Arquivo da tag: Incerteza

Anthropologies #21: Weather changes people: stretching to encompass material sky dynamics in our ethnography (Savage Minds)

See original text here.

September 24, 2015.

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the Anthropologies #21 series.

Heid Jerstad brings our climate change issue to a close with this thoughtful essay. Jerstad (BA Oxford, MRes SOAS) is writing up her PhD on the effects of weather on peoples lives at the university of Edinburgh. Having done fieldwork in the western Indian Himalayas, she is particularly interested in the range of social and livelihood implications that weather (and thus climate change) has. She is on twitter @entanglednotion –R.A.

For most people, the climate change issue is a bundle of scientific ideas, or maybe a chunk of guilt lurking behind that short haul flight. The words have fused together to form a single stone, immobile and heavy. Change is a bit of a nothing word anyway – anything can change, and who is to say if it is good or bad, drastic or practically unnoticeable?

But what about climate? It is a big science-y word, neither human nor particularly tangible. Climate is about a place – engrained, palimpsested, with time-depth. That big sky, those habits – the Frenchman advising wine and bed on a rainy day, the Croatian judge lenient because there was a hot wind from the Sahara that day. This is weather I am talking about, seasons, years, the heat, damp and sparkling frost.

People care about the weather. We consider ourselves used to this or good at observing that. My home has more weather than other places – it is colder in winter, the air is clearer and brighter – because it is mine. My sunsets – this is eastern Norway – are vibrant and fill the sky, my sky will snow in June with not a cloud, my nose can feel that special tingle when it gets to below -20˚c. The north is not gloomy in winter – the snow is bright white, the hydro-fuelled streetlights illuminate empty streets and windows seal the warmth in.

What is your weather? It would be safe to assume it is part of the climate and I would go out on a limb and say I think you care about it. Am I wrong?

When the weather matters to people, the task becomes one of bridging this caring and the climate change science and projections. Looking at the impact of these weather changes in different areas of life is, then, going to make up a steadily larger part of useful climate change research.

Mead famously convened a conference with Kellogg titled ‘The Atmosphere: Endangered and Endangering’ in 1975, and Douglas published Risk and Blame in 1992. In the new millennium Strauss and Orlove (2003), Crate and Nuttall (2009) and Hastrup and Rubow (2014) brought edited volumes to the debate. It seems to be fairly well established, then, that climate change is a matter for anthropologists, as phrased by the AAA statement on climate change: ‘Climate change is rooted in social institutions and cultural habits. … Climate change is not a natural problem, it is a human problem.’ What then, can anthropologists do, about this problem?

Anthropologists provide description. The mapping of people’s stories of how the weather is ‘going wrong’, stories of change, and of coping and consequences is underway (Crate 2008 described the effects of unusual winter melt on the Vilui Sakha in Siberia, Cruikshank 2005 explored the tendrils of meaning surrounding glaciers between Alaska, British Colombia and the Yukon territory). Linked to the description, of course, and not really disentanglable from it is the explanation. Explanations and understandings of weather and weather changes in the places where they are happening, whether Chesapeake Bay, the Marshall Islands, or Rajasthan, India, fill in the social significance of what had been an empty sky (Paolisso 2003, Rudiak-Gould 2013, Grodzins-Gold 1998). The weather changes, in fact, constitute one of those satisfying areas of inquiry which concern those asked as much as the anthropologist.

The question of knowledge, however, can still seem a barrier when climate scientists are those with a mandate to understand changing weather. Anna Tsing, in the Firth Lecture at the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth’s (ASA) 2015 conference in Exeter, brought the contextual ecological study of mushrooms and the trees that they are mutual with in the forests of Japan and China to illustrate the gains anthropology can make when we give up scepticism of natural science. Earlier in the year, Moore, at the launch of the Centre of the Anthropology of Sustainability (CAOS) at University College London used microbial research to break down the bounded image of the body, where on the cellular level culture and biology shape each other – for instance when poor black women in the States eat fish which contains mercury and this affects the biological development of their children. Tsing and Moore brought together what might previously have been considered within the remit of ecology or biology to make important points about the capacity of anthropology—and to suggest where we might go next, expanding vision of social science. When mushrooms and microbes are appropriate topics for anthropological research, then looking at the climate and its material as well as social effects (rotting, drying, illness (Jerstad 2014)) starts to look feasible.

The anthropocene is a term which has been shown to have considerable analytical purchase outside of geology, illuminating moral and political debates about blame, the north-south divide and the global movement of materials, people and plants (Chakrabarty 2014, Tsing 2013). These ideas have been applyied in the study of climate scientists themselves (Simonetti 2015) as well as climate policy (Lahsen 2009). The anthropocene, i.e. the world as subject to the effects of human activities such as climate change, may be read as a set of material relationships, where the weather, bodies and landscapes meet, as Ingold showed (2010). This term allows the larger picture, where the world and all the people in it – those people for whom climate change matters – to be considered in a single conceptual space. In this space climate change can be seen as part of the encompassing extra-somatic human activity which defines our world as we are starting to understand it.

The anthropocene and climate change, however, both involve the challenge of how to follow the conceptual and material threads that lead from these global issues and into particular, ethnographically described lives:

 A close examination of scientific practice makes clear that localizing is as much a problem for climate researchers as it is for ethnographers. This holds not only for the     interconnectedness of the global and the local climate, but also for the separation of climate change as a ‘scientific fact’ on the one hand, and a ‘matter of concern’ on the other. Climate research offers an insight into a messy world of ramifications, surprising activities and unexpected “social” context (Krauss 2009:149–50).

Anthropological work has the reflexive capacity to deal with the messy world Krauss refers to here, where these ramifications, surprising activities and unexpected ‘social’ context are part of the particular places where we, as anthropologists, work, taking cues from events and observations around us. In my own fieldwork I found all kinds of unanticipated connections between weathers and other aspects of life. With a research proposal full of religion and ‘belief’ I ended up with far more material interests, guided by the sometimes patient and sometimes exasperated villagers with whom I lived in the western Indian Himalayas.

I was walking with Karishma to get green grass one day during the monsoon. She told me that our village (Gau) is famous for being misty, and therefore that the girls are known, both for working hard and for being beautiful, because even though they are outside the mistiness keeps them pale. So apparently on festival days people say that the girls from this village are gori (white) because there is so much mist here. But Karishma pointed out that this can’t be true because there is mist only in the rainy season. Then she said that the girls here wear sweaters to stay gori. Also, she said girls of this village have a reputation for being hard working so people ask for them in marriage when there is a household where work is to be done. This (I think) might be part of why quite a few of the new brides in Gau are not used to doing as much work as women do here. But then Karishma said fairly that it is not just the girls who work hard, everyone works hard in this village (well, most people). She said that when girls go away to study, like she did, then they come back more beautiful. That is to say pale from not being outside. She was saying how on the other hand I had become more black (kala) since being there in the village (this was true).

People, whether Himalayan villagers or Norwegian PhD students, live with weather on an ongoing basis, and consistently live in the weather, which is not always catastrophic but does always impinge (think food perishability, wardrobe choices, sitting in the shade). The considerations people have with regards to the weather, then, necessarily translate to potential climate change concerns. Climate change is a threat, it has potentially deadly dimensions, but weather is inherent to our world, and I would not want to pathologize it.

Weather relates in fundamental ways to sensation and the body, thermal infrastructure, agriculture and animal husbandry, health and illness, disasters and other areas of anthropology (that is to say life). Weather may be implicated in all kinds of ways with other areas of life – for instance the hot/cold symbolism in India which classifies illness, the body, food and even moods. I think that it can be surprisingly easy to forget or ignore weather precisely because it is so pervasive. And this resistance of the mind against focusing on it is a risk when it comes to climate change. It can be tiring to think about. How, after all, do you write about the wind? And people have (Parkin 1995, James 1972, Hsu and Low 2007), but personally I find it challenging just to make a start – capturing the sky with a few black marks on paper feels so unrealistic. In that sense it is a great stretching area for our minds, about the material and the social, about what we mean with words like ‘impact’ and ‘atmosphere’ and the connections between people and places.

Finally there is the role of anthropology in clarifying the terms of the climate change debate. This is a new kind of challenge, it is a global one (hence the usefulness of Tsing’s work, who demonstrated the crucial part material relationships and meetings play in globalisation (2005)), it is to do with both technologies and nature (we can apply Latour, who shows in ‘we have never been modern’ (1993) how ‘modernity’ has not succeeded in cutting us off from the material and natural world around us), it is political, historical (hence Chakrabarty, whose work pushes us to think in new ways about how we are positioned in history and what place climate change has in this context), and there is something about it which is pushing at the edges in all these areas and others, in which new terms are required to even conceive of some of these problematics. Building on what we understand and moving further, in ways that might tread new neural pathways and enable new realities, simply from the newness of our thinking, feels like a worthwhile undertaking. I suggest that the orientation of research which maps out the weather-weight of social life can help bring the people back into climate change.

So the immovable stone of ‘climate change’ is being loosened up, pulled apart to reassemble in illuminating and constructive ways by people contributing to blow away the fog obstructing understanding, using the culminations of what we know so far and the ways in which we can think new thoughts. This effort rewards.

References

AAA statement on climate change. 29th January 2015. http://www.aaanet.org/cmtes/commissions/CCTF/upload/AAA-Statement-on-Humanity-and-Climate-Change.pdf Accessed 1st July 2015.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh 2014. Climate and Capital: On Conjoined Histories. Critical Inquiry 41(1):1-23.

Crate, Susan. 2008. Gone the Bull of Winter? Grappling with the Cultural Implications of and Anthropology’s Role(s) in Global Climate Change. Current Anthropology 49:569-595.

Crate, Susan and Mark Nuttall, eds. 2009. Anthropology and Climate Change: from Encounters to Actions. California: Left Coast Press.

Cruikshank, Julie. 2005. Do Glaciers Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination. Toronto: University of British Columbia Press.

Douglas, Mary. 1992. Risk and Blame. London: Routledge

Grodzins-Gold, Ann. 1998. Sin and Rain: Moral Ecology in Rural North India. In Lance Nelson ed. Purifying the Earthly Body of God. New York: State University of New York Press.

Hsu, Elizabeth and Chris Low eds. 2007: Wind, Life, Health: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives. Special issue. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13:S1-S181.

Ingold, T. (2010), Footprints through the weather-world: walking, breathing, knowing. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 16: S121–S139.

James, Wendy. 1972. The politics of rain control among the Uduk. In Ian Cunnison and Wendy James eds. Essays on Sudan ethnography presented to Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard. London: C. Hurst.

Jerstad, Heid. 2014. Damp bodies and smoky firewood: material weather and livelihood in rural Himachal Pradesh. Forum for development studies 41(3):399-414.

Krauss, Werner. 2009. Localizing Climate Change: A Multi-sited Approach. In Marc-Anthony Falzon and Clair Hall eds. Multi-Sited. Ethnography. Theory, Praxis and Locality in Contemporary Research 149-165. Ashgate.

Lahsen, Myanna. 2009. A science-policy interface in the Global South: The politics of carbon sinks and science in Brazil. Climatic Change 97:339–372.

Paolisso, Michael. 2003. Chesapeake Bay watermen, weather and blue crabs: cultural models and fishery policies. In Sarah Strauss and Benjamin Orlove eds. Weather, Climate, Culture. Oxford: Berg.

Rudiak-Gould, Peter. 2013. Climate change and tradition in a small island state: the rising tide. Routledge.

Simonetti, Christian. 2015. The stratification of time. Time and Society .

Strauss, Sarah and Orlove, Benjamin eds. 2003. Weather, climate, culture. Oxford: Berg

Tsing, Anna. 2013. Dancing the Mushroom Forest. PAN: Philosophy, Activism, Nature vol 10.

Tsing, Anna. 2005. Friction. Princeton University Press.

Brasil e mais 169 países assinam acordo sobre mudança climática (Estadão)

Cláudia Trevisan e Altamira Silva Junior – 22 de abril de 201

Dilma: 'O caminho que teremos de percorrer agora será ainda mais desafiador: transformar nossas ambiciosas aspirações em resultados concretos'

Dilma: ‘O caminho que teremos de percorrer agora será ainda mais desafiador: transformar nossas ambiciosas aspirações em resultados concretos’

Representantes de 170 países assinaram nesta sexta-feira, 22, o Acordo de Paris sobre mudança climática, batendo o recorde da história da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU) de adesão a um tratado internacional em um único dia. Mas todos ouviram o alerta do secretário-geral da entidade, Ban Ki-Moon, de que as boas intenções terão pouco impacto se a convenção não for ratificada pelos países o mais breve possível. Sem isso, o tratado não entrará em vigor.

“Estamos em uma corrida contra o tempo”, disse Ban no discurso de abertura da cerimônia, no plenário da ONU em Nova York. A urgência foi enfatizada por vários chefes de Estado, incluindo os presidentes do Brasil, Dilma Rousseff, e da França, François Hollande.

Dilma assegurou “a pronta entrada em vigor” da convenção, mas essa decisão depende do Congresso. “O caminho que teremos de percorrer agora será ainda mais desafiador: transformar nossas ambiciosas aspirações em resultados concretos”, disse a presidente em seu discurso. E repetiu os compromissos assumidos pelo Brasil durante a negociação do tratado, entre os quais a promessa de reduzir em 37% a emissão de gases poluentes até 2025, na comparação com os patamares registrados em 2005.

Frustração. Carlos Rittl, secretário executivo do Observatório do Clima, disse que Dilma frustrou as expectativas de entidades ambientais que esperavam uma sinalização clara de que o Brasil assumirá metas mais ambiciosas em 2018, quando haverá uma avaliação dos resultados do acordo. “O Brasil precisa reconhecer que deve fazer mais que o prometido no ano passado”, disse. “Todos devem, porque estamos na trajetória de 3ºC de aquecimento.”

Aprovado por representantes de 195 nações em dezembro, o tratado prevê uma série de compromissos nacionais com o objetivo de limitar o aumento da temperatura do planeta a 2ºC até o fim do século, em relação ao patamar anterior ao período industrial. Para que entre em vigor, o Acordo de Paris precisa ser ratificado por pelo menos 55 países que representem ao menos 55% das emissões de gases do efeito estufa.

“A era do consumo sem consequências chegou ao fim. Nós temos de intensificar os esforços para ‘descarbonizar’ nossas economias”, ressaltou o secretário-geral das Nações Unidas. Além do caráter simbólico, a cerimônia desta sexta tinha o objetivo de mobilizar os líderes mundiais em torno da ratificação do acordo, de forma que entre em vigor no próximo ano e não em 2020, como inicialmente previsto.

Primeiro a discursar, o presidente da França lembrou que Paris vivia uma situação trágica em dezembro, sob o impacto dos atentados terroristas que haviam provocado a morte de 130 pessoas no mês anterior. Ainda assim, ressaltou, foi possível fechar o acordo histórico sobre mudança climática.

Impactos visíveis no mar (Pesquisa Fapesp)

Poluentes chegam a 200 km ao norte e ao sul da foz do rio Doce, atingem unidades de conservação, alteram equilíbrio ecológico e se acumulam no assoalho marinho

CARLOS FIORAVANTI | ED. 242 | ABRIL 2016

Poluição à vista: os resíduos que vazaram do reservatório de Mariana formam mancha acastanhada na foz do rio DocePoluição à vista: os resíduos que vazaram do reservatório de Mariana formam mancha acastanhada na foz do rio Doce.

Em janeiro deste ano, ao sobrevoarem o litoral do Espírito Santo e do sul da Bahia, biólogos, oceanógrafos e técnicos de órgãos ambientais do governo federal reconheceram os borrões escuros na superfície do mar formados pelo acúmulo de resíduos metálicos que vazaram do reservatório da mineradora Samarco em Mariana, Minas Gerais, em novembro de 2015. A mancha de resíduos, também chamada de pluma, aproximava-se do arquipélago de Abrolhos, uma das principais reservas de vida silvestre marinha da costa brasileira.

Os borrões não eram apenas os indesejados resquícios da extração de minério de ferro de Minas Gerais, mas uma de suas consequências, como se verificou logo depois. Em meio às manchas verde-escuro havia colônias de algas e outros organismos marinhos microscópicos – o fitoplâncton – com dezenas de quilômetros de extensão, muito maiores que as observadas nos anos anteriores, de acordo com as análises de pesquisadores da Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo (Ufes).

Outra peculiaridade é que os organismos cresciam e se multiplicavam rapidamente, em decorrência do excesso de ferro dos rejeitos da mineradora de Mariana que se espalham pelo mar a partir da foz do rio Doce, onde chegaram no final de novembro. Desde então, levados continuamente ao mar pelo rio, os resíduos formam uma mancha móvel que oscila ao longo de 200 quilômetros (km) ao norte e ao sul da foz do rio Doce, que alterou o equilíbrio marinho, como indicado pela massa de fitoplâncton, e atingiu pelo menos três unidades de conservação de organismos marinhos.

“As manchas de fitoplâncton são comuns no verão, mas não desse modo”, explica Alex Bastos, professor de oceanografia da Ufes, no final de fevereiro. Análises preliminares indicaram que as colônias de algas são constituídas por organismos que se formam e morrem em poucos dias, mais rapidamente que o habitual. A decomposição acelerada dos organismos consome oxigênio da água do mar, com consequências imprevisíveis sobre as comunidades de organismos marinhos.

Além disso, a diversidade de espécies havia sido reduzida quase à metade. Camilo Dias Júnior, com sua equipe de oceanografia da Ufes, encontrou no máximo 40 espécies de fitoplâncton por amostra analisada; antes da chegada dos resíduos os pesquisadores reconheciam de 50 a 70 espécies. A hipótese dos pesquisadores e técnicos é de que já poderia ter ocorrido uma seleção de variedades mais adaptadas ao excesso de ferro trazido com a descarga dos resíduos no mar.

Nos sobrevoos do litoral do Espírito Santo e da Bahia, Claudio Dupas, coordenador do Núcleo de Geoprocessamento e Monitoramento Ambiental da Superintendência do Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama) em São Paulo, observou muitos barcos de pesca próximos às manchas de fitoplâncton na foz do rio Doce. Atraídos pela abundância de alimento, o grande número de peixes chamou a atenção dos pescadores.

