudoscience.

The British mathematician Norman Fenton, professor of risk information management at Queen Mary University of London, provides a brief online introduction to Bayesian approaches to assessing evidence.

My book Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole (2011) identifies eight tricks of the trade that can turn flaky ideas into psychological flytraps – and how to avoid them.

The textbook How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age (2019, 8th ed) by the philosophers Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn, offers step-by-step advice on sorting through reasons, evaluating evidence and judging the veracity of a claim.

The book Critical Thinking (2017) by Tom Chatfield offers a toolkit for what he calls ‘being reasonable in an unreasonable world’.

‘O movimento antivacina é também um efeito da hiperinformação’ (Nexo)

Entrevista

João Paulo Charleaux – 13 de out de 2021 (atualizado 13/10/2021 às 00h26)

Laurent-Henri Vignaud, historiador da ciência na Universidade de Bourgogne, fala ao ‘Nexo’ sobre as ideias, à direita e à esquerda, por trás do movimento antivacina nos últimos 300 anos

Homem com boné de Trump e máscara rasgada marcha contra medidas sanitárias adotadas na Holanda durante a pandemia da covid-19
Manifestante com máscara rasgada em marcha contra a imposição de um passaporte sanitário na Holanda

A resistência à vacinação é um fenômeno antigo e persistente, que encontra adeptos à esquerda e à direita – sempre nas franjas mais extremas desses setores –, e não está ligado à falta de educação, mas ao excesso de informação e à dificuldade de saber em que acreditar, de acordo com o historiador da ciência Laurent-Henri Vignaud, da Universidade de Bourgogne, na França.

O autor do livro “Antivax: Resistência às vacinas, do século 18 aos Nossos Dias” esmiuça, nesta entrevista concedida por escrito ao Nexo nesta quarta-feira (6), os argumentos dos que ainda resistem a se vacinar contra a covid-19 em todo mundo, e faz um retrospecto desse movimento antivacinal ao longo da história.

Vignaud fará uma conferência virtual sobre o tema no dia 14 de outubro, no ciclo de palestras sobre a Covid promovido pelo Consulado da França em São Paulo em parceria com a Unesco, órgão das Nações Unidas para educação e cultura, e com os Blogs de Ciência da Unicamp. A transmissão é ao vivo e os vídeos ficam disponíveis nos canais do Consulado da França na internet.

Quais são os argumentos daqueles que se opõem à vacinação? Como esses argumentos variaram nos últimos 300 anos?

Laurent-Henri Vignaud Esses argumentos são muito diversos, assim como os perfis “antivax”. Muitos têm dúvidas simples sobre a qualidade das vacinas ou sobre os conflitos de interesse de quem as promove. Outros desenvolvem teorias extremas de conspiração, dizendo que as vacinas são feitas para adoecer, para esterilizar, matar ou escravizar. No meio, há aqueles que “hesitam” por tal ou tal motivo.

Aqueles que recusam explicitamente uma ou mais vacinas – quando falamos estritamente dos “antivax” – o fazem por motivos religiosos, políticos ou alternativos e naturalistas. Há certas correntes rigorosas, em todas as religiões, que recusam a vacinação em nome de um princípio fatalista e providencialista, numa afirmação da ideia de que o homem não é senhor de seu próprio destino.

Já os que se opõem às vacinas por razões políticas atacam as leis impositivas em nome da livre disposição de seus corpos e das liberdades individuais, no discurso do “meu corpo me pertence”.

Outros, muito numerosos hoje, contestam a eficácia das vacinas e defendem outras terapias que vão desde regimes de saúde a fitoterápicos e homeopatia – o que aparece em discursos como “a imunidade natural é superior à imunidade a vacinas” e “as doenças nos fortalecem”. A maioria desses argumentos está presente desde o início da polêmica vacinal no final do século 18, mas se atualizam de maneira diferente em cada época.

Historicamente, o movimento antivacinação é de direita ou de esquerda? Isso é algo que mudou ao longo do tempo ou permanece o mesmo?

Laurent-Henri Vignaud Atualmente, as duas tendências existem: há uma postura “ecológica” antivacina que é bastante esquerdista e burguesa – um modelo muito difundido por exemplo na Califórnia entre funcionários de empresas digitais. E há uma postura “libertária” ou “confessional” antivacina, que é de direita, presente sobretudo na América, em círculos religiosos conservadores e partidários de líderes populistas como [o ex-presidente dos EUA Donald] Trump ou [o presidente do Brasil, Jair] Bolsonaro.

Em meio a um grupo, um manifestante levanta uma placa com a frase "não queremos a vacina chinesa"
Manifestante exibe cartaz contra vacina em protesto na Avenida Paulista

Historicamente, a inoculação, técnica que antecedeu as vacinas no século 18, foi promovida por filósofos como Voltaire [iluminista francês, 1694-1778] e contrariada por homens da Igreja. Portanto, podemos classificar essa oposição como uma oposição à direita. No século 19, a dureza das medidas de vacinação obrigatória levou à revolta de setores mais pobres que não podiam escapar da injeção. O vacinismo aparece aí como higiene social e o antivacinismo, como algo protagonizado por movimentos operários, feministas e de defesa dos animais, mais marcadamente à esquerda, portanto.

A Revolta da Vacina, de 1904, no Brasil, foi desencadeada por uma campanha de vacinação forçada pretendida pela jovem República, que gerou motins na classe trabalhadora. No século 20, o antivacinismo está representado à direita e à esquerda, mas quase sempre nos extremos.

O que explica por que a França, país desenvolvido, rico, cientificamente avançado, onde não faltam fontes confiáveis de informação, tenha hoje uma resistência tão elevada à vacinação, mesmo entre os profissionais de saúde?

Laurent-Henri Vignaud Esse é um fenômeno recente. A França não está isenta da tradição antivacinal. Na verdade, essa era uma tradição até bastante virulenta na época de Pasteur [século 19], a ponto de atrasar o estabelecimento de uma obrigação de vacinar contra a varíola, mas esta não é uma opinião muito difundida até o início do anos 2000.

Por exemplo, nossa primeira liga “antivax” apareceu em 1954 após a entrada em vigor da obrigação do BCG, mas, à época, os ingleses e os americanos já tinha ligas “antivax” há quase um século.

Duas pessoas estendem os braços mostrando a tela de seus celulares, com o passe sanitário instituído pelo governo, diante das mesas de um café em Paris
Clientes exibem passe sanitário em seus celulares num café de Paris

Durante a última epidemia de varíola na Bretanha em 1954-1955, na altura em que o prefeito decretou o reforço da vacinação obrigatória, mais de 90% dos habitantes concernidos já tinham sido vacinados voluntariamente.

Essa confiança foi abalada durante o debate sobre a vacina contra a hepatite B em meados da década de 1990, até porque os políticos se contradiziam sobre sua possível periculosidade. E, na crise do do influenza A em 2009, a campanha de vacinação falhou. Os franceses não acreditavam na possibilidade de uma pandemia e não entendiam por que deveriam ter sido vacinados contra uma doença na qual não viam perigo. Talvez o choque da pandemia de covid reverta essa tendência.

Como você explica o fato de que os boatos, o misticismo e a irracionalidade persistam, mesmo em uma época em que a ciência se desenvolveu tanto, mesmo em uma época em que a educação formal alcançou tantos? Essa adesão às teorias da conspiração seria uma característica humana inextinguível?

