It is worth noting that tribal peoples tend to feel that it is they who depict and we who symbolise. Thomas McEvilley, Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief
What does capitalism actually look like?
There’s a standard leftist answer to this question, from the great repertoire of standard leftist answers: we can’t know. Capitalism has us by the throat and wraps itself around our brain stem; we were interpellated as capitalist subjects before we were born, and from within the structure there’s no way to perceive it as a totality. The only way to proceed is dialectically and immanently, working through the internal contradictions until we end up somewhere else. But not everyone has always lived under capitalism; not everyone lives under capitalism today. History is full of these moments of encounter, when industrial modernity collided with something else. And they still take place. In 2007, Channel 4 engineered one of these encounters: in a TV show called Meet the Natives, a group of Melanasian villagers from the island of Tanna in Vanatu were brought to the UK, to see what they made of this haphazard world we’ve built. (It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone trying the same stunt now, just twelve years on. The whole thing is just somehow inappropriate: not racist or colonial, exactly, but potentially condescending, othering, problematic.) Reactions were mixed.
They liked ready meals, real ale, and the witchy animistic landscapes of the Hebrides. They were upset by street homelessness, confused by drag queens in Manchester’s Gay Quarter, and wryly amused by attempts at equal division in household labour. They understood that they were in a society of exchange-values and economic relations, rather than use-values and sociality. ‘There is something back-to-front in English culture. English people care a lot about their pets, but they don’t care about people’s lives.’ But there was only one thing about our society that actually appalled them, that felt viscerally wrong. On a Norfolk pig farm, they watched sows being artificially inseminated with a plastic syringe. This shocked them. They told their hosts to stop doing it, that it would have profound negative consequences. ‘I am not happy to see the artificial insemination. Animals and human beings are the same thing. This activity should be done in private.’
I was reminded of this episode quite recently, when reading, in an ‘indigenous critique of the Green New Deal‘ published in the Pacific Standard, that ‘colonists were warned by word and weapon that a system of individual land ownership would lead to ecological apocalypse, and here we are. What more could you ask from a system of truth and analysis than to alert you to a phenomenon like climate change before it occurs, with enough time to prevent it? That is significantly more than colonial science has offered.’
It’s not that the substance of this claim is entirely untrue (although it should be noted that many indigenous nations did have systems of private land ownership; land wasn’t denatured, fungible, and commodified, as it is in today’s capitalism, but then the same holds for European aristocracies, or the Nazis for that matter). Non-capitalist societies have persistently recognised that there’s an incredible potential for disaster in industrial modernity. Deleuze and Guattari develop an interesting idea here: capitalism isn’t really foreign to primitive society; it’s the nightmare they have of the world, the possibility of decoding and deterritorialisation that lurks somewhere in the dark thickets around the village. ‘Capitalism has haunted all forms of society, it is the dread they feel of a flow that would elude their codes.’ Accordingly, the development of capitalism in early modern Europe wasn’t an achievement, but a failure to put up effective defences against this kind of social collapse. You can see something similar in the response of the Tanna islanders to artificial insemination. What’s so horrifying about it? Plausibly, it’s that it denies social and bodily relations between animals, and social and bodily relations between animals and people. The animal is no longer a living thing among living things (even if it’s one that, as the islanders tell a rabbit hunter, was ‘made to be killed’), but an abstract and deployable quantity. It’s the recasting of the mysteries of fecund nature as a procedure. It’s the introduction of what Szerszynski calls the ‘vertical axis,’ the transcendence from reality in which the world itself ‘comes to be seen as profane.’ It’s the breakdown of the fragile ties that hold back the instrumental potential of the world. When people are living like this, how could it result in anything other than disaster?
This seems to be the general shape of impressions of peoples living under capitalism by those who do not. These strangers are immensely powerful; they are gods or culture heroes, outside of the world. (The people of Tanna revere Prince Philip as a divinity.) At the same time, they’re often weak, palsied, wretched, and helpless; they are outside of the world, and lost. In 1641, a French missionary recorded the response of an Algonquian chief to incoming modernity. One the one hand, he describes Europeans as prisoners, trapped in immobile houses that they don’t even own themselves, fixed in place by rent and labour. ‘We can always say, more truly than thou, that we are at home everywhere, because we set up our wigwams with ease wheresoever we go, and without asking permission of anybody […] We believe that you are incomparably poorer than we, and that you are only simple journeymen, valets, servants, and slaves.’ At the same time, the French are untethered, deracinated, endlessly mobile. The Algonquians territorialise; everywhere they go becomes a home. The Europeans are not even at home in their static houses. They have fallen off the world. ‘Why abandon wives, children, relatives, and friends? Why risk thy life and thy property every year, and why venture thyself with such risk, in any season whatsoever, to the storms and tempests of the sea?’ And this constant circulation is a profound danger. ‘Before the arrival of the French in these parts, did not the Gaspesians live much longer than now?’
There’s something genuinely fascinating in these encounters. Whenever members of non-capitalist societies encounter modernity, they see something essential in what’s facing them. (For instance, Michael Taussig has explored how folk beliefs about the Devil in Colombia encode sophisticated understandings of the value-form.) But it seems to me to be deeply condescending to claim that this constitutes an explicit warning about climate change, that the methods of ‘indigenous knowledge systems’ are the same as the physical sciences, and to complain that ‘Western science has a lot of nerve showing up just as we’re on the precipice of a biospheric death spiral to brandish some graphs.’ The argument that the transcendent vertical axis estranges human beings from the cycles of biological life, with potentially dangerous results, is simply not the same as the argument that increased quantities of atmospheric carbon dioxide will give rise to a greenhouse effect. It’s not that there’s nothing to learn from indigenous histories, quite the opposite. (I’ve written elsewhere on how the Aztecs – definitely not the romanticised vision of an indigenous society, but indigenous nonetheless – prefigured our contemporary notion of the Anthropocene.) But the claims in this essay set a predictive standard which ‘indigenous knowledge systems’ will inevitably fail; it refuses to acknowledge their actual insight and utility, and instead deploys them in a grudge match against contemporary political enemies.
Most fundamentally, the essay doesn’t consider this encounter as an encounter between modes of production, but an encounter between races. In the red corner, white people: brutally colonising the earth, wiping out all biological life, talking over BIPOC in seminars, etc, etc. In the blue corner, indigenous folk, who live in balance with the cycles of life, who feel the suffering of the earth because they are part of it, who intuitively understand climate atmospheric sciences because they’re plugged in to the Na’vi terrestrial hivemind, who are on the side of blind nature, rather than culture. This is not a new characterisation. The Algonquian chief complains that the French believe he and his people are ‘like the beasts in our woods and our forests;’ the Pacific Standard seems to agree.
This shouldn’t need to be said, but indigenous peoples are human, and their societies are as artificial and potentially destructive as any other. Being human means – Marx saw this very clearly – an essential disjuncture with essence and a natural discontinuity with nature. Ancient Amerindian beekeeping techniques are as foundationally artificial as McDonald’s or nuclear weapons. When humans first settled the Americas, they wiped out nearly a hundred genera of megafauna; the essay is entirely correct that ‘indigenous peoples have witnessed continual ecosystem and species collapse.’ Indigenous beliefs about the interconnectedness of life and social relations between humans and nonhumans are the mode of expression of their social forms in agrarian or nomadic communities. (Although some American societies were highly urbanised, with monumental earthworks, stratified class societies, and systemic religious practices. All of this is, of course, flattened under the steamroller of pacific indigeneity.) They are not transcendently true. They can not simply be transplanted onto industrial capitalism to mitigate its devastations.
The ‘indigenous critique’ suggests that, rather than some form of class-based mass programme to restructure our own mode of production, the solution to climate catastrophe is to ‘start giving back the land.’ (Here it’s following a fairly widespread form of reactionary identitarian discourse on indigineity.) Give it back to whom? To the present-day indigenous peoples of North America, who for the most part have cars and jobs and Social Security numbers, who have academic posts and social media, who do not confront capitalism from beyond a foundational ontological divide, but are as helplessly within it as any of the rest of us? (And meanwhile, what about Europe or China? Where are our magic noble savages?) Is ancestry or identity an expertise? Is living in a non-capitalist society now a hereditary condition?
Some indigenous beliefs about the interconnectedness of life and so on persist, long after the modes of production that gave rise to them have vanished. As we all know, the tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. But they’re also an artefact of modernity, which ceaselessly produces notions of wholesome authentic mystical nature in tandem with its production of consumer goods, ecological collapse, and death. Unless this relation is established, beliefs are all we get. ‘Real solutions require a rethinking of our global relationship to the land, water, and to each other.’ Think differently, see things differently, make all the right saintly gestures, defer to the most marginalised, and change nothing.
This racialisation is particularly obscene when you consider who else has made dire warnings about the environmental effects of private ownership in land. The encounter between capitalist and non-capitalist society didn’t only take place spatially, in the colonial world, but temporally, during the transition from feudalism. And the same critiques made by the Ni-Vanatu, and the Algonquians, and many more besides, were also expressed by insurrectionaries within Europe. Take just one instance: The Crying Sin of England, of not Caring for the Poor, the preacher John Moore’s 1653 polemic against primitive accumulation and the enclosure of common land: this would, he promised, lead to catastrophe, the impoverishment of the earth, the fury of God, the dissolution of the social ties that keep us human, the loss of sense and reason, the decoding of all codes. The ruling classes, ‘by their inclosure, would have no poore to live with them, nor by them, but delight to converse with Beasts; and to this purpose turn Corne in Grasse, and men into Beasts.’ He, too, saw things as they were. And he was right. Here we are, in a world in which the ruling classes have disarticulated themselves from society in general, in which cornfields are swallowed up by the desert, in which people pretend to be like animals in order to be taken seriously. The solution is obvious. Find the descendants of John Moore, and give back Norfolk.
The world was supposed to have ended in 2012, as foretold by a Mayan prophecy that, in the end, only prophesied that the Mayans would need to buy a new calendar. As the prediction went, our solar system would align with the black hole at the center of the galaxy. The magnetic poles would sweep and switch and falter, leaving the atmosphere to be stripped away by a devastating solar wind; the enigmatic shadow planet Nibiru would collide into ours and turn solid ground into a spray of magma drifting through space.
It didn’t happen. But the prophecies will come back, before long. Isn’t every generation convinced it’ll be the last? People seem to enjoy imagining that they’ll live to see the curtains close on history, but it’s more than just enjoyment; a sense of finality seems to be built into our experience of the whole strange, senseless show that surrounds us. Either you die in the world, another speck to be mourned and then forgotten, or the world dies around you. Unknown planets or rising sea levels, whatever helps you imagine an ending.
Before the Mayan apocalypse, it was the year 2000 that was supposed to kill us all. Aside from the Y2K computer bug that failed to destroy all our soaring dial-up technology, mass-media preachers like Ed Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Left Behind authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins confidently expected the final judgement of God to arrive in time for the new year’s celebrations. In turn they were drawing on a legacy of bimillennial fascination that includes medieval Catholic theologians, Marian apparitions, invented Nostradamuses, the Kabbalistic calculations of Isaac Newton, and cultists scattered across the centuries.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have separately predicted that the world would end in 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1994, and 1997. Various preachers in Britain and America spent most of the 19th century convincing their small bands of followers that the world was shortly to cease existence, extrapolating their figures from the dimensions of Noah’s Ark or the tent of the Tabernacle, watching the skies for comets, waiting for the ocean to boil, reading the newspapers to see when the Antichrist would reveal himself. And it never happened, not even once.
Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent and the god of wind and learning. Werner Forman / Universal Images Group / Getty Images
But aren’t the oceans boiling? As the air fills with carbon dioxide, the seas are turning to acid mire, a soup of plastic particles and dead coral, where the fish are all dying and only the tentacled things survive. Revelation, chapter eight: “A great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died.” Doesn’t Donald Trump, a leering Antichrist in bronzer and self-regard, glower from the front page of every paper? And as warships surround a North Korea bristling with missiles, could the sky not soon be full of dazzling, falling stars, and then empty forever? Isn’t the end of the world really, actually, genuinely nigh? Aren’t we watching it happen, broadcast from our TV screens, right now?
For its critics, this sense of a looming end is an expression of the same spirit that made all those bloated celebrity prophets predict the Second Coming around the year 2000. Panicked jeremiads about climate change are just another form of religious nonsense — so, for some, is Marxism, with its deterministic charts of universal history. The philosopher Tom Whyman, for instance, wrote earlier this year that “we’ve successfully secularized the End Times.” It’s all a kind of wishful thinking, he argues; everyone wants to think that the end of the world is imminent, because it means that all the messy contingencies of life will finally become settled, and this desire is given form and propulsion by a still-dominant Judeo-Christian-Islamic conception of linear time. Once we expected to hear trumpets and angels; now it’s just the wandering honk of a puffed-up president announcing to the world that he’s pushing the button. But it’s the same thing.
Isn’t the end of the world really, actually, genuinely nigh? Whyman considers the end of everything to be a kind of universal blankness, an abstract negation, a “Great Nothing” that blankets all existence without distinction. I disagree. When people imagine that the world is about to end, it’s their particular world that’s doomed, and the nature of that end will always in some way reflect what’s being destroyed. People who live in the desert would not live in fear of a global flood. And the End Times aren’t a unique product of Christianity; some kind of eschatology is present nearly everywhere. Nearly. The pre-Islamic Turkic peoples of Central Asia, for instance, don’t seem to have had any myths about the destruction of the world, and why would they? They lived on an open steppe far from the ocean, where everything is flat and endless. Why would it ever end? Societies that believe in the Apocalypse tend to be those in which the seeds of the apocalypse that’s really happening are already planted. Cultures that have big cities, forms of writing, a discourse of history, and centralized power. Cultures like the old eastern Mediterranean that gave us the Biblical prophets and the Book of Revelation. Or cultures like the Aztecs.
Chalchiuhtlicue symbolized the purity and preciousness of spring, river, and lake water that was used to irrigate the fields. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Aztec apocalypse is nothing like the Christian one. It comes out of an unimaginably different history and society to the world of Greece and Rome. But it’s a lot like ours. The collision with Nibiru or devastating magnetic pole shift might have a distinctly monotheistic tang, but it’s possible that the Aztecs might see in our worries over anthropogenic climate change, economic collapse, and senseless nuclear war something strangely familiar. Instead of considering apocalypses through their literary and conceptual lineages, we could think about them instead in terms of what kind of society gave birth to them. How much do modern Westerners really have in common with prophets of the Old and New Testaments like Ezekiel or John of Patmos? Might we be more like Itzcoatl or Huitzilihuitl, even if we’re less likely to know who they are?Our capitalist modernity isn’t a Mediterranean modernity, but a Mesoamerican one. The Aztecs, those strange and heartless people with their stepped pyramids and their vast urban civilization that never came out of the Stone Age or invented the wheel, are our contemporaries.