Em Governador Valadares, MG: a lama ocupou o rio Doce em novembro, prejudicando o abastecimento de água para os moradores da cidade

Com base nas análises preliminares da qualidade de água e na observação do cenário, a equipe do Ibama elaborou um relatório técnico alertando sobre alterações na qualidade da água, prejudicada com a descarga de resíduos no mar. Com base no documento e no princípio da precaução – para evitar que a população seja prejudicada pelo consumo de peixes contaminados –, no dia 22 de fevereiro um juiz federal de Vitória proibiu por tempo indeterminado a pesca na região da foz do rio Doce. “Assim que saiu a decisão do juiz, o superintendente do Ibama em Vitória, Guanadir Gonçalves, pediu-me para fazer um mapa com a delimitação da área de proibição, que foi para a internet e para os celulares dos fiscais em campo no mesmo dia”, diz Dupas.

Desde janeiro os movimentos da mancha de resíduos podem ser acompanhados por meio de mapas gerados pelo Ibama a partir de imagens de satélites no site governancapelodoce.com.br, mantido pela Samarco. Já o site siscom.ibama.gov.br/mariana contém imagens de satélite de alta resolução de antes e depois do incidente, da barragem à foz. Os mapas indicam que os resíduos já chegaram a 50 km ao sul de Vitória, capital do Espírito Santo, e atingiram três unidades de conservação do ambiente marinho, o Refúgio de Vida Silvestre de Santa Cruz, a Área de Proteção Ambiental (APA) Costa das Algas e uma das principais áreas de desova da tartaruga-cabeçuda (Caretta caretta), uma faixa de 37 km de praias conhecida como Reserva Biológica Comboios. “Ainda não é possível avaliar o impacto sobre o ambiente, a vida dos organismos marinhos e dos moradores da região”, diz Dupas.

Desde que vazou da barragem de Fundão, em 5 de novembro, até chegar ao mar, a enorme massa de resíduos da extração de minério de ferro causou uma transformação profunda. Destruiu casas e matas às margens do rio Doce, provocando a morte de 18 pessoas e de toneladas de peixes e outros organismos aquáticos. A bióloga Flávia Bottino participou das expedições do Grupo Independente para Análise do Impacto Ambiental (Giaia) ao longo do rio Doce em novembro e observou uma intensa turbidez da água, que dificultava a penetração da luz e a sobrevivência dos organismos. Os biólogos encontraram camarões de água doce que sobreviveram ao desastre, mas os organismos bentônicos, que viviam no fundo do rio, tinham sido soterrados.

Limites incertos 
A alta concentração de partículas sólidas que absorvem calor pode ter causado o aumento da temperatura da água para cerca de 30º Celsius. “A água do rio estava quente”, ela notou. As análises das amostras de água coletadas em dezembro ao longo de um trecho de cerca de 800 km do rio, realizadas nas unidades das universidades de São Paulo (USP) em Ribeirão Preto, Federal de São Carlos (UFSCar) em São Carlos e Sorocaba, Estadual Paulista (Unesp) em São Vicente, e na de Brasília (UnB), indicaram concentrações elevadas de manganês, ferro, arsênio e chumbo. As chuvas podem agravar a situação ao lavar as margens dos rios, cobertas de resíduos, e transportá-los ao mar.

Por meio de coletas realizadas com o navio Vital de Oliveira Moura, da Marinha, a equipe da Ufes verificou que 25 km a leste da foz do Rio Doce os resíduos formam uma camada de 1 a 2 centímetros sobre a lama do fundo do mar, a 25 metros de profundidade. “Está havendo um acúmulo rápido do rejeito no assoalho marinho”, diz Bastos, da Ufes, com base em coletas realizadas desde novembro, logo após o rompimento da barragem (ver Pesquisa FAPESP no 239). “Nem nas maiores cheias o acúmulo de sedimentos no rio no fundo do mar foi tão alto.”

042-047_Poluentes_242No início de fevereiro, em uma reunião dos pesquisadores da Ufes com representantes do Ibama, Instituto Estadual do Meio Ambiente (Iema) e Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), Bastos comentou que a concentração de ferro no fundo do mar havia aumentado 20 vezes, em comparação com os níveis de antes do acidente, a de alumínio 10 vezes e a de cromo e manganês, cinco. Outro professor da Ufes, Renato Rodrigues Neto, observou que a vazão do rio passou de 300 metros cúbicos por segundo (m³/s), antes do rompimento da barragem, para cerca de 4.000 m³/s, aumentando a quantidade de lama com resíduos metálicos despejada no mar.

As imagens de satélite indicam que os resíduos metálicos podem ter chegado até o arquipélago de Abrolhos no início de janeiro, embora, ressalta Dupas, ainda não seja possível diferenciar os sedimentos vindos do rio Doce, a cerca de 200 km de distância, dos do rio Caravelas, que deságua na região. Segundo ele, os resultados das análises em andamento devem ser anunciados em abril.

Vários estudos em outras áreas marinhas têm indicado que os resíduos industriais podem ir muito além dos lugares onde foram produzidos, misturar-se com os sedimentos do fundo do mar, aflorando se revolvidos por redes de pesca, ou ser absorvidos por organismos marinhos. Uma equipe do Instituto Oceanográfico (IO) da USP identificou metais pesados (chumbo, cobre e zinco) e compostos orgânicos derivados de petróleo produzidos na zona industrial de Santos e do polo industrial de Cubatão, a 15 km do mar, misturados com a lama do assoalho marinho a uma profundidade de 100 metros e a uma distância de 200 km da costa. Não se pensava que a poluição gerada em terra pudesse chegar tão longe.

Condições ambientais 
As conclusões ajudam a pensar o que poderia se passar no litoral do Espírito Santo e dos estados vizinhos, à medida que a lama da mineradora se espalha. “Os eventos, a rigor, não têm conexão à primeira vista”, disse Michel Mahiques, professor de oceanografia do IO-USP que coordenou os estudos em Santos. O vazamento da Samarco em Mariana foi um fenômeno agudo, com uma descarga intensa de resíduos, enquanto Santos e outros, como a baía da Guanabara, são casos crônicos, de décadas de liberação contínua de poluentes. “O fato comum”, ele diz, “é que existem porções do fundo marinho nas quais as condições ambientais permitem a deposição de materiais gerados pela atividade humana, ainda que a grandes distâncias”.

Em um estudo anterior no litoral de Santos, seu grupo identificou isótopos de césio 137 originários de explosões atômicas ou de usinas nucleares, nas quais esse tipo de material é gerado. “O césio foi transportado pela atmosfera e aderiu a partículas muito pequenas do fundo do mar”, conta. “Podemos chamar esses casos de teleconexões, em que um evento em um determinado ponto do planeta pode afetar regiões muito distantes.” Segundo ele, os casos clássicos são os acidentes das usinas nucleares de Chernobyl em 1986 e de Fukushima em 2011.

Vila de Mariana devastada pela lama da barragem de Fundão: efeito a mais de 800 km de distância na terra, no rio e no mar

“Precisamos lançar outro olhar para o potencial de acumulação de material no meio marinho”, comenta Mahiques. Seus estudos indicaram que os poluentes se acumulam principalmente nos cinturões de lama, faixas em geral com 3 a 4 km de largura e dezenas de quilômetros de extensão, na chamada plataforma continental, sobre estruturas antigas de relevo. “Há um efeito a distância. Os sedimentos permanecem em pontos bem distantes da origem. Duzentos quilômetros foi o limite a que chegamos, mas ainda não sabemos se poderiam ir mais longe.” Mahiques argumenta que dois conceitos básicos sobre o funcionamento da plataforma continental deveriam ser revistos. O primeiro é que a quantidade de materiais do continente que chega ao mar seria pequena. O segundo é que os ambientes costeiros retêm a sujeira. “A quantidade não é pequena, nem os estuários são um filtro perfeito dos resíduos gerados no continente.”

Os pesquisadores analisaram 21 amostras de sedimentos coletadas em 2005 e outras, mais recentes, reunidas por meio do navio oceanográfico Alpha Crucis. Os resultados indicaram que os níveis de chumbo, zinco e cobre a 100 metros de profundidade a mais de 100 km da costa eram próximos aos encontrados na baía de Santos, embora mais baixos que os limites mais altos do estuário santista, um ambiente próximo à terra que mistura água de rios e do mar. No estuário, a concentração de chumbo no sedimento marinho variava de 9 miligramas por quilograma (mg/kg) em áreas não contaminadas a 59 mg/kg em amostras do fundo do porto, indicando um aumento de cinco a 10 vezes em comparação com os valores anteriores ao processo de industrialização. Os autores desse trabalho afirmaram que os poluentes industriais misturados com a lama no fundo do mar poderiam facilmente voltar à circulação, como resultado de movimentos intensos da água ou de atividade humana como a dragagem para a ampliação de portos ou a pesca com redes pesadas que revolvem o fundo do mar.

Estudos anteriores de pesquisadores do IO-USP já haviam mostrado que a descarga contínua de esgotos domésticos e de poluentes industriais na baía de Santos era provavelmente uma das causas da reduzida diversidade de organismos marinhos na região, em comparação com áreas menos poluídas.

Em paralelo, uma equipe da Unesp em São Vicente encontrou níveis acima dos permitidos em lei de quatro metais pesados – cádmio, cobre, chumbo e mercúrio – em amostras de água, sedimento e em caranguejos-uçá dos manguezais dos municípios de Cubatão, Bertioga, Iguape, São Vicente e Cananeia. Nas regiões com maior concentração desses metais, os caranguejos apresentavam uma proporção maior de células com alterações genéticas associadas à ocorrência de malformações (verPesquisa FAPESP no 225). Estudo de uma equipe da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande publicado em novembro de 2015 associou a contaminação por metal como possível causa da fibropapilomatose, uma doença específica de tartarugas marinhas, caracterizada pela formação de tumores benignos sobre a pele, em tartarugas-verde (Chelonia mydas) de Ubatuba, SP, já que os animais examinados apresentavam um nível acima do normal de cobre, ferro e chumbo, em comparação com animais saudáveis.

“Quando pensarmos em legislação e políticas públicas, para fazer uma projeção do impacto de eventuais acidentes ambientais, temos de olhar mais longe e rever o conceito de área de influência, já que o efeito pode ser muito maior do que o imaginado”, disse Mahiques. Bastos, da Ufes, observou que os danos ambientais podem ser intensos em consequência de pequenas alterações na concentração de metais na água do mar, mesmo que os limites ainda estejam abaixo dos máximos estabelecidos pela legislação ambiental.

Artigos científicos
FIGUEIRA, R.C.L. et alDistribution of 137Cs, 238Pu and 239 + 240Pu in sediments of the southeastern Brazilian shelf – SW Atlantic marginScience of the Total Environment. v. 357, p. 146-59. 2006.
MAHIQUES, M.M. et alMud depocentres on the continental shelf: a neglected sink for anthropogenic contaminants from the coastal zone. EnvironmentalEarth Sciences. v. 75, n. 1, p. 44-55. 2016.
SILVA, C.C. da et alMetal contamination as a possible etiology of fibropapillomatosis in juvenile female green sea turtles Chelonia mydas from the southern Atlantic OceanAquatic Toxicology. v. 170, p. 42-51. 2016.

By 2050 Asia at high risk of severe water shortages: MIT study (Reuters)

Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:30am EDT

CAMBRIDGE, MASS 

A new study points to the risk that China and India will be facing severe water shortages due to a perfect storm of economic growth, climate change, and demands of fast growing populations by mid century. 

Within 35 years, the countries where roughly half the world’s population lives may be facing what scientists are calling a “high risk of severe water stress”. That translates into billions of people having access to a lot less water than they do today, according to a new study from MIT.

“There is about a one in three chance that if we take no action to mitigate climate or to do anything to curtail any of the factors that go into this water stress metric, there is a one in three chance that you will reach this unsustainable situation by the middle of the century,” said Adam Schlosser, a senior research scientist who co-authored the paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“It’s very important to show that all things being equal, all things not changing, if we continue with what we are doing now we are running along a very dangerous pathway,” he added.

The scientists simulated hundreds of scenarios looking into the future and found that on average, the water basins that feed economic growth in China and India will have less water than they do today. At the same time, they say pressure on water resources will continue to grow as populations increase, creating an unsustainable scenario where supply loses out to demand.

“We are looking at a region where nations are really at a very rapid developing stage or they are at the precipice of a very rapid development stage and so you really can’t ignore the growth effect, you just can’t, particularly when it comes to resources,” said Schlosser.

But overshadowing everything else, they say, is climate change. While some models show that the effects of climate change could potentially benefit water resources in Asia, the majority point in the opposite direction.

Schlosser and his colleagues believe it will only exacerbate an already gloomy outlook for the future.

Regulators Warn 5 Top Banks They Are Still Too Big to Fail (New York Times)

‘LIVING WILLS’ AT A GLANCE

The Fed and the F.D.I.C. found that the plans of five banks were “not credible.”

  • Failed

  • JPMorgan Chase
  • Bank of America
  • Wells Fargo
  • Bank of New York Mellon
  • State Street
  • Mostly Satisfied

  • Citigroup
  • Split Decision

  • Goldman Sachs
  • Morgan Stanley

The five banks that received rejections have until Oct. 1 to fix their plans.

After those adjustments, if the Fed and the F.D.I.C. are still dissatisfied with the living wills, they may impose restrictions on the banks’ activities or require the banks to raise their capital levels, which in practice means using less borrowed money to finance their business.

And if, after two years, the regulators still find the plans deficient, they may require the banks to sell assets and businesses, with the aim of making them less complex and simpler to unwind in a bankruptcy.

Also on Wednesday, JPMorgan announced a decline in both profit and revenue for the first quarter. Other large banks will report quarterly results this week.

“Obviously we were disappointed,” Marianne Lake, chief financial officer of JPMorgan, said on Wednesday morning.

The results are a particular blow for JPMorgan because it often boasts about the strength of its operations and its ability to weather any crisis. Just last week, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive, bragged in his annual letterthat the bank “had enough loss-absorbing resources to bear all the losses,” under the Fed’s annual stress-test situations, of the 31 largest banks in the country.

But the Fed and F.D.I.C. said on Wednesday that JPMorgan appeared to be unprepared for a crisis in a number of areas. The regulators said, for instance, that the bank did not have adequate plans to move money from its operations overseas if something went wrong in the markets.

The letter also said that JPMorgan did not have a good plan to wind down its outstanding derivative contracts if other banks stopped trading with it.

Ms. Lake said “there’s going to be significant work to meet the expectations of regulators.” But she also expressed confidence that the bank could do so without significantly changing how it does business.

Investors appeared to agree that the verdicts from regulators did not endanger the banks’ current business models. Shares of all of the big banks rose on Wednesday.

Wells Fargo, which is generally considered the safest of the large banks, was the target of unexpected criticism from the Fed and F.D.I.C.

The agencies criticized Wells Fargo’s governance and legal structure, and faulted it for “material errors,” which, the regulators said, raised questions about whether the bank has a “robust process to ensure quality control and accuracy.”

In a statement, Wells Fargo said it was disappointed and added, “We understand the importance of these findings, and we will address them as we update our plan.”

The banking industry has complained that the process of submitting living wills is complex and hard to complete and it has suggested changes.

“A useful process reform might be to do living wills every two or three years, instead of annually,” said Tony Fratto, a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies, a public relations firm that works with the banks. “The time required for banks to produce them and regulators to react to them is clearly too tight.”

But Martin J. Gruenberg, the chairman of the F.D.I.C., said on Wednesday that regulators were “committed to carrying out the statutory mandate that systemically important financial institutions demonstrate a clear path to an orderly failure under bankruptcy at no cost to taxpayers.”

“Today’s action is a significant step toward achieving that goal,” he added.

The Stark Realities of Baked-In Catastrophes (Collapse of Industrial Civilization)

02 Apr 2016

Joe-Webb-Greetings-From-California

In a civilization gone mad with delusions of grandeur, we’re left with tatters of human sociability held together by rancid mythologies.

Despite human fossil fuel burning recently reported to be “flat”, CO2 levels have been on a tear for the last six months, reaching new worrying levels which have some wondering whether permafrost melt may be contributing to the unusually high spike if no decline happens soon. The giant holes in Siberia serve as an ominous sign. Considering that the current El Niño is contributing only 10% to what we are now seeing, runaway global warming may be accelerating worldwide. But don’t worry, Warren Buffett says climate change is no more of a problem than the Y2K bug and will be profitable through increased premiums and inflation.

Ever dire studies continue to reaffirm worst case scenarios, making clear to anyone paying attention that Earth in the next century will be unrecognizable from its current state. Basic planetary geography and atmospheric conditions will be altered through warming oceans and rising sea levels which are now increasing faster than at any time in the past 2800 years. On average, sea levels were between 50 and 82 feet higher the last time CO2 levels were at 400ppm. Glaciologist Jason Box expects ice melt from the West Antarctic to become the biggest contributor to sea level rise in the coming decades due to a feedback loop not in the climate models. CO2 levels have been increasing around 3ppm per year, a twentyfold increase since pre-industrial times when the highest recorded increase was 0.15 ppm per year. We’ve long since passed the tipping point of melting Arctic summer sea ice; 300-350 ppm of CO2 was the threshold for many parts of the climate. These changes are irreversible on a timescale of human civilizations. Even if all human industrial activity magically ceased today, the footprint man has already left will be felt for eons.