Laurent-Henri Vignaud A suspeita de riscos tecnológicos – porque a vacina é um produto manufaturado – não se alimenta da falta de informação, mas de seu transbordamento. É por sermos inundados com informações e por não podermos lidar com um décimo delas que nós duvidamos.

Quem de nós pode explicar, ainda que de forma grosseira, como funciona algo tão difundido como um telefone celular? Diante dessa superabundância de quebra-cabeças técnico-científicos e de conhecimentos que não podemos assimilar, os cidadãos 2.0 fazem seu mercado e acreditam no que querem acreditar de acordo com o que consideram ser do seu interesse.

A maioria confia em palavras de autoridade e no pouco que conseguem entender de tudo o que chega a si. Alguns ficam insatisfeitos com as respostas que lhes são dadas e passam a duvidar de tudo, chegando a imaginar universos paralelos e paranóicos. Não é, portanto, na ignorância que estas crenças se baseiam, mas sim num “ônus da prova”, que pesa cada vez mais sobre os ombros dos cidadãos contemporâneos.

Nessa “sociedade de risco”, os cidadãos contemporâneos são cada vez mais instados a assumir a responsabilidade por si próprios e julgar por si próprios o que é verdadeiro e o que é falso. Em alguns, o espírito crítico se empolga e leva a uma forma de ceticismo radical da qual o antivacinismo é um bom exemplo.

Reunião do governo com Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral irrita empresários (Painel S.A./Folha de S.Paulo)

Painel S.A.

Representante do setor de turismo afirma que governo não pode contar com a sorte

Joana Cunha – 19.out.2021 às 15h06

A recente reunião do Ministério de Minas e Energia com a entidade esotérica Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral, que diz controlar o clima, desagradou representantes do empresariado que vêm, há meses, tentando convencer o governo de que haveria benefício econômico em retomar o horário de verão para resolver o problema energético agravado pela falta de chuva.

Fabio Aguayo, diretor da CNTur, uma das entidades de turismo que defende a mudança no relógio para alongar o tempo de atendimento no comércio e nas atividades de lazer, diz que o encontro do ministério com a Cobra Coral mostra que o governo está preocupado, mas não pode contar com a sorte e esperar um dilúvio para resolver a questão energética.

Para Aguayo, o ministro Bento Albuquerque é “intransigente e cabeça dura”. Ele afirma que deve ser difícil por parte do governo admitir a volta do horário de verão porque o debate tomou um rumo ideológico comparável a cloroquina e tratamento precoce, quando deveria ser mais econômico, científico e estratégico.

O grupo pró-horário de verão iniciado por Aguayo, que tem apoio de associações de bares e restaurantes, argumenta que a medida promoveria alguma economia de energia. Também permitiria estender o funcionamento de atividades ligadas ao lazer e ajudaria os negócios mais afetados na pandemia.

“Eles estão em um momento crítico. Não podem contar com a sorte. Não podem contar com a sorte de que vai ter um dilúvio, um tsunami de chuva no Brasil. Não vai. Ficaram tão fechados nesse mundinho deles da ideologia, agora estão indo para o lado esotérico. É o que restou para eles”, afirma Aguayo.

O ministério divulgou comunicado no domingo (17) dizendo que seu encontro com a Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral não foi pedido pela pasta. ​

com Mariana Grazini e Andressa Motter

Trust in meteorology has saved lives. The same is possible for climate science. (Washington Post)

washingtonpost.com

Placing our faith in forecasting and science could save lives and money

Oliver Uberti

October 14, 2021


2021 is shaping up to be a historically busy hurricane season. And while damage and destruction have been serious, there has been one saving grace — that the National Weather Service has been mostly correct in its predictions.

Thanks to remote sensing, Gulf Coast residents knew to prepare for the “life-threatening inundation,” “urban flooding” and “potentially catastrophic wind damage” that the Weather Service predicted for Hurricane Ida. Meteorologists nailed Ida’s strength, surge and location of landfall while anticipating that a warm eddy would make her intensify too quickly to evacuate New Orleans safely. Then, as her remnants swirled northeast, reports warned of tornadoes and torrential rain. Millions took heed, and lives were saved. While many people died, their deaths resulted from failures of infrastructure and policy, not forecasting.

The long history of weather forecasting and weather mapping shows that having access to good data can help us make better choices in our own lives. Trust in meteorology has made our communities, commutes and commerce safer — and the same is possible for climate science.

Two hundred years ago, the few who studied weather deemed any atmospheric phenomenon a “meteor.” The term, referencing Aristotle’s “Meteorologica,” essentially meant “strange thing in the sky.” There were wet things (hail), windy things (tornadoes), luminous things (auroras) and fiery things (comets). In fact, the naturalist Elias Loomis, who was among the first to spot Halley’s comet upon its return in 1835, thought storms behaved as cyclically as comets. So to understand “the laws of storms,” Loomis and the era’s other leading weatherheads began gathering observations. Master the elements, they reasoned, and you could safely sail the seas, settle the American West, plant crops with confidence and ward off disease.

In 1856, Joseph Henry, the Smithsonian Institution’s first director, hung a map of the United States in the lobby of its Washington headquarters. Every morning, he would affix small colored discs to show the nation’s weather: white for places with clear skies, blue for snow, black for rain and brown for cloud cover. An arrow on each disc allowed him to note wind direction, too. For the first time, visitors could see weather across the expanding country.

Although simple by today’s standards, the map belied the effort and expense needed to select the correct colors each day. Henry persuaded telegraph companies to transmit weather reports every morning at 10. Then he equipped each station with thermometers, barometers, weathervanes and rain gauges — no small task by horse and rail, as instruments often broke in transit.

For longer-term studies of the North American climate, Henry enlisted academics, farmers and volunteers from Maine to the Caribbean. Eager to contribute, “Smithsonian observers” took readings three times a day and posted them to Washington each month. At its peak in 1860, the Smithsonian Meteorological Project had more than 500 observers. Then the Civil War broke out.

Henry’s ranks thinned by 40 percent as men traded barometers for bayonets. Severed telegraph lines and the priority of war messages crippled his network. Then in January 1865, a fire in Henry’s office landed the fatal blow to the project. All of his efforts turned to salvaging what survived. With a vacuum of leadership in Washington, citizen scientists picked up the slack.

Although the Chicago Tribune lampooned Lapham, wondering “what practical value” a warning service would provide “if it takes 10 years to calculate the progress of a storm,” Rep. Halbert E. Paine (Wis.), who had studied storms under Loomis, rushed a bill into Congress before the winter recess. In early 1870, a joint resolution establishing a storm-warning service under the U.S. Army Signal Office passed without debate. President Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law the following week.

Despite the mandate for an early-warning system, an aversion to predictions remained. Fiscal hawks could not justify an investment in erroneous forecasts, religious zealots could not stomach the hubris, and politicians wary of a skeptical public could not bear the fallout. In 1893, Agriculture Secretary J. Sterling Morton cut the salary of one of the country’s top weather scientists, Cleveland Abbe, by 25 percent, making an example out of him.

While Moore didn’t face consequences for his dereliction of duty, the Weather Bureau’s hurricane-forecasting methods gradually improved as the network expanded and technologies like radio emerged. The advent of aviation increased insight into the upper atmosphere; military research led to civilian weather radar, first deployed at Washington National Airport in 1947. By the 1950s, computers were ushering in the future of numerical forecasting. Meanwhile, public skepticism thawed as more people and businesses saw it in their best interests to trust experts.