Original Aztec sources are patchy — most of their beautiful codices were destroyed during the Spanish conquests in the early 16th century — and tend to contradict each other, but what makes the Aztec apocalypse so different to that of any other mythology, and so similar to the one we face now, is that they believed it had already happened.
This world is not the first. There were four that came before it and were destroyed in turn, all in the usual fashion — usual, that is, for end-of-the-world stories. Each was made by and contested over by the two gods, Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl, as a series of staging-grounds for their constant battles, two cosmic children bickering over a toy. In the first, Tezcatlipoca turned himself into the sun, and a jealous Quetzalcoatl knocked him out of the sky with his club; in revenge, Tezcatlipoca set jaguars loose to wipe out all its people. Together the gods built a new race of humans, but they stopped worshipping their creators, so Tezcatlipoca turned them all into monkeys, and Quetzalcoatl, who had loved them for all their sins, destroyed them in a fit of spite with a hurricane. Tezcatlipoca connived the gods Tlaloc and Chalchiuhtlicue into destroying the next two with fire and with floods. The fifth one, ours, will be destroyed by earthquakes. But in every other respect it’s entirely different from the ones that came before.
Urn depicting Tlaloc, the rain god. DEA / G. Dagli Orti / Getty Images
After the creation and destruction of four worlds, the universe had exhausted itself. We live in the shadow of those real words; their echo, their chalk outline. In each of the four previous worlds, humanity was newly created by the gods. Present-day humans were not: we are the living dead. After the destruction of the fourth world, it lay in darkness for fifty years, until Quetzalcoatl journeyed into Mictlan, the Aztec hell, and reanimated the bones of the dead. In the four previous worlds, the sun was a living god. In ours, it’s a dead one. To build a new sun for this worn-out earth required a blood sacrifice: The gods gathered in the eternal darkness and built a fire, and their weakest deity, Nanahuatzin, a crippled god covered in sores, leapt into the center of the flames, and the sun was born.
But it was a weak sun, and it wouldn’t move. All the other gods, one after another, immolated themselves in the fire to bring the dawn, but it’s still not enough. The sun needs more sacrifices; it needs ours. This is why the Aztec priests slaughtered people by the hundreds, cutting out their hearts and throwing their corpses down the temple steps. This blood and murder was the only thing that kept the sun rising each morning; if they stopped even for a day, it would go black and wither to nothing in the sky, and without its light the earth would harden and crack and fall apart. And some day, this will happen: it’s earthquakes that will destroy us all, and when it crumbles there will be nothing left.
The fourth world was the last; we’re living in something else. A half-world, a mockery, a reality sustained only through death and suffering. The first four worlds were created by the gods and destroyed according to their wills or because of their squabbles, just like the four Yugas of Hinduism, or the creation of the Abrahamic God, whose Judgement Day will come whenever He sees fit. Our world is being kept alive only through human activity; it’s a world into which we have been abandoned. The Aztecs were stone-age existentialists, trembling before their misbegotten freedom. This is a theology for the anthropocene — our present era, in which biological and geological processes are subordinated to human activity, in which the earth that preceded us for four billion years is finally, devastatingly in our hands, to choke with toxic emissions or sear with nuclear bombs. But modern society isn’t treading new ground here: the Aztecs came first, five hundred years ago. And their response was to kill.
Most everyone knows about the Aztec sun-sacrifices, the mass daily executions carried out by the priests, but ritual human slaughter was everywhere in their society. Sometimes children were drowned, sometimes women were killed as they danced, sometimes people were burned alive, or shot with arrows, or flayed, or eaten. Hundreds of thousands of people died every year. At the same time, these were the same people whose emperors were all poets, whose young people went out dancing every night, and whose cities were vast gardens filled with flowers, butterflies, and hummingbirds. This might be the reason Aztec human sacrifice is still so horrifying — we’re much more likely to forgive mass killings if we can say for certain why they happened. The Romans killed thousands in their circuses, and in the 21st century we still watch death — real or feigned — for entertainment; it’s extreme but not so different. When the Spanish came to Mexico, they were horrified by the skulls piled up by the temples — but then they killed everyone, and we understand wars of profit and extermination too. But like any mirror, the Aztecs seem to show us everything backwards.
The Aztecs were stone-age existentialists, trembling before their misbegotten freedom.
Still, you can feel traces today. In the neoliberal economic doctrine that’s still dominant across most of the world, something strangely similar is happening. All the welfare institutions that ameliorate capitalism’s tendencies to extreme wealth and extreme poverty have to be destroyed, for the good of the economy. People die from this — in Britain, up to 30,000 people may have died in one year as a result of cuts to health and social care, and that’s in a prosperous Western country. In the United States, a faltering band-aid mechanism like Obamacare has to be wrenched off, with the excuse that it’s being replaced with market pricings, which are natural and proper and, in their own way, fair. But it’s all for nothing. The economics behind neoliberalism are nonsense, but the prophets — these days, drab old thinkers like Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman — have warned us that unless they’re followed, we’ll open up the road to serfdom. Ask a liberal economist why millions have to suffer, forced to live in drudgery under late capitalism’s dimming sun, and something horrifying will happen. A weak, indulgent, condescending smile will leak across their face, and they’ll say: that’s just how the market works. An echo of the Aztec priest, dagger held high, kindly telling his victim that his heart has to be pulled out from his chest, because that’s just how the sun works.
But neoliberalism really does work, it just doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. It might not be any good for the population at large, but it has facilitated a massive upward redistribution of wealth; the poor are scrubbed clean of everything, and the rich drink it up. Class power creates both the excess of cruelty and the mythic ideology to justify it. Marxist writers like Eric Wolf have tried to find something similar operating among the Aztecs: Human sacrifice cemented the rule of the aristocratic elites — they were believed to literally gain their powers through eating the sacrificial victims — while keeping the underclasses in line and the conquered peoples in terror. But all contemporaneous societies were class-based and repressive; it doesn’t begin to explain the prescient nihilism of their theology. Something else might.
The Aztecs built an extraordinarily sophisticated state. Their capital, Tenochtitlan, whose ruins still poke haphazardly through Mexico City, might have been the largest city outside China when Europeans first made contact; it was bigger than Paris and Naples combined, and five times bigger than London. Stretching across the Mexican highlands, their empire had, in 150 years, conquered or achieved political dominance over very nearly their entire known world, bounded by impassable mountains to the west and stifling jungle to the east. Without any major enemies left to fight, they found new ways of securing captives for sacrifice: the “flower wars” were a permanent, ritual war against neighboring city-states, in which the armies would meet at an agreed place and fight to capture as many enemy soldiers as possible.
The Roman Empire could never defeat their eternal enemy in Persia, and the dynastic Egyptians were periodically overwhelmed by Semitic tribes to the north, but until the day the Spanish arrived the Aztec monarchs were presumptive kings of absolutely everything under the sun. The only really comparable situation is the one we live under now — the unlimited empire of liberal capitalism, a scurrying hive of private interests held together under an American military power without horizon. We have our own flower wars. The United States and Russia are fighting each other in Syria — never directly, but through their proxies, so that only Syrians suffer, just as they did in Afghanistan, and Latin America, and Vietnam, and Korea. Wars, like Reagan’s attack on Granada or Trump’s on a Syrian airbase, are fought for public consumption. There is a pathology of the end of the world: dominance, ritualization, reification, and massacre.
Tezcatlipoca, the supreme god, and the enemy of Quetzalcoatl. Werner Forman / Universal Images Group / Getty Images
The Aztecs were not capitalists, but their economy has some spooky correspondences with ours. While they had a centralized state, there was also an emerging free market in sacrifices, and a significant degree of social mobility: every Aztec subject was trained for war, and you could rise through society by bringing in captives for slaughter. The Oxford historian Alan Knight describes it as “a gigantic ‘potlatch state,’ a state predicated on the collection, redistribution and conspicuous consumption of a vast quantity of diverse goods. Sacrifice represented a hypertrophied form of potlatch, with humans playing the part elsewhere reserved for pigs.” The potlatch is a custom practiced by indigenous peoples further up in the Pacific Northwest, in which indigenous Americans ceremonially exchange and then spectacularly destroyed vast quantities of goods — blankets, canoes, skins, but most of all food — in a show of wealth and plenitude. In the sophisticated class society of the Aztecs, the grand triumphant waste was in human lives.
We are, after all, assembled from the bones of four dead universes. We were dead to begin with. Perched on the end of history, the Aztecs beheld a dead reality in which life becomes lifeless, to be circulated and exchanged. Four-and-a-half centuries later, Marx saw the same processes in capitalism. He describes it in Wage Labor and Capital: “The putting of labour-power into action — i.e., work — is the active expression of the labourer’s own life. And this life activity he sells to another person […] He does not count the labour itself as a part of his life; it is rather a sacrifice of his life.” (Emphasis mine.) Workers are cut off from their own labour and from themselves by a production process in which they are not ends but means, part of a giant machinery that exists to satisfy the demands not of human life but of “dead labor,” capital. From his 1844 Manuscripts: “It estranges from man his own body, as well as external nature and his spiritual aspect, his human aspect.” His labour-power becomes a commodity; something to be bought and sold in quantifiable amounts, something inert. The worker under capitalism, like the captive walking up the temple steps, is consecrated to death.
We are, after all, assembled from the bones of four dead universes.
The Aztec world ended. When the Spanish came they found an empire of 25 million people; by the time they left only one million remained. Its people were killed with swords, guns, fire, famine, disease, and work. The beautiful garden-city of Tenochtitlan was torn down, a European fort built in its place. Sacrifices were no longer offered to the sun, and somehow it still kept rising every day. You can laugh at their credulity — they really thought the sun would stop rising, and look, everything’s still here! But the end of the Aztec world was dispersed throughout time, until it became isomorphic with the world itself.
Their disaster was not waiting for us in the future, a monumental bookend to history, like the Judgement Day of the people who destroyed them — they lived within it, in the ruins of a real world that died with the gods. This is the cosmology of the great German philosopher Walter Benjamin: to apprehend reality we should make “no reflections on the future of bourgeois society;” rather than a series of events leading towards an uncertain end, his Angel of History stands to face the past and sees only “one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet.”
We exist in that rubble. The Aztec Empire conquered its world, strip-mined its future, and turned human populations into fungible objects. Contemporary society too has nowhere else to go: capital has saturated the earth, and outer space is a void. Our world, with the monstrous totality of its stability and order, is relentlessly producing its own destruction. In fantasies of black holes and the wrath of God; in the actuality of an atmosphere flooded with carbon dioxide and a biosphere denuded of all life. We missed the apocalypse while we were waiting for it to take place. Baudrillard writes: “Everything has already become nuclear, faraway, vaporized. The explosion has already occurred.” Capitalism built a corpse-world. Its sun keeps rising every morning, whatever we do, but it’s growing hotter in the sky; poisoning the seas, frizzling farmlands to desert, carrying out Tezcatlipoca’s last act of revenge.
MADRI – A expectativa sobre a Conferência do Clima da ONU deste ano (COP-25) não era lá muito grande. Mas o clamor que veio das ruas ao longo de 2019 – impulsionado por dois novos relatórios científicos do Painel Intergovernamental sobre Mudanças Climáticas (IPCC) que reforçaram a necessidade urgente de ações para conter o aquecimento global em até 1,5ºC até o final do século – dava uma esperança de que algo melhor poderia ser alcançado.
A COP de Madri, porém, foi um fracasso praticamente sob qualquer aspecto que se olhe. E bateu uma sensação de apatia e de desânimo de que talvez não haja mais vontade política para conter o desastre.
Pôsteres no centro de convenções de Madri onde ocorreu a COP pedem ação imediata contra as mudanças climáticas. Crédito: Giovana Girardi / Estadão
Em Paris todos toparam se esforçar para conter o aquecimento a planeta a bem menos do que 2ºC até 2100, e se possível deixá-lo em 1,5ºC – limite da tragédia principalmente para os países mais vulneráveis às mudanças sofridas pelo planeta.
Todo mundo ali sabia, no entanto, que as metas que cada nação estava voluntariamente oferecendo (as chamadas NDCs – contribuições nacionalmente determinadas) para ajudar o esforço global não seriam suficientes para isso. Elas ainda colocavam o mundo no rumo de aquecer 3ºC, o que pode ser trágico até mesmo para os países ricos e mais bem estruturados. Era preciso evoluir rapidamente. O Acordo de Paris, então, trouxe uma cláusula: de que em 2020 seria feita uma nova rodada para atualizar e melhorar as metas.
De lá pra cá, as condições pioraram. As emissões mundiais não estão caindo – chegaram a subir nos últimos dois anos –, e as concentrações de gases de efeito estufa na atmosfera estão cada vez maiores. De acordo com cálculos do Programa da ONU para o Meio Ambiente (Pnuma), as emissões precisariam cair 7,6% ao ano para colocar o planeta nos trilhos do 1,5ºC. Queimadas em tudo quanto é canto, ondas de calor e tufões são alguns dos eventos críticos que ocorreram neste ano atribuídos ao aquecimento global que mostram que este é um problema atual, não para o futuro.
O apelo, desse modo, era pra ter sinalizações mais concretas desse aumento de ambição já em 2019, na COP que era para ser na América Latina. Que era do Brasil, foi pro Chile após desistência do presidente Jair Bolsonaro, e foi pra Espanha após as convulsões sociais entre os chilenos. Faltaram rédeas curtas para a presidência chilena, mas, acima de tudo, faltou o espírito de Paris nesta COP. Ela terminou com um mera reafirmação do Acordo de Paris, sem acrescentar quase nada.
Nações mais pobres ou menores, que pouco contribuíram para a quantidade de gases de efeito estufa que sufocam hoje a Terra, foram as mais ativas. Se comprometeram a aumentar suas metas de redução de emissões, mas, juntas, elas não respondem nem por 10% das emissões do planeta. A União Europeia também se comprometeu com neutralidade de carbono até 2050, mas pode ser tarde demais.
Os Estados Unidos, que chegaram a Madri após apresentarem oficialmente sua “carta de demissão” do Acordo de Paris, abandonaram qualquer bom senso, assim como a Austrália, apesar de o país ter literalmente pegado fogo neste ano, e, para surpresa dos demais negociadores, o Brasil. O País, com forte tradição ambiental e diplomática, que em geral atuava destravando as negociações, adotou uma postura bem pouco construtiva.