In our warming world, the hydrologic cycle is changing and creating extreme weather; crop-destroying droughts and floods are becoming more frequent. The Jet Stream is transforming into something different, becoming wavier with higher ridges and troughs prone to stagnating in the same region. As global temperatures rise over time, hotter air will be trapped under these layers of high pressure from a mangled Jet Stream, cooking everything to death. Rising winter temperatures are beginning to destroy the “winter chill” needed for many fruit and nut trees to properly blossom and produce maximally. Climate change is also disrupting flower pollination and pushing fish toward North/South poles, robbing poorer countries at Equator of crucial food resources. In a new study, marine scientists are surprised to find a disturbing trend in the increasing numbers of a specific type of phytoplankton, coccolithophores, which have been “typically more abundant during Earth’s warm interglacial and high CO2 periods.”

tumblr_nyyguqJIIG1u6ur2mo1_500

Homo sapiens have only been on the planet for the equivalent of a few seconds in geologic time but have managed to overwhelm and foul up all of earth’s natural processes and interdependencies, leaving a distinct layer in the sedimentary record. There is nothing modern humans do that is truly sustainable. Here are a few glaring examples:

No amount of reafforestation or growing of new trees will ultimately off-set continuing CO2 emissions due to environmental constraints on plant growth and the large amounts of remaining fossil fuel reserves,” Mackey says. “Unfortunately there is no option but to cut fossil fuel emissions deeply as about a third of the CO2 stays in the atmosphere for 2 to 20 millennia.

ambiente-01

Relying on machines for answers to the existential problems of a species run amok with planet-destroying tools and weaponry is rather ironic and tragic. We’re locked-up inside a complexity trap of our own making. The human propensity for tool-building coupled with our discovery of fossil fuels has created a set of living arrangements in which we are now enslaved to those machines and tools. The globalized capitalist economy externalizes its destruction and atrocities, keeping the masses in a state of ignorance and denial. Our corporate overlords are not conscientious citizens, but mindless organizations whose sole purpose is to grow profits no matter the external damage done to society and the environment. Between the economic oil hitmen who ensure that profits flow smoothly and GOP politicians who openly espouse their science illiteracy, a hospitable climate for future humans seems remote. Hopeful delusions have given way to the stark reality of our predicament as scholars like Noam Chomsky who originally started his career fighting for a modicum of social justice have now set the bar at just the chance of human survival. Despite the best efforts of scientists, environmentalists, and activists, the wealthy countries most able to do something won’t “get it” until famine, disease, and war come to their country. All is being left for the almighty ‘free market’ to sort out at the same time that climate change, a conflict multiplier, ramps up.

imageedit_3_7415100861

The sixth mass extinction gathers steam and climate inertia works to catch up to the catastrophic ecological collapse already baked-in. All the while, modern man engages in the spectacle of tribal politics(building walls, exuding military strength, recapturing past glories of their nation) and presidential candidates discuss the size of their penis.

For those who come to understand modern man’s predicament, it can either be the ultimate mind fuck or an epiphany that helps a person appreciate the fragility of life, the urgency of living in the here and now, and the grand cosmic joke of a global, hi-tech civilization that arose from the burning of ancient fossil remains only to have those fumes become a deadly curse, extinguishing any trace of our lofty accomplishments…

The fossil record, Plotnick points out, is much more durable than any human record.

As humanity has evolved, our methods of recording information have become ever more ephemeral,” he said. “Clay tablets last longer than books. And who today can read an 8-inch floppy?” he shrugged. “If we put everything on electronic media, will those records exist in a million years? The fossils will.
– Link

Mudanças climáticas provocarão prejuízo de US$ 2,5 trilhões (O Globo)

05/04/2016, por O Globo

Colheita de cana de açúcar: rombo acontecerá mesmo se os países cumprirem as metas voluntárias apresentadas na conferência climática de Paris, em dezembro de 2015 – Paulo Fridman/Bloomberg/18-9-2014

RIO — As mudanças climáticas podem afetar investimentos equivalentes a US$ 2,5 trilhões da economia mundial até 2100, segundo um estudo publicado ontem na revista “Nature Climate Change”. O prejuízo seria resultado do aumento da temperatura em 2,5 graus Celsius até o fim do século, em relação aos níveis pré-industriais. Esta quantia é equivalente à metade do valor atual das empresas de combustíveis fósseis. Se os termômetros avançarem além de 2 graus Celsius — valor máximo admitido pelos climatologistas —, a economia mundial sofreria um rombo de US$ 1,7 trilhão.

Entre os meios de destruição mais comuns ligados às mudanças climáticas estão o aumento do nível do mar — que afeta principalmente setores da economia atuantes na zona costeira —, além de secas e tempestades, capazes de interromper atividades de diferentes ramos do mercado.

A pesquisa concentrou-se principalmente em investimentos ligados a petróleo, carvão e gás, recursos que serão perdidos se os países insistirem na adoção de combustíveis fósseis, em de vez de optar por energias sustentáveis.

De acordo com o Instituto de Pesquisa Grantham sobre Mudanças Climáticas, que elaborou o estudo, seus cálculos são a primeira estimativa do impacto causado pelo aquecimento global sobre ativos financeiros.

As projeções, realizadas com o uso de modelos matemáticos, foram baseados em um valor estimado de US$ 143,3 trilhões em ativos não bancários globais em 2013, valor determinado por economistas.

Considerando as atuais emissões de gases-estufa, os climatologistas indicam que o planeta está a caminho de um aquecimento global equivalente ou superior a 4 graus Celsius. Se as nações cumprirem as metas que apresentaram na Conferência do Clima em Paris, no fim do ano passado, o aumento da temperatura global chegará a 3 graus Celsius.

As mudanças climáticas devem ser encaradas com preocupação para setores e investidores que exercem a atividade pensando a longo prazo, como os fundos de pensão e reguladores financeiros.

Diretor do programa de finanças sustentáveis da Universidade de Oxford, no Reino Unido, Ben Caldecott ressalta que os impactos financeiros das mudanças climáticas são um risco de grande escala.

— Os investidores podem fazer muito para diferenciar entre as empresas mais ou menos expostas e, assim, conseguirem ajudar a reduzir os riscos para a economia global, apoiando ações ambientais sobre as mudanças climáticas.

MAIS GRAVE QUE POLIOMIELITE

Ontem, um relatório divulgado na Casa Branca alertou que as mudanças climáticas representam uma grave ameaça para a saúde pública — em muitos aspectos, pior do que a poliomielite — e atacará especialmente gestantes, crianças, pessoas de baixa renda, negros, asiáticos e hispânicos.

O documento “Os impactos das mudanças climáticas na saúde humana nos EUA: uma avaliação científica”, adverte sobre os riscos arrebatadores para a saúde pública do aumento da temperatura nas próximas décadas, que também levaria a mais mortes e doenças por insolação, insuficiência respiratória e doenças como o vírus do Nilo Ocidental.

Leading Climate Scientists: ‘We Have A Global Emergency,’ Must Slash CO2 ASAP (Think Progress)

 MAR 22, 2016 2:38 PM

CREDIT: AP/DENNIS COOK

James Hansen and 18 leading climate experts have published a peer-reviewed version of their 2015 discussion paper on the dangers posed by unrestricted carbon pollution. The study adds to the growing body of evidence that the current global target or defense line embraced by the world — 2°C (3.6°F) total global warming — “could be dangerous” to humanity.

That 2°C warming should be avoided at all costs is not news to people who pay attention to climate science, though it may be news to people who only follow the popular media. The warning is, after all, very similar to the one found in an embarrassingly underreported report last year from 70 leading climate experts, who had been asked by the world’s leading nations to review the adequacy of the 2°C target.

Specifically, the new Hansen et al study — titled “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 C global warming could be dangerous” — warns that even stabilizing at 2°C warming might well lead to devastating glacial melt, multimeter sea level rise and other related catastrophic impacts. The study is significant not just because it is peer-reviewed, but because the collective knowledge about climate science in general and glaciology in particular among the co-authors is quite impressive.

Besides sea level rise, rapid glacial ice melt has many potentially disastrous consequences, including a slowdown and eventual shutdown of the key North Atlantic Ocean circulation and, relatedly, an increase in super-extreme weather. Indeed, that slowdown appears to have begun, and, equally worrisome, it appears to be supercharging both precipitation, storm surge, and superstorms along the U.S. East Coast (like Sandy and Jonas), as explained here.

It must be noted, however, that the title of the peer-reviewed paper is decidedly weaker than the discussion paper’s “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2°C global warming is highly dangerous.” The switch to “could be dangerous” is reminiscent of the switch (in the opposite direction) from the inaugural 1965 warning required for cigarette packages, “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health” to the 1969 required label “Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined that Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Your Health.”

And yes I’m using the analogy to suggest readers should not be sanguine about the risks we face at 2°C warning. Based on both observations and analysis, the science is clearly moving in the direction that 2°C warming is not “safe” for humanity. But as Hansen himself acknowledged Monday on the press call, the record we now have of accelerating ice loss in both Greenland and West Antarctica is “too short to infer accurately” whether the current exponential trend will continue through the rest of the century.

Hansen himself explains the paper’s key conclusions and the science underlying them in a new video:

The fact that 2°C total warming is extremely likely to lock us in to sea level rise of 10 feet or more has been obvious for a while now. The National Science Foundation (NSF) itself issued a news release back in 2012 with the large-type headline, “Global Sea Level Likely to Rise as Much as 70 Feet in Future Generations.” The lead author explained, “The natural state of the Earth with present carbon dioxide levels is one with sea levels about 70 feet higher than now.” Heck, a 2009 paper in Science found the same thing.

What has changed is our understanding of just how fast sea levels could rise. In 2014 and 2015, a number of major studies revealed that large parts of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are unstable and headed toward irreversible collapse — and some parts may have already passed the point of no return. Another 2015 study found that global sea level rise since 1990 has been speeding up even faster than we knew.

The key question is how fast sea levels can rise this century and beyond. In my piece last year on Hansen’s discussion draft, I examined the reasons the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and scientific community have historically low-balled the plausible worst-case for possible sea level rise by 2100. I won’t repeat that all here.

The crux of the Hansen et al. forecast can be found in this chart on ice loss from the world’s biggest ice sheet:

Antarctic ice mass change

Antarctic ice mass change from GRACE satallite data (red) and surface mass balance method (MBM, blue). Via Hansen et al.

Hansen et al. ask the question: if the ice loss continues growing exponentially how much ice loss (and hence how much sea level rise) will there be by century’s end? If, for instance, the ice loss rate doubles every 10 years for the rest of the century (light green), then we would see multi-meter sea level rise before 2100? On the other hand, it is pretty clear just from looking at the chart that there isn’t enough data to make a certain projection for the next eight decades.

The authors write, “our conclusions suggest that a target of limiting global warming to 2°C … does not provide safety.” On the one hand, they note, “we cannot be certain that multi-meter sea level rise will occur if we allow global warming of 2 C.” But, on the other hand, they point out:

There is a possibility, a real danger, that we will hand young people and future generations a climate system that is practically out of their control.
We conclude that the message our climate science delivers to society, policymakers, and the public alike is this: we have a global emergency. Fossil fuel CO2 emissions should be reduced as rapidly as practical.

I have talked to many climate scientists who quibble with specific elements of this paper, in particular whether the kind of continued acceleration of ice sheet loss is physically plausible. But I don’t find any who disagree with the bold-faced conclusions.

Since there are a growing number of experts who consider that 10 feet of sea level rise this century is a possibility, it would be unwise to ignore the warning. That said, on our current emissions path we already appear to be headed toward the ballpark of four to six feet of sea level rise in 2100 — with seas rising up to one foot per decade after that. That should be more than enough of a “beyond adaptation” catastrophe to warrant strong action ASAP.

The world needs to understand the plausible worst-case scenario for climate change by 2100 and beyond — something that the media and the IPCC have failed to deliver. And the world needs to understand the “business as usual” set of multiple catastrophic dangers of 4°C if we don’t reverse course now. And the world needs to understand the dangers of even 2°C warming.

So kudos to all of these scientists for ringing the alarm bell: James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Paul Hearty, Reto Ruedy, Maxwell Kelley, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Gary Russell, George Tselioudis, Junji Cao, Eric Rignot, Isabella Velicogna, Blair Tormey, Bailey Donovan, Evgeniya Kandiano, Karina von Schuckmann, Pushker Kharecha, Allegra N. Legrande, Michael Bauer, and Kwok-Wai Lo.

Risk of multiple tipping points should be triggering urgent action on climate change (Science Daily)

To avoid multiple climate tipping points, policy makers need to act now to stop global CO2 emissions by 2050 and meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, a new study has said

Date:
March 21, 2016
Source:
University of Exeter
Summary:
Pioneering new research shows that existing studies have massively under-valued the risk that ongoing carbon dioxide emissions pose of triggering damaging tipping points.

Detailed view of Earth from space. Credit: Elements of this image furnished by NASA; © timothyh / Fotolia

To avoid multiple climate tipping points, policy makers need to act now to stop global CO2 emissions by 2050 and meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, a new study has said.

Pioneering new research, carried out by the Universities of Exeter, Zurich, Stanford and Chicago, shows that existing studies have massively under-valued the risk that ongoing carbon dioxide emissions pose of triggering damaging tipping points.

The collaborative study suggests that multiple interacting climate tipping points could be triggered this century if climate change isn’t tackled — leading to irreversible economic damages worldwide.

Using a state-of-the-art model, the researchers studied the effects of five interacting tipping points on the global economy — including a collapse of the Atlantic overturning circulation, a shift to a more persistent El Nino regime, and a dieback of the Amazon rainforest.

The study showed that the possibility of triggering these future tipping points increased the present ‘social cost of carbon’ in the model by nearly eightfold — from US$15 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted, to US$116/tCO2.

Furthermore, the model suggests that passing some tipping points increases the likelihood of other tipping points occurring to such an extent that the social cost of carbon would further increase abruptly.

The recommended policy therefore involves an immediate, massive effort to reduce CO2 emissions, stopping them completely by the middle of the century, in order to stabilize climate change at less than 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

Professor Tim Lenton, from the University of Exeter and one of the authors of the study said: “Irreversible tipping points are one of the biggest risks we face if we carry on changing the climate. Our work shows that taking that risk seriously radically changes policy recommendations. We need to act urgently and globally to meet the most ambitious targets agreed in Paris last December and reduce the risk of future tipping points.”


Journal Reference:

  1. Yongyang Cai, Timothy M. Lenton, Thomas S. Lontzek. Risk of multiple interacting tipping points should encourage rapid CO2 emission reductionNature Climate Change, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2964

Global warming pushes wines into uncharted terroir (Science Daily)

Heat has decoupled French grapes from old weather patterns

Date:

March 21, 2016

Source:

The Earth Institute at Columbia University

Summary:

In much of France and Switzerland, the best wine years are traditionally those with an exceptionally hot summer and late-season drought. Now, a study out this week shows that warming climate has largely removed the drought factor from the centuries-old early-harvest equation. It is only the latest symptom that global warming is affecting biological systems and agriculture.


Wine grapes in an experimental vineyard in the Vaucluse region of France, June 2014. Credit: Elizabeth Wolkovich

Many factors go into making good wine: grape variety, harvesting practices, a vineyard’s slope and aspect, soil, climate and so on–that unique combination that adds up to a wine’s terroir. Year-to-year weather also matters greatly. In much of France and Switzerland, the best years are traditionally those with abundant spring rains followed by an exceptionally hot summer and late-season drought. This drives vines to put forth robust, fast-maturing fruit, and brings an early harvest. Now, a study out this week in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that warming climate has largely removed the drought factor from the centuries-old early-harvest equation. It is only the latest symptom that global warming is affecting biological systems and agriculture.

Temperature is the main driver of grape-harvest timing, and in the last 30 years, progressive warming has pushed harvest dates dramatically forward across the globe, from California to Australia, South America and Europe. In France, where records go back centuries, since 1980 harvest dates have advanced two weeks over the 400-year mean. These earlier harvests have meant some very good years. But existing studies suggest that regions here and elsewhere will eventually become too hot for traditionally grown grapes. Vineyards may then have to switch to hotter-climate varieties, change long-established methods, move or go out of business. The earth is shifting, and terroirs with it.

In the new study, scientists analyzed 20th and 21st-century weather data, premodern reconstructions of temperature, precipitation and soil moisture, and vineyard records and going back to 1600. They showed that in the relatively cool winemaking areas of France and Switzerland, early harvests have always required both above-average air temperatures and late-season drought. The reason, they say: in the past, droughts helped heighten temperature just enough to pass the early-harvest threshold. Basic physics is at work: normally, daily evaporation of moisture from soil cools earth’s surface. If drought makes soils dryer, there will be less evaporation–and thus the surface will get hotter. The authors say that up to the 1980s, the climate was such that without the extra kick of heat added by droughts, vineyards could not get quite hot enough for an early harvest. That has now changed; the study found that since then, overall warming alone has pushed summer temperatures over the threshold without the aid of drought. On the whole, France warmed about 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) during the 20th century, and the upward climb has continued.

“Now, it’s become so warm thanks to climate change, grape growers don’t need drought to get these very warm temperatures,” said lead author Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “After 1980, the drought signal effectively disappears. That means there’s been a fundamental shift in the large-scale climate under which other, local factors operate.”

The regions affected include familiar names: among them, Alsace, Champagne, Burgundy, Languedoc. These areas grow Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and other fairly cool-weather varieties that thrive within specific climate niches, and turn out exceptionally after an early harvest. Study coauthor Elizabeth Wolkovich, an ecologist at Harvard University, said that the switch has not hurt the wine industry yet. “So far, a good year is a hot year,” she said. However, she pointed out that the earliest French harvest ever recorded–2003, when a deadly heat wave hit Europe and grapes were picked a full month ahead of the once-usual time — did not produce particularly exceptional wines. “That may be a good indicator of where we’re headed,” she said. “If we keep pushing the heat up, vineyards can’t maintain that forever.”

Across the world, scientists have found that each degree Centigrade (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming pushes grape harvests forward roughly six or seven days. With this effect projected to continue, a 2011 study by Lamont-Doherty climate scientist Yves Tourre suggests that a combination of natural climate variability and human-induced warming could force finicky Pinot Noir grapes completely out of many parts of Burgundy. Other reports say Bordeaux could lose its Cabernets and Merlots. A widely cited though controversial 2013 study projects that by 2050, some two-thirds of today’s wine regions may no longer have climates suitable for the grapes they now grow. But other regions might beckon. Grapes no longer viable in California’s Napa Valley may find suitable homes in Washington or British Columbia. Southern England may become the new Champagne; the hills of central China the new Chile. Southern Australia’s big wineries may have to land further south, in Tasmania. “If people are willing to drink Italian varieties grown in France and Pinot Noir from Germany, maybe we can adapt,” said Wolkovich.