In September 1961, a local news team decided to broadcast live from the Weather Bureau office in Galveston, Tex., as Hurricane Carla angled across the Gulf of Mexico. Leading the coverage was a young reporter named Dan Rather. “There is the eye of the hurricane right there,” he told his audience as the radar sweep brought the invisible into view. At the time, no one had seen a radar weather map televised before.

Rather realized that for viewers to comprehend the storm’s size, location and imminent danger, people needed a sense of scale. So he had a meteorologist draw the Texas coast on a transparent sheet of plastic, which Rather laid over the radarscope. Years later, he recalled that when he said “one inch equals 50 miles,” you could hear people in the studio gasp. The sight of the approaching buzz saw persuaded 350,000 Texans to evacuate their homes in what was then the largest weather-related evacuation in U.S. history. Ultimately, Carla inflicted twice as much damage as the Galveston hurricane 60 years earlier. But with the aid of Rather’s impromptu visualization, fewer than 50 lives were lost.

In other words, weather forecasting wasn’t only about good science, but about good communication and visuals.

Data visualization helped the public better understand the weather shaping their lives, and this enabled them to take action. It also gives us the power to see deadly storms not as freak occurrences, but as part of something else: a pattern.

A modified version of a chart that appears in “Atlas of the Invisible: Maps and Graphics That Will Change How You See the World.” Copyright © 2021 by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Co. All rights reserved.

Two hundred years ago, a 10-day forecast would have seemed preposterous. Now we can predict if we’ll need an umbrella tomorrow or a snowplow next week. Imagine if we planned careers, bought homes, built infrastructure and passed policy based on 50-year forecasts as routinely as we plan our weeks by five-day ones.

Unlike our predecessors of the 19th or even 20th centuries, we have access to ample climate data and data visualization that give us the knowledge to take bold actions. What we do with that knowledge is a matter of political will. It may be too late to stop the coming storm, but we still have time to board our windows.

Mudanças climáticas extremas afetam até voos de aviões (Folha de S.Paulo)

Tempestades, fumaça de incêndios e calor, que reduz a força de ascensão das aeronaves, prejudicam companhias aéreas

23.ago.2021 às 22h15

Claire Bushey, Philip Georgiadis – Financial Times

Algumas companhias de aviação e aeroportos começaram a se planejar para um futuro no qual abalos climáticos severos afetam os cronogramas de voos com mais frequência, agora que a mudança do clima está fazendo com que aumente a probabilidade de calor extremo e grandes tempestades.

Este mês, tempestades forçaram o cancelamento de mais de 300 voos no aeroporto O’Hare, de Chicago, e no aeroporto de Dalas/Fort Worth, no Texas. Em julho, oito voos foram cancelados em Denver e outros 300 sofreram atrasos devido aos incêndios florestais que atingiram a região do Pacífico Noroeste dos Estados Unidos. O calor extremo afetou decolagens em Las Vegas e no Colorado no começo deste verão [do final de junho ao final de setembro, no hemisfério norte].

As perturbações se alinham a uma tendência: cancelamentos e atrasos de voos causados pelo clima se tornaram muito mais frequentes nos Estados Unidos e na Europa durante as duas últimas décadas, demonstram dados das autoridades regulatórias. Embora seja difícil vincular qualquer tempestade ou onda de calor individual à mudança do clima, estudos científicos determinaram que elas se tornarão mais frequentes ou intensas à medida que o planeta se aquece.

A ICAO (Organização Internacional da Aviação Civil), o órgão vinculado à ONU que estabelece normas para o setor, constatou em uma pesquisa de 2019 entre seus países membros que três quartos dos respondentes afirmavam que seus setores de transporte aéreo já estavam experimentando algum impacto causado pela mudança no clima.

“É algo que absolutamente ocupa nossos pensamentos, com relação a se poderemos continuar mantendo nosso cronograma de voos, especialmente se considerarmos o crescimento que temos planejado para o futuro”, disse David Kensick, vice-presidente de operações mundiais da United Airlines. “Com a mudança no clima, estamos vendo um clima cada vez mais difícil de prever, e por isso teremos de lidar melhor com as situações criadas por ele”.

As companhias de aviação respondem por cerca de 2% das emissões mundiais de gases causadores do efeito estufa, ainda que, se outras substâncias emitidas por aviões forem consideradas, alguns estudos indiquem que seu impacto sobre o clima pode ser ainda maior.

O impacto potencial da mudança do clima sobre o setor é abrangente. Em curto prazo, as condições climáticas intensas criam dores de cabeça operacionais. Desvios forçados e cancelamentos de voos aumentam os custos de um setor que perdeu bilhões de dólares durante a pandemia.

Em prazo mais longo, as companhias de aviação acreditam que as mudanças nos padrões do clima alterarão as rotas de voo e o consumo de combustível. Provavelmente, voos entre a Europa e os Estados Unidos demorarão mais tempo, quando a “jet stream” que existe por sobre o Atlântico Norte mudar, por exemplo.

“A aviação será vítima da mudança do clima, além de ser vista, por muitas pessoas, como um dos vilões”, disse Paul Williams, professor de ciência atmosférica na Universidade de Reading, no Reino Unido.

O número de atrasos atribuídos ao mau tempo no espaço aéreo europeu subiu de 2,5 milhões em 2003 a um pico de 6,5 milhões em 2019, de acordo com dados da Eurocontrol, embora parte dessa alta possa ser atribuída ao crescimento do setor. Como proporção das causas gerais de atraso, problemas de clima subiram de 23% para 27% no mesmo período.

A proporção de voos cancelados nos Estados Unidos por conta do clima aumentou de aproximadamente 35% do total em 2004 para 54% em 2019, de acordo com a FAA (Administração Federal da Aviação) americana.

Mark Searle, diretor mundial de segurança na Associação Internacional do Transporte Aéreo (IATA), disse que as companhias de aviação haviam se adaptado ao longo dos anos à mudança do clima.

“Existe uma situação evoluindo, mas não é como se estivéssemos à beira do precipício”, ele disse. “Na verdade, nós a estamos administrando muito bem”.

Para os aeroportos, isso pode significar preparação para níveis de mar mais elevados. O novo terminal de passageiros do aeroporto de Changi, em Cingapura, foi construído apenas 5,5 metros acima do nível médio do mar. A Avinor, que opera aeroportos ao longo da costa da Noruega, determinou que todas as pistas de aterrissagem novas sejam construídas pelo menos sete metros acima do nível do mar.

No caso das companhias de aviação, será necessário recorrer à tecnologia. A American Airlines e a United Airlines melhoraram sua capacidade de prever a proximidade de relâmpagos, permitindo que o trabalho nos pátios continue por mais tempo, antes de uma tempestade que se aproxima, sem colocar em risco o pessoal de terra.

Em diversos de seus aeroportos centrais, a United Airlines, sediada em Chicago, também criou sistemas de taxiagem automática que permitem que aviões sejam conduzidos aos terminais mesmo que tempestades impeçam que agentes de rampa os orientem até os portões.

O clima severo exige pessoal adicional. As operadoras são forçadas a pagar horas extras quando seu pessoal de embarque e dos call centers enfrenta demanda adicional gerada por passageiros tentando reorganizar suas viagens. As empresas terão de calcular se compensa mais pagar o adicional por horas extras, criar turnos adicionais de trabalho ou deixar que os passageiros arquem com as consequências dos problemas.

“Haverá custo adicional de qualquer forma se –e essa é uma questão em aberto– as companhias de aviação decidirem que querem lidar com isso”, disse Jon Jager, analista da Cirium, uma empresa de pesquisa sobre aviação.