O ministro do Meio Ambiente, Ricardo Salles, que chefiou a delegação brasileira, esteve na conferência do primeiro ao último dia, e passou boa parte do tempo cobrando seus pares a pagarem o Brasil por feitos do passado. Por emissões que o País reduziu quando cortou o desmatamento, nos governos Lula e Dilma, e por créditos emitidos no regime anterior, o Protocolo de Kyoto, que nunca foram pagos. Não se manifestou sobre as condições ruins que carregava nas costas – a alta de 29,5% no desmatamento neste ano.
Outros países chegaram a relatar constrangimento com a postura e houve críticas de que o Brasil estava dificultando o estabelecimento de um acordo, especialmente sobre o artigo 6 do Acordo de Paris, que estabelece mecanismos de mercado. Esse era um dos objetivos da COP de Madri – definir as regras para esses mercados, mas mesmo depois de a COP se prorrogar até este domingo – deveria ter fechado na sexta, 13 – não foi possível chegar a um acordo.
Brasil ganha “fóssil do ano’ por aumento no desmatamento, mortes de indígenas e por não ajudar na COP do Clima em Madri. Crédito: Giovana Girardi / Estadão
O Brasil chegou a ser chamado de pária ambiental e, por isso, foi por três vezes “homenageado” por ONGs internacionais como um problema para as negociações. Pela primeira vez na história das COPs, recebeu o prêmio “fóssil do ano“.
Nada deu certo. A decisão sobre mercado de carbono e sobre ambição ficou para a COP seguinte, em Glasgow, na Escócia. Parece cada vez mais impossível ficar em 1,5ºC.
Salles optou por fazer troça ao final da COP. Depois de postar um vídeo no seu twitter dizendo que a “COP-25 não deu em nada”, apesar “de todos os esforços do Brasil”, algumas horas publicou em suas redes sociais uma foto de um prato enorme de carne dizendo: “Para compensar nossas emissões na COP, um almoço veggie!”. A pecuária e sua expansão sobre a Floresta Amazônica são o setor responsável pelo maior fatia das emissões de gases de efeito estufa do País.
* A repórter viajou a convite do Instituto Clima e Sociedade (iCS)
Elton Alisson | Agência FAPESP – O nível do mar na costa brasileira tende a aumentar nas próximas décadas. No Brasil, contudo, onde mais de 60% da população vive em cidades costeiras, não há um estudo integrado da vulnerabilidade dos municípios litorâneos a este e a outros impactos decorrentes das mudanças climáticas, como o aumento da frequência e da intensidade de chuvas. Um estudo desse gênero possibilitaria estimar os danos sociais, econômicos e ambientais e elaborar um plano de ação com o intuito de implementar medidas adaptativas.
As conclusões são do relatório especial do Painel Brasileiro de Mudanças Climáticas (PBMC) sobre “Impacto, vulnerabilidade e adaptação das cidades costeiras brasileiras às mudanças climáticas”, lançado nesta segunda-feira (05/06) durante um evento no Museu do Amanhã, no Rio de Janeiro.
A publicação tem apoio da FAPESP e parte dos estudos nos quais se baseia são resultado do Projeto Metrópole e de outros projetos apoiados pela Fundação no âmbito do Programa FAPESP de Pesquisa sobre Mudanças Climáticas Globais (PFPMCG) e do Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia (INCT) para Mudanças Climáticas, financiado pela Fundação e pelo Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq).
“A ideia do relatório foi mostrar o estado da arte sobre mudanças de clima e cidades costeiras, baseado em uma exaustiva revisão de publicações internacionais e nacionais sobre o tema, e também identificar lacunas no conhecimento para que os formuladores de políticas públicas e tomadores de decisão no Brasil possam propor e implementar medidas de adaptação”, disse José Marengo, coordenador-geral de pesquisa e desenvolvimento do Centro Nacional de Monitoramento e Alertas de Desastres Naturais (Cemaden) e um dos autores e editores do relatório, à Agência FAPESP.
De acordo com dados do documento, entre 1901 e 2010 o nível médio do mar globalmente aumentou 19 centímetros – com variação entre 17 e 21 centímetros.
Entre 1993 e 2010, a taxa de elevação correspondeu a mais de 3,2 milímetros (mm) por ano – com variação entre 2,8 e 3,6 mm por ano.
No Brasil também há uma tendência de aumento do nível do mar nas regiões costeiras com algum grau de incerteza porque não há registros históricos contínuos e confiáveis, ponderam os autores.
“Ainda não conseguimos detectar o aumento do nível do mar no Brasil por conta das poucas observações existentes e de estudos de modelagem para avaliar os impactos. Mas já identificamos por meio de estudos regionais diversas cidades de médio e grande porte que apresentam alta exposição à elevação do nível relativo do mar e já têm sofrido os impactos desse fenômeno, particularmente na forma de ressacas e inundações”, disse Marengo.
Entre essas cidades, onde 60% da população reside na faixa de 60 quilômetros da costa, estão Rio Grande (RS), Laguna e Florianópolis (SC), Paranaguá (PR), Santos (SP), Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Vitória (ES), Salvador (BA), Maceió (AL), Recife (PE), São Luís (MA), Fortaleza (CE) e Belém (PA).
Nos estados de São Paulo e do Rio de Janeiro, por exemplo, têm sido registradas taxas de aumento do nível médio do mar de 1,8 a 4,2 mm por ano desde a década de 1950.
Na cidade de Santos, no litoral sul paulista, onde está situado o maior porto da América Latina, o nível do mar tem aumentado 1,2 mm por ano, em média, desde a década de 1940. Além disso, ocorreu um aumento significativo na altura das ondas – que alcançava 1 metro em 1957 e passou a atingir 1,3 m, em 2002 – e na frequência de ressacas no município.
Já no Rio de Janeiro, a análise dos dados da estação maregráfica da Ilha Fiscal – que tem a série histórica mais antiga do Brasil e fica no meio da Baía da Guanabara – indica uma tendência média de aumento do nível do mar de mais ou menos 1,3 mm por ano, com base nos dados mensais do nível do mar do período de 1963 a 2011 e com um índice de confiança de 95%.
Por sua vez, em Recife o nível do mar aumentou 5,6 mm entre 1946 e 1988 – o que corresponde a uma elevação de 24 centímetros em 42 anos. A erosão costeira e a ocupação do pós-praia provocaram uma redução da linha de praia em mais de 20 metros na Praia de Boa Viagem – a área da orla mais valorizada da cidade –, apontam os autores do relatório.
“Existem poucas observações como essas em outras regiões do país. Quando tentamos levantar dados dos últimos 40 ou 100 anos sobre o aumento do nível do mar em outras cidades do Nordeste, como Fortaleza, por exemplo, é difícil encontrar”, disse Marengo.
De acordo com os autores do relatório, as mudanças climáticas e um acelerado ritmo de elevação do nível do mar podem causar sérios impactos nas áreas costeiras do Brasil.
Os impactos socioeconômicos seriam mais restritos às vizinhanças das 15 maiores cidades litorâneas, que ocupam uma extensão de 1,3 mil quilômetros da linha costeira – correspondente a 17% da linha costeira do Brasil.
Entre as principais consequências da elevação do nível do mar, entre diversas outras, estão o aumento da erosão costeira, da frequência, intensidade e magnitude das inundações, da vulnerabilidade de pessoas e bens e a redução dos espaços habitáveis.
“Os impactos mais evidentes da elevação do nível do mar são o aumento da frequência das inundações costeiras e a redução da linha de praia. Mas há outros não tão perceptíveis, como a intrusão marinha, em que a água salgada do mar começa a penetrar aquíferos e ecossistemas de água doce”, ressaltou Marengo.
As projeções do quinto relatório (AR5) do Painel Intergovernamental sobre Mudanças Climáticas (IPCC) são que a elevação do nível do mar globalmente varie entre 0,26 e 0,98 metro até 2100 – em um cenário mais pessimista. O relatório apresenta estimativas similares para a costa brasileira.
Considerando que a probabilidade de inundações aumenta com a elevação do nível do mar pode ser esperada uma maior probabilidade de inundações em áreas que apresentam mais de 40% de mudanças no nível do mar observadas nos últimos 60 anos – como é o caso de várias metrópoles costeiras brasileiras, ressaltam os autores.
As inundações costeiras serão mais preocupantes no litoral do Nordeste, Sul e Sudeste, e também podem afetar o litoral sul e sudoeste da cidade do Rio de Janeiro. Os seis municípios fluminenses mais vulneráveis à elevação do nível do mar, de acordo com estudos apresentados no relatório, são Parati, Angra dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro, Duque de Caxias, Magé e Campos dos Goytacazes.
“A combinação do aumento do nível do mar com tempestades e ventos mais fortes pode provocar danos bastante altos na infraestrutura dessas cidades”, estimou Marengo.
Exemplo de plano
O documento destaca o Plano Municipal de Adaptação à Mudança de Clima (PMAMC) da cidade de Santos como exemplo de plano de ação para adaptação às mudanças de clima e os seus impactos nas cidades [Leia mais sobre o assunto em http://agencia.fapesp.br/21997/].
A elaboração do plano foi baseada nos resultados do Projeto Metrópole, coordenado por Marengo.
O estudo internacional estimou que a inundação de áreas costeiras das zonas sudeste e noroeste de Santos, causada pela combinação da elevação do nível do mar com ressacas, marés meteorológicas e astronômicas e eventos climáticos extremos, pode causar prejuízos acumulados de quase R$ 2 bilhões até 2100 se não forem implementadas medidas de adaptação.
O estudo é realizado por pesquisadores do Cemaden, dos Institutos Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe) e Geológico (IG) e das Universidades de São Paulo (USP) e Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp), em parceria com colegas da University of South Florida, dos Estados Unidos, do King’s College London, da Inglaterra, além de técnicos da Prefeitura Municipal de Santos.
“Nossa intenção é aplicar essa metodologia utilizada em Santos em outras cidades litorâneas brasileiras para termos pelo menos uma estimativa inicial do custo de adaptação à elevação do nível do mar”, disse Marengo.
Subestimar os conhecimentos tradicionais que se perpetuam por gerações é um ato de ignorância que tem se repetido por décadas. No contexto das mudanças climáticas, essa constatação se torna mais evidente, pois a vivência dos povos indígenas e suas relações cosmológicas ancestrais são experiências que dialogam de forma concreta com a Ciência e trazem aprendizados a um campo político e econômico controverso, cujos interesses conflitam com o que a sabedoria e a razão científica expõem. Por meio das analogias e inferências, da relação entre o comportamento das estrelas e constelações ou das aves com o uso da terra e o ecossistema, os efeitos das ações antrópicas emergem nesta transcendência cadenciada.
Em tempos de Conferência das Partes da Convenção-Quadro das Nações Unidas sobre Mudanças Climáticas (COP-23), que acontece em Bonn, na Alemanha, entre 6 e 17 de novembro, abrir a escuta, sem ranços, para esses olhares transversais pode dar mais respostas para a inovação de paradigmas de desenvolvimento em um palco político antagônico, que tem impedido reais avanços localmente e de forma global e podem emperrar acordos já firmados, desde a COP-21, em Paris. Um desenvolvimento ainda calcado em um mundo tratado como mercadoria.
O vídeo-documentário “Vozes Indígenas Num Clima em Mudança”, produzido pelo Instituto Sociedade, População e Natureza (ISPN), traz uma escuta interessante de diferentes representantes de etnias sobre o tema. O sensível documentário “Para onde foram as Andorinhas?”, do Instituto Socioambiental e Instituto Catitu, é outro canal de comunicação audiovisual que possibilita reflexões, como também a publicação “Mudanças Climáticas e a Percepção Indígena”, da Operação Amazônia Nativa (OPAN). As falas de todos os indígenas, da Amazônia ao Xingu, entoam um grito de alerta sobre a relação conflitante do homem branco com a terra, as águas, ou seja, com todo o planeta Terra (Pachamama).
Esses povos têm diferenças culturais, que traduzem suas histórias e identidades, entretanto, não impõem fronteiras em seus discursos ao tratar do “bem-viver”, do respeito entre os mundos material e imaterial, e reverberam o propósito de bem coletivo aos parentes, aos povos tradicionais e à toda sociedade. São Baniwa, Guajajara, Idioriê, Kayabi, Krenak, Manoki, Mehinako, Munduruku, Wará, Xavante, entre outros.
Com a lente de aumento sobre todo o país, trata-se de um universo de 305 etnias e de pelo menos, 896,9 mil indígenas, de acordo com o Censo Demográfico do Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE) de 2010. Hoje também existe o Comitê Indígena de Mudanças Climáticas, com representantes das cinco regiões do país. Um espaço de incidência política que merece mais reverberação.
Por meio da construção de uma cartografia que tem a contribuição estratégica dos mais idosos nas aldeias, com o subsídio de calendários do uso da terra indígenas, que usam elementos de sinalização como os animais, os processos de mudanças em duas décadas reportam a um estado de apreensão. Esses dados resultam, segundo ele, na reação atual do seu povo para buscar caminhos para a sustentabilidade e bem-viver em seus territórios. Para isso, há reuniões coletivas para discutir o assunto.
“…O calendário indígena de cada povo Baniwa (de acordo com o território que vivem) é diferente. Acompanha estrelas e constelações, cada período da fase importante para a agricultura, para a pesca. Algum sinal de passarinho, andorinha antes da pesca, por exemplo, significa fartura de peixe. Hoje não existe mais este movimento, são sinais práticos…O tucunaré diminuiu de tamanho nos últimos 20 anos”.
Segundo ele, as piracemas não existem mais de forma organizada… “Agora tem muita chuva no Rio Negro e não tem peixe. Observamos, desde 2002, esse processo de cheias frequentes. Cobriram pedras antigas (lugares sagrados), que temos sobre o entendimento do mundo…”.
Nesse diálogo entre a Terra e o mundo espiritual, André sinaliza que a natureza está dando alertas. “…Atualmente há trovejadas constantes na região das aldeias, o que não ocorria. Estamos procurando entender o que isso significa. Isso nos preocupa, porque (no campo das relações sociais e políticas) nossos direitos estão sendo ameaçados e é consequência de decisões políticas, nos grandes centros do mundo…Se não houver mudança de atitude…”, deixa este alerta.
O indígena já havia levado a sua mensagem ao Espaço do Clima da Sociedade Civil, na COP-21, ao lado de outros parentes, sobre a questão climática, em evento realizado pelo Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), quando destacou: “Os xamãs do povo Baniwa dizem que esse mundo vai parar daqui a algum tempo e não haverá sinal de vida. Será um período silencioso, na nossa previsão…”.