However, this begs the question of whether vineyards, or for that matter anything can just be picked up and moved. The earth is increasingly crowded with agriculture and infrastructure, and land may or may not be available for wine grapes. If it is, the soils, slopes and other exact conditions of old vineyards would be difficult or impossible duplicate. And, grape harvests are only one of many biological cycles already being affected by warming climate, with uncertain results. Many insects, plants, and marine creatures are rapidly shifting their ranges poleward. No one yet knows whether many species or entire ecosystems can survive such rapid changes, and the same almost certainly goes for wine grapes.

Liz Thach, a professor of management and wine business at Sonoma State University, said the study is telling growers what they already know. “Some people may still be skeptical about global warming, but not anyone in the wine industry,” she said. “Everyone believes it, because everyone sees it year by year–it’s here, it’s real, it’s not going away.”


Journal Reference:

  1. Benjamin I. Cook, Elizabeth M. Wolkovich. Climate change decouples drought from early wine grape harvests in FranceNature Climate Change, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2960

On the anthropology of climate change (Eurozine)

Thomas Hylland EriksenDasa Licen

Original in English
First published in Razpotja 22 (2015)

Contributed by Razpotja
© Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Dasa Licen / Razpotja
© Eurozine

A conversation with Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Mainstream literature on globalization tends not to take the uniqueness of each locality seriously enough, says Thomas Hylland Eriksen. He explains how the anthropology of climate change is responding to the need for an analysis of the global situation seen from below.

Dasa Licen: You have a blog, a vlog where you report on your fieldwork, where you look a bit like Indiana Jones. On top of that, you write popular articles and essays. You seem to believe that media are very important for anthropology.

Thomas Hylland Eriksen: I think anthropologists should be more conscious about how they are perceived in the wider public. Unfortunately, for decades now, there has in many places been a certain withdrawal of anthropology from the public sphere. There are many burning issues, from climate change to identity politics to debates on human nature, where anthropologists are not present the way they could be. This was not always the case.

If you go back a few generations, there were many anthropologists who were also engaged public intellectuals. They were visible, well known, they wrote popular books, took part in political debates, and so on. Think of a scholar like Margaret Mead back in the 1960s: her research was controversial, but she succeeded in placing anthropology on the map by being engaged in important debates. Nowadays, there are important discussions where anthropologists would have a lot to offer, yet they are more or less absent.

An obvious example is identity politics, but you can also take the debates on human nature. In many western countries, these have been monopolized by evolutionary biologists or psychologists. The things anthropologists say about human nature are quite different, and while we are rather good at criticizing sociobiology and evolutionary perspectives amongst ourselves, we rarely go out and present our nuanced message to a wider public. It is a striking fact that the most famous anthropologists today is not an anthropologists. He is an ornithologist and physiologist called Jared Diamond who has written bestsellers about where we come from and where we are going. His latest book called The World until Yesterday is a sort of anthropological treatise about other cultures, traditional peoples, and about the kind of wisdom they contribute to the modern world. His book has not been very well received by anthropologists, because he gets a lot of things nearly right. Although he has not been trained as an anthropologist, he uses anthropological sources and asks the kind of questions we do. But he manages to do it in a way that makes people want to read his book. We should learn from these examples.

DL: We all know the case of the doctor who is walking down the street and sees an injured person: he must offer to help. Do you think something similar applies to anthropologists in the face of global crises?

THE: I do think so. In my own work, I try to address two big lumps of questions. One of them is the extent to which we can apply anthropology as a tool to understand the contemporary world. This is what my project “Overheating” is about. The second is a more general question: what is it to be human? There are two groups of answers, one of them says, well a human being is a small twig on a branch on the big tree of life: that’s the story of evolution and while it generates some important some insight, it leaves aside a different set of questions about human subjectivity and emotions. I am talking about the complexities of life, all the existential struggles that human beings are confronted with. This perspective generates an entirely different set or answers, which are at the basis of what we do as anthropologists. By addressing them, we can contribute to a more nuanced view to what it is to be a human.

We are not only homo economics, merely maximizing creatures, and although instincts can be important for understanding our behaviour, we are not driven by them but immersed in a network of additional aspects. We are also not just social animals… Clifford Geertz insisted that human beings are primarily self-defining animals. Such a perspective enables not only a better understanding of the realities of human lives, but it also has its moral implications.

DL: Which ones?

THE: Let me give you an example. One of my PhD students works in rural Sierra Leone. It is an overheated place, in the sense that the Chinese and other foreign investors are coming in, opening up mines, new roads are being built… For many people this means opportunities, for many others it means misery. My student asks a guy, “so how do you explain these changes taking place in your community in the last years?”, and this guy would just shrug and say, “well you know man, it’s the global”. We have to try to find out what exactly he means when he says “it’s the global”.

DL: Is this the aim of the Overheating project which you mentioned?

THE: What we are trying to do with Overheating is to fill a gap in the literature on globalization: we are trying to say something general about what I call the clash of scales, the dichotomy between the large and local. The large scale is the world of global capitalism, of the environment and of nation-states; on the other hand, there are the lives people live in their own communities. We are a group of researchers who’ve done fieldwork in lots of locations around the world and we try to produce ethnographic material that is comparable, so that we can use our material to create, if I can be a bit pretentious, an anthropological history of the early twenty-first century. So we are working very hard to create an analysis of the global situation seen from below.

DL: Your project seems so wide that it almost looks like the anthropology of everything…

THE: Not quite. It is the anthropology of global crisis as perceived locally. Say you live somewhere in Australia and all of a sudden a mining company arrives next door and disrupts the ecosystem, and you ask yourself, “who can I blame and what can I do”? It’s the kind of question that many people ask when confronted with changes on the large scale that affect their local community. Our informants do not distinguish between the environment, the economy, identity as they all interact and effect local life. What we are interested in is the anthropology of local responses to global changes.

DL: So, you are trying to advance an anthropological understanding of globalization?

THE: Yes. I think one of the shortcomings of the mainstream literature on globalization is that the uniqueness of each locality is not taken seriously enough: the local is present mostly in the form of anecdotes from people’s lives. The problem of anthropological studies of globalization has often been the opposite: you go really deeply into one place and you neglect the wider perspective. We are trying to feel the gap in both approaches. The metaphor I often use is that of a social scientist who sits in a helicopter with a pair of binoculars and looks at the world. This would be the case of authors like Anthony Giddens or Manuel Castells. On the other hand, you have the person who works with a magnifying glass. We are trying to bring these two levels closer.

DL: The seriousness of global warming has been neglected by anthropologists, indeed by all social sciences for a long time.

THE: This is changing. The anthropology of climate change has become one of the big growth industries in academia, just as ethnicity and nationalism were big in the 1970s and 1980s. You are from Slovenia, you know the breakup of Yugoslavia, which came as a shock to us and we needed to understand what was happening. The genocide in Rwanda happened around the same time, Hindu nationalists came to power in India, contradicting everything we thought we knew about the country, controversies emerged around migration, multiculturalism, diversity, Islam in western Europe. After the turn of the century, the issue of climate change came to be understood as another layer on top of these issues.

DL: When did you develop your interest in climate change?

THE: It must have been many years ago but it took a while before I got the opportunity to look at these interconnected issues more closely. We are not geophysicists, we do not know much about CO2, we cannot predict the temperature of the world. What we can do is study how people respond, how they react, how they talk about it and what they do.

Summit camp on top of the Austfonna Ice Cap in Svalbard (Norwegian Arctic). Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Thorben Dunse, University of Oslo. Source: Flickr

The dangerous thing about climate changes is that it has deep consequences, and yet it is hard to find anybody to blame. Think about it: say you are in small town or village in the Andes in Peru and you notice there is something odd with the water. It is not the way it used to be, you notice the glaciers are melting, and then you know that mining company has opened an operation venue nearby. You think the mining company must be to blame, because they probably pumped out all the water and they destabilized the local climate, and so you march up to them telling them “look, you are taking away our water, we need compensation”, and they come out and they say “I’m sorry but it is not us, it is global climate change”. Where do you go to address that question? Do you write to Obama, do you write a letter to the Chinese?

The concern with climate change can be very serious in the sense that it creates a sense of powerlessness. We just have to let things happen. For this reason I have been interested in how environmental engagement begins with things that are within your reach. I probably can’t do anything about world climate, but maybe I can save some trees, or the dolphins in the harbour. That’s how engagement begins.

DL: Do you feel such helplessness when you talk about global warming and they ask you, “so what is your solution”?

THE: Good question. I guess we all have to find the best way of acting where we are. It is not as if you or I have the responsibility to save to planet, or that you will fail if you have not been able to save it. I remember that as a schoolboy I had a devout Christian teacher who was raised by missionaries in Japan. Being a Christian missionary in Japan can be very difficult because the people are generally not very interested in evangelization. She told us about a fellow Christian who had spend his entire life as a missionary in Japan and succeeded in converting one person, which made his life feel worthwhile. He felt saving one soul was well worth 50 years of hard work. We should not be overambitious regarding what we are able to achieve. We can take part in public debates, add one drop of complexity, a drop of doubt. Maybe sometimes it is enough or rather, it is all we can do.

DL: As an anthropologist you are not allowed to pass judgment on people, however sometimes it is extremely hard to avoid judgment, for example when we are confronted with obtuse forms of climate change denial.

THE: Traditionally, anthropologists have not been too good at thinking of themselves as engaged subjects, we have been taught not to pass judgment, to just lay out the facts and say, well this is what the world looks like and this is why this makes sense to those people and not to those people, and I believe that this paradigm, this kind of relative paradigm has collapsed. Such an approach can no longer function precisely for the reasons I was suggesting: we are now all in the same boat. So there is no good reason anymore to make sharp distinctions between scholarship and the wider public, because we are facing the same radical challenges. We are all part of the same moral space and sometimes we have to take an ethical or political stance, anything else would be irresponsible. But we have to strike a balance between that kind of engagement and our credibility as researchers.

Back to your question: when I study people who deny the reality of climate change I have to take their view of world seriously. Many of them really believe in the paradigm or progress, industrialism and so on. This to me is a key double bind in contemporary civilization: there is no easy way out, between economic growth and the ecological sustainability. There is no reason that anybody should have the answer. When people ask me what to do, I have to say: “Sorry, I am trying to work this out together with you. I do not have the answer.”

DL: You probably know Slavoj Zizek, he is more famous than Slovenia. He has had an ongoing dispute with Dipesh Chakrabarty on a related issue: should we first do something about global warming or engage in revolutionary struggle? Zizek believes climate change cannot be addressed outside the struggle for global emancipation, Chakrabarty on the other hand insists on the need to strike a historical compromise on a global level. What is your stance in this polemics?

THE: That is a very interesting question. On the one hand, I see the biggest tension in contemporary civilization is that between economic growth, which for two hundred years has been based on fossil fuels, and sustainability. Fossil fuels have been a blessing for humanity. They have created the foundations for modern life. Yet they are now becoming a damnation, a threat to civilization. This is hard to see from the viewpoint of a classical progressivist perspective.

This is strongly linked to another contradiction, the tension between a class based politics and green politics. What is more important, to do something about inequality or to save the world climate? Sometimes you just cannot pursue both aims. I worked in Australia, in a place where virtually everybody works directly or indirectly in industry. They have a huge power station, a cement factory, it is an industrial hub. Very few people have any environmental engagement to talk of. There is nothing about climate change in the local newspaper. It is all about industrial growth and job security. Being an environment activist in that place is very hard because your neighbours are not going to like it, but they have a very strong union-based socialist movement in that town. Those people see green politics as something that is a kind of a middle class thing. They associate it with cappuccino-sipping do-gooder students in Sydney and Melbourne, whereas us, the hard working industrial employees are the ones actually producing the cappuccino, the tablets, and they are not aware of where their wealth comes from. There is a widespread feeling of the hypocrisy of green politics.

Where do I stand? I think saving the climate is the main issue. But it should be pursued with concern for social justice. The first priority has to be to create sustainable jobs. If you take away a million jobs, you have to reproduce those jobs somewhere else. This leads me to what I think could have been an answer, had Zizek been aware of it, namely the anthropological school called human economy. There is a very creative English anthropologist who works in South Africa called Keith Hart who works from this perspective. David Graeber is sort of within the same world, looking at feasible economic alternatives to global neoliberalism. We are not talking about state socialism here: you are from Slovenia, you are too young to remember it, but state socialism did not make people too happy and it was not good for the environment either.

The point is that we need to talk about the economy in terms of human needs. The goal of economy is to satisfy human needs; not just material needs but also the need to something meaningful, to be useful for others, to see the results of what you are doing. The point of economy is not only to generate profits, but to try to fight alienation.

DL: You wrote somewhere that the Left lacks an understanding of multiculturalism and knowledge of the environment, and it tends to neglect these two fields that are extremely important right now. Isn’t that a surprising statement given that in the West, these issues have become almost synonymous with leftism?

THE: Things are indeed changing. That is probably one of the reasons Slavoj Zizek gets so angry sometimes, because he identifies with the Left, but the Left has abandoned his positions. I think many of us have the same feeling of being ideologically homeless. For 200 hundred years, the Left was quite good at promoting equality and social justice, presuming that economic growth will continue indefinitely. Then, in the 1980s multiculturalism emerged. The Left tried to appropriate it, tried to promote diversity, but it has not succeeded, because leftist movements have been good at promoting equality but not difference. Then environmental issues came as another factor complicating the picture. What do you do when you have to choose between class politics and green politics? You probably stick with class politics, but then you realize it is part of the problem, especially if you live in a rich country, as I do, where the working class flies to southern Europe all the time, going on holiday, driving cars, eating imported meat and so on. There is a big dilemma here. Again I must insist I don’t have the final answer, but at least if we identify the problem we make small steps in the right direction.

By the way, I very strongly disagree with what Zizek says about multiculturalism. Whenever he makes jokes about it, he produces a caricature of multiculturalism, rather than a parody which is arguably his aim. He does not really know what he is talking about. He knows a lot of things, but multiculturalism is not one of his strong points.

DL: Zizek has advanced a positive interpretation of the Judeo-Christian tradition from a leftist perspective. Do you think that this tradition, which sees the Earth as ultimately doomed, poses a problem for environmentalism?

THE: Good question. Probably there is something about the way in which many people talk about climate change that resembles these Judeo-Christian ideas about the end of time. We are approaching the end, we are approaching the final phase. Think about the popularity of post-apocalyptic films in science fiction. It started already in the early 1980s with Mad Max films, and there has been a series of Hollywood and other movies about the world after the apocalypse. There is a real thirst for this sort of narratives. In the text I am writing now I just quoted T. S. Eliot who writes famously that the world ends not with a bomb but with a whimper. There is no before and after. Many of the communist revolutionaries held similar chiliastic ideas: things are going to get worse and worse and worse, and then after the revolution everything is going to be fine. But we have some 200 years of experience with revolutions, and we know they tend to reproduce many of the problems they were meant to solve, and on top of that they create new ones. Take the Arab spring in North Africa and the Middle East. I think it is very dangerous to behave as if the history has a direction.

DL: This is somewhat connected to the wider issue of the role of human civilization in the environmental history of the planet. You use the term Anthropocene, yet some find it inappropriate as it puts humans in the centre, not only as the source of the trouble we are facing but also as more important than anything else on the planet. How do you feel about that?

THE: Some scientists want to have it both ways. Some think in terms of the changes that characterize the Anthropocene and at the same time they emphasize that humans and non-humans are really in a symbiotic relationship. I do not have a lot of patience for that kind of argument, especially if you think of the state of the world in times of climate change, with huge extractive industries, the global mining boom as the result of the growing Chinese and Indian economies, the upsurge of fracking which seems to have provided us with an almost indefinite supply of fossil fuels. I feel it is irresponsible to question the responsibility of humanity. And yet, however much I may love my cat and acknowledge that humans and domestic animals have coevolved, we must realize that human beings are special. There is no chimpanzee or the smartest of dolphins able to say, “well my dad was poor but at least he was honest”. Only human beings can create that sentence: our sense of moral responsibility is unique and we must live up to it.

DL: Speaking of moral responsibility: I understand you had an important role in the coming to terms with the Breivik tragedy…

THE: Yes, I spent about three weeks after the terrorist attack and doing little other than talking to foreign journalist and writing articles for foreign newspapers. They contacted me not only because I have been writing about identity politics and nationalism, but also because Breivik had a sort of soft spot for me. He sees me as a symbol of everything that has gone wrong in Norway, a sort of spineless effeminate cosmopolitan middle class multiculturalist Muslim lover. There has been a hardening; polarization is much more strong now than it was only 20 years.

In the 1990s, people who had said things like I do about cultural diversity would perhaps have been accused of being naive, whereas in the last few years we are increasingly being accused of being traitors – which is different. Breivik quoted me about 15 times in his manifesto and his YouTube film. You might say he had a mild obsession with me. Eventually, I was called in as a witness in the trial by the defence. Originally, the psychiatrists who examined Breivik concluded he was insane. He should have received psychiatric treatment, and thus could not be punished for what he did. Of course, at the certain level one has to be insane to kill so many innocent young people. But his ideas are not the result of mental illness, they are quite widely shared. We have websites in Norway, with 20,000 unique visits every week, that were among his favourite websites. The defence wanted to call me in as a witness to testify that although he may be a murderer, his ideas are very common, they are shared by thousands of others. Which is true, but in the end I did not have to go because they had a long list of witnesses and they only used some of them.

DL: Were you scared by this kind of exposure?

THE: Not really. But in the first few weeks after the terrorist attack when everybody in Norway was in a state of shock, I noticed that some people at the university whom I hardly knew would come over to me and were behaving unusually nicely. I realized they probably thought that was the last time they see of me because I was probably next on the dead list. Then things went back to normal. You can never feel entirely safe. Breivik reminds us that even a handful of people can do immense harm, just like the terrorist attack in United States in 2001. It has probably made society a little bit less trusting, a bit more worried. But I do not think about my own person security. About the security of my family, yes, but not mine. You cannot. That would be allowing the other people to win.

DL: Would you say that Norway has learnt anything from this tragedy?

THE: Unfortunately not. There was a chance that we could have, and many of us were hoping that an attack like that should make us understand that the idea of ethnic purity is absurd, crazy and not feasible in this century. We hoped that we could now get together to sit down and discuss these issues in a more measured, serious, balanced way, but it did not happen. It took only a couple of weeks for the usual political polarization to return. If anything, people who were against immigration became even more aggressive than before. We missed an opportunity there.