Embora os passageiros tipicamente culpem as companhias de aviação pelos problemas que encontram, as regras dos Estados Unidos, Reino Unido e União Europeia não exigem que elas indenizem os passageiros por problemas causados pelo clima. “A Mãe Natureza serve como desculpa para livrar as companhias de aviação de problemas”, disse Jager.

Perturbações surgem não só com tempestades, mas com extremos de calor. Aviões enfrentam dificuldade para decolar em temperaturas muito elevadas, porque o ar quente é menos denso, o que significa que as asas criam menos empuxo aerodinâmico. Quanto mais quente a temperatura, mais leve um avião precisa estar para decolar, especialmente em aeroportos com pistas curtas e em áreas quentes.

Williams, o cientista atmosférico, publicou um estudo no qual constata que, para um Airbus A320 decolando da ilha grega de Chios, a carga útil teve de ser reduzida em cerca de 130 quilos por ano, ao longo de três décadas –o que equivale, em linhas gerais, ao peso de um passageiro e sua bagagem.

A Iata está negociando com seus integrantes sobre a adoção de novas metas relacionadas à mudança do clima neste ano. As metas atuais do setor, adotadas em 2009, incluem reduzir à metade o nível de emissões de 2005, até 2050, e que todo crescimento seja neutro em termos de emissões de carbono, de 2020 em diante.

Mas em muitas áreas do setor, especialmente na Europa e Estados Unidos, existe uma convicção de que metas mais duras, incluindo um compromisso de zerar as emissões líquidas de poluentes, são necessárias.

“Acreditamos que provavelmente devemos ir além, e estamos trabalhando nisso”, disse Alexandre de Juniac, que está encerrando seu mandato como presidente da Iata, ao Financial Times alguns meses atrás.

Williams disse que a abordagem do setor de aviação quanto à mudança do clima parecia estar mudando.

“Historicamente, havia muita gente cética sobre a mudança do clima no setor de aviação, mas percebi uma mudança”, ele disse. “Agora o setor é muito mais honesto”.

Financial Times, tradução de Paulo Migliacci

Climate Change Brings a Flood of Hyperbole/The Climate Has a Gun (The Wall Street Journal)

wsj.com

Opinion | The Climate Has a Gun (The Wall Street Journal)

Those who dismiss risk of climate change often appeal to uncertainty, but they have it backward.

Aug. 17, 2021 1:14 pm ET 2 minutes


In “Climate Change Brings a Flood of Hyperbole” (op-ed, Aug. 11), Steven Koonin put himself in the unenviable position of playing down climate change precisely while we are experiencing unprecedented heat waves, storms, fires, droughts, and floods that exceed model-based expectations.

Mr. Koonin claims that regional projections are “meant to scare people.” But the paper he cites for support addresses the “unfolding of what may become catastrophic changes to Earth’s climate” and argues that “being able to anticipate what would otherwise be surprises in extreme weather and climate variations” requires better models. In other words, our current models cannot rule out a catastrophic future.

Model uncertainty is two-edged. If we’d been lucky, we’d be discovering that we overestimated the danger. But all indicators suggest the opposite. Those who dismiss climate risk often appeal to uncertainty, but they have it backward. Climate uncertainty is like not knowing how many shots Dirty Harry fired from his .44-caliber Magnum. Now that it’s pointed at our head, it’s dawning on us that we’ve probably miscalculated. By the time we’re sure, it’s too late. We’ve got to ask ourselves one question: Do we feel lucky? Well, do we?

Adj. Prof. Mark BosloughUniversity of New Mexico


wsj.com

Opinion | Climate Change Brings a Flood of Hyperbole (The Wall Street Journal)

Despite constant warnings of catastrophe, things aren’t anywhere near as dire as the media say.

Steven E. Koonin – Aug. 10, 2021 6:33 pm ET


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued its latest report assessing the state of the climate and projecting its future. As usual, the media and politicians are exaggerating and distorting the evidence in the report. They lament an allegedly broken climate and proclaim, yet again, that we are facing the “last, best chance” to save the planet from a hellish future. In fact, things aren’t—and won’t be—anywhere near as dire.

The new report, titled AR6, is almost 4,000 pages, written by several hundred government-nominated scientists over the past four years. It should command our attention, especially because this report will be a crucial element of the coming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Leaders from 196 countries will come together there in November, likely to adopt more-aggressive nonbinding pledges to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Previous climate-assessment reports have misrepresented scientific research in the “conclusions” presented to policy makers and the media. The summary of the most recent U.S. government climate report, for instance, said heat waves across the U.S. have become more frequent since 1960, but neglected to mention that the body of the report shows they are no more common today than they were in 1900. Knowledgeable independent scientists need to scrutinize the latest U.N. report because of the major societal and economic disruptions that would take place on the way to a “net zero” world, including the elimination of fossil-fueled electricity, transportation and heat, as well as complete transformation of agricultural methods.

It is already easy to see things in this report that you almost certainly won’t learn from the general media coverage. Most important, the model muddle continues. We are repeatedly told “the models say.” But the complicated computer models used to project future temperature, rainfall and so on remain deficient. Some models are far more sensitive to greenhouse gases than others. Many also disagree on the baseline temperature for the Earth’s surface.

The latest models also don’t reproduce the global climate of the past. The models fail to explain why rapid global warming occurred from 1910 to 1940, when human influences on the climate were less significant. The report also presents an extensive “atlas” of future regional climates based on the models. Sounds authoritative. But two experts, Tim Palmer and Bjorn Stevens, write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the lack of detail in current modeling approaches makes them “not fit” to describe regional climate. The atlas is mainly meant to scare people.

The one number you need to know about climate change (MIT Technology Review)

technologyreview.com

David Rotman – April 24, 2019

The social cost of carbon could guide us toward intellinget policies – only if we knew what it was.

In contrast to the existential angst currently in fashion around climate change, there’s a cold-eyed calculation that its advocates, mostly economists, like to call the most important number you’ve never heard of.

It’s the social cost of carbon. It reflects the global damage of emitting one ton of carbon dioxide into the sky, accounting for its impact in the form of warming temperatures and rising sea levels. Economists, who have squabbled over the right number for a decade, see it as a powerful policy tool that could bring rationality to climate decisions. It’s what we should be willing to pay to avoid emitting that one more ton of carbon.

Welcome to climate change

This story was part of our May 2019 issue

For most of us, it’s a way to grasp how much our carbon emissions will affect the world’s health, agriculture, and economy for the next several hundred years. Maximilian Auffhammer, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, describes it this way: it’s approximately the damage done by driving from San Francisco to Chicago, assuming that about a ton of carbon dioxide spits out of the tailpipe over those 2,000 miles.

Common estimates of the social cost of that ton are $40 to $50. The cost of the fuel for the journey in an average car is currently around $225. In other words, you’d pay roughly 20% more to take the social cost of the trip into account.

The number is contentious, however. A US federal working group in 2016, convened by President Barack Obama, calculated it at around $40, while the Trump administration has recently put it at $1 to $7. Some academic researchers cite numbers as high as $400 or more.

Why so wide a range? It depends on how you value future damages. And there are uncertainties over how the climate will respond to emissions. But another reason is that we actually have very little insight into just how climate change will affect us over time. Yes, we know there’ll be fiercer storms and deadly wildfires, heat waves, droughts, and floods. We know the glaciers are melting rapidly and fragile ocean ecosystems are being destroyed. But what does that mean for the livelihood or life expectancy of someone in Ames, Iowa, or Bangalore, India, or Chelyabinsk, Russia?