André ainda destaca o importante trabalho de pesquisa que está sendo realizado por outros parentes, como os Tukano e de outras etnias. Uma amostra dessa interação dos povos indígenas com o processo das mudanças climáticas é o levantamento Ciclos Anuais dos Povos Indígenas do Rio Tiquié. com apoio do ISA.
WELLSTON, Ohio — To Gwen Beatty, a junior at the high school in this proud, struggling, Trump-supporting town, the new science teacher’s lessons on climate change seemed explicitly designed to provoke her.
So she provoked him back.
When the teacher, James Sutter, ascribed the recent warming of the Earth to heat-trapping gases released by burning fossil fuels like the coal her father had once mined, she asserted that it could be a result of other, natural causes.
When he described the flooding, droughts and fierce storms that scientists predict within the century if such carbon emissions are not sharply reduced, she challenged him to prove it. “Scientists are wrong all the time,” she said with a shrug, echoing those celebrating President Trump’s announcement last week that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
Mr. Sutter during his Advanced Placement environmental science class. He was hired from a program that recruits science professionals into teaching.Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times
For his part, Mr. Sutter occasionally fell short of his goal of providing Gwen — the most vocal of a raft of student climate skeptics — with calm, evidence-based responses. “Why would I lie to you?” he demanded one morning. “It’s not like I’m making a lot of money here.”
She was, he knew, a straight-A student. She would have had no trouble comprehending the evidence, embedded in ancient tree rings, ice, leaves and shells, as well as sophisticated computer models, that atmospheric carbon dioxide is the chief culprit when it comes to warming the world. Or the graph he showed of how sharply it has spiked since the Industrial Revolution, when humans began pumping vast quantities of it into the air.
Thinking it a useful soothing device, Mr. Sutter assented to Gwen’s request that she be allowed to sand the bark off the sections of wood he used to illustrate tree rings during class. When she did so with an energy that, classmates said, increased during discussion points with which she disagreed, he let it go.
When she insisted that teachers “are supposed to be open to opinions,” however, Mr. Sutter held his ground.
“It’s not about opinions,” he told her. “It’s about the evidence.”
“It’s like you can’t disagree with a scientist or you’re ‘denying science,”’ she sniffed to her friends.
Gwen, 17, could not put her finger on why she found Mr. Sutter, whose biology class she had enjoyed, suddenly so insufferable. Mr. Sutter, sensing that his facts and figures were not helping, was at a loss. And the day she grew so agitated by a documentary he was showing that she bolted out of the school left them both shaken.
“I have a runner,” Mr. Sutter called down to the office, switching off the video.
“It was just so biased toward saying climate change is real,” she said later, trying to explain her flight. “And that all these people that I pretty much am like are wrong and stupid.”
Classroom Culture Wars
As more of the nation’s teachers seek to integrate climate science into the curriculum, many of them are reckoning with students for whom suspicion of the subject is deeply rooted.
In rural Wellston, a former coal and manufacturing town seeking its next act, rejecting the key findings of climate science can seem like a matter of loyalty to a way of life already under siege. Originally tied, perhaps, to economic self-interest, climate skepticism has itself become a proxy for conservative ideals of hard work, small government and what people here call “self-sustainability.”
Jacynda Patton, right, during Mr. Sutter’s class. “I thought it would be an easy A,” she said. “It wasn’t.”Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times
The Alliance for Climate Education, which runs assemblies based on the consensus science for high schools across the country, received new funding from a donor who sees teenagers as the best means of reaching and influencing their parents.
Idaho, however, this year joined several other states that have declined to adopt new science standards that emphasize the role human activities play in climate change.
At Wellston, where most students live below the poverty line and the needle-strewn bike path that abuts the marching band’s practice field is known as “heroin highway,” climate change is not regarded as the most pressing issue. And since most Wellston graduates typically do not go on to obtain a four-year college degree, this may be the only chance many of them have to study the impact of global warming.
But Mr. Sutter’s classroom shows how curriculum can sometimes influence culture on a subject that stands to have a more profound impact on today’s high schoolers than their parents.
“I thought it would be an easy A,” said Jacynda, 16, an outspoken Trump supporter. “It wasn’t.”
God’s Gift to Wellston?
Mr. Sutter, who grew up three hours north of Wellston in the largely Democratic city of Akron, applied for the job at Wellston High straight from a program to recruit science professionals into teaching, a kind of science-focused Teach for America.
He already had a graduate-level certificate in environmental science from the University of Akron and a private sector job assessing environmental risk for corporations. But a series of personal crises that included his sister’s suicide, he said, had compelled him to look for a way to channel his knowledge to more meaningful use.
The fellowship gave him a degree in science education in exchange for a three-year commitment to teach in a high-needs Ohio school district. Megan Sowers, the principal, had been looking for someone qualified to teach an Advanced Placement course, which could help improve her financially challenged school’s poor performance ranking. She hired him on the spot.
Mr. Sutter walking with his students on a nature trail near the high school, where he pointed out evidence of climate change.Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times
But at a school where most teachers were raised in the same southeastern corner of Appalachian Ohio as their students, Mr. Sutter’s credentials themselves could raise hackles.
“He says, ‘I left a higher-paying job to come teach in an area like this,’” Jacynda recalled. “We’re like, ‘What is that supposed to mean?”’
“He acts,” Gwen said with her patented eye roll, “like he’s God’s gift to Wellston.”
In truth, he was largely winging it.
Some 20 states, including a handful of red ones, have recently begun requiring students to learn that human activity is a major cause of climate change, but few, if any, have provided a road map for how to teach it, and most science teachers, according to one recent survey, spend at most two hours on the subject.
Chagrined to learn that none of his students could recall a school visit by a scientist, Mr. Sutter hosted several graduate students from nearby Ohio University.
On a field trip to a biology laboratory there, many of his students took their first ride on an escalator. To illustrate why some scientists in the 1970s believed the world was cooling rather than warming (“So why should we believe them now?” students sometimes asked), he brought in a 1968 push-button phone and a 1980s Nintendo game cartridge.
“Our data and our ability to process it is just so much better now,” he said.
In the A.P. class, Mr. Sutter took an informal poll midway through: In all, 14 of 17 students said their parents thought he was, at best, wasting their time. “My stepdad says they’re brainwashing me,” one said.
Jacynda’s father, for one, did not raise an eyebrow when his daughter stopped attending Mr. Sutter’s class for a period in the early winter. A former coal miner who had endured two years of unemployment before taking a construction job, he declined a request to talk about it.
“I think it’s that it’s taken a lot from him,” Jacynda said. “He sees it as the environmental people have taken his job.”
And having listened to Mr. Sutter reiterate the overwhelming agreement among scientists regarding humanity’s role in global warming in answer to another classmate’s questions — “What if we’re not the cause of it? What if this is something that’s natural?” — Jacynda texted the classmate one night using an expletive to refer to Mr. Sutter’s teaching approach.
But even the staunchest climate-change skeptics could not ignore the dearth of snow days last winter, the cap to a year that turned out to be the warmest Earth has experienced since 1880, according to NASA. The high mark eclipsed the record set just the year before, which had eclipsed the year before that.
In woods behind the school, where Mr. Sutter had his students scout out a nature trail, he showed them the preponderance of emerald ash borers, an invasive insect that, because of the warm weather, had not experienced the usual die-off that winter. There was flooding, too: Once, more than 5.5 inches of rain fell in 48 hours.
The field trip to a local stream where the water runs neon orange also made an impression. Mr. Sutter had the class collect water samples: The pH levels were as acidic as “the white vinegar you buy at a grocery store,” he told them. And the drainage, they could see, was from the mine.
It was the realization that she had failed to grasp the damage done to her immediate environment, Jacynda said, that made her begin to pay more attention. She did some reading. She also began thinking that she might enjoy a job working for the Environmental Protection Agency — until she learned that, under Mr. Trump, the agency would undergo huge layoffs.
“O.K., I’m not going to lie. I did a 180,” she said that afternoon in the library with Gwen, casting a guilty look at her friend. “This is happening, and we have to fix it.”
After fleeing Mr. Sutter’s classroom that day, Gwen never returned, a pragmatic decision about which he has regrets. “That’s one student I feel I failed a little bit,” he said.
As an alternative, Gwen took an online class for environmental science credit, which she does not recall ever mentioning climate change. She and Jacynda had other things to talk about, like planning a bonfire after prom.
As they tried on dresses last month, Jacynda mentioned that others in their circle, including the boys they had invited to prom, believed the world was dangerously warming, and that humans were to blame. By the last days of school, most of Mr. Sutter’s doubters, in fact, had come to that conclusion.
“I know,” Gwen said, pausing for a moment. “Now help me zip this up.”
2.jun.2017 – Post da Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral no Instagram. Instagram/Reprodução
Em nota publicada no Instagram nesta sexta-feira (2), a Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral afirmou que deixará de prestar atendimentos climáticos aos EUA. A medida será mantida “enquanto perdurar a falta de bom senso do presidente Donald Trump com relação a retirada dos EUA do Acordo de Paris, rompendo o acordo global firmado em dezembro de 2015 com mais de 190 países para reduzir a emissão de gases que produzem o efeito estufa”.
A entidade esotérica diz, em seu site, que sua missão é “minimizar catástrofes que podem ocorrer em razão dos desequilíbrios provocados pelo homem na natureza”. Também diz ser orientada pelo Cacique Cobra Coral, “espírito que teria sido de Galileu Galilei e Abraham Lincoln”.
O presidente americano afirmou que pacto climático internacional é injusto, representa um enorme fardo econômico para os EUA e não seria eficaz o suficiente. Em seu discurso, a expressão “mudança climática” não foi mencionada sequer uma vez. Trump preferiu falar de mais dinheiro e empregos.
“O Acordo de Paris sobre o clima é simplesmente o mais recente exemplo de que Washington cedeu a uma resolução que penaliza os Estados Unidos para beneficiar outros países. Deixa os trabalhadores americanos, que eu amo, e o contribuintes absorverem o custo, em termos de perda de empregos, menores salários, fechamento de fábricas e enorme redução na produção econômica”, disse Trump.
By Bruno Latour, from The Great Regression, a collection of essays edited by Heinrich Geiselberger that will be published next month by Polity. Latour is a philosopher and the author, most recently, of An Inquiry into Modes of Existence. Translated from the French by Andrew Brown.
Ever since the American elections of November 2016 things have become clearer. Europe is being dismembered: it counts less than a hazelnut in a nutcracker. And this time around, it can no longer rely on the United States to fix anything.
Perhaps this is the time to reconstruct a United Europe. Not the same one that was dreamed up after the war, a Europe based on iron, coal, and steel, or the one more recently built on the deluded hope of escaping from history via standardization and the single currency. No — if Europe must reunite, it is because of the grave threats it is facing: the decline of its states that invented globalization; climate change; and the need to shelter millions of migrants and refugees.
By far the most significant event is not Brexit or the election of Donald Trump but the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, where on December 12, 2015, delegates finally came to an agreement. The significant thing is not what the delegates decided; it is not even that this agreement will take effect. (The climate-change deniers in the White House and the Senate will do everything they can to hamstring it.) No, the significant thing is that all the countries that signed the accord realized that if they were to go ahead and follow their individual modernization plans, this planet simply would not be big enough.
If there is no planet, no earth, no soil, no territory for the globalization to which all countries at COP21 claim to be heading, what should we do? Either we deny the existence of the problem or we seek to come down to earth. This choice is what now divides people, much more than being politically on the right or the left.
The United States had two options after the election. It could recognize the extent of the change in global circumstances, and the enormousness of its responsibility, and finally become realistic, leading the free world out of the abyss; or it could sink into denial. Trump seems to have decided to let America dream on for a few more years, and to drag other countries into the abyss along the way.
We Europeans cannot allow ourselves to dream. Even as we are becoming aware of many different threats, we will need to take into our continent millions of people — people who, thanks to the combined impact of war, the failure of globalization, and climate change, will be thrown (like us, against us, or with us) into the search for a land where they and their children can live. We are going to have to live together with people who have not hitherto shared our traditions, our way of life, or our ideals, who are close to us and foreign to us — terribly close and terribly foreign.
The thing we share with these migrating peoples is that we are all deprived of land. We, the old Europeans, are deprived because there is no planet for globalization and we must now change the entire way we live; they, the future Europeans, are deprived because they have had to leave their old, devastated lands and will need to learn to change the entire way they live.
This is the new universe. The only alternative is to pretend that nothing has changed, to withdraw behind a wall, and to continue to promote, with eyes wide open, the dream of the “American way of life,” all the while knowing that billions of human beings will never benefit from it.
Most of our fellow citizens deny what is happening to the earth but understand perfectly well that the immigrant question will put all their desires for identity to the test. For now, encouraged by the so-called populist parties, they have grasped only one aspect of the reality of ecological change: it is sending huge numbers of unwanted people across their borders. Hence their response: “We must erect firm borders so we won’t be swamped.”
But there is another aspect of this same change, which they haven’t properly realized: for a long time, the new climate has been sweeping away all borders, exposing us to every storm. Against such an invasion, we can build no walls. Migration and climate are one and the same threat.
If we wish to defend our identities, we are also going to have to identify those shapeless, stateless migrants known as erosion, pollution, resource depletion, and habitat destruction. You may seal your borders against human refugees, but you will never be able to stop the others getting by.
This is where we need to introduce a plausible fiction.
The enlightened elites — they do exist — realized, after the 1990s, that the dangers summed up in the word “climate” were increasing. Until then, human relationships with the earth had been quite stable. It was possible to grab a piece of land, secure property rights over it, work it, use it, and abuse it. The land itself kept more or less quiet.
The enlightened elites soon started to pile up evidence suggesting that this state of affairs wasn’t going to last. But even once elites understood that the warning was accurate, they did not deduce from this undeniable truth that they would have to pay dearly.
Instead they drew two conclusions, both of which have now led to the election of a lord of misrule to the White House: Yes, this catastrophe needs to be paid for at a high price, but it’s the others who will pay, not us; we will continue to deny this undeniable truth.
If this plausible fiction is correct, it enables us to grasp the “deregulation” and the “dismantling of the welfare state” of the 1980s, the “climate change denial” of the 2000s, and, above all, the dizzying increase in inequality over the past forty years. All these things are part of the same phenomenon: the elites were so thoroughly enlightened that they realized there would be no future for the world and that they needed to get rid of all the burdens of solidarity as fast as possible (hence, deregulation); to construct a kind of golden fortress for the tiny percent of people who would manage to get on in life (leading us to soaring inequality); and, to hide the crass selfishness of this flight from the common world, to completely deny the existence of the threat (i.e., deny climate change). Without this plausible fiction, we can’t explain the inequality, the skepticism about climate change, or the raging deregulation.