DL: You are coming to Ljubljana to a convention with the provocative title, Why the world needs anthropologists. But isn’t it a bit pretentious to suggest that the world needs us at all?

THE: That is an excellent question. I do not know whether the world needs novelists, but it probably does not does need poets. It can easily manage without them. And yet, the human need for meaning is just as powerful as the need for food and shelter. The kind of meaning sensitive and intelligent people can provide is especially important, when we need to reformulate the main questions.

I sometimes think about students of mine who are never going to work as anthropologist, they will find jobs elsewhere, but studying anthropology enables them to lead a better life because they understand more of themselves and of the world. I even think that doing anthropology makes you a better person: just like reading novels, it enables you to identify with others. When you then see the refugees in the Mediterranean, at least you know, it could have been me. You think that because you relate to people in all parts of the world. I think the main sort of moral message of anthropology perhaps is that all human lives have value, no matter how alien no matter how strange it might appear. So yes, I think world needs anthropologists, just as it needs novelists and poets.

El Niño history raises fear of cholera outbreak (SciDev.Net)

10/03/16

María Elena Hurtado

Summary:

  • El Niño may carry disease-causing Vibrio bacteria across Pacific
  • Previous events linked to cases of diarrhoea and cholera
  • Current El Niño developing similarly to 1977 one when diarrhoea reached Peru

   

The ongoing El Niño event may be spreading cholera and other diseases caused by Vibrio bacteria from Asia to South America, researchers suggest.

This is because the bacteria, which are typically found in salty water, could ‘piggyback’ on zooplankton that travel to Peru and Chile with the warm easterly and southerly Pacific currents associated with El Niño, according to a comment published in Nature Microbiology last month.

Vibrio bacteria cause severe diarrhoea when people eat raw, contaminated molluscs such as oysters, clams and mussels. Such outbreaks have been linked to previous El Niño episodes.

The ongoing El Niño — dubbed El Niño Godzilla because of its intensity — may be the strongest on record. It is developing similarly to an episode in 1977, during which a diarrhoea epidemic broke out in Peru. In that year, Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria caused an estimated 10,000 cases of severe gastroenteritis along the South American coastline.

In 1997, another strong El Niño year, the Vibrio parahaemolyticus strain of the bacteria, which had emerged in India, plagued the South American coast.

“The emergence of cases correlated with southward dissemination of El Niño water during the 1997 event,” says Jaime Martinez-Urtaza, a biologist at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, and a coauthor of the article.

In terms of cholera, South America had been free of the disease for almost a century — until it reemerged in the early 1990s. Within weeks, cholera spread across South and Central America, going on to cause more than a million cases and 10,000 deaths by 1994.

Martinez-Urtaza says the cholera outbreak “coincided in both time and space with a significant El Niño event in late 1991 and early 1992”.

Ronnie Gavilán, a researcher at Peru’s National Institute of Health, says there is other evidence for El Niño’s influence on Vibrio bacteria in the Americas. He points out that, during warm El Niño events, Vibrioinfections continue to spread in the cold winter months, when they usually only occur in hot summers.

The current El Niño has not yet led to a Vibrio outbreak, but health authorities in Chile and Peru are closely monitoring water quality near the coast.

The delay could be “because the pathogens that may have arrived during the summer season may show up years later”, says Romilio Orellana, a biochemist at the University of Chile.

References

Jaime Martinez-Urtaza and others Is El Niño a long-distance corridor for waterborne disease? (Nature Microbiology, 24 February 2016)

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Nasa aims to move Earth (The Guardian)

Scientists’ answer to global warming: nudge the planet farther from Sun

Special report: global warming

, science editor

Sunday 10 June 2001 Last modified on Friday 1 January 2016 


Scientists have found an unusual way to prevent our planet overheating: move it to a cooler spot.

All you have to do is hurtle a few comets at Earth, and its orbit will be altered. Our world will then be sent spinning into a safer, colder part of the solar system.

This startling idea of improving our interplanetary neighbourhood is the brainchild of a group of Nasa engineers and American astronomers who say their plan could add another six billion years to the useful lifetime of our planet – effectively doubling its working life.

‘The technology is not at all far-fetched,’ said Dr Greg Laughlin, of the Nasa Ames Research Center in California. ‘It involves the same techniques that people now suggest could be used to deflect asteroids or comets heading towards Earth. We don’t need raw power to move Earth, we just require delicacy of planning and manoeuvring.’

The plan put forward by Dr Laughlin, and his colleagues Don Korycansky and Fred Adams, involves carefully directing a comet or asteroid so that it sweeps close past our planet and transfers some of its gravitational energy to Earth.

‘Earth’s orbital speed would increase as a result and we would move to a higher orbit away from the Sun,’ Laughlin said.

Engineers would then direct their comet so that it passed close to Jupiter or Saturn, where the reverse process would occur. It would pick up energy from one of these giant planets. Later its orbit would bring it back to Earth, and the process would be repeated.

In the short term, the plan provides an ideal solution to global warming, although the team was actually concerned with a more drastic danger. The sun is destined to heat up in about a billion years and so ‘seriously compromise’ our biosphere – by frying us.

Hence the group’s decision to try to save Earth. ‘All you have to do is strap a chemical rocket to an asteroid or comet and fire it at just the right time,’ added Laughlin. ‘It is basic rocket science.’

The plan has one or two worrying aspects, however. For a start, space engineers would have to be very careful about how they directed their asteroid or comet towards Earth. The slightest miscalculation in orbit could fire it straight at Earth – with devastating consequences.

There is also the vexed question of the Moon. As the current issue of Scientific American points out, if Earth was pushed out of its current position it is ‘most likely the Moon would be stripped away from Earth,’ it states, radically upsetting out planet’s climate.

These criticisms are accepted by the scientists. ‘Our investigation has shown just how delicately Earth is poised within the solar system,’ Laughlin admitted. ‘Nevertheless, our work has practical implications. Our calculations show that to get Earth to a safer, distant orbit, it would have to pass through unstable zones and would need careful nurturing and nudging. Any alien astronomers observing our solar system would know that something odd had occurred, and would realise an intelligent lifeform was responsible.

‘And the same goes for us. When we look at other solar systems, and detect planets around other suns – which we are now beginning to do – we may see that planet-moving has occurred. It will give us our first evidence of the handiwork of extraterrestrial beings.’

Mais respeito pela Funceme (O Povo)

ARTIGO 29/02/2016

Fátima Sudário

Na semana que passou, a Funceme atualizou a previsão para a estação de chuva, que se estende até maio na região em que o Ceará está inserido. Reafirmou, em dia de chuva intensa na Capital, probabilidade de chuva em torno de 70% abaixo da média.

Isso é seca braba. É caso de se cobrar atitude do poder público e se compromissar com mobilização social para um cenário desfavorável.
Pela primeira vez, o volume do Castanhão, principal fornecedor da água na Região Metropolitana de Fortaleza, caiu a menos de 10%.

Mas a reação, de um modo geral, se restringe ao ceticismo em relação às previsões da Funceme. Não faltam comentários pejorativos, piadas e ironias, uma espécie de cultura instaurada sempre que se trata da instituição que, além da meteorologia, se dedica a meio ambiente e recursos hídricos.

Penso que há de se atribuir essa postura a imprecisões de previsão, como de fato acontecem, ao uso político de informações como aconteceu no passado ou mesmo à ignorância. Mas me incomoda. A meteorologia lida com parâmetros globais complexos, como temperatura do ar e dos oceanos, velocidade e direção dos ventos, umidade, pressão atmosférica, fenômenos como El Niño… Já avançou consideravelmente na confiabilidade das previsões feitas por meteorologistas, com o uso de dados de satélites, balões atmosféricos e um tanto mais de aparato tecnológico que alimentam modelos matemáticos complicados para desenhar probabilidades, mas não exatidões.

Erra-se, aqui como no resto mundo. Mas geram-se informações de profundo impacto social, econômico, científico e cultural, essenciais a tomadas de decisões, de natureza pública e privada. Algo que nenhum gestor ou comunidade pode dispensar, especialmente em uma região como a nossa, vulnerável às variações climáticas e dependente da chuva. Carecemos de uma troca de mentalidade em relação ao trabalho da Funceme. Falo de respeito mesmo pelo que nos é caro e fundamentalmente necessário.

A propósito, é difícil, mas torço para que a natureza contrarie o prognóstico e caia chuva capaz de garantir um mínimo de segurança hídrica, produtividade e dignidade a um Ceará que muito depende das informações sobre o clima, geradas pela Funceme.

Fátima Sudário

Jornalista do O POVO

Oxford’s Halley Professor on How the Climate Challenge Could Derail a Brilliant Human Destiny (Dot Earth/NYT)

By 

FEBRUARY 15, 2016 9:04 AM February 15, 2016 9:04 am

Updated, 11:51 p.m. | Sustained large investments in fundamental science paid off in a big way last week, as Dennis Overbye so beautifully reported in The Times’s package on confirmation of Einstein’s 1916 conclusion that massive moving objects cause ripples in spacetime — gravitational waves.

Raymond Pierrehumbert, a climate scientist and the Halley Professor of Physics at Oxford University.

Raymond Pierrehumbert, a climate scientist and the Halley Professor of Physics at Oxford University. Credit Eva Dalin, Stockholm University

This finding, and the patient investments and effort through which it was produced, came up in the context of humanity’s global warming challenge in an email exchange a few days ago with Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, a veteran climate scientist who was recently appointed the Halley Professor of Physics at Oxford University.*

The common context is the importance of sustained engagement on a big challenge — whether it is intellectual, as in revealing spacetime ripples, or potentially existential, as in pursuing ways to move beyond energy choices that are reshaping Earth for hundreds of generations to come.

I reached out to Pierrehumbert because he is one of many authors of “Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change,” an important new Nature Climate Change analysis reinforcing past work showing a very, very, very long impact (tens of millenniums) on the Earth system — climatic, coastal and otherwise — from the carbon dioxide buildup driven by the conversion, in our lifetimes, of vast amounts of fossil fuels into useful energy.

The core conclusion:

This long-term view shows that the next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far. [Read the Boston College news release for even more.]**

summary from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory captures the basic findings:

Humans have been burning fossil fuels for only about 150 years, yet that has started a cascade of profound changes that at their current pace will still be felt 10,000 years from now.

Here’s a snippet from a figure in the paper showing how arguments about the pace of coastal change between now and 2100 distract from a profoundly clear long-term reality — that there will be no new “normal” coastal for millenniums, even with aggressive action to curb emissions:

Photo

A detail from a figure in a new paper shows the projected possible rise in sea levels over the next 10,000 years from today under four levels of emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. The highest blue line at right is 50 meters (164 feet) above today’s sea level. Even the lowest scenario eventually floods most of today’s coastal cities.<br /><br />The darker line to the left of today marks sea levels over the last 10,000 years — a geological epoch called the Holocene. The figures below show ice amounts on Greenland and Antarctica today and if humans burn most known fossil fuels. <a href="http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/fig_tab/nclimate2923_F2.html">The full figure and legend is here.</a>
A detail from a figure in a new paper shows the projected possible rise in sea levels over the next 10,000 years from today under four levels of emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. The highest blue line at right is 50 meters (164 feet) above today’s sea level. Even the lowest scenario eventually floods most of today’s coastal cities.

The darker line to the left of today marks sea levels over the last 10,000 years — a geological epoch called the Holocene. The figures below show ice amounts on Greenland and Antarctica today and if humans burn most known fossil fuels. The full figure and legend is here.Credit Nature Climate Change

I’d asked Pierrrehumbert to reflect on the time-scale conundrum laid out in the Nature Climate Change paper in the context of another important and provocative proposal by Princeton’s Robert Socolow, published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in December, proposing a new field of inquiry — Destiny Studies — to examine the tough intersection of ethics, risk perception and science. His essay is titled, “Climate change and Destiny Studies: Creating our near and far futures.” Here’s the abstract:

Climate change makes stringent demands on thinking about our future. We need two-sided reasoning to contend equitably with the risks of climate change and the risks of “solutions.” We need to differentiate the future 500 years from now and 50 years from now. This essay explores three pressing climate change issues, using both the 500-year and the 50-year time frames: sea level rise, the nuclear power “solution,” and fossil carbon abundance.

Here’s Pierrehumbert’s “Your Dot” contribution, tying together these elements:

The day of the release of the spectacular LIGO gravitational wave discovery is a good time to be pondering human destiny, the great things we can achieve as a species if only we don’t do ourselves in, and the responsibility to provide a home for future generations to flourish in. It is beyond awesome that we little lumps of protoplasm squinting out at the Universe from our shaky platform in the outskirts of an insignificant galaxy can, after four decades of indefatigable effort, detect and characterize a black hole merger over a billion light years away.

This is just one of the most dramatic examples of what we are capable of, given the chance to be our best selves. In science, I’d rate the revolution in detecting and characterizing exoplanets way up there as well. There’s no limit to what we can accomplish as a species.

But we have to make it through the next two hundred years first, and this will be a crucial time for humanity. This is where Destiny Studies and our paper on the Anthropocene come together. The question of why we should care about the way we set the climate of the Anthropocene is far better answered in terms of our vision for the destiny of our species than it is in terms of the broken calculus of economics and discounting.

For all we know, we may be the only sentience in the Galaxy, maybe even in the Universe. We may be the only ones able to bear witness to the beauty of our Universe, and it may be our destiny to explore the miracle of sentience down through billions of years of the future, whatever we may have turned into by that time. Even if we are not alone, it is virtually certain that every sentient species will bring its own unique and irreplaceable perspectives to creativity and the understanding of the Universe around us.

Thinking big about our destiny, think of this: the ultimate habitability catastrophe for Earth is when the Sun leaves the main sequence and turns into a Red Giant. That happens in about 4 billion years. However, long before that — in only about 500 million years — the Sun gets bright enough to trigger a runaway greenhouse effect and turn us into Venus, sterilizing all life on Earth. We waste half the main sequence lifetime of the Sun.

However, if we last long enough, technology will make it easy to block enough sunlight to save the Earth from a runaway, buying us another 4 billion years of habitability. That’s the only kind of albedo-modification geoengineering I could countenance, and by the time that is needed, presumably we’ll have the wisdom to deploy it safely and the technology to make it robust.

But we have to make it through the next 200 years first.

If we do what humanity has always done in the past, we’re likely to burn all the fossil fuels, and then have a hard landing at a time of high population, with an unbearable climate posing existential risks, at just the time when we’re facing the crisis fossil fuels running out. That will hardly make for ideal conditions under which to decarbonize, and there is a severe risk civilization will collapse, leaving our descendants with few resources to deal with the unbearable environment we will have bequeathed them.

It’s been pointed out that fossil fuels came in just about when we had run out of whale oil, but the whales had been hunted to the brink of extinction when that happened. If we do the same with coal, it’s not going to make for a pretty transition. With regard to the Anthropocene, it’s true that given a thousand years or so — if technological civilization survives — it becomes likely that we would develop ways to remover CO2 from the atmosphere and accelerate the recovery to more livable conditions. But if things get bad enough in the next two hundred years, we may never have that chance.

The alternative future is one where we decide to make the transition to a carbon-free economy before we’re forced into it by the depletion of fossil fuels. We’re going to run out anyway, and will need to learn to do without fossil fuels, so why not get weaned early, before we’ve trashed the climate? If we do that, we might not just buy ourselves a world, but a whole Universe.

Shorthand summary: Can we do better than bacteria smeared on agar?

This passage from a 2011 post, “Confronting the Anthropocene,” conveys my sense of the core focus of “destiny studies”:

We’re essentially in a race between our potency, our awareness of the expressed and potential ramifications of our actions and our growing awareness of the deeply embedded perceptual and behavioral traits that shape how we do, or don’t, address certain kinds of risks [or time scales].

Another author of the Nature Climate Change paper, Daniel Schrag of Harvard, gave a highly relevant talk at the Garrison Institute a couple of years ago in which he raised, but did not answer, a question I hope you’ll all ponder:

Is there a moral argument for some threshold of environmental conditions that we must preserve for future generations?

This would be a cornerstone question in destiny studies. I moderated a conversation on this question and the rest of the lecture with Schrag and Elke U. Weber of Columbia University. I hope you can spare some time to watch.

There are plenty of efforts to build such a field, including Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University and the Arizona State University effort I described in this post: “Building Visions of Humanity’s Climate Future – in Fiction and on Campus.”

Here are other relevant past pieces:

2015 – “Avoiding a Climate Inferno

2013 – “Could Climate Campaigners’ Focus on Current Events be Counterproductive?

2011 – “Pedal to the Metal

2010 – “Which Comes First – Peak Everything or Peak Us?

2009 – “Puberty on the Scale of a Planet

Updated, 11:50 p.m. | David Roberts at Vox today put the Nature Climate Change paper in political context when he wrote: “The U.S. presidential election will matter for 10,000 years.” Read the rest here.

Footnotes |

** This excerpt from the paper was added at 1:36 p.m.

*Pierrehumbert has contributed valuable insights here in the past, writes on Slate on occasion and is a fine accordion player. He contributed sensitively wrought parts on a song on my first album.

OMS declara vírus zica e microcefalia ‘emergência pública internacional’ (JC)

Comitê de Emergência se reuniu pela primeira vez nesta segunda-feira (1) para reagir ao aumento do número de casos de desordens neurológicas e malformações congênitas, sobretudo nas Américas. País mais atingido é o Brasil

A Organização Mundial da Saúde (OMS) realizou nesta segunda-feira (1) a primeira reunião do Comité de Emergência que trata dos recentes casos de microcefalia e outros distúrbios neurológicos em áreas afetadas pelo vírus zika, sobretudo nas Américas. O país mais atingido é o Brasil.

O Secretariado da OMS informou ao Comitê sobre a situação dos casos de microcefalia e Síndrome de Guillain-Barré, circunstancialmente associados à transmissão do vírus zika. O Comitê foi recebeu informações sobre a história do vírus zika, sua extensão, apresentação clínica e epidemiologia.