For the first time, vast amounts of data on the economic and social effects of climate change are becoming available, and so is the computational power to make sense of it. Taking this opportunity to compute a precise social cost of carbon could help us decide how much to invest and which problems to tackle first.

“It is the single most important number in the global economy,” says Solomon Hsiang, a climate policy expert at Berkeley. “Getting it right is incredibly important. But right now, we have almost no idea what it is.”

That could soon change.

The cost of death

In the past, calculating the social cost of carbon typically meant estimating how climate change would slow worldwide economic growth. Computer models split the world into at most a dozen or so regions and then averaged the predicted effects of climate change to get the impact on global GDP over time. It was at best a crude number.

Over the last several years, economists, data scientists, and climate scientists have worked together to create far more detailed and localized maps of impacts by examining how temperatures, sea levels, and precipitation patterns have historically affected things like mortality, crop yields, violence, and labor productivity. This data can then be plugged into increasingly sophisticated climate models to see what happens as the planet continues to warm.

The wealth of high-resolution data makes a far more precise number possible—at least in theory. Hsiang is co-director of the Climate Impact Lab, a team of some 35 scientists from institutions including the University of Chicago, Berkeley, Rutgers, and the Rhodium Group, an economic research organization. Their goal is to come up with a number by looking at about 24,000 different regions and adding together the diverse effects that each will experience over the coming hundreds of years in health, human behavior, and economic activity.

It’s a huge technical and computational challenge, and it will take a few years to come up with a single number. But along the way, the efforts to better understand localized damages are creating a nuanced and disturbing picture of our future.

So far, the researchers have found that climate change will kill far more people than once thought. Michael Greenstone, a University of Chicago economist who co-directs the Climate Impact Lab with Hsiang, says that previous mortality estimates had looked at seven wealthy cities, most in relatively cool climates. His group looked at data gleaned from 56% of the world’s population. It found that the social cost of carbon due to increased mortality alone is $30, nearly as high as the Obama administration’s estimate for the social cost of all climate impacts. An additional 9.1 million people will die every year by 2100, the group estimates, if climate change is left unchecked (assuming a global population of 12.7 billion people).

Unfairly Distributed

However, while the Climate Impact Lab’s analysis showed that 76% of the world’s population would suffer from higher mortality rates, it found that warming temperatures would actually save lives in a number of northern regions. That’s consistent with other recent research; the impacts of climate change will be remarkably uneven.

The variations are significant even within some countries. In 2017, Hsiang and his collaborators calculated climate impacts county by county in the United States. They found that every degree of warming would cut the country’s GDP by about 1.2%, but the worst-hit counties could see a drop of around 20%.

If climate change is left to run unchecked through the end of the century, the southern and southwestern US will be devastated by rising rates of mortality and crop failure. Labor productivity will slow, and energy costs (especially due to air-conditioning) will rise. In contrast, the northwestern and parts of the northeastern US will benefit.

“It is a massive restructuring of wealth,” says Hsiang. This is the most important finding of the last several years of climate economics, he adds. By examining ever smaller regions, you can see “the incredible winners and losers.” Many in the climate community have been reluctant to talk about such findings, he says. “But we have to look [the inequality] right in the eye.”

The social cost of carbon is typically calculated as a single global number. That makes sense, since the damage of a ton of carbon emitted in one place is spread throughout the world. But last year Katharine Ricke, a climate scientist at UC San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, published the social costs of carbon for specific countries to help parse out regional differences.

India is the big loser. Not only does it have a fast-growing economy that will be slowed, but it’s already a hot country that will suffer greatly from getting even hotter. “India bears a huge share of the global social cost of carbon—more than 20%,” says Ricke. It also stands out for how little it has actually contributed to the world’s carbon emissions. “It’s a serious equity issue,” she says.

Estimating the global social cost of carbon also raises a vexing question: How do you put a value on future damages? We should invest now to help our children and grandchildren avoid suffering, but how much? This is hotly and often angrily debated among economists.

A standard tool in economics is the discount rate, used to calculate how much we should invest now for a payoff years from now. The higher the discount rate, the less you value the future benefit. William Nordhaus, who won the 2018 Nobel Prize in economics for pioneering the use of models to show the macroeconomic effects of climate change, has used a discount rate of around 4%. The relatively high rate suggests we should invest conservatively now. In sharp contrast, a landmark 2006 report by British economist Nicholas Stern used a discount rate of 1.4%, concluding that we should begin investing much more heavily to slow climate change. 

There’s an ethical dimension to these calculations. Wealthy countries whose prosperity has been built on fossil fuels have an obligation to help poorer countries. The climate winners can’t abandon the losers. Likewise, we owe future generations more than just financial considerations. What’s the value of a world free from the threat of catastrophic climate events—one with healthy and thriving natural ecosystems?

Outrage

Enter the Green New Deal (GND). It’s the sweeping proposal issued earlier this year by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other US progressives to address everything from climate change to inequality. It cites the dangers of temperature increases beyond the UN goal of 1.5 °C and makes a long list of recommendations. Energy experts immediately began to bicker over its details: Is achieving 100% renewables in the next 12 years really feasible? (Probably not.) Should it include nuclear power, which many climate activists now argue is essential for reducing emissions?

In reality, the GND has little to say about actual policies and there’s barely a hint of how it will attack its grand challenges, from providing a secure retirement for all to fostering family farms to ensuring access to nature. But that’s not the point. The GND is a cry of outrage against what it calls “the twin crises of climate change and worsening income inequality.” It’s a political attempt to make climate change part of the wider discussion about social justice. And, at least from the perspective of climate policy, it’s right in arguing that we can’t tackle global warming without considering broader social and economic issues.

The work of researchers like Ricke, Hsiang, and Greenstone supports that stance. Not only do their findings show that global warming can worsen inequality and other social ills; they provide evidence that aggressive action is worth it. Last year, researchers at Stanford calculated that limiting warming to 1.5 °C would save upwards of $20 trillion worldwide by the end of the century. Again, the impacts were mixed—the GDPs of some countries would be harmed by aggressive climate action. But the conclusion was overwhelming: more than 90% of the world’s population would benefit. Moreover, the cost of keeping temperature increases limited to 1.5 °C would be dwarfed by the long-term savings.

Nevertheless, the investments will take decades to pay for themselves. Renewables and new clean technologies may lead to a boom in manufacturing and a robust economy, but the Green New Deal is wrong to paper over the financial sacrifices we’ll need to make in the near term.

That is why climate remedies are such a hard sell. We need a global policy—but, as we’re always reminded, all politics is local. Adding 20% to the cost of that San Francisco–Chicago trip might not seem like much, but try to convince a truck driver in a poor county in Florida that raising the price of fuel is wise economic policy. A much smaller increase sparked the gilets jaunes riots in France last winter. That is the dilemma, both political and ethical, that we all face with climate change.

‘How lucky do you feel?’: The awful risks buried in the IPCC report (Sydney Morning Herald)

smh.com.au

Peter Hannam

The latest landmark climate science report goes much further than previous ones in providing estimates of how bad things might get as the planet heats up, even if a lack of data may mean it underestimates the perils.

Scientists have used the seven years since the previous assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) to narrow the uncertainties around major issues, such as how much the planet will warm if we double atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

While temperatures have risen largely in lockstep with rising CO2, this IPCC report examines in much more detail the risks of so-called abrupt changes, when relatively stable systems abruptly and probably irreversibly shift to a new state.