Let’s draw on the threadbare metaphor of the Titanic: enlightened people see the prow heading straight for the iceberg, know that shipwreck is inevitable, grab the lifeboats, and ask the orchestra to play lullabies so that they can make a clean getaway before the alarm alerts the other classes.
From the ship’s rails, the lower classes — who are now wide awake — can see the lifeboats bobbing off into the distance. The orchestra continues to play “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” but the music is no longer enough to cover the howls of rage.
And “rage” is indeed the word to describe the disbelief and bafflement that such a betrayal arouses.
When political analysts try to grasp the current situation, they use the term “populism.” They accuse “ordinary people” of indulging in a narrow-minded vision, criticizing their fears, their naïve mistrust of elites, their bad taste in culture, and above all their passion for identity, folklore, archaism, and boundaries. These people lack generosity, open-mindedness, rationality; they have no taste for risk. (Ah, that taste for risk, preached by those who are safe wherever their air miles permit them to fly!)
This is to forget that “ordinary folk” have been callously betrayed by the elites, who abandoned the idea of modernizing the planet for everyone because they knew, before everyone else, better than everyone else, that this modernization was impossible.
Trump’s originality lies in the way he brings together, in a single movement, a mad dash for maximum profit (the new members of his team are billionaires), a whole nation’s mad dash backward to ethnic divisions, and, finally, an explicit denial of the geologic and climatic situation.
Just as fascism managed to combine extremes, to the surprise of the politicians and commentators of the time, Trumpism combines extremes and deceives the world with its trumpery. Instead of contrasting the two movements — forward toward globalization and back toward the old national terrain — Trump acts as if they can be fused. This fusion is of course possible only if the very existence of a conflict between modernization on the one hand and material realities on the other is denied. Hence the role of climate change skepticism, which cannot be understood without this denial. And it is easy to see why: the total lack of realism in the combination — billionaires encouraging millions of members of the so-called middle classes to return to protecting the past! — is blindingly self-evident. For now, it’s nothing more than a matter of remaining completely indifferent to the geopolitical situation.
For the first time, a whole political movement is no longer claiming that it can seriously confront geopolitical realities and is instead placing itself outside any constraint, offshore, as it were. What counts most of all is that they should not have to share with the masses a world that they know will never again be held in common.
It is remarkable that this innovation comes from a real estate developer who is forever in debt, going from one bankruptcy to another, who became a celebrity thanks to reality TV (another form of escapism). The complete indifference to facts that marked the campaign is simply a consequence of claiming you can live without being grounded in reality. When you’ve promised those who think they’re heading back to a country they once knew that they will indeed rediscover their past there (and are actually dragging them toward a place that has no real existence), then you can’t be too picky about empirical evidence.
It’s pointless to get angry that Trump’s electors don’t believe the facts: they’re not stupid. The situation is quite the opposite: it’s because the overall geopolitical situation has to be denied that an indifference to facts becomes so essential. If they had to realize the huge contradiction, they’d have to start coming down to earth. In this sense, Trumpism defines (albeit negatively, by taking up the opposite position) the first ecological government.
And it goes without saying that “ordinary folk” shouldn’t have too many illusions about how the venture is going to turn out. You don’t need to be very bright to foresee that the whole thing will end in a terrible conflagration. This is the only real parallel with the different fascisms.
The challenge to be met is tailor-made for Europe, since it is Europe that invented the strange story of globalization and then became one of its victims. History will belong to those who can be the first to come to earth, to land on an earth that can be inhabited — unless the others, the dreamers of old-style realpolitik, have finally made that earth vanish for good.
Confidential documents show that Shell sounded the alarm about global warming as early as 1986. But despite this clear-eyed view of the risks, the oil giant has lobbied against strong climate legislation for decades. Today we make Shell’s 1991 film, Climate of Concern, public again.
By Jelmer MOMMERS
Shell Oil Company has spent millions of dollars lobbying against measures that would protect the planet from climate catastrophe. But thanks to a film recently obtained by The Correspondent, it’s now clear that their position wasn’t born of ignorance. Shell knows that fossil fuels put us all at risk – in fact, they’ve known for over a quarter of a century. Climate of Concern, a 1991 educational film produced by Shell, warned that the company’s own product could lead to extreme weather, floods, famines, and climate refugees, and noted that the reality of climate change was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists.”
The question, ladies and gentlemen, is what did Shell know and when did they know it. The Correspondent would like to enter into evidence Exhibit A: Climate of Concern.
I know what you want from me—what we all want—which is some small solace after the events of Election Day. My wife Sue Halpern and I have been talking nonstop for days, trying to cope with the emotions. I fear I may not be able to provide that balm, but I do offer these remarks in the spirit of resistance to that which we know is coming. We need to figure out how to keep the lights on, literally and figuratively, and all kinds of darkness at bay.
I am grateful to all those who asked me to deliver this inaugural Jonathan Schell Lecture—grateful most of all because it gave me an excuse for extended and happy recollection of one of the most generous friendships of my early adulthood. I arrived at The New Yorker at the age of 21, two weeks out of college, alone in New York City for the first time. The New Yorker was wonderfully quirky, of course, but one of its less wonderful quirks was that most people didn’t talk to each other very much, and especially to newcomers 50 years their junior. There were exceptions, of course, and the foremost exception was Jonathan. He loved to talk, and we had long colloquies nearly every day, mostly about politics.
Ideas—not abstract ideas, but ideas drawn from the world as it wound around him—fascinated him. He always wanted to dig a layer or two deeper; there was never anything superficial or trendy about his analysis. I understood better what he was up to when I came, at the age of 27, to write The End of Nature. It owes more than a small debt to The Fate of the Earth, which let me feel it was possible and permitted to write about the largest questions in the largest ways.
In the years that followed, having helped push action on his greatest cause—the danger of nuclear weapons—that issue began to seem a little less urgent. That perception, of course, is mistaken: Nuclear weapons remain a constant peril, perhaps more than ever in an increasingly multipolar world. But with the end of the Cold War and the build-down of US and Russian weapon stocks, the question compelled people less feverishly. New perils—climate change perhaps chief among them—emerged. Post-9/11, smaller-bore terrors informed our nightmares. We would have been wise, as the rise of a sinister Vladimir Putin and a sinister and clueless Donald Trump remind us, to pay much sharper attention to this existential issue, but the peace dividend turned out mostly to be a relaxing of emotional vigilance.
However, for the moment, we have not exploded nuclear weapons, notwithstanding Trump’s recent query about what good they are if we don’t use them. Our minds can compass the specter of a few mushroom clouds obliterating all that we know and love; those images have fueled a fitful but real effort to contain the problem, resulting most recently in the agreement with Iran. We have not been able to imagine that the billion tiny explosions of a billion pistons in a billion cylinders every second of every day could wreak the same damage, and hence we’ve done very little to ward off climate change.
We are destroying the earth every bit as thoroughly as Jonathan imagined in the famous first chapter of TheFate of the Earth, just a little more slowly. By burning coal and oil and gas and hence injecting carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, we have materially changed its heat-trapping properties; indeed, those man-made greenhouse gases trap the daily heat equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima-size explosions. That’s enough extra heat that, in the space of a few decades, we have melted most of the summer sea ice in the Arctic—millennia old, meters thick, across a continent-size stretch of ocean that now, in summer, is blue water. (Blue water that absorbs the sun’s incoming rays instead of bouncing them back to space like the white ice it replaced, thus exacerbating the problem even further.) That’s enough heat to warm the tropical oceans to the point where Sue and I watched with our colleagues in the South Pacific as a wave of record-breaking warm water swept across the region this past spring, killing in a matter of weeks vast swaths of coral that had been there since before the beginning of the human experiment. That’s enough heat to seriously disrupt the planet’s hydrological cycles: Since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, we’ve seen steady increases in drought in arid areas (and with it calamities like wildfire) and steady, even shocking, increases in downpour and flood in wet areas. It’s been enough to raise the levels of the ocean—and the extra carbon in the atmosphere has also changed the chemistry of that seawater, making it more acidic and beginning to threaten the base of the marine food chain. We are, it bears remembering, an ocean planet, and the world’s oceanographers warn that we are very rapidly turning the seven seas “hot, sour, and breathless.” To the “republic of insects and grass” that Jonathan imagined in the opening of The Fate of the Earth, we can add a new vision: a hypoxic undersea kingdom of jellyfish.
This is not what will happen if something goes wrong, if some maniac pushes the nuclear button, if some officer turns a key in a silo. This is what has already happened, because all of us normal people have turned the keys to our cars and the thermostat dials on our walls. And we’re still in the relatively early days of climate change, having increased the planet’s temperature not much more than 1 degree Celsius. We’re on a trajectory, even after the conclusion of the Paris climate talks last year, to raise Earth’s temperature by 3.5 degrees Celsius—or more, if the feedback loops we are triggering take full hold. If we do that, then we will not be able to maintain a civilization anything like the one we’ve inherited. Our great cities will be underwater; our fields will not produce the food our bodies require; those bodies will not be able to venture outside in many places to do the work of the world. Already, the World Health Organization estimates, increased heat and humidity have cut the labor a human can perform by 10 percent, a number that will approach 30 percent by midcentury. This July and August were the hottest months in the history of human civilization measured globally; in southern Iraq, very near where scholars situate the Garden of Eden, the mercury in cities like Basra hit 129 degrees—among the highest reliably recorded temperatures in history, temperatures so high that human survival becomes difficult.
Against this crisis, we see sporadic action at best. We know that we could be making huge strides. For instance, engineers have managed to cut the cost of solar panels by 80 percent in the last decade, to the point where they are now among the cheapest methods of generating electricity. A Stanford team headed by Mark Jacobson has shown precisely how all 50 states and virtually every foreign nation could make the switch to renewable energy at an affordable cost in the course of a couple of decades. A few nations have shown that he’s correct: Denmark, for instance, now generates almost half of its power from the wind.
In most places, however, the progress has been slow and fitful at best. In the United States, the Obama administration did more than its predecessors, but far less than physics requires. By reducing our use of coal-fired power, it cut carbon-dioxide emissions by perhaps 10 percent. But because it wouldn’t buck the rest of the fossil-fuel industry, the Obama administration basically substituted fracked natural gas for that coal. This was a mistake: The leakage of methane into the atmosphere means that America’s total greenhouse-gas emissions held relatively steady or perhaps even increased. This willingness to cater to the industry is bipartisan, though in the horror of this past election that was easy to overlook. Here’s President Obama four years ago, speaking to an industry group in Oklahoma: “Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. That’s important to know. Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.” Hillary Clinton opened an entire new wing at the State Department charged with promoting fracking around the world. So much for the establishment, now repudiated.
Trump, of course, has famously insisted that global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese and has promised to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. His election win is more than just a speed bump in the road to the future—it’s a ditch, and quite likely a crevasse. Even as we gather tonight, international negotiators in Marrakech, stunned by our elections, are doing their best to salvage something of the Paris Agreement, signed just 11 months ago with much fanfare.
* * *
But the real contest here is not between Democrats and Republicans; it’s between human beings and physics. That’s a difficult negotiation, as physics is not prone to compromise. It also imposes a hard time limit on the bargaining; if we don’t move very, very quickly, then any progress will be pointless. And so the question for this lecture, and really the question for the geological future of the planet, becomes: How do we spur much faster and more decisive action from institutions that wish to go slowly, or perhaps don’t wish to act at all? One understands that politicians prize incremental action—but in this case, winning slowly is the same as losing. The planet is clearly outside its comfort zone; how do we get our political institutions out of theirs?
And it is here that I’d like to turn to one of Jonathan’s later books, one that got less attention than it deserved. The Unconquerable World was published in 2003. In it, Jonathan writes, in his distinctive aphoristic style: “Violence is the method by which the ruthless few can subdue the passive many. Nonviolence is a means by which the active many can overcome the ruthless few.” This brings us, I think, to the crux of our moment. Across a wide variety of topics, we see the power of the ruthless few. This is nowhere more evident than in the field of energy, where the ruthless few who lead the fossil-fuel industry have more money at their disposal than any humans in the past. They’ve been willing to deploy this advantage to maintain the status quo, even in the face of clear scientific warnings and now clear scientific proof. They are, for lack of a better word, radicals: If you continue to alter the chemistry of the atmosphere past the point where you’re melting the polar ice caps, then you are engaging in a radicalism unparalleled in human history.
And they’re not doing this unknowingly or out of confusion. Exxon has known all there is to know about climate change for four decades. Its product was carbon, and it had some of the best scientists on earth on its staff; they warned management, in clear and explicit terms, how much and how fast the earth would warm, and management believed them: That’s why, for instance, Exxon’s drilling rigs were built to accommodate the sea-level rise it knew was coming. But Exxon didn’t warn any of the rest of us. Just the opposite: It invested huge sums of money in helping to build an architecture of deceit, denial, and disinformation, which meant humankind wasted a quarter of a century in a ludicrous argument about whether global warming was “real,” a debate that Exxon’s leaders knew was already settled. The company continues to fund politicians who deny climate change and to fight any efforts to hold it accountable. At times, as Steve Coll makes clear in his remarkable book Private Empire, the oil industry has been willing to use explicit violence—those attack dogs in North Dakota have their even more brutal counterparts in distant parts of the planet. More often, the industry has been willing to use the concentrated force of its money. Our largest oil and gas barons, the Koch brothers—two of the richest men on earth, and among the largest leaseholders on Canada’s tar sands—have promised to deploy three-quarters of a billion dollars in this year’s contest. As Jane Mayer put it in a telling phrase, they’ve been able to “weaponize” their money to achieve their ends. So the “ruthless few” are using violence—power in its many forms.
But the other half of that aphorism is hopeful: “Nonviolence is the means by which the active many can overcome the ruthless few.” When the history of the 20th century is written, I’m hopeful that historians will conclude that the most important technology developed during those bloody hundred years wasn’t the atom bomb, or the ability to manipulate genes, or even the Internet, but instead the technology of nonviolence. (I use the word “technology” advisedly here.) We had intimations of its power long before: In a sense, the most resounding moment in Western history, Jesus’s crucifixion, is a prototype of nonviolent action, one that launched the most successful movement in history. Nineteenth-century America saw Thoreau begin to think more systematically about civil disobedience as a technique. But it really fell to the 20th century, and Gandhi, to develop it as a coherent strategy, a process greatly furthered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his associates in this country, and by adherents around the world: Otpor in Eastern Europe, various participants in the Arab Spring, Buddhist monks in Burma, Wangari Maathai’s tree-planters, and so on.