As representações do Brasil, França, Estados Unidos e El Salvador apresentaram as primeiras informações sobre uma potencial associação entre a microcefalia – bem como outros distúrbios neurológicos – e a doença provocada pelo vírus zika.

Segundo o comunicado da OMS, os especialistas reunidos em Genebra concordam que uma relação causal entre a infecção do zika durante a gravidez e microcefalia é “fortemente suspeita”, embora ainda não comprovada cientificamente.

A falta de vacinas e testes de um diagnóstico rápido e confiável, bem como a ausência de imunidade da população em países recém-afetados, foram citadas como novos motivos de preocupação.

Para a Comissão da OMS, o recente conjunto de casos microcefalia e outros distúrbios neurológicos relatados no Brasil, logo após ocorrências semelhantes na Polinésia Francesa, em 2014, constituem uma “emergência de saúde pública de importância internacional”, condição conhecida também pela sua sigla em inglês (PHEIC).

Em uma decisão aceita pela diretora-geral da OMS, Margaret Chan, o Comitê da agência da ONU busca assim coordenar uma resposta global de modo a minimizar a ameaça nos países afetados e reduzir o risco de propagação internacional.

Recomendações à diretora-geral da OMS

O Comitê, em resposta às informações fornecidas, fez recomendações à OMS sobre medidas a serem tomadas.

Em relação aos distúrbios neurológicos e microcefalia, o Comitê sugere que a vigilância de microcefalia e da Síndrome de Guillain-Barré deve ser padronizada e melhorada, particularmente em áreas conhecidas de transmissão do vírus zika, bem como em áreas de risco de transmissão.

O Comitê também recomendou que seja intensificada a investigação acerca da etiologia – a causa das doenças – nos novos focos onde ocorrem os casos de distúrbios neurológicos e de microcefalia, para determinar se existe uma relação causal entre o vírus zika e outros fatores desconhecidos.

Como estes grupos se situam em áreas recém-infectadas com o vírus zika, de acordo com as boas práticas de saúde pública e na ausência de outra explicação para esses agrupamentos, o Comitê destaca a importância de “medidas agressivas” para reduzir a infecção com o vírus zika, especialmente entre as mulheres grávidas e mulheres em idade fértil.

Como medida de precaução, o Comitê fez as seguintes recomendações adicionais:

Transmissão do vírus zika

A vigilância para infecção pelo vírus zika deve ser reforçada, com a divulgação de definições de casos padrão e diagnósticos para áreas de risco.

O desenvolvimento de novos diagnósticos de infecção pelo vírus zika devem ser priorizados para facilitar as medidas de vigilância e de controle.

A comunicação de risco deve ser reforçada em países com transmissão do vírus zika para responder às preocupações da população, reforçar o envolvimento da comunidade, melhorar a comunicação e assegurar a aplicação de controle de vetores e medidas de proteção individual.

Medidas de controle de vetores e medidas de proteção individual adequada devem ser agressivamente promovidas e implementadas para reduzir o risco de exposição ao vírus zika.

Atenção deve ser dada para assegurar que as mulheres em idade fértil e mulheres grávidas em especial tenham as informações e materiais necessários para reduzir o risco de exposição.

As mulheres grávidas que tenham sido expostas ao vírus zika devem ser aconselhadas e acompanhadas por resultados do nascimento com base na melhor informação disponível e práticas e políticas nacionais.

Medidas de longo prazo

Esforços de pesquisa e desenvolvimento apropriados devem ser intensificados para vacinas, terapias e diagnósticos do vírus zika.

Em áreas conhecidas de transmissão do vírus zika, os serviços de saúde devem estar preparados para o aumento potencial de síndromes neurológicas e/ou malformações congênitas.

Medidas de viagem

Não deve haver restrições a viagens ou ao comércio com países, regiões e/ou territórios onde esteja ocorrendo a transmissão do vírus zika.

Viajantes para áreas com transmissão do vírus zika devem receber informações atualizadas sobre os potenciais riscos e medidas adequadas para reduzir a possibilidade de exposição a picadas do mosquito.

Recomendações da OMS sobre padrões em matéria de desinfestação de aeronaves e aeroportos devem ser implementadas.

Compartilhamento de dados

As autoridades nacionais devem garantir a comunicação e o compartilhamento ágeis e em tempo de informações relevantes de importância para a saúde pública, para esta Emergência.

Dados clínicos, virológicos e epidemiológicos, relacionados com o aumento das taxas de microcefalia e/ou Síndrome de Guillain-Barré, ou com a transmissão do vírus zika, devem ser rapidamente compartilhados com a OMS para facilitar a compreensão internacional destes eventos, para orientar o apoio internacional para os esforços de controle, priorizando a pesquisa e desenvolvimento de produtos.

Acompanhe:

http://who.int/emergencies/zika-virus

http://new.paho.org/bra

http://combateaedes.saude.gov.br

http://bit.ly/zikaoms

ONU

 

Leia também:

Agência Brasil – Notificação de casos de Zika passa a ser obrigatória no Brasil

The controversy about the relationship between GM mosquitoes and the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil

 

Pandora’s box: how GM mosquitos could have caused Brazil’s microcephaly disaster (The Ecologist)

Oliver Tickell

1st February 2016

Aedes Aegypti mosquito feeding on human blood. Photo: James Gathany via jentavery on Flickr (CC BY).

Aedes Aegypti mosquito feeding on human blood. This is the species that transmits Zika, and that was genetically engineered by Oxitec using the piggyBac transposon. Photo: James Gathany via jentavery on Flickr (CC BY).

In Brazil’s microcephaly epidemic, one vital question remains unanswered: how did the Zika virus suddenly learn how to disrupt the development of human embryos? The answer may lie in a sequence of ‘jumping DNA’ used to engineer the virus’s mosquito vector – and released into the wild four years ago in the precise area of Brazil where the microcephaly crisis is most acute.

These ‘promiscuous’ transposons have found special favour with genetic engineers, whose goal is to create ‘universal’ systems for transferring genes into any and every species on earth. Almost none of the geneticists has considered the hazards involved.

Since August 2015, a large number of babies in Northeast Brazil have been born with very small heads, a condition known as microcephaly, and with other serious malformations. 4,180 suspected cases have been reported.

Epidemiologists have found a convincing correlation between the incidence of the natal deformities and maternal infections with the Zika virus, first discovered in Uganda’s Zika Valley in 1947, which normally produces non-serious illness.

The correlation has been evidenced through the geographical distrubution of Zika infections and the wave of deformities. Zika virus has also been detected in the amniotic fluids and other tissues of the affected babies and their mothers.

This latter finding was recently reported by AS Oliveira Melo et al in a scientific paperpublished in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology, which noted evidence of intra-uterine infection. They also warn:

“As with other intrauterine infections, it is possible that the reported cases of microcephaly represent only the more severely affected children and that newborns with less severe disease, affecting not only the brain but also other organs, have not yet been diagnosed.”

The Brazilian Health Minister, Marcelo Castro, says he has “100% certainty” that there is a link between Zika and microcephaly. His view is supported by the medical community worldwide, including by the US Center for Disease Control.

Oliveira Melo et al draw attention to a mystery that lies at the heart of the affair: “It is difficult to explain why there have been no fetal cases of Zika virus infection reported until now but this may be due to the underreporting of cases, possible early acquisition of immunity in endemic areas or due to the rarity of the disease until now.

“As genomic changes in the virus have been reported, the possibility of a new, more virulent, strain needs to be considered. Until more cases are diagnosed and histopathological proof is obtained, the possibility of other etiologies cannot be ruled out.”

And this is the key question: how – if indeed Zika really is the problem, as appears likely – did this relatively innocuous virus acquire the ability to produce these terrible malformations in unborn human babies?

Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes

An excellent article by Claire Bernish published last week on AntiMedia draws attention to an interesting aspect of the matter which has escaped mainstream media attention: the correlation between the incidence of Zika and the area of release of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitos engineered for male insterility (see maps, above right).

The purpose of the release was to see if it controlled population of the mosquitos, which are the vector of Dengue fever, a potentially lethal disease. The same species also transmits the Zika virus.

The releases took in 2011 and 2012 in the Itaberaba suburb of the city of Juazeiro, Bahia, Northeast Brazil, about 500 km west of ther coastal city of Recife. The experiment was written up in July 2015 in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases in a paper titled ‘Suppression of a Field Population of Aedes aegypti in Brazil by Sustained Release of Transgenic Male Mosquitoes’ by Danilo O. Carvalho et al.

An initial ‘rangefinder of 30,000 GM mosquitos per week took place between 19th May and 29th June 2011, followed by a much larger release of 540,000 per week in early 2012, ending on 11th February.

At the end of it the scientists claimed “effective control of a wild population of Ae. aegypti by sustained releases of OX513A male Ae. aegypti. We diminished Ae. aegypti population by 95% (95% CI: 92.2%-97.5%) based on adult trap data and 78% (95% CI: 70.5%-84.8%) based on ovitrap indices compared to the adjacent no-release control area.”

So what’s to worry about?

    The idea of the Oxitec mosquitoes is simple enough: the males produce non-viable offspring which all die. So the GM mosqitoes are ‘self-extinguishing’ and the altered genes cannot survive in the wild population. All very clever, and nothing to worry about!

    But in fact, it’s not so simple. In 2010 geneticist Ricarda Steinbrecher wrote to the biosafety regulator in Malaysia – also considering a release of the Oxitec mosquitoes – with a number of safety concerns, pointing out the 2007 finding by Phuc et al that 3-4% of the first generation mosquitos actually survive.

    The genetic engineerig method employed by Oxitec allows the popular antibiotic tetracycline to be used to repress the lethality during breeding. But as a side-effect, the lethality is also reduced by the presence of tetracycline in the environment; and as Bernish points out, Brazil is among the world’s biggest users of anti-microbials including tetracycline in its commercial farming sector:

    “As a study by the American Society of Agronomy, et. al., explained, ‘It is estimated that approximately 75% of antibiotics are not absorbed by animals and are excreted in waste.’ One of the antibiotics (or antimicrobials) specifically named in that report for its environmental persistence is tetracycline.

    In fact, as a confidential internal Oxitec document divulged in 2012, that survival rate could be as high as 15% – even with low levels of tetracycline present. ‘Even small amounts of tetracycline can repress’ the engineered lethality. Indeed, that 15% survival rate was described by Oxitec.”

    She then quotes the leaked Oxitec paper: “After a lot of testing and comparing experimental design, it was found that [researchers] had used a cat food to feed the [OX513A] larvae and this cat food contained chicken. It is known that tetracycline is routinely used to prevent infections in chickens, especially in the cheap, mass produced, chicken used for animal food. The chicken is heat-treated before being used, but this does not remove all the tetracycline. This meant that a small amount of tetracycline was being added from the food to the larvae and repressing the [designed] lethal system.”

    So in other words, there is every possibility for Oxitec’s modified genes to persist in wild populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitos, especially in the environmental presence of tetracycline which is widely present in sewage, septic tanks, contaminated water sources and farm runoff.

    ‘Promiscuous’ jumping genes

    On the face of it, there is no obvious way in which the spread of Oxitec’s GM mosquitos into the wild could have anything to do with Brazil’s wave of micrcophaly. Is there?

    Actually, yes. The problem may arise from the use of the ‘transposon’ (‘jumping’ sequence of DNA used in the genetic engineering process to introduce the new genes into the target organism). There are several such DNA sequences in use, and one of the most popular is known as known as piggyBac.

    As a 2001 review article by Dr Mae Wan Ho shows, piggyBac is notoriously active, inserting itself into genes way beyond its intended target: “These ‘promiscuous’ transposons have found special favour with genetic engineers, whose goal is to create ‘universal’ systems for transferring genes into any and every species on earth. Almost none of the geneticists has considered the hazards involved …

    “It would seem obvious that integrated transposon vectors may easily jump out again, to another site in the same genome, or to the genome of unrelated species. There are already signs of that in the transposon, piggyBac, used in the GM bollworms to be released by the USDA this summer.

    The piggyBac transposon was discovered in cell cultures of the moth Trichopulsia, the cabbage looper, where it caused high rates of mutations in the baculovirus infecting the cells by jumping into its genes … This transposon was later found to be active in a wide range of species, including the fruitfly Drosophila, the mosquito transmitting yellow fever, Aedes aegypti, the medfly, Ceratitis capitata, and the original host, the cabbage looper.

    “The piggyBac vector gave high frequencies of transpositions, 37 times higher than mariner and nearly four times higher than Hirmar.”

    In a later 2014 report Dr Mae Wan Ho returned to the theme with additional detail and fresh scientific evidence (please refer to her original article for references): “The piggyBac transposon was discovered in cell cultures of the moth Trichopulsia, the cabbage looper, where it caused high rates of mutations in the baculovirus infecting the cells by jumping into its genes …

    “There is also evidence that the disabled piggyBac vector carrying the transgene, even when stripped down to the bare minimum of the border repeats, was nevertheless able to replicate and spread, because the transposase enzyme enabling the piggyBac inserts to move can be provided by transposons present in all genomes.

    “The main reason initially for using transposons as vectors in insect control was precisely because they can spread the transgenes rapidly by ‘non-Mendelian’ means within a population, i.e., by replicating copies and jumping into genomes, thereby ‘driving’ the trait through the insect population. However, the scientists involved neglected the fact that the transposons could also jump into the genomes of the mammalian hosts including human beings …

    “In spite of instability and resulting genotoxicity, the piggyBac transposon has been used extensively also in human gene therapy. Several human cell lines have been transformed, even primary human T cells using piggyBac. These findings leave us little doubt that the transposon-borne transgenes in the transgenic mosquito can transfer horizontally to human cells. The piggyBac transposon was found to induce genome wide insertionmutations disrupting many gene functions.” 

    Has the GM nightmare finally come true?

    So down to the key question: was the Oxitec’s GM Aedes aegypti male-sterile mosquito released in Juazeiro engineered with the piggyBac transposon? Yes, it was. And that creates a highly significant possibility: that Oxitec’s release of its GM mosquitos led directly to the development of Brazil’s microcephaly epidemic through the following mechanism:

    1. Many of the millions of Oxitec GM mosquitos released in Juazeiro in 2011/2012 survive, assisted, but not dependent on, the presence of tetracycline in the environment.

    2. These mosquitos interbreed with with the wild population and their novel genes become widespread.

    3. The promiscuous piggyBac transposon now present in the local Aedes aegyptipopulation takes the opportunity to jump into the Zika virus, probably on numerous occasions.

    4. In the process certain mutated strains of Zika acquire a selective advantage, making them more virulent and giving them an enhanced ability to enter and disrupt human DNA.

    5. One way in which this manifests is by disrupting a key stage in the development of human embryos in the womb, causing microcephaly and the other reported deformations. Note that as Melo Oliveira et al warn, there are almost certainly other manifestations that have not yet been detected.

    6. It may be that the piggyBac transposon has itself entered the DNA of babies exposed in utero to the modified Zika virus. Indeed, this may form part of the mechanism by which embryonic development is disrupted.

    In the latter case, one implication is that the action of the gene could be blocked by giving pregnant women tetracycline in order to block its activity. The chances of success are probably low, but it has to be worth trying.

    No further releases of GM insects!

    While I am certainly not claiming that this is what actually took place, it is at least a credible hypothesis, and moreover a highly testable one. Nothing would be easier for genetic engineers than to test amniotic fluids, babies’ blood, wild Aedes mosquitos and the Zika virus itself for the presence of the piggyBac transposon, using well established and highly sensitive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) techniques.

    If this proves to be the case, those urging caution on the release of GMOs generally, and transgenic insects bearing promiscuous transposons in particular, will have been proved right on all counts.

    But most important, such experiments, and any deployment of similar GM insects, must be immediately halted until the possibilities outlined above can be safely ruled out. There are plans, for example, to release similarly modified Anopheles mosquitos as an anti-malarial measure.

    There are also calls for even more of the Oxitec Aedes aegypti mosquitos to be released in order to halt the transmission of the Zika virus. If that were to take place, it could give rise to numerous new mutations of the virus with the potential to cause even more damage to the human genome, that we can, at this stage, only guess at.

    Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.


     

    No, GM Mosquitoes Didn’t Start The Zika Outbreak (Discovery)

    By Christie Wilcox | January 31, 2016 9:56 pm

    ZIka_conspiracy_theory_cat

    A new ridiculous rumor is spreading around the internets. According to conspiracy theorists, the recent outbreak of Zika can be blamed on the British biotech company Oxitec, which some are saying even intentionally caused the disease as a form of ethnic cleansing or population control. The articles all cite a lone Redditor who proposed the connection on January 25th to the Conspiracy subreddit. “There are no biological free lunches,” says one commenter on the idea. “Releasing genetically altered species into the environment could have disastrous consequences” another added. “Maybe that’s what some entities want to happen…?”

    For some reason, it’s been one of those months where random nonsense suddenly hits mainstream. Here are the facts: there’s no evidence whatsoever to support this conspiracy theory, or any of the other bizarre, anti-science claims that have popped up in the past few weeks. So let’s stop all of this right here, right now: The Earth is round, not flat (and it’s definitely not hollow). Last year was the hottest year on record, and climate change is really happening (so please just stop, Mr. Cruz). And FFS, genetically modified mosquitoes didn’t start the Zika outbreak. 

    Background on Zika

    The Zika virus is a flavivirus closely related to notorious pathogens including dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile virus. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes in the genus Aedes, especially A. aegypti, which is a known vector for many of Zika’s relatives. Symptoms of the infection appear three to twelve days post bite. Most people are asymptomatic, which means they show no signs of infection. The vast majority of those who do show signs of infection report fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. After a week or less, the symptoms tend to go away on their own. Serious complications have occurred, but they have been extremely rare.

    The Zika virus isn’t new. It was first isolated in 1947 from a Rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest in Uganda, hence the pathogen’s name. The first human cases were confirmed in Uganda and Tanzania in 1952, and by 1968, the virus had spread to Nigeria. But since then, the virus has found its way out of Africa. The first major outbreak occurred on the island of Yap in Micronesia for 13 weeks 2007, during which 185 Zika cases were suspected (49 of those were confirmed, with another 59 considered probable). Then, in October 2013, an outbreak began in French Polynesia; around 10,000 cases were reported, less than 100 of which presented with severe neurological or autoimmune complications. One confirmed case of autochthonous transmission occurred in Chile in 2014, which means a person was infected while they were in Chile rather than somewhere else. Cases were also reported that year from several Pacific Islands. The virus was detected in Chile until June 2014, but then it seemed to disappear.