Michael Mann, director of the Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science and one of the world’s most prominent climate researchers, says the models are not capturing all the risks as the climate heats up.

Running AMOC

Perhaps the most prominent of these threats is a possible stalling of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Also known as the Gulf Stream, it brings tropic water north from the Caribbean, keeping northern Europe much warmer than its latitude might otherwise suggest, and threatening massive disruptions if it slows or stops.

“Where the models have underestimated the impact is with projections of ice melt, the AMOC, and – I argue in my own work – the uptick on extreme weather events,” Professor Mann tells the Herald and The Age.

Stefan Rahmstorf, head of research at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, agrees that climate models have not done a good job of reproducing the so-called cold blob in the subpolar Atlantic that is forming where melting Greenland ice is cooling the subpolar Atlantic.

Breaking up: The US Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy on a research cruise in the Chukchi Sea of the Arctic Ocean.
Breaking up: The US Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy on a research cruise in the Chukchi Sea of the Arctic Ocean. Credit:AP

If they are not picking that blob up, “should we trust those models on AMOC stability?” Professor Rahmstorf asks.

The IPCC’s language, too, doesn’t necessarily convey the nature of the threat, much of which will be detailed in the second AR6 report on the impacts of climate change, scheduled for release next February.

“Like just stating the AMOC collapse by 2100 is ‘very unlikely’ – that was in a previous report – it sounds reassuring,” Professor Rahmstorf said. “Now the IPCC says they have ‘medium confidence’ that it won’t happen by 2100, whatever that means.”

West Antarctica has enough ice to raise global sea levels by more than 3 metres if it melts.
West Antarctica has enough ice to raise global sea levels by more than 3 metres if it melts.Credit:Ian Joughin

West Antarctic melt

Another potential tipping point is the possible disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Much of the sheet lies below sea level and as the Southern Ocean warms, it will melt causing it to “flow” towards the sea in a process that is expected to be self-sustaining.

This so-called marine ice sheet instability is identified in the IPCC report as likely resulting in ice mass loss under all emissions scenarios. There is also “deep uncertainty in projections for above 3 degrees of warming”, the report states.

Containing enough water to lift sea levels by 3.3 metres, it matters what happens to the ice sheet. As Andrew Mackintosh, an ice expert at Monash University, says, the understanding is limited: “We know more about the surface of Mars than the ice sheet bed under the ice.”

Permafrost not so permanent

Much has been made about the so-called “methane bomb” sitting under the permafrost in the northern hemisphere. As the Arctic has warmed at more than twice the pace of the globe overall, with heatwaves of increasing intensity and duration, it is not surprising that the IPCC has listed the release of so-called biogenic emissions from permafrost thaw as among potential tipping points.

These emissions could total up to 240 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent which, if released, would add an unwanted warming boost.

The IPCC lists as “high” the probability of such releases during this century, adding there is “high confidence” that the process is irreversible at century scales.

“In some cases abrupt changes can occur in Earth System Models but don’t on the timescales of the projections (for example, an AMOC collapse),” said Peter Cox, a Professor of Climate System Dynamics at the UK’s University of Exeter. “In other cases the processes involved are not yet routinely included in ESMs [such as] CO2 and methane release from deep permafrost.”

“In the latter cases IPCC statements are made on the basis of the few studies available, and are necessarily less definitive,” he said.

Other risks

From the Amazon rainforest to the boreal forests of Russia and Canada, there is a risk of fire and pests that could trigger dieback and transform those regions.

Australia’s bush faces an increased risk of bad fire weather days right across the continent, the IPCC notes. How droughts, heatwaves and heavy rain and other extreme events will play out at a local level is also not well understood.

Ocean acidification and marine heatwaves also mean the world’s coral reefs will be much diminished at more than 1.5 degrees of warming. “You can kiss it goodbye as we know it,” says Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate researcher at the University of NSW, said.

Global monsoons, which affect billions of people including those on the Indian subcontinent, are likely to increase their rainfall in most parts of the world, the IPCC said.

Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, said policymakers need to understand that much is riding on these tipping points not being triggered as even one or two of them would have long-lasting and significant effects. “How lucky do you feel?” Professor Pitman says.

The Biggest uncertainty

Christian Jakob, a Monash University climate researcher, said that while there remain important uncertainties, science is honing most of those risks down.

Much harder to gauge, though, is which emissions path humans are going to take. Picking between the five scenarios ranging from low to high that we are going to choose is “much larger than the uncertainty we have in the science,” Professor Jakob said.

Crise do clima afeta saúde individual com mais dias de calorão e tempo seco; entenda (Folha de S.Paulo)

Aumento das inundações também está entre mudanças previstas por painel da ONU

Phillippe Watanabe – São Paulo

14.ago.2021 às 12h00

OK, você já entendeu que a crise do clima é para valer e causada pela atividade humana, como mostrou o relatório recente do IPCC (Painel Intergovernamental de Mudança do Clima). Agora, como isso pode afetar seu dia a dia?

O impacto do aumento da temperatura média na Terra é planetário, com elevação do nível do mar e alteração de ecossistemas inteiros, entre outras mudanças.

Alterações regionais do clima, com maior frequência de eventos extremos, já são percebidas e se intensificarão nos próximos anos, com consequências diretas na saúde de todos.

No Brasil, alguns estados conviverão com mais dias de calorão, que podem ser prejudiciais à saúde a ponto de provocar a morte de idosos.

Em outros, chuvas intensas se tornarão mais recorrentes, ocasionando inundações que aumentam o risco de doenças, quando não destroem bairros e cidades.

Por fim, as secas também devem ficar mais intensas, o que pode agravar problemas respiratórios.

Além disso, tanto as chuvas intensas quanto as secas prejudicam lavouras, aumentando o preço dos alimentos.

Um exemplo prático de aumento de temperatura está no Sudeste e no Sul do Brasil. Segundo o cenário mais otimista do IPCC, até 2040 os dias com termômetros acima de 35°C passarão de 26 por ano (média de 1995 a 2014) para 32. Num cenário intermediário, até o final do século esse número pode chegar a 43, um aumento de mais de 65% em relação à situação recente.

No Centro-Oeste, o aumento do calorão é ainda mais severo. No cenário intermediário, do IPCC, a média de 53 dias por ano com termômetros acima de 35°C salta para cerca de 72 até 2040 e para 108 até o fim do século, ou pouco mais de um trimestre de temperatura extrema.

​As consequências para a saúde são graves. Ondas de calor extremo podem causar hipertermia, que afeta os órgãos internos e provoca lesões no coração, nas células musculares e nos vasos sanguíneos. São danos que podem levar à morte.

Homem empurra carrinho com frutas em rua inundada em Manaus, que enfrentou, nos últimos meses, a maior cheia já registrada do rio Negro
Homem empurra carrinho com frutas em rua inundada em Manaus, que enfrentou, nos últimos meses, a maior cheia já registrada do rio Negro – Michael Dantas/AFP

Em junho, uma onda de calor nos estados de Oregon e Washington, nos Estados Unidos, custou a vida de centenas de pessoas. Segundo reportagem do jornal The New York Times, foram registrados cerca de 600 óbitos em excesso no período.

Além do calor, a crise do clima deve tornar mais frequentes os períodos de seca e os dias sem chuva em muitas regiões. É o caso da Amazônia.

Dados do IPCC apontam que, na região Norte, no período 1995-2014 eram em média 43 dias consecutivos sem chuva por ano, que podem aumentar para 51, com períodos 10% mais secos até 2040.