We have done very little systematic study of these techniques. We have no West Point or Sandhurst for the teaching of nonviolence; indeed, it’s fair to say that the governments of the world have spent far more time figuring out how to stamp out such efforts than to promote them. (And given the level of threat they represent to governments, that is perhaps appropriate.) What we know is what we’ve learned by experience, by trial and error.
In my own case over the last decade, that’s meant helping to organize several large-scale campaigns or social movements. Some have used civil disobedience in particular—I circulated the call for arrestees at the start of the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrations in 2011, and observers said the resulting two weeks of nonviolent direct action resulted in more arrests than any such demonstration on any issue in many years. Others have focused on large-scale rallies—some in this audience attended the massive climate march in New York in the autumn of 2014, organized in part by 350.org, which was apparently the largest demonstration about anything in this country in a long time. Others have been scattered: The fossil-fuel divestment campaign we launched in 2012 has been active on every continent, incorporated a wide variety of tactics, and has become the largest anticorporate campaign of its kind in history, triggering the full or partial divestment of endowments and portfolios with nearly $5 trillion in assets. These actions have helped spur many more such actions: Keystone represented a heretofore very rare big loss for Big Oil, and its success helped prompt many others to follow suit; now every pipeline, fracking well, coal mine, liquid-natural-gas terminal, and oil train is being fought. As an executive at the American Petroleum Institute said recently—and ruefully—to his industry colleagues, they now face the “Keystone-ization” of all their efforts.
And we have by no means been the only, or even the main, actor in these efforts. For instance, indigenous activists have been at the forefront of the climate fight since its inception, here and around the world, and the current fight over the Dakota Access pipeline is no exception. They and the residents of what are often called “frontline” communities, where the effects of climate change and pollution are most intense, have punched far above their weight in these struggles; they have been the real leaders. These fights will go on. They’ll be much harder in the wake of Trump’s election, but they weren’t easy to begin with, and I confess I see little alternative—even under Obama, the chance of meaningful legislation was thin. So, using Jonathan’s template, I’ll try to offer a few lessons from my own experience over the last decade.
* * *
Lesson one: Unearned suffering is a potent tool. Volunteering for pain is an unlikely event in a pleasure-based society, and hence it gets noticed. Nonviolent direct action is just one tool in the activist tool kit, and it should be used sparingly—like any tool, it can easily get dull, both literally and figuratively. But when it is necessary to underline the moral urgency of a case, the willingness to go to jail can be very powerful, precisely because it goes against the bent of normal life.
It is also difficult for most participants. If you’ve been raised to be law-abiding, it’s hard to stay seated in front of, say, the White House when a cop tells you to move. Onlookers understand that difficulty. I remember Gus Speth being arrested at those initial Keystone demonstrations. He’d done everything possible within the system: co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council, chaired the president’s Council on Environmental Quality, ran the entire UN Development Program, been a dean at Yale. But then he concluded that the systems he’d placed such faith in were not coming close to meeting the climate challenge—so, in his 70s, he joined that small initial demonstration. Because his son was a high-powered lawyer, Gus was the only one of us able to get a message out during our stay in jail. What he told the press stuck with me: “I’ve held many important positions in this town,” he said. “But none seem as important as the one I’m in today.” Indeed, his witness pulled many of the nation’s environmental groups off the sidelines; when we got out, he and I wrote a letter to the CEOs of all those powerful green groups, and in return they wrote a letter to the president saying, “There is not an inch of daylight between our position and those of the people protesting on your lawn.” Without Gus’s willingness to suffer the indignity and discomfort of jail, that wouldn’t have happened, and the subsequent history would have been different.
Because it falls so outside our normal search for comfort, security, and advancement, unearned suffering can be a powerful tool. Whether this will be useful against a crueler White House and a nastier and more empowered right wing remains to be seen, but it will be seen. I imagine that the first place it will see really widespread use is not on the environment, but in regard to immigration. If Trump is serious about his plans for mass deportation, he’ll be met with passive resistance of all kinds—or at least he should be. All of us have grown up with that Nazi-era bromide about “First they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew…” In this case, there’s no mystery: First they’re coming for the undocumented. It will be a real fight for the soul of our nation, as the people who abstractly backed the idea of a wall with Mexico are forced to look at the faces of the neighbors they intend to toss over it.
Lesson two: These tactics are useful to the degree that they attract large numbers of people to the fight. Those large numbers don’t need to engage in civil disobedience; they just need to engage in the broader battle. If you think about it, numbers are the currency of movements, just as actual cash is the currency of the status quo—at least until such time as the status quo needs to employ the currency of violence. The point of civil disobedience is rarely that it stops some evil by itself; instead, it attracts enough people and hence attention to reach the public at large.
When the Keystone demonstrations began, for instance, no one knew what the pipeline was, and it hadn’t occurred to people to think about climate change in terms of infrastructure. Instead, we thought about it in the terms preferred by politicians, i.e., by thinking about “emissions reductions” far in the future from policies like increased automobile efficiency, which are useful but obviously insufficient. In the early autumn of 2011, as we were beginning the Keystone protests, the National Journal polled its DC “energy insiders,” and 93 percent of them said TransCanada would soon have its permit for the pipeline. But those initial arrests attracted enough people to make it into a national issue. Soon, 15,000 people were surrounding the White House, and then 50,000 were rallying outside its gates, and before long it was on the front pages of newspapers. The information spread, and more importantly the analysis did too: Infrastructure became a recognized point of conflict in the climate fight, because enough people said it was. Politicians were forced to engage on a ground they would rather have avoided.
In much the same way, the divestment movement managed to go from its infancy in 2012 to the stage where, by 2015, the governor of the Bank of England was repeating its main bullet points to the world’s insurance industry in a conference at Lloyd’s of London: The fossil-fuel industry had more carbon in its reserves than we could ever hope to burn, and those reserves posed the financial risk of becoming “stranded assets.” Note that it doesn’t take a majority of people, or anywhere close, to have a significant—even decisive—impact: In an apathetic world, the active involvement of only a few percentage points of the citizenry is sufficient to make a difference. No more than 1 percent of Americans, for instance, ever participated in a civil-rights protest. But it does take a sufficient number to make an impression, whether in the climate movement or the Tea Party.
Lesson three: The real point of civil disobedience and the subsequent movements is less to pass specific legislation than it is to change the zeitgeist. The Occupy movement, for instance, is often faulted for not having produced a long list of actionable demands, but its great achievement was to make, by dint of recognition and repetition, the existing order illegitimate. Once the 99 percent and the 1 percent were seen as categories, our politics began to shift. Bernie Sanders, and to a lesser extent Donald Trump, fed on that energy. That Hillary Clinton was forced to say that she too opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal was testimony to the power of the shift in the zeitgeist around inequality. Or take LGBTQ rights: It’s worth remembering that only four years ago, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton still opposed same-sex marriage. That’s difficult to recall now, since at this point you’d think they had jointly invented the concept. But it was skillful organizing for many years that changed less the laws of the land than the zeitgeist of the culture. Yes, some of those battles were fought over particular statutes; but the battles in Hollywood, and at high-school proms, and in a dozen other such venues were as important. Once movements shift the zeitgeist, then legislative victory becomes the mopping-up phase; this one Trump won’t even attempt to turn back.
This is not how political scientists tend to see it—or politicians, for that matter. Speaking to Black Lives Matter activists backstage in the course of the primary campaign, Hillary Clinton laid out her essential philosophy: “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.” This is, I think, utterly backward, and it explains much of the intuitive sense among activists of all stripes that Clinton wouldn’t have been a leader. As Monica Reyes, one of the young immigration activists in the Dreamer movement—great organizers who did much to shift public opinion—put it: “You need to change the culture before you can change laws.” Or as that guy Abraham Lincoln once put it: “Public sentiment is everything.”
By forever straddling the middle, centrist politicians delay changes in public sentiment. The viewpoint of the establishment—an appellation that in this case includes everyone from oil companies to presidents—is always the same: We need to be “realistic”; change will come slowly if it comes at all; and so forth. In normal political debates, this is reasonable. Compromise on issues is the way we progress: You want less money in the budget for X, and I want more, and so we meet in the middle and live to fight another day. That’s politics, as distinct from movement politics, which is about changing basic feelings over the great issues of the day. And it’s particularly true in the case of climate change, where political reality, important as it is, comes in a distinct second to reality reality. Chemistry and physics, I repeat, do what they do regardless of our wishes. That’s the difference between political science and science science.
* * *
There are many other points that Jonathan gets at in his book, but there’s one more that bears directly on the current efforts to build a movement around climate change. It comes in his discussion of Hannah Arendt and Mohandas Gandhi. Despite widespread agreement on the sources of power and the possibilities for mobilization, he finds one large difference between the two: Whereas Gandhi saw “spiritual love as the source and inspiration of nonviolent action, Arendt was among those who argued strenuously against introducing such love into the political sphere.” Hers was not an argument against spiritual love, but rather a contention that it mostly belonged in the private sphere, and that “publicity, which is necessary for politics, will coarsen and corrupt it by turning it into a public display, a show.” I will not attempt to flesh out the illuminating arguments on both sides, but I will say that I have changed my mind somewhat over the years on this question, at least as it relates to climate change.
Gandhi, like Thoreau before him, was an ascetic, and people have tended to lump their political and spiritual force together—and, in certain ways, they were very closely linked. Gandhi’s spinning wheel was a powerful symbol, and a powerful reality, in a very poor nation. He emphasized individual action alongside political mobilization, because he believed that Indians needed to awaken a sense of their own agency and strength. This was a necessary step in that movement—but perhaps a trap in our current dilemma. By this I mean that many of the early efforts to fight climate change focused on a kind of personal piety or individual action, reducing one’s impact via lightbulbs or food choices or you name it. And these are useful steps. The house that Sue and I inhabit is covered with solar panels. I turn off lights so assiduously that our daughter, in her Harry Potter days, referred to me as “the Dark Lord.” Often in my early writing, I fixed on such solutions. But in fact, given the pace with which we now know climate change is advancing, they seem not irrelevant but utterly ill-equipped for the task at hand.
Let’s imagine that truly inspired organizing might somehow get 10 percent of the population to become really engaged in this fight. That would be a monumental number: We think 10 percent of Americans participated in some fashion in the first Earth Day in 1970, and that was doubtless the high point of organizing on any topic in my lifetime. If the main contribution of this 10 percent was to reduce its own carbon footprint to zero— itself an impossible task—the total impact on America’s contribution to atmospheric carbon levels would be a 10 percent reduction. Which is helpful, but not very. But that same 10 percent—or even 2 or 3 percent—actually engaged in the work of politics might well be sufficient to produce structural change of the size that would set us on a new course: a price on carbon, a commitment to massive subsidies for renewable energy, a legislative commitment to keep carbon in the ground.
Some people are paralyzed by the piety they think is necessary for involvement. You cannot imagine the anguished and Talmudic discussions I’ve been asked to adjudicate on whether it’s permissible to burn gasoline to attend a climate rally. (In my estimation, it’s not just permissible, it’s very nearly mandatory—the best gas you will burn in the course of a year.) It has also become—and this is much more dangerous—the pet argument of every climate denier that, unless you’re willing to live life in a dark cave, you’re a hypocrite to stand for action on climate change. This attempt to short-circuit people’s desire to act must be rejected. We live in the world we wish to change; some hypocrisy is the price of admission to the fight. In this sense, and this sense only, Gandhi is an unhelpful example, and a bludgeon used to prevent good-hearted people from acting.
In fact, as we confront the blunt reality of a Trump presidency and a GOP Congress, it’s clearer than ever that asceticism is insufficient, and maybe even counterproductive. The only argument that might actually discover a receptive audience in the new Washington is one that says, “We need a rapid build-out of solar and wind power, as much for economic as environmental reasons.” If one wanted to find the mother lode of industrial jobs that Trump has promised, virtually the only possible source is the energy transformation of our society.
I will end by saying that movement-building—the mobilization of large numbers of people, and of deep passion, through the employment of all the tools at a nonviolent activist’s disposal—will continue, though it moves onto very uncertain ground with our new political reality. This work of nonviolent resistance is never easy, and it’s becoming harder. Jonathan’s optimism in The Unconquerable World notwithstanding, more and more countries are moving to prevent real opposition. China and Russia are brutally hard to operate in, and India is reconfiguring its laws to go in the same direction. Environmentalists are now routinely assassinated in Honduras, Brazil, the Philippines. Australia, where mining barons control the government, has passed draconian laws against protest; clearly Trump and his colleagues would like to do the same here, and will doubtless succeed to one extent or another. The savagery of the police response to Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us how close to a full-bore petro-state we are.
And yet the movement builds. I don’t know whether it builds fast enough. Unlike every other challenge we’ve faced, this one comes with a time limit. Martin Luther King would always say, quoting the great Massachusetts abolitionist Theodore Parker, that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”—meaning that it may take a while, but we are going to win. By contrast, the arc of the physical universe is short and it bends toward heat. I will not venture to predict if we can, at this point, catch up with physics. Clearly, it has a lot of momentum. It’s a bad sign when your major physical features begin to disappear—that we no longer have the giant ice cap in the Arctic is disconcerting, to say the least. So there’s no guarantee of victory. But I can guarantee that we will fight, in every corner of the earth and with all the nonviolent tools at our disposal. And in so doing, we will discover if these tools are powerful enough to tackle the most disturbing crisis humans have ever faced. We will see if that new technology of the 20th century will serve to solve the greatest dilemma of our new millennium.
Novo modelo mostra que esteira oceânica que transporta calor à Europa é mais vulnerável ao aquecimento global do que se imaginava, mas só pararia em séculos não de anos; Brasil seria afetado
Cientistas chineses trabalhando nos EUA trouxeram nesta quarta-feira uma notícia agridoce sobre um dos efeitos mais temidos do aquecimento global. Um modelo climático feito por eles mostra que a corrente oceânica que leva calor dos trópicos à Europa é mais vulnerável do que se imaginava às mudanças do clima, e desligará completamente caso a quantidade de gás carbônico na atmosfera siga aumentando. Por outro lado, esse desligamento ocorreria em séculos, não em anos ou décadas.
Conhecida como circulação termoalina do Atlântico, essa imensa esteira oceânica é um dos principais sistemas de regulação do clima da Terra. Sua face mais conhecida é a Corrente do Golfo, uma corrente quente que migra pela superfície do Atlântico tropical até as imediações do Ártico. No Atlântico Norte, ela fica mais fria e mais salgada (devido à evaporação da água no caminho), afundando e retornando aos trópicos na forma de uma corrente fria submarina. A dissipação de calor dessa corrente é o que mantém a Inglaterra e o norte da Europa com um clima relativamente tépido, mesmo estando em uma latitude elevada.