    Fast forward to May 2015, when the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. Since then, several thousand suspected cases of the disease and a previously unknown complication—a kind of birth defect known as microcephaly where the baby’s brain is abnormally small—have been reported from Brazil. (It’s important to note that while the connection between the virus and microcephaly is strongly suspected, the link has yet to be conclusively demonstrated.)

    Currently, there is no vaccine for Zika, though the recent rise in cases has spurred research efforts. Thus, preventing mosquito bites is the only prophylactic measure available.

    The recent spread of the virus has been described as “explosive”; Zika has now been detected in 25 countries and territories. The rising concern over both the number of cases and reports of serious complications has led the most affected areas in Brazil to declare a state of emergency, and on Monday, The World Health Organization’s Director-General will convene an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Zika virus and the observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations. At this emergency meeting, the committee will discuss mitigation strategies and decide whether the organization will officially declare the virus a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

    GM to the Rescue

    aedes_aegypti

    The mosquito to blame for the outbreak—Aedes aegypti—doesn’t belong in the Americas. It’s native to Africa, and was only introduced in the new world when Europeans began to explore the globe. In the 20th century, mosquito control programs nearly eradicated the unwelcome menace from the Americas (largely thanks to the use of the controversial pesticide DDT); as late as the mid 1970s, Brazil and 15 other nations were Aedes aegypti-free. But despite the successes, eradication efforts were halted, allowing the mosquito to regain its lost territory.

    The distribution of Aedes aegypti in the Americas in 1970 and 2002.

    Effective control measures are expensive and difficult to maintain, so at the tail end of the 20th century and into the 21st, scientists began to explore creative means of controlling mosquito populations, including the use of genetic modification. Oxitec’s mosquitoes are one of the most exciting technologies to have emerged from this period. Here’s how they work, as I described in a post almost exactly a year ago:

    While these mosquitoes are genetically modified, they aren’t “cross-bred with the herpes simplex virus and E. colibacteria” (that would be an interkingdom ménage à trois!)—and no, they cannot be “used to bite people and essentially make them immune to dengue fever and chikungunya” (they aren’t carrying a vaccine!). The mosquitoes that Oxitec have designed are what scientists call “autocidal” or possess a “dominant lethal genetic system,” which is mostly fancy wording for “they die all by themselves”. The males carry inserted DNA which causes the mosquitoes to depend upon a dietary supplement that is easy to provide in the lab, but not available in nature. When the so-called mutants breed with normal females, all of the offspring require the missing dietary supplement because the suicide genes passed on from the males are genetically dominantThus, the offspring die before they can become adults. The idea is, if you release enough such males in an area, then the females won’t have a choice but to mate with them. That will mean there will be few to no successful offspring in the next generation, and the population is effectively controlled.

    Male mosquitoes don’t bite people, so they cannot serve as transmission vectors for Zika or any other disease. As for fears that GM females will take over: less than 5% of all offspring survive in the laboratory, and as Glen Slade, director of Oxitec’s Brazilian branch notes, those are the best possible conditions for survival. “It is considered unlikely that the survival rate is anywhere near that high in the harsher field conditions since offspring reaching adulthood will have been weakened by the self-limiting gene,” he told me. And contrary to what the conspiracy theorists claim, scientists have shown that tetracycline in the environment doesn’t increase that survival rate.

    Brazil, a hotspot for dengue and other such diseases, is one of the countries where Oxitec is testing their mozzies—so far, everywhere that Oxitec’s mosquitoes have been released, the local populations have been suppressed by about 90%.

    Wrong Place, Wrong Time

    Now that we’ve covered the background on the situation, let’s dig into the conspiracy theory. We’ll start with the main argument laid out as evidence: that the Zika outbreak began in the same location at the same time as the first Oxitec release:

    Though it’s often said, it’s worth repeating: correlation doesn’t equal causation. If it did, then Nicholas Cage is to blame for people drowning (Why, Nick? WHY?). But even beyond that, there are bigger problems with this supposed correlation: even by those maps, the site of release is on the fringe of the Zika hotspot, not the center of it. Just look at the two overlaid:

    The epicenter of the outbreak and the release clearly don’t line up—the epicenter is on the coast rather than inland where the map points. Furthermore, the first confirmed cases weren’t reported in that area, but in the town of Camaçari, Bahia, which is—unsurprisingly—on the coast and several hundred kilometers from the release site indicated.

    But perhaps more importantly, the location on the map isn’t where the mosquitoes were released. That map points to Juazeiro de Norte, Ceará, which is a solid 300 km away from Juazeiro, Bahia—the actual site of the mosquito trial. That location is even more on the edge of the Zika-affected area:

    1: Juaziero de Norte, the identified location in by conspiracy theorists. 2: Juaziero, the actual location of Oxitec's release trial, about 300 km away.

    The mistake was made initially by the Redditor who proposed the conspiracy theory and has been propagated through lazy journalistic practices by every proponent since. Here’s a quick tip: if you’re basing your conspiracy theory on location coincidence, it’s probably a good idea to actually get the location right.

    They’re also wrong about the date. According to the D.C. Clothesline:

    By July 2015, shortly after the GM mosquitoes were first released into the wild in Juazeiro, Brazil, Oxitec proudly announced they had “successfully controlled the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and zika virus, by reducing the target population by more than 90%.”

    However, GM mosquitoes weren’t first released in Juazeiro, Bahia (let alone Juazeiro de Norte, Ceará) in 2015. Instead, the announcement by Oxitec was of the published results of a trial that occurred in Juaziero between May 2011 and Sept 2012—a fact which is clearly stated in the methods and results of the paper that Oxitec was so excited to share.

    A new control effort employing Oxitec mosquitoes did begin in April 2015, but not in Juaziero, or any of the northeastern states of Brazil where the disease outbreak is occurring. As another press release from Oxitec states, the 2015 releases of their GM mosquitoes were in Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil:

    Following approval by Brazil’s National Biosafety Committee (CTNBio) for releases throughout the country, Piracicaba’s CECAP/Eldorado district became the world’s first municipality to partner directly with Oxitec and in April 2015 started releasing its self-limiting mosquitoes whose offspring do not survive. By the end of the calendar year, results had already indicated a reduction in wild mosquito larvae by 82%. Oxitec’s efficacy trials across Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands all resulted in a greater than 90% suppression of the wild Ae. aegypti mosquito population–an unprecedented level of control.

    Based on the positive results achieved to date, the ‘Friendly Aedes aegypti Project’ in CECAP/Eldorado district covering 5,000 people has been extended for another year. Additionally, Oxitec and Piracicaba have signed a letter of intent to expand the project to an area of 35,000-60,000 residents. This geographic region includes the city’s center and was chosen due to the large flow of people commuting between it and surrounding neighborhoods which may contribute to the spread of infestations and infections.

    Piracicaba mosquito control results

     

    Piracicaba, for the record, is more than 1300 miles away from the Zika epicenter:

    TKTK

    So not only did the conspiracy theorists get the location of the first Brazil release wrong, they either got the date wrong, too, or got the location of the 2015 releases really, really off. Either way, the central argument that the release of GM mosquitoes by Oxitec coincides with the first cases of Zika virus simply doesn’t hold up.

    Scientists Speak Out

    As this ludicrous conspiracy theory has spread, so, too, has the scientific opposition to it. “Frankly, I’m a little sick of this kind of anti-science platform,” said vector ecologist Tanjim Hossain from the University of Miami, when I asked him what he thought. “This kind of fear mongering is not only irresponsible, but may very well be downright harmful to vulnerable populations from a global health perspective.”

    Despite the specious allusions made by proponents of the conspiracy, this is still not Jurassic Park, says Hossain.

    “We have a problem where ZIKV is spreading rapidly and is widely suspected of causing serious health issues,” he continued. “How do we solve this problem? An Integrated Vector Management (IVM) approach is key. We need to use all available tools, old and new, to combat the problem. GM mosquitoes are a fairly new tool in our arsenal. The way I see it, they have the potential to quickly reduce a local population of vector mosquitoes to near zero, and thereby can also reduce the risk of disease transmission. This kind of strategy could be particularly useful in a disease outbreak ‘hotspot’ because you could hypothetically stop the disease in its tracks so to speak.”

    Other scientists have shared similar sentiments. Alex Perkins, a biological science professor at Notre Dame, told Business Insider that rather than causing the outbreak, GM mosquitoes might be our best chance to fight it. “It could very well be the case that genetically modified mosquitos could end up being one of the most important tools that we have to combat Zika,” Perkins said. “If anything, we should potentially be looking into using these more.”

    Brazilian authorities couldn’t be happier with the results so far, and are eager to continue to fight these deadly mosquitoes by any means they can. “The initial project in CECAP/Eldorado district clearly showed that the ‘friendly Aedes aegypti solution’ made a big difference for the inhabitants of the area, helping to protect them from the mosquito that transmits dengue, Zika and chikungunya,” said Pedro Mello, secretary of health in Piracicaba. He notes that during the 2014/2015 dengue season, before the trial there began, there were 133 cases of dengue. “In 2015/2016, after the beginning of the Friendly Aedes aegypti Project, we had only one case.”

    It’s long past time to stop villainizing Oxitec’s mosquitoes for crimes they didn’t commit. Claire BernishThe Daily MFailMirror and everyone else who has spread these baseless accusations: I’m talking to you. The original post was in the Conspiracy subreddit—what more of a red flag for “this is wildly inaccurate bullsh*t” do you need? (After all, if this is a legit source, where are your reports on the new hidden messages in the $100 bill? or why the Illuminati wants people to believe in aliens?). It’s well known that large-scale conspiracy theories are mathematically challenged. Don’t just post whatever crap is spewed on the internet because you know it’ll get you a few clicks. It’s dishonest, dangerous, and, frankly, deplorable to treat nonsense as possible truth just to prey upon your audience’s very real fears of an emerging disease. You, with your complete lack of integrity, are maggots feeding on the decay of modern journalism, and I mean that with no disrespect to maggots.

     

    Meteorologista da Funceme. “A gente fica feliz com essas chuvas” (O Povo)

    AGUANAMBI 282

    DOM 24/01/2016

    De acordo com o meteorologista da Funceme Raul Fritz, vórtice ciclônico, característico da pré-estação chuvosa, pode render chuvas intensas em janeiro, como ocorreu no ano de 2004

    Luana Severo, luanasevero@opovo.com.br

    FOTOS IANA SOARES

    Segundo Fritz, a ciência climática não chegou a um nível tão preciso para ter uma previsão confiável 

    Cotidiano

    “Nós não queremos ser Deus, apenas tentamos antecipar o que pode acontecer”. Nascido em Natal, no Rio Grande do Norte, Raul Fritz, de 53 anos, é supervisor da unidade de Tempo e Clima da Fundação Cearense de Meteorologia e Recursos Hídricos (Funceme). Ele, que afirmou não querer tomar o lugar de Deus nas decisões sobre o clima, começou a trabalhar para a Funceme em 1988, ainda como estagiário, pouco após uma estiagem que se prolongou por cinco anos no Estado, entre 1979 e 1983.

    Os anos de prática e a especialização em meteorologia por satélite conferem a Fritz a credibilidade necessária para, por meio de mapas, equações numéricas e o comportamento da natureza, estimar se chove ou não no semiárido cearense. Ele compôs, portanto, a equipe de meteorologistas da Fundação que, na última quarta-feira, 20, previu 65% de chances de chuvas abaixo da média entre os meses de fevereiro e abril deste ano prognóstico que, se concretizado, fará o Ceará completar cinco anos de seca.

    Em entrevista ao O POVO, ele detalha o parecer, define o sistema climático cearense e comenta sobre a conflituosa relação entre a Funceme e a população, que sustenta o hábito de desconfiar de todas as previsões do órgão, principalmente porque, um dia após a divulgação do prognóstico, o Estado foi tomado de susto por uma intensa chuvarada.

    O POVO – Mesmo com o prognóstico desanimador de 65% de chances de chuvas abaixo da média entre os meses de fevereiro e abril, o cearense tem renovado a fé num “bom inverno” devido às recentes precipitações influenciadas pelo Vórtice Ciclônico de Altos Níveis (VCAN). Há a possibilidade de esse fenômeno perdurar?

    Raul Fritz – Sim. Esse sistema que está atuando agora apresenta maior intensidade em janeiro. Ele pode perdurar até meados de fevereiro, principalmente pelas circunstâncias meteorológicas atmosféricas que a gente vê no momento.

    OP – Por que o VCAN não tem relação com a quadra chuvosa?

    Raul – A quadra chuvosa é caracterizada pela atuação de um sistema muito importante para o Norte e o Nordeste, que é a Zona de Convergência Intertropical (ZCI). É o sistema que traz chuvas de forma mais regular para o Estado. O vórtice é muito irregular. Tem anos em que ele traz boas chuvas, tem anos em que praticamente não traz.

    OP – O senhor consegue lembrar outra época em que o VCAN teve uma atuação importante em relação às chuvas?

    Raul – Em 2004, houve muita chuva no período de janeiro. Em fevereiro também tivemos boas chuvas, mas, principalmente, em janeiro, ao ponto de encher o reservatório do Castanhão, que tinha sido recém-construído. Mas, os meses seguintes a esses dois não foram bons meses de chuva, então é possível a gente ter esse período de agora bastante chuvoso, seguido de chuvas mais escassas.

    OP – O que impulsiona o quadro de estiagem
    no Ceará?

    Raul – Geograficamente, existem fatores naturais que originam um estado climático de semiaridez. É uma região que tem uma irregularidade muito grande na distribuição das chuvas, tanto ao longo do território como no tempo. Chuvas, às vezes, acontecem bem num período do ano e ruim no seguinte, e se concentram no primeiro semestre, principalmente entre fevereiro e maio, que a gente chama de ‘quadra chuvosa’. Aí tem a pré-estação que, em alguns anos, se mostra boa. Aparenta ser o caso deste ano.

    OP – A última seca prolongada no Ceará, que durou cinco anos, ocorreu de 1979 a 1983. Estamos, atualmente, seguindo para o mesmo quadro. O que é capaz de interromper esse ciclo?

    Raul – O ciclo geralmente não ultrapassa ou tende a não ultrapassar esse período. A própria variabilidade climática natural interrompe. Poucos casos chegam a ser tão extensos. É mais frequente de dois a três anos. Mas, às vezes, podem se estender a esses dois exemplos, de cinco anos seguidos de chuvas abaixo da média. Podemos ter, também, alguma influência do aquecimento global, que, possivelmente, perturba as condições naturais. Fenômenos como El Niños intensos contribuem. Quando eles chegam e se instalam no Oceano Pacífico, tendem a ampliar esse quadro grave de seca, como é o caso de agora. Esse El Niño que está atuando no momento é equivalente ao de 1997 e 1998, que provocou uma grande seca.

    OP – É uma tendência esse panorama de grandes secas intercaladas?

    Raul – Sim, e é mais frequente a gente ter anos com chuvas entre normal e abaixo da média, do que anos acima da média.

    OP – A sabedoria popular, na voz dos profetas da chuva, aposta em precipitações regulares este ano. Em que ponto ela converge com o conhecimento científico?

    Raul – O profeta da chuva percebe, pela análise da natureza, que os seres vivos estão reagindo às condições de tempo e, a partir disso, elabora uma previsão de longo prazo, que é climática. Mas, essa previsão climática pode não corresponder exatamente a um prolongamento daquela variação que ocorreu naquele momento em que ele fez a avaliação. Se acontecer, ele acha que acertou a previsão de clima. Se não, ele considera que errou. Mas, pode coincidir que essa variação a curto prazo se repita e se transforme em longo prazo. Aí é o ponto em que converge. A Funceme tenta antecipar o que pode acontecer num prazo maior, envolvendo três meses a frente. É um exercício muito difícil.

    OP – Geralmente, há uma descrença da população em torno das previsões da Funceme. Como desmistificar isso?

    Raul – A previsão oferece probabilidades e qualquer uma delas pode acontecer, mas, a gente indica a mais provável. São três que nós lançamos. Acontece que a população não consegue entender essa informação, que é padrão internacional de divulgação. Acha que é uma coisa determinística. Que, se a Funceme previu como maior probabilidade termos chuvas abaixo da média em certo período, acha que já previu seca. Mas, a mais provável é essa mesmo, até para alertar às pessoas com atividades que dependem das chuvas e ao próprio Governo a tomarem precauções, se prevenirem e não só reagirem a uma seca já instalada.

    OP – A Funceme, então, também se surpreende com as ocorrências de menor probabilidade, como o VCAN?

    Raul – Sim, porque esses vórtices são de difícil previsibilidade. A ciência não conseguiu chegar num nível de precisão grande para ter uma previsão confiável para esse período (de pré-estação chuvosa). De qualquer forma, nos é exigido dar alguma ideia do que possa acontecer. É um risco muito grande que a Funceme assume. A gente sofre críticas por isso. Por exemplo, a gente lançou a previsão de chuvas abaixo da média, aí no outro dia vem uma chuva muito intensa. As pessoas não compreendem, acham que essas chuvas do momento vão se prolongar até o restante da temporada. Apesar da crítica da população, que chega até a pedir para fechar o órgão, a gente fica feliz com a chegada
    dessas chuvas.

    Frase

    “A gente lançou a previsão de chuvas abaixo da média, aí no outro dia vem uma chuva muito intensa. As pessoas não compreendem, acham que essas chuvas do momento vão se prolongar até o restante da temporada”

    Raul Fritz, meteorologista da Funceme

    VIDEO

    Raul Fritz, o cientista da chuva

    IANA SOARES/O POVO

    Nascido em Natal, no Rio Grande do Norte, Raul Fritz, de 53 anos, é supervisor da unidade de Tempo e Clima da Fundação Cearense de Meteorologia e Recursos Hídricos (Funceme). Ele começou a trabalhar para a Funceme em 1988, ainda como estagiário, pouco após uma estiagem que se prolongou por cinco anos no Estado, entre 1979 e 1983.