Situação similar deve ocorrer no Centro-Oeste, que tinha 69 dias consecutivos sem chuva por ano, que podem ir a 76, com períodos 13% mais secos.

Períodos mais secos nessas regiões preocupam por causa das queimadas. Na Amazônia, por exemplo, a época sem chuvas é associada à intensificação de processos de desmatamento e de incêndios.

As queimadas na região amazônica têm relação com piora da qualidade do ar e consequentes problemas respiratórios. A Fiocruz e a ONG WWF-Brasil estimam que estados amazônicos com índices elevados de queimadas tenham gastado, em dez anos, quase R$ 1 bilhão com hospitalizações por doenças respiratórias provavelmente relacionadas à fumaça dos incêndios.

No ano passado, o Pantanal passou por sua pior seca dos últimos 60 anos, estiagem que ainda pode continuar por até cinco anos, segundo afirmou à época a Secretaria Nacional de Proteção e Defesa Civil. A situação fez explodir o número de queimadas na região.

O IPCC também aponta aumento da frequência e da intensidade de chuvas extremas e enchentes em diversas regiões do Brasil.

Além dos danos óbvios na infraestrutura das cidades, as inundações provocam problemas de saúde. Hepatite A (transmitida de modo oral-fecal, ou seja, por alimentos e água contaminada) e leptospirose (com transmissão a partir do contato com urina de ratos) são suspeitos conhecidos, mas há também o risco de acidentes com animais peçonhentos, já que cobras e escorpiões podem procurar abrigos dentro das casas.

Manaus tornou-se exemplo recente desse tipo de situação. A cidade enfrentou uma cheia histórica, a maior desde o início das medições, há 119 anos. As águas do rio Negro provocaram inundações com duração superior a um mês na principal capital da região amazônica. Seis das dez maiores cheias já registradas no rio ocorreram no século 21, ou seja, nas últimas duas décadas.

Ruas da região do porto de Manaus tiveram que ser interditadas e foi necessária a construção de passarelas sobre as vias alagadas. Enquanto isso, comerciantes fizeram barreiras com sacos de areia e jogaram cal na água parada para tentar neutralizar o cheiro de fezes.

Em meio à inundação em igarapés, houve acúmulo de lixo, que chegou a cobrir toda a área superficial da água. Dentro das casas, moradores usaram plataformas de madeira (chamadas de marombas) para suspender móveis e eletrodomésticos.

As enchentes não são exclusividade amazônica. Elas também ocorrem na região Sudeste, em São Paulo e Rio de Janeiro, por exemplo.

Pouco tempo depois da cheia em Manaus, a Europa também viu chuvas intensas concentradas em um curto espaço de tempo causarem inundações severas, principalmente na Alemanha. Além da destruição de vias públicas e imóveis, houve mais de uma centena de mortes.

Também no mesmo período, a China teve que lidar com grandes precipitações e perda de vidas humanas pelas inundações, que chegaram a encher de água o metrô, deixando pessoas presas. Foram as piores chuvas em 60 anos em Zhengzhou, capital da província de Henan.

Em termos globais, um estudo recente apontou o aumento da população exposta a inundações. De 2000 a 2015, de 255 milhoes a 290 milhões de pessoas foram diretamente afetadas por enchentes.

Atlas

Umas das novidades do novo relatório do IPCC é o espaço dedicado às emergências climáticas regionais e, relacionado a isso, o Atlas interativo, uma ferramenta que permite o acesso às informações do clima de diferentes regiões do mundo .

Segundo Lincoln Alves, pesquisador do Inpe (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais) e autor-líder do Atlas do IPCC, a ferramenta pretende facilitar o acesso a informações normalmente complexas. “É visível a mudança do clima”, afirma o pesquisador.

A partir do Atlas, diz Alves, é possível que comunidades, empresas e até esferas do governo consigam olhar de forma mais regional para os efeitos da crise do clima.

A ferramenta permite ver a história climática da Terra e observar as projeções para diferentes variáveis em diferentes cenários de emissões —e de aquecimento, como 1,5°C e 2°C— apontados pelo IPCC.


PRINCIPAIS CONCLUSÕES DO RELATÓRIO DO IPCC

  • Aumento de temperatura provocada pelo ser humano desde 1850-1900 até 2010-2019: de 0,8°C a 1,21°C
  • Os anos de 2016 a 2020 foram o período de cinco anos mais quentes de 1850 a 2020
  • De 2021 a 2040, um aumento de temperatura de 1,5°C é, no mínimo, provável de acontecer em qualquer cenário de emissões
  • A estabilização da temperatura na Terra pode levar de 20 a 30 anos se houver redução forte e sustentada de emissões
  • O oceano está esquentando mais rápido —inclusive em profundidades maiores do que 2.000 m— do que em qualquer período anterior, desde pelo menos a última transição glacial. É extremamente provável que as atividades humanas sejam o principal fator para isso
  • O oceano continuará a aquecer por todo o século 21 e provavelmente até 2300, mesmo em cenários de baixas emissões
  • O aquecimento de áreas profundas do oceano e o derretimento de massas de gelo tende a elevar o nível do mar, o que tende a se manter por milhares de anos
  • Nos próximos 2.000 anos, o nível médio global do mar deve aumentar 2 a 3 metros, se o aumento da temperatura ficar contido em 1,5°C. Se o aquecimento global ficar contido a 2°C, o nível deve aumentar de 2 a 6 metros. No caso de 5°C de aumento de temperatura, o mar subirá de 19 a 22 metros

The new IPCC Report includes – get this, good news (Yale Climate Connections)

Yale Climate Connections

By Dana Nuccitelli August 12, 2021

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Sixth Assessment Report, summarized nicely on these pages by Bob Henson, much of the associated media coverage carried a tone of inevitable doom.

These proclamations of unavoidable adverse outcomes center around the fact that in every scenario considered by IPCC, within the next decade average global temperatures will likely breach the aspirational goal set in the Paris climate agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures. The report also details a litany of extreme weather events like heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods, and hurricanes that will all worsen as long as global temperatures continue to rise.

While United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres rightly called the report a “code red for humanity,” tucked into it are details illustrating that if  BIG IF top-emitting countries respond to the IPCC’s alarm bells with aggressive efforts to curb carbon pollution, the worst climate outcomes remain avoidable.

The IPCC’s future climate scenarios

In the Marvel film Avengers: Infinity War, the Dr. Strange character goes forward in time to view 14,000,605 alternate futures to see all the possible outcomes of the Avengers’ coming conflict. Lacking the fictional Time Stone used in this gambit, climate scientists instead ran hundreds of simulations of several different future carbon emissions scenarios using a variety of climate models. Like Dr. Strange, climate scientists’ goal is to determine the range of possible outcomes given different actions taken by the protagonists: in this case, various measures to decarbonize the global economy.

The scenarios considered by IPCC are called Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs). The best-case climate scenario, called SSP1, involves a global shift toward sustainable management of global resources and reduced inequity. The next scenario, SSP2, is more of a business-as-usual path with slow and uneven progress toward sustainable development goals and persisting income inequality and environmental degradation. SSP3 envisions insurgent nationalism around the world with countries focusing on their short-term domestic best interests, resulting in persistent and worsening inequality and environmental degradation. Two more scenarios, SSP4 and SSP5, consider even greater inequalities and fossil fuel extraction, but seem at odds with an international community that has agreed overwhelmingly to aim for the Paris climate targets.