Desde os anos 1980 os cientistas têm postulado que o aquecimento global, ao derreter o gelo e a neve do Ártico, lançaria grande quantidade de água doce no oceano, diluindo o sal da corrente e impedindo que ela afundasse. O efeito imediato seria a suspensão do transporte da calor para a Europa, que mergulharia numa espécie de era do gelo. Isso já aconteceu há 8.200 anos e resfriou o Velho Continente por dois séculos. Poderia acontecer de novo de forma rápida e causar problemas sérios à civilização, caricaturados no filme-catástrofe O Dia Depois de Amanhã, de 2004.
Observações feitas até aqui, que são esparsas, têm mostrado que justamente desde 2004 esteira oceânica está em sua menor potência nos últimos mil anos, provavelmente por causa do aquecimento global. Alguns cientistas temem que o colapso já tenha começado.
Ocorre que os modelos computacionais que simulam o clima da Terra no futuro, usados pelo IPCC (o painel do clima da ONU), têm falhado sistematicamente em apontar instabilidade no sistema. Por consequência, o desligamento repentino da corrente é considerado pouco provável pelo painel.
Entram em cena Wei Liu, da Universidade da Califórnia em San Diego (hoje na outra costa do país, na Universidade Yale), e colegas. Em estudo publicado nesta quarta-feira no site da revista Science Advances, o grupo aponta que os modelos padecem de um viés: uma distorção faz a corrente parecer artificialmente mais estável do que é de fato.
A origem do problema está longe da Europa, no Atlântico Sul. Essa região do oceano tropical, perto do equador, recebe chuvas constantes na chamada Zona de Convergência Intertropical, o cinturão de tempestades onde massas de ar aquecido dos dois hemisférios se encontram.
Liu e colegas dizem que os modelos do IPCC assumem que há mais água doce oriunda dessas chuvas na corrente do que há de fato. Isso causaria nos modelos uma ilusão de estabilidade – quanto mais água doce no trópico, menor a diferença de salinidade perto do Ártico, portanto, menos suscetível a perturbações a corrente seria. Esse viés, afirma Liu, já havia sido sugerido por outros estudos no passado.
O que o chinês e seu grupo fizeram foi ajustar um dos modelos de acordo com parâmetros de salinidade que eles consideravam mais realistas. Mas não apenas isso: a correção do viés tornou a corrente mais instável e vulnerável ao próprio aquecimento da água do mar – algo que casa melhor com as observações. “O aquecimento reduz a densidade da água e impede a convecção”, disse Liu ao OC. “O método não é perfeito, mas é o melhor que podemos fazer agora para corrigir o viés e fazer uma projeção mais confiável.”
Os pesquisadores usaram o modelo ajustado para estimar o que acontece com a esteira oceânica caso o nível de CO2 na atmosfera duplique – algo que acontecerá por volta de meados do século se medidas radicais de controle de emissões não forem tomadas.
Aqui vem a nota de alívio do estudo: o colapso da corrente ocorre nas simulações apenas 300 anos após a quantidade de CO2 dobrar na atmosfera. Questionado sobre se isso era uma boa notícia, Liu foi cauteloso: “Sim, 300 anos são muita coisa comparado a uma vida humana, mas mudanças notáveis podem ocorrer antes de a circulação colapsar”, disse. “Além disso, nosso resultado é baseado em um modelo e em um cenário simples de aquecimento.” Liu e seus colegas não consideraram, por exemplo, o fator que até agora tem sido invocado para explicar a redução da corrente: o efeito do degelo da Groenlândia. Ao lançar excesso de água doce sobre o oceano no Ártico, o derretimento poderia agravar a situação de uma corrente que já seria impactada pelo aquecimento da superfície.
Um efeito esperado dessa redução na corrente, por exemplo, é uma mudança nos padrões de chuva em várias regiões do planeta. Um dos lugares que seriam afetados é o Brasil. Estudos do grupo do geólogo de Francisco Cruz, da USP, já mostraram que fases de redução da circulação termoalina no passado corresponderam a chuvas torrenciais no Brasil, devido ao deslocamento da Zona de Convergência Intertropical para o sul.
“Precisamos aplicar essa metodologia a mais modelos climáticos e a cenários de aquecimento global mais realistas”, afirmou Liu.
Study confirms steady warming of oceans for past 45 years
January 4, 2017
University of California – Berkeley
Scientists calculated average ocean temperatures from 1999 to 2015, separately using ocean buoys and satellite data, and confirmed the uninterrupted warming trend reported by NOAA in 2015, based on that organization’s recalibration of sea surface temperature recordings from ships and buoys. The new results show that there was no global warming hiatus between 1998 and 2012.
A new UC Berkeley analysis of ocean buoy (green) and satellite data (orange) show that ocean temperatures have increased steadily since 1999, as NOAA concluded in 2015 (red) after adjusting for a cold bias in buoy temperature measurements. NOAA’s earlier assessment (blue) underestimated sea surface temperature changes, falsely suggesting a hiatus in global warming. The lines show the general upward trend in ocean temperatures. Credit: Zeke Hausfather, UC Berkeley
A controversial paper published two years ago that concluded there was no detectable slowdown in ocean warming over the previous 15 years — widely known as the “global warming hiatus” — has now been confirmed using independent data in research led by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Berkeley Earth, a non-profit research institute focused on climate change.
The 2015 analysis showed that the modern buoys now used to measure ocean temperatures tend to report slightly cooler temperatures than older ship-based systems, even when measuring the same part of the ocean at the same time. As buoy measurements have replaced ship measurements, this had hidden some of the real-world warming.
After correcting for this “cold bias,” researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded in the journal Science that the oceans have actually warmed 0.12 degrees Celsius (0.22 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade since 2000, nearly twice as fast as earlier estimates of 0.07 degrees Celsius per decade. This brought the rate of ocean temperature rise in line with estimates for the previous 30 years, between 1970 and 1999.
This eliminated much of the global warming hiatus, an apparent slowdown in rising surface temperatures between 1998 and 2012. Many scientists, including the International Panel on Climate Change, acknowledged the puzzling hiatus, while those dubious about global warming pointed to it as evidence that climate change is a hoax.
Climate change skeptics attacked the NOAA researchers and a House of Representatives committee subpoenaed the scientists’ emails. NOAA agreed to provide data and respond to any scientific questions but refused to comply with the subpoena, a decision supported by scientists who feared the “chilling effect” of political inquisitions.
The new study, which uses independent data from satellites and robotic floats as well as buoys, concludes that the NOAA results were correct. The paper is published Jan. 4 in the online, open-access journal Science Advances.
“Our results mean that essentially NOAA got it right, that they were not cooking the books,” said lead author Zeke Hausfather, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group.
Long-term climate records
Hausfather said that years ago, mariners measured the ocean temperature by scooping up a bucket of water from the ocean and sticking a thermometer in it. In the 1950s, however, ships began to automatically measure water piped through the engine room, which typically is warm. Nowadays, buoys cover much of the ocean and that data is beginning to supplant ship data. But the buoys report slightly cooler temperatures because they measure water directly from the ocean instead of after a trip through a warm engine room.
NOAA is one of three organizations that keep historical records of ocean temperatures — some going back to the 1850s — widely used by climate modelers. The agency’s paper was an attempt to accurately combine the old ship measurements and the newer buoy data.
Hausfather and colleague Kevin Cowtan of the University of York in the UK extended that study to include the newer satellite and Argo float data in addition to the buoy data.
“Only a small fraction of the ocean measurement data is being used by climate monitoring groups, and they are trying to smush together data from different instruments, which leads to a lot of judgment calls about how you weight one versus the other, and how you adjust for the transition from one to another,” Hausfather said. “So we said, ‘What if we create a temperature record just from the buoys, or just from the satellites, or just from the Argo floats, so there is no mixing and matching of instruments?'”
In each case, using data from only one instrument type — either satellites, buoys or Argo floats — the results matched those of the NOAA group, supporting the case that the oceans warmed 0.12 degrees Celsius per decade over the past two decades, nearly twice the previous estimate. In other words, the upward trend seen in the last half of the 20th century continued through the first 15 years of the 21st: there was no hiatus.
“In the grand scheme of things, the main implication of our study is on the hiatus, which many people have focused on, claiming that global warming has slowed greatly or even stopped,” Hausfather said. “Based on our analysis, a good portion of that apparent slowdown in warming was due to biases in the ship records.”
Correcting other biases in ship records
In the same publication last year, NOAA scientists also accounted for changing shipping routes and measurement techniques. Their correction — giving greater weight to buoy measurements than to ship measurements in warming calculations — is also valid, Hausfather said, and a good way to correct for this second bias, short of throwing out the ship data altogether and relying only on buoys.
Another repository of ocean temperature data, the Hadley Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom, corrected their data for the switch from ships to buoys, but not for this second factor, which means that the Hadley data produce a slightly lower rate of warming than do the NOAA data or the new UC Berkeley study.
“In the last seven years or so, you have buoys warming faster than ships are, independently of the ship offset, which produces a significant cool bias in the Hadley record,” Hausfather said. The new study, he said, argues that the Hadley center should introduce another correction to its data.
“People don’t get much credit for doing studies that replicate or independently validate other people’s work. But, particularly when things become so political, we feel it is really important to show that, if you look at all these other records, it seems these researchers did a good job with their corrections,” Hausfather said.
Co-author Mark Richardson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena added, “Satellites and automated floats are completely independent witnesses of recent ocean warming, and their testimony matches the NOAA results. It looks like the NOAA researchers were right all along.”
Other co-authors of the paper are David C. Clarke, an independent researcher from Montreal, Canada, Peter Jacobs of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and Robert Rohde of Berkeley Earth. The research was funded by Berkeley Earth.
Zeke Hausfather, Kevin Cowtan, David C. Clarke, Peter Jacobs, Mark Richardson, Robert Rohde. Assessing recent warming using instrumentally homogeneous sea surface temperature records. Science Advances, 2017; 3 (1): e1601207 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601207
International research team presents findings from frozen ‘climate archive’ of Antarctica
January 5, 2017
University of Bonn
About 15,000 years ago, the ocean around Antarctica has seen an abrupt sea level rise of several meters. It could happen again.
Iceberg in the southeastern Weddell Sea region. Credit: Photo: Dr. Michael Weber
About 15,000 years ago, the ocean around Antarctica has seen an abrupt sea level rise of several meters. It could happen again. An international team of scientists with the participation of the University of Bonn is now reporting its findings in the magazine Scientific Reports.
University of Bonn’s climate researcher Michael E. Weber is a member of the study group. He says, “The changes that are currently taking place in a disturbing manner resemble those 14,700 years ago.” At that time, changes in atmospheric-oceanic circulation led to a stratification in the ocean with a cold layer at the surface and a warm layer below. Under such conditions, ice sheets melt more strongly than when the surrounding ocean is thoroughly mixed. This is exactly what is presently happening around the Antarctic.
The main author of the study, the Australian climate researcher Chris Fogwill from the Climate Change Research Center in Sydney, explains the process as follows: “The reason for the layering is that global warming in parts of Antarctica is causing land based ice to melt, adding massive amounts of freshwater to the ocean surface. At the same time as the surface is cooling, the deeper ocean is warming, which has already accelerated the decline of glaciers in the Amundsen Sea Embayment.” It appears global warming is replicating conditions that, in the past, triggered significant shifts in the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet.
To investigate the climate changes of the past, the scientists are studying drill cores from the eternal ice. Layer by layer, this frozen “climate archive” reveals its secrets to the experts. In previous studies, the scientists had found evidence of eight massive melting events in deep sea sediments around the Antarctic, which occurred at the transition from the last ice age to the present warm period. Co-author Dr. Weber from the Steinmann Institute of the University of Bonn says: “The largest melt occurred 14,700 years ago. During this time the Antarctic contributed to a sea level rise of at least three meters within a few centuries.”
The present discovery is the first direct evidence from the Antarctic continent which confirms the assumed models. The research team used isotopic analyzes of ice cores from the Weddell Sea region, which now flows into the ocean about a quarter of the Antarctic melt.
Through a combination with ice sheet and climate modeling, the isotopic data show that the waters around the Antarctic were heavily layered at the time of the melting events, so that the ice sheets melted at a faster rate. “The big question is whether the ice sheet will react to these changing ocean conditions as rapidly as it did 14,700 years ago,” says co-author Nick Golledge from the Antarctic Research Center in Wellington, New Zealand.
C. J. Fogwill, C. S. M. Turney, N. R. Golledge, D. M. Etheridge, M. Rubino, D. P. Thornton, A. Baker, J. Woodward, K. Winter, T. D. van Ommen, A. D. Moy, M. A. J. Curran, S. M. Davies, M. E. Weber, M. I. Bird, N. C. Munksgaard, L. Menviel, C. M. Rootes, B. Ellis, H. Millman, J. Vohra, A. Rivera, A. Cooper. Antarctic ice sheet discharge driven by atmosphere-ocean feedbacks at the Last Glacial Termination. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 39979 DOI: 10.1038/srep39979
Congressional Committee tweets don’t usually get much attention. But when the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology sent out a link to a Breitbart story claiming a “plunge” in global temperatures, people took notice. The takedowns flew in, from Slateand Bernie Sanders, from plenty of scientists, and most notably from the Weather Channel, which deemed Breitbart’s use of their meteorologist’s face worthy of a point-by-point debunking video.
There is nothing particularly noteworthy about Breitbart screwing up climate science, but the House Science Committee is among the most important scientific oversight bodies in the country. Since Texas Republican Lamar Smith took over its leadership in 2012, the Committee has spiraled down an increasingly anti-science rabbit hole: absurd hearings aimed at debunking consensus on global warming, outright witch hunts using the Committee’s subpoena power to intimidate scientists, and a Republican membership that includes some of the most anti-science lawmakers in the land.
The GOP’s shenanigans get the headlines, but what about the other side of the aisle? What is it like to be a member of Congress and sit on a science committee that doesn’t seem to understand science? What is it like to be an adult in a room full of toddlers? I asked some of the adults.
“I think it’s completely embarrassing,” said Mark Veasey, who represents Texas’s 33rd district, including parts of Dallas and Fort Worth. “You’re talking about something that 99.9 percent—if not 100 percent—of people in the legitimate science community says is a threat….To quote Breitbart over some of the most brilliant people in the world—and those are American scientists—and how they see climate change, I just think it’s a total embarrassment.”