    Profetas das chuvas e a ecologia (Diário do Nordeste)

    00:00 · 17.01.2016

    Participar do XX Encontro dos Profetas da Chuva foi uma experiência única. Foi uma manhã de grande aprendizado em Quixadá, pois tive uma verdadeira “aula magna” sobre a sabedoria popular camponesa e a cultura sertaneja. Grandes intelectuais da atualidade, como Edgard Morin (Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique de Paris), da corrente do pensamento complexo, ou Boaventura Santos (Universidade de Coimbra), defensor da ecologia dos saberes, apreciariam muito a experiência. Os relatos das previsões guardam uma riqueza e diversidade nos seus métodos.

    A maioria dos profetas é idosa e, portanto, afirma que suas experiências têm, no mínimo, 40 anos de aplicação. Seus parâmetros de análise se baseiam nos astros, nas nuvens, na observação da fauna e da flora, com testes da pedra de sal em datas específicas e nos seus próprios sentidos. Alguns se autodenominam cientistas populares ou da natureza, pois suas previsões partem de uma rigorosa observação cotidiana da mesma. É importante destacar que a maioria, além do vínculo com a terra, é também poeta e há até alguns escritores.

    Que lições os profetas da chuva podem dar aos cientistas?

    Fazendo o diálogo com Morin, podemos adiantar que eles nos ajudam a pensar de forma complexa. A ciência moderna, a título de simplificar para captar o real, muitas vezes adota práticas de recortar tanto seu objeto de análise que acaba ficando com sua análise limitada.

    Não é fácil controlar tantas variáveis como as envolvidas no clima, mas vejam como os profetas lidam com vários indicadores. É evidente que existem limitações em todas as abordagens, tanto a científica quanto a popular. Nesse momento é oportuna a prática da ecologia dos saberes. Ela não nega os avanços da ciência moderna, mas não trata o conhecimento popular como algo inferior ou folclórico.

    Ambos cumprem papéis muito importantes na nossa sociedade e o desafio é fazer esses conhecimentos dialogarem em prol de um mundo melhor. Será que existe possibilidade de complementaridade nos prognósticos meteorológicos científicos com os dos Profetas da Chuva? Em vez de competição haverá espaço para um diálogo de saberes onde existe um respeito e uma relação horizontal, cujo objetivo maior é orientar os agricultores a encontrar o momento certo para plantar?

    A Fiocruz decidiu priorizar, em seu âmbito nacional, o tema da relação água e saúde para ações de pesquisa, formação e cooperação. No Ceará, um de seus focos também será o de fomentar o desenvolvimento de tecnologias socioambientais de cuidados com a água voltado para o convívio com a seca. Está sendo elaborada uma proposta de mestrado profissional sobre saúde, saneamento e direitos humanos em rede com as universidades públicas do Nordeste e o desenvolvimento de linhas de pesquisa para a produção de conhecimento que promovam esse diálogo de saberes. Recebemos uma homenagem no encontro e assumimos a honraria como um símbolo de nosso compromisso com essa causa tão importante para o povo do sertão. Finalmente, tivemos uma manhã animada, regada de alegria e esperança de que este ano vai ser possível plantar e colher no sertão do Ceará. Para alguns até com fartura, pois estamos vivendo a pior seca dos timos 50 anos no Nordeste. A última profecia terminou com um canto de um profeta: e naquele momento, literalmente, começou a chover.

    FERNANDO FERREIRA CARNEIRO

    Biólogo e pós-doutor em sociologia

    Pior seca dos últimos 50 anos no Nordeste mobiliza profetas do sertão (Globo/JN)

    Edição do dia 09/01/2016

    09/01/2016 20h56 – Atualizado em 09/01/2016 20h56

    Açude do Cedro está com apenas 0,52% da capacidade.

    Profetas se reuniram pra compartilhar as previsões.

    Vídeo

    A pior seca dos últimos 50 anos no Nordeste está mobilizando os profetas do sertão. Até esses brasileiros, que sabem como ninguém interpretar os sinais que vêm da terra, estão quebrando a cabeça pra prever o fim da estiagem.

    A água chegava aos degraus. Mas, depois de quatro anos seguidos de seca, o Açude do Cedro, um dos mais antigos do Ceará, está com apenas 0,52% da capacidade.

    Pra quem tem visto tanta seca, um dia nublado, pode até dar esperança. Mas quem realmente trabalha com a terra busca outros sinais pra ter certeza de que vai ter um bom período de chuva. E tudo tem uma lógica: se o passarinho faz o ninho um pouco mais alto na árvore, quer dizer que a terra vai encharcar, então vai ter boa chuva. Se o ninho estiver mais baixo é o contrário. É desse jeito que os profetas do sertão fazem sua previsão do tempo todos os anos.

    Josimar analisou cada detalhe das árvores pra saber se o tempo de chuva, chamado de inverno na região e que costuma acontecer no começo do ano, está mesmo próximo.

    “Essa florzinha está começando agora, aí se demorou, com certeza é sinal que o inverno também demora”, ensina.

    Neste sábado (9) os profetas se reuniram pra compartilhar as previsões, cada um à sua maneira: ranhuras que apareceram no caule da Ibiratanha animaram Seu Renato.

    “Ela está dando sinal que vai haver grande abundância de chuva”, diz.

    Dona Lurdinha botou pedrinhas de sal num tabuleiro com os meses do ano.

    “Quando o inverno vai ser bom, desmancha todas. Fiquei muito alegre porque as pedrinhas molharam quase todas”, diz ela.

    Certeza mesmo é que, faça chuva ou faça sol, ninguém vai deixar a terra de onde se tira até a previsão do tempo.

    “A gente faz que nem o finado Luiz Gonzaga: ‘enquanto minha vaquinha tiver o couro e o osso, e puder com o chocalho pendurado no pescoço, só deixo meu Cariri no último pau de arara’. Nós somos sertanejos, não pode desistir”, diz Josimar.

    Previsão é de pouca chuva no Ceará de dezembro a fevereiro, diz Funceme (G1)

    20/11/2015 19h09 – Atualizado em 20/11/2015 20h49

    Segundo a Funceme, chances de chuva abaixo da média é de 69%. Ceará enfrenta períodos de chuva abaixo da média há quatro anos.

    Do G1 CE

    Chance de chuva abaixo da média é de 69%, diz Funceme (Foto: Funceme/Reprodução)

    Chance de chuva abaixo da média é de 69%, diz Funceme (Foto: Funceme/Reprodução)

    O Ceará deve ter pouca chuva em todas as suas regiões até fevereiro de 2016 devido à forte atuação do fenômeno El Niño, segundo previsão divulgada nesta sexta-feira (20) pela Fundação Cearense de Meteorologia e Recursos Hídricos (Funceme). O Ceará escassez e estiagem desde 2011.

    Para os meses de dezembro de 2015, janeiro e fevereiro de 2016, o prognóstico aponta 69% de probabilidade de chuvas abaixo da média no Ceará durante o período. As chances de haver precipitações em torno da média são de 23% e para chuvas acima da média, a probabilidade é de apenas 8%.

    A categoria abaixo da média histórica para período de dezembro a fevereiro no estado corresponde a chuvas de 0 a 203 milímetros. Precipitações de 203 a 312 milímetros são consideradas em torno da média; caso chova 312 milímetros ou mais, a categoria é acima da média.

    “É muito importante ressaltarmos que o trimestre em questão engloba dois meses de pré-estação chuvosa, dezembro e janeiro, quando os sistemas que normalmente atuam nessa época são de menor previsibilidade, como Vórtices Ciclônicos de Altos Níveis, Cavados e a influência de Sistemas Frontais”, explica o meteorologista Leandro Valente.

    Ele destaca também, que, apesar da baixa previsibilidade, além do modelo atmosférico da Funceme, outros modelos de instituições nacionais e internacionais também apontam maior probabilidade de precipitações abaixo da média para o Ceará nos próximos três meses.

    Dilma promete recursos
    O governador do Ceará, Camilo Santana, apresentou nesta quinta-feira (19) o prognóstico de pouca chuva para o Ceará e o Nordeste brasileiro em 2016 e fez o pedido de recursos federais para amenizar os efeitos da estiagem na região, que enfrenta quatro anos seguidos de pouca chuva.

    Segundo Camilo Santana, o Governo Federal anunciou que irá liberar novos financiamentos para obras na região, que serão utilizados para a instalação de dessalinizadores (equipamento para retirar excesso de sal da água e torná-la potável), construção de adutoras de montagem rápida e a perfuração de poços nas regiões mais afetadas pela estiagem, além do reforço na Operação Carro-Pipa nas zonas urbanas.

    COMENTÁRIOS

    Ademerval Magno A situação do Nordeste só vai melhorar quando fizerem um enorme canal que possa trazer alguma fração da água do rio Amazonas. Enquanto isso, sonharemos com a transposição do rio São Francisco para 20?? e o fim da corrupção. P.S. Quanto ao fim da corrupção só depende de nós mesmos, portanto, façamos nossa parte!

    Francisco Araujo Não que eles estão errado em suas previsões, mas acredito em DEUS e e ele mudará e nos dará um bom inverno, tenho ver em ti senhor e sei que nos ajudará a vencer essa situação, mandaras muitas chuvas para o nosso nordeste…

    Nazireu Pinheiro Essa situação não mudará enquanto nós nordestinos não tivermos a percepção de exigir dos nossos representantes uma solução definitiva para a seca, pois o que foi feito até agora são soluções paliativas, e a indústria da seca continua massacrando nosso povo humilde e trabalhador.

    Profeta da chuva diz que ‘Nordeste terá um grande inverno’ em 2016 (G1)

    09/01/2016 09h36 – Atualizado em 09/01/2016 13h25

    Quicada, no sertão cearense, sedia encontro anual dos ‘profetas da chuva’. Previsão é baseada em observações de fenômenos da natureza. 

    Elias Bruno

    Do G1 CE

    Erasmo Barreira observa galhos de plantas que podem indicar um bom invern (Foto: Elias Bruno / G1)

    Erasmo Barreira observa galhos de plantas que podem indicar um bom inverno (Foto: Elias Bruno / G1)

    “Não tenho medo em dizer que o Nordeste terá um grande inverno em 2016”, afirma o aposentado Erasmo Barreira, 69 anos, que participa pela 18ª vez do Encontro Anual dos Profetas da Chuva neste sábado (9) em Quixadá, a 158 quilômetros de Fortaleza. Na ocasião, sertanejos fazem previsões para a quadra chuvosa do Ceará e Nordeste com base em observações da natureza. Entre os aspectos analisados, estão a rotina de animais e o desenvolvimento de plantas da região.

    As previsões de Erasmo representam uma tradição que ele traz dos avós. “É fácil, é só prestar atenção na floração de um ano para o outro”, explica. As observações do profeta para prever o inverno de 2016 são feitas desde julho do ano passado e se intensificam em dezembro, à véspera do encontro.

    Profeta também observa o bagaço da formiga de roça para prevê um bom inverno (Foto: Elias Bruno / G1)

    Profeta também observa o bagaço da formiga de roça para prever
    um bom inverno (Foto: Elias Bruno / G1)

    Fenômenos observados

    Em entrevista ao G1, Erasmo apresentou duas representações de fatores naturais que aponta como determinantes para um bom inverno. “O galho de feijão brabo não perdeu nenhuma flor e está bem verdinho. Quando fica assim, é porque está esperando chuva para só depois amadurecer e aflorar. Se já tivesse perdido flores em dezembro, é o sinal que seria seco no próximo ano”, ressalta.

    Outro fenômeno percebido pelo profeta sertanejo é a forma com que as formigas de roça tratam o bagaço. “Observei a quantidade de vagem que elas descarregam das casas delas. São folhas de capim e de pau que elas gostam de levar para lá. Elas botam fora agora no começo do inverno para fazer nova armazenagem. Quando elas vêm muita quantidade, aí é que vai chover mesmo. Lá no meu interior, tem uma quantidade suficiente para encher 50 sacolas como a que trouxe”, completa.

    Funceme 
    A previsão da chuva feita pelos “profetas” não tem respaldo científico de acordo com a Fundação Cearense de Meteorologia e Recursos Hídricos (Funceme). O órgão estadual deve divulgar em 20 de janeiro prognóstico oficial das chuvas no Ceará no ano de 2016.

    Em um prognóstico parcial divulgado pelo órgão em novembro de 2015, a Funceme apontou chuvas abaixo da média no estado nos meses de janeiro e fevereiro de 2016.

    Aquecimento global: um estranho evento em Paris (Outras Palavras)

    POR GEORGE MONBIOT

    Derretimento de glaciares, cada vez mais comum em diversas partes do mundo. Para Monbiot, Um aquecimento máximo de 1,5ºC, alvo improvável a que agora se aspira, era plenamente realizável quando da primeira conferência sobre mudança climática da ONU em Berlim, em 1995

    Cúpula do Clima foi, ao mesmo tempo, avanço e desastre. Formou-seconsenso inédito sobre gravidade da ameaça. Mas lobbies bloquearam as medidas indispensáveis para enfrentá-la

    Por George Monbiot | Tradução: Inês Castilho

    Comparado com aquilo que poderia ter sido, é um milagre. Comparado com o que deveria ter sido, é um desastre.

    Dentro dos estreitos limites em que se deram as negociações, o desenho do acordo sobre o clima na ONU, em Paris, é um grande sucesso. O alívio e autocongratulação com que o texto final foi saudado reconhece o fracasso em Copenhague, há seis anos, quando as negociações correram descontroladamente durante algum tempo, até desmoronar. O acordo de Paris ainda espera a adoção formal, mas sua aspiração ao limite de 1,5ºC para o aquecimento global, depois de tantos anos de rejeição dessa meta, pode ser vista no quadro de uma vitória retumbante. Nesse e em outros sentidos, o texto final é mais forte do que foi antecipado pela maioria das pessoas.

    Fora desse quadro, contudo, ele parece outra coisa. Duvido que qualquer um dos negociadores acredite que, como resultado desse acordo, o aquecimento global não irá superar 1,5ºC. Como o preâmbulo do documento reconhece, em vista das débeis promessas que os governos levaram a Paris, mesmo 2ºC seria loucamente ambicioso. Ainda que algumas nações tenham negociado de boa fé, é provável que os resultados reais nos levem a níveis de colapso climático que serão perigosos para todos e letais para alguns. Os governos falam em não onerar as futuras gerações com dívidas. Mas acabam de concordar em sobrecarregar nossos filhos e netos com um legado muito mais perigoso: o dióxido de carbono produzido pela queima contínua de combustíveis fósseis, e os impactos de longo prazo que isso irá exercer sobre o clima global.

    Com 2ºC de aquecimento, grandes partes da superfície do mundo irão se tornar menos habitáveis. Os habitantes dessas regiões provavelmente enfrentarão extremos climáticos selvagens: secas piores em alguns lugares, enchentes mais devastadoras em outros, tempestades mais fortes e, potencialmente, graves impactos no abastecimento de alimentos. Ilhas e cidades costeiras correm o risco de desaparecer sob as ondas, em muitas partes do mundo.

    A combinação de mares acidificados, morte de corais e derretimento do Ártico pode significar o colapso de toda a cadeia alimentar marinha. Em terra, as florestas tropicais tendem a ser reduzidas, os rios podem minguar e os desertos, aumentar. Extinção em massa será provavelmente a marca da nossa era. Essa é a cara do que os alegres delegados à conferência de Paris enxergaram como sucesso.

    Os próprios termos do documento final poderão fracassar? Também é possível. Embora os primeiros rascunhos especificassem datas e percentuais, o texto final visa apenas “alcançar o pico global de emissão de gases de efeito de estufa o mais rápido possível”. É algo que pode significar qualquer coisa e nada.

    Para ser justo, o fracasso não deve ser debitado às conversações de Paris, mas a todo o processo. Um aquecimento máximo de 1,5ºC, meta improvável a que agora se aspira, era plenamente realizável quando da primeira conferência sobre mudança climática da ONU em Berlim, em 1995. Houve duas décadas de procrastinação, causadas por lobbies – abertos, encobertos e frequentemente sinistros. Além disso, os governos relutaram em explicar a seus eleitorados que a fixação pelo curto prazo tem custos a longo prazo. O resultado é que três quartos da janela de oportunidade agora se fecharam. As negociações de Paris são as melhores que jamais tivemos. E isso é um sinal terrível.

    O resultado, avançado em comparação a todos os anteriores, deixa-nos com um acordo quase comicamente distorcido. Enquanto as negociações sobre quase todos os outros riscos globais buscam enfrentar ambos os lados do problema, o processo climático da ONU preocupa-se inteiramente com consumo de combustíveis fósseis, enquanto ignora sua produção.

    Em Paris, os delegados concordaram solenemente em cortar a demanda de petróleo e carvão, mas em casa busca-se maximizar a oferta. O governo do Reino Unido impôs até mesmo a obrigação legal de “maximizar a recuperação econômica” do petróleo e gás do país, com a Lei de Infraestrutura de 2015. A extração de combustíveis fósseis é um fato duro. Mas não faltam fatos suaves ao acordo de Paris: promessas escorregadias e que podem ser desfeitas. Até que resolvam manter os combustíveis no solo, os governos continuarão a sabotar o acordo que acabam de fazer.

    É o melhor que se poderia conseguir, nas condições atuais. Nos EUA, nenhum provável sucessor de Barack Obama demonstrará o mesmo compromisso. Em países como o Reino Unido, grandes promessas no exterior são minadas por orçamentos domésticos esquálidos. Seja o que for que aconteça agora, não seremos bem-vistos pelas gerações que nos sucederem.

    Então está bem, deixe que os delegados se congratulem por um acordo melhor do que poderia ser esperado. E que o temperem com um pedido de desculpas a todos aqueles a quem a conferência irá trair.

    The Shaman (Radio Ambulante)

    PRODUCED BY Radio Ambulante

     

    Unknown

    Bogota, Colombia — The intense winter rains of 2011 left thousands of Colombians flooded out of their homes and claimed hundreds of lives. That same year, a man named Jorge Elías González became infamous for taking public money to keep the skies clear over Bogotá. Here’s his story, as reported by Melba Escobar.