The latest IPCC report’s model runs simulated two SSP1 scenarios that would achieve the Paris targets of limiting global warming to 1.5 and 2°C (2.7 and 3.6°F); one SSP2 scenario in which temperatures approach 3°C (5.4°F) in the year 2100; an SSP3 scenario with about 4°C (7.2°F) global warming by the end of the century; and one SSP5 ‘burn all the fossil fuels possible’ scenario resulting in close to 5°C (9°F), again by 2100.

Projected global average surface temperature change in each of the five SSP scenarios. (Source: IPCC Sixth Assessment Report)

The report’s SSP3-7.0 pathway (the latter number represents the eventual global energy imbalance caused by the increased greenhouse effect, in watts per square meter), is considered by many experts to be a realistic worst-case scenario, with global carbon emissions continuing to rise every year throughout the 21st century. Such an outcome would represent a complete failure of international climate negotiations and policies and would likely result in catastrophic consequences, including widespread species extinctions, food and water shortages, and disastrous extreme weather events.

Scenario SSP2-4.5 is more consistent with government climate policies that are currently in place. It envisions global carbon emissions increasing another 10% over the next decade before reaching a plateau that’s maintained until carbon pollution slowly begins to decline starting in the 2050s. Global carbon emissions approach but do not reach zero by the end of the century. Even in this unambitious scenario, the very worst climate change impacts might be averted, although the resulting climate impacts would be severe.

Most encouragingly, the report’s two SSP1 scenarios illustrate that the Paris targets remain within reach. To stay below the main Paris target of 2°C (3.6°F) warming, global carbon emissions in SSP1-2.6 plateau essentially immediately and begin to decline after 2025 at a modest rate of about 2% per year for the first decade, then accelerating to around 3% per year the next decade, and continuing along a path of consistent year-to-year carbon pollution cuts before reaching zero around 2075. The IPCC concluded that once global carbon emissions reach zero, temperatures will stop rising. Toward the end of the century, emissions in SSP1-2.6 move into negative territory as the IPCC envisions that efforts to remove carbon from the atmosphere via natural and technological methods (like sequestering carbon in agricultural soils and scrubbing it from the atmosphere through direct air capture) outpace overall fossil fuel emissions.

Meeting the aspirational Paris goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) in SSP1-1.9 would be extremely challenging, given that global temperatures are expected to breach this level within about a decade. This scenario similarly envisions that global carbon emissions peak immediately and that they decline much faster than in SSP1-2.6, at a rate of about 6% per year from 2025 to 2035 and 9% per year over the following decade, reaching net zero by around the year 2055 and becoming net negative afterwards.

Global carbon dioxide emissions (in billions of tons per year) from 2015 to 2100 in each of the five SSP scenarios. (Source: IPCC Sixth Assessment Report)

For perspective, global carbon emissions fell by about 6-7% in 2020 as a result of restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and are expected to rebound by a similar amount in 2021. As IPCC report contributor Zeke Hausfather noted, this scenario also relies on large-scale carbon sequestration technologies that currently do not exist, without which global emissions would have to reach zero a decade sooner.

More warming means more risk

The new IPCC report details that, depending on the region, climate change has already worsened extreme heat, drought, fires, floods, and hurricanes, and those will only become more damaging and destructive as temperatures continue to rise. The IPCC’s 2018 “1.5°C Report” had entailed the differences in climate consequences in a 2°C vs. 1.5°C world, as summarized at this site by Bruce Lieberman.

Consider that in the current climate of just over 1°C (2°F) warmer than pre-industrial temperatures, 40 countries this summer alone have experienced extreme flooding, including more than a year’s worth of rain falling within 24 hours in Zhengzhou, China. Many regions have also experienced extreme heat, including the deadly Pacific Northwest heatwave and dangerously hot conditions during the Olympics in Tokyo. Siberia, Greece, Italy, and the US west coast are experiencing explosive wildfires, including the “truly frightening fire behavior” of the Dixie fire, which broke the record as the largest single wildfire on record in California. The IPCC report warned of “compound events” like heat exacerbating drought, which in turn fuels more dangerous wildfires, as is happening in California.

Western North America (WNA) and the Mediterranean (MED) regions are those for which climate scientists have the greatest confidence that human-caused global warming is exacerbating drought by drying out the soil. (Source: IPCC Sixth Assessment Report)
The southwestern United States and Mediterranean are also among the regions for which climate scientists have the greatest confidence that climate change will continue to increase drought risk and severity. (Source: IPCC Sixth Assessment Report)

The IPCC report notes that the low-emissions SSP1 scenarios “would lead to substantially smaller changes” in these sorts of climate impact drivers than the higher-emissions scenarios. It also points out that with the world currently at around 1°C of warming, the intensity of extreme weather will be twice as bad compared to today’s conditions if temperatures reach 2°C (1°C hotter than today) than if the warming is limited to 1.5°C (0.5°C hotter than today), and quadruple as bad if global warming reaches 3°C (2°C hotter than today). For example, what was an extreme once-in-50-years heat wave in the late-1800s now occurs once per decade, which would rise to almost twice per decade at 1.5°C,  and nearly three times per decade at 2°C global warming.

The increasing frequency and intensity of what used to be 1-in-50-year extreme heat as global temperatures rise. (Source: IPCC Sixth Assessment Report)

Climate’s fate has yet to be written

At the same time, there is no tipping point temperature at which it becomes “too late” to curb climate change and its damaging consequences. Every additional bit of global warming above current temperatures will result in increased risks of worsening extreme weather of the sorts currently being experienced around the world. Achieving the aspirational 1.5°C Paris target may be politically infeasible, but most countries (137 total) have either committed to or are in the process of setting a target for net zero emissions by 2050 (including the United States) or 2060 (including China).

That makes the SSP1 scenarios and limiting global warming to less than 2°C a distinct possibility, depending on how successful countries are at following through with decarbonization plans over the coming three decades. And with its proposed infrastructure bipartisan and budget reconciliation legislative plans – for which final enactment of each remains another big IF – the United States could soon implement some of the bold investments and policies necessary to set the world’s second-largest carbon polluter on a track consistent with the Paris targets.

As Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe put it,

Again and again, assessment after assessment, the IPCC has already made it clear. Climate change puts at risk every aspect of human life as we know it … We are already starting to experience those risks today; but we know what we need to do to avoid the worst future impacts. The difference between a fossil fuel versus a clean energy future is nothing less than the future of civilization as we know it.

Back to the Avengers: They had only one chance in 14 million to save the day, and they succeeded. Time is running short, but policymakers’ odds of meeting the Paris targets remain much better than that. There are no physical constraints playing the role of Thanos in our story; only political barriers stand between humanity and a prosperous clean energy future, although those can sometimes be the most difficult types of barriers to overcome.

Also see:    Key takeaways from the new IPCC report

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

firstpost.com


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

Aug 13, 2021 20:25:56 IST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the most important takeaways from the report:

Humans are to be blamed

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

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

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

We will overshoot the 1.5 C mark

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

Control emissions, Earth will do the rest

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

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

Sea level rise

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

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

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

CO2 is at all-time high

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

Control methane

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

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

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

Natural allies are weakened

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

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

Suck it out

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

Cities will bear the brunt

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

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

Negacionismo de sapatênis (Folha de S.Paulo)

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

Thiago Amparo – artigo original aqui.

11.ago.2021 às 22h05

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leandro Narloch – artigo original aqui.

11.ago.2021 às 8h56

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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