Paul Tonko, who represents a chunk of upstate New York that includes Albany, has also called it embarrassing. “It is frustrating when you have the majority party of a committee pushing junk science and disproven myths to serve a political agenda,” he said. “It’s not just beneath the dignity of the Science Committee or Congress as a whole, it’s inherently dangerous. Science and research seek the truth—they don’t always fit so neatly with agendas.”
“I think it’s completely embarrassing.”
Suzanne Bonamici, of Oregon’s 1st District, also called it frustrating “to say the least” that the Committee “is spending time questioning climate researchers and ignoring the broad scientific consensus.” California Rep. Eric Swalwellcalled it the “Science” Committee in an email, and made sure I noted the air quotes. He said that in Obama’s first term, the Committee helped push forward on climate change and a green economy. “For the last four years, however, being on the Committee has meant defending the progress we’ve made.”
Frustration, embarrassment, a sense of Sisyphean hopelessness—this sounds like a grim gig. And Veasey also said that he doesn’t have much hope for a change in the Science Committee’s direction, because that change would have to come from the chairman. Smith has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign support from the oil and gas industry over the years, and somehow finds himself in even greater climate change denial than ExxonMobil.
And of course, it isn’t just the leadership. The League of Conservation Voters maintains a scorecard of every legislator in Congress: for 2015, the most recent year available, the average of all the Democratic members on the science committee is 92.75 percent (with 100 being a perfect environment-friendly score). On the GOP side of the aisle, the average is just over three percent.
(I reached out to a smattering of GOP members of the Committee to get their take on its recent direction. None of them responded.)
Bill Foster, who represents a district including some suburbs of Chicago, is the only science PhD in all of Congress (“I very often feel lonely,” he said, before encouraging other scientists to run for office). “Since I made the transition from science into politics not so long ago, I’ve become very cognizant of the difference between scientific facts, and political facts,” he said. “Political facts can be established by repeating over and over something that is demonstrably false, then if it comes to be accepted by enough people it becomes a political fact.” Witness the 52 percent of Republicans who currently believe Trump won the popular vote, and you get the idea.
I’m not sure “climate change isn’t happening” has reached that “political fact” level, though Smith and his ilk have done their damndest. Recent polls suggest most Americans do understand the issue, and more and more they believe the government should act aggressively to tackle it.
“Political facts can be established by repeating over and over something that is demonstrably false, then if it comes to be accepted by enough people it becomes a political fact.”
That those in charge of our government disagree so publicly and strongly now has scientists terrified. “This has a high profile,” Foster said, “because if there is any committee in Congress that should operate on the basis of scientific truth, it ought to be the Science, Space, and Technology committee—so when it goes off the rails, then people notice.”
The odds of the train jumping back on the rails over the next four years appear slim. Policies that came from the Obama White House, like the Clean Power Plan, are obviously on thin ice with a Trump administration, and without any sort of check on Smith and company it is hard to say just how pro-fossil fuel, anti-climate the committee could really get.
In the face of all that, what is a sane member of Congress to do? Elizabeth Esty, who represents Connecticut’s 5th district, was among several Committee members to note that in spite of the disagreements on climate, she has managed to work with GOP leadership on other scientific issues. Rep. Swalwell said he will try and focus on bits of common ground, like the jobs that come with an expanding green economy. Rep. Veasey said his best hope is that some strong conservative voices from outside of Congress might start to make themselves heard by the Party’s upper echelons on climate and related issues.
An ugly and dire scenario, then, but the Democrats all seem to carry at least a glimmer of hope. “It’s certainly frustrating and concerning but I’m an optimist,” Esty said. “I wouldn’t run for this job if I weren’t.”
Dave Levitan is a science journalist, and author of the book Not A Scientist: How politicians mistake, misrepresent, and utterly mangle science. Find him on Twitter and at his website.
Com menos dinheiro no orçamento, ciência pode ser uma das áreas mais afetadas
COLABORAÇÃO PARA A FOLHA
A eleição de Donald Trump pode pressagiar um período de declínio para a ciência nos Estados Unidos.
Noves fora a retórica que lhe ganhou a Casa Branca, os planos que ele apresenta para a próxima gestão podem significar cortes orçamentários significativos em pesquisas.
A campanha do republicano à Presidência bateu fortemente em duas teclas: um plano vigoroso de corte de impostos, que reduziria a arrecadação em pelo menos US$ 4,4 trilhões nos próximos dez anos, e um plano de investimento em infraestrutura que consumiria US$ 1 trilhão no mesmo período.
Na prática, isso significa que haverá menos dinheiro no Orçamento americano que poderá ser direcionado para os gastos “discricionários” -aqueles que já não caem automaticamente na conta do governo por força de lei. É de onde vem o financiamento da ciência americana.
“Se o montante de gastos discricionários cai, o subcomitê de Comércio, Justiça e Ciência no Congresso receberá uma alocação menor, e eles terão menos dinheiro disponível para financiar suas agências”, diz Casey Dreier, especialista em política espacial da ONG Planetary Society.
Entre os órgãos financiados diretamente por esse subcomitê estão a Fundação Nacional de Ciência (NSF), a Administração Nacional de Atmosfera e Oceano (Noaa) e a Administração Nacional de Aeronáutica e Espaço (Nasa).
Existe a possibilidade de o financiamento sair intacto desse processo? Sim, mas não é provável. Algum outro setor precisaria pagar a conta.
Ao menos no discurso, e fortemente apoiado por nomeações recentes, Trump já decidiu onde devem ocorrer os cortes mais profundos: ciência climática.
Que Trump se apresenta desde a campanha eleitoral como um negacionista da mudança do clima, não é segredo. No passado, ele chegou a afirmar que o aquecimento global é um embuste criado pelos chineses para tirar a competitividade da indústria americana.
(Para comprar essa versão, claro, teríamos de fingir que não foi a Nasa, agência americana, a maior e mais contundente coletora de evidências da mudança climática.)
Até aí, é o discurso antiglobalização para ganhar a eleição. Mas vai se concretizar no mandato?
Os sinais são os piores possíveis. O advogado Scott Pruitt, indicado para a EPA (Agência de Proteção do Ambiente), vê com ceticismo as políticas contra as mudanças climáticas. E o chefe da equipe de transição escolhido por Trump para a EPA é Myron Ebell, um notório negacionista da mudança climática.
O Centro para Energia e Ambiente do Instituto para Empreendimentos Competitivos, que Ebell dirige, recebe financiamento das indústrias do carvão e do petróleo. Colocá-lo para fazer a transição entre governos da EPA pode ser o clássico “deixar a raposa tomando conta do galinheiro”.
Como se isso não bastasse, durante a campanha os principais consultores de Trump na área de pesquisa espacial, Robert Walker e Peter Navarro, escreveram editoriais sugerindo que a agência espacial devia parar de estudar a própria Terra.
“A Nasa deveria estar concentrada primariamente em atividades no espaço profundo em vez de trabalho Terra-cêntrico que seria melhor conduzido por outras agências”, escreveram.
Há consenso entre os cientistas de que não há outro órgão com competência para tocar esses estudos e assumir a frota de satélites de monitoramento terrestre gerida pela agência espacial.
Além disso, passar as responsabilidades a outra instituição sem atribuir o orçamento correspondente é um jeito sutil de encerrar o programa de monitoramento do clima.
Se isso faz você ficar preocupado com o futuro das pesquisas, imagine os climatologistas nos EUA.
De acordo com o jornal “Washington Post”, eles estão se organizando para criar repositórios independentes dos dados colhidos, com medo que eles sumam das bases de dados governamentais durante o governo Trump.
Ainda que a grita possa evitar esse descaramento, a interrupção das pesquisas pode ter o mesmo efeito.
“Acho que é bem mais provável que eles tentem cortar a coleção de dados, o que minimizaria seu valor”, diz Andrew Dessler, professor de ciências atmosféricas da Universidade Texas A&M. “Ter dados contínuos é crucial para entender as tendências de longo prazo.”
E O QUE SOBRA?
Tirando a mudança climática, a Nasa deve ter algum suporte para dar continuidade a seus planos de longo prazo durante o governo Trump -talvez com alguma mudança.
De certo, há apenas a restituição do Conselho Espacial Nacional, criado durante o governo George Bush (o pai) e desativado desde 1993.
Reunindo as principais autoridades pertinentes, ele tem por objetivo coordenar as ações entre diferentes braços do governo e, com isso, dar uma direção estratégica mais clara e eficiente aos executores das atividades espaciais.
Isso poderia significar uma ameaça ao SLS (novo foguete de alta capacidade da Nasa) e à Orion (cápsula para viagem a espaço profundo), que devem fazer seu primeiro voo teste, não tripulado, em 2018.
Contudo, o apoio a esses programas no Congresso é amplo e bipartidário, de forma que dificilmente Trump conseguirá cancelá-los.
O que ele pode é redirecionar sua função. Em vez de se tornarem as primeiras peças para a “jornada a Marte”, que Barack Obama defendia para a década de 2030, eles seriam integrados num programa de exploração da Lua.
(Tradicionalmente, no Congresso americano, a Lua é um objetivo republicano, e Marte, um objetivo democrata. Não pergunte por quê.)
Trump deve ainda dar maior ênfase às iniciativas de parcerias comerciais para a exploração espacial. Em dezembro, Elon Musk, diretor da empresa SpaceX e franco apoiador da campanha de Hillary Clinton, passou a fazer parte de um grupo de consultores de Trump para a indústria de alta tecnologia.
Assessores de Trump querem tirar da agência a função de estudar a Terra em favor da exploração espacial
Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr
Imagem feita pela Nasa
Scott Pruitt, indicado para Agência de Proteção do Ambiente, já processou o órgão por limitações impostas à indústria petrolífera. A agência pode perder força e deixar certas regulações a cargo dos Estados
Spencer Platt-7.dez.2016/Getty Images/AFP
Scott Pruitt chega a Trump Tower, em 7 de dezembro, para encontro com Donald Trump
Rex Tillerson, executivo da petroleira ExxonMobil, foi indicado para o posto de secretário de Estado, o que dá mais sinais de que o governo Trump não deve se esforçar para promover fontes de energia limpa
Stanford, Calif. — THE good news got pretty much drowned out this month: Yes, 2016 is on track to become the hottest year on record, but thankfully also the third year in a row to see relatively flat growth in global greenhouse gas emissions. With global economic growth on the order of 3 percent a year, we may well have turned a corner toward a sustainable climate economy.
The bad news, of course, is that the world’s wealthiest nation, home to many of the scholars scrambling to reverse global warming, has elected a new president with little or no interest in the topic. Or an active disinterest. Donald J. Trump is surrounding himself with advisers who are likely to do little to challenge his notion of climate change as a Chinese hoax. People like to think of us as living in an age of information, but a better descriptor might be “the age of ignorance.”
How did we get into this predicament? Why are we about to inaugurate the most anti-science administration in American history?
As a graduate student at Harvard in the 1970s and early 1980s, I was astonished to find how little concern there was for the beliefs of ordinary Americans. I was in the history of science department, where all the talk was of Einstein and Darwin and Newton, with the occasional glance at the “reception” of such ideas in the larger literate populace.
I had grown up in a small town in Texas, and later in Kansas City, where the people I knew often talked about nature and God’s glory and corruption and the good life. At Harvard, though, I was puzzled that my professors seemed to have little interest in people outside the vanguard, the kinds of people I had come from, many of whom were fundamentalist Christians, people of solid faith but often in desperate conditions. Why was there so little interest in what they thought or believed? That’s Point 1.
Point 2: Early in my career as a historian, I was further bothered by how little attention was given to science as an instrument of popular deception. We like to think of science as the opposite of ignorance, the light that washes away the darkness, but there’s much more to that story.
Here my Harvard years were more illuminating. I got into a crowd of appropriately radicalized students, and started to better understand the place of science in the arc of human history. I learned about how science has not always been the saving grace we like to imagine; science gives rise as easily to nuclear bombs and bioweapons as to penicillin and the iPad. I taught for several years in the biology department, where I learned that cigarette makers had been giving millions of dollars to Harvard and other elite institutions to curry favor.
I also started understanding how science could be used as an instrument of deception — and to create or perpetuate ignorance. That is important, because while scholars were ignoring what Karl Marx dismissively called “the idiocy of rural life” (Point 1), tobacco and soft drink and oil companies facing taxation and regulation were busily disseminating mythologies about their products, to keep potential regulators at bay (Point 2).
The denialist conspiracy of the cigarette industry was crucial in this context, since science was one of the instruments used by Big Tobacco to carry out its denial (and distraction) campaign. Cigarette makers had met at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on Dec. 14, 1953, to plan a strategy to rebut the evidence that cigarettes were causing cancer and other maladies. The strategy was pure genius: The claim would be that it had not been “proved” that cigarettes really cause disease, so there was room for honest doubt. Cigarette makers promised to finance research to get to the truth, while privately acknowledging (in a notorious Brown & Williamson document from 1969) that “Doubt is our product.”
For decades thereafter, cigarette makers poured hundreds of millions of dollars into basic biomedical research, exploring things like genetic and viral or occupational causes of cancer — anything but tobacco. Research financed by the industry led to over 7,000 publications in peer-reviewed medical literature and 10 Nobel Prizes. Including consulting relationships, my research shows that at least 25 Nobel laureates have taken money from the cigarette industry over the past half-century. (Full disclosure: I’ve testified against that industry in dozens of tobacco trials.)
Now we know that many other industries have learned from Big Tobacco’s playbook. Physicians hired by the National Football League have questioned the evidence that concussions can cause brain disease, and soda sellers have financed research to deny that sugar causes obesity. And climate deniers have conducted a kind of scavenger hunt for oddities that appear to challenge the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists.
This latter fact might be little more than a historical quirk, were it not for the fact that we’ll soon have a president whose understanding of science is more like that of the people in the towns where I grew up than those scholars who taught me about Darwin and Einstein at Harvard.
We now live in a world where ignorance of a very dangerous sort is being deliberately manufactured, to protect certain kinds of unfettered corporate enterprise. The global climate catastrophe gets short shrift, largely because powerful fossil fuel producers still have enormous political clout, following decades-long campaigns to sow doubt about whether anthropogenic emissions are really causing planetary warming. Trust in science suffers, but also trust in government. And that is not an accident. Climate deniers are not so much anti-science as anti-regulation and anti-government.
Jeff Nesbit, in his recent book, “Poison Tea: How Big Oil and Big Tobacco Invented the Tea Party and Captured the G.O.P.,” documents how Big Tobacco joined with Big Oil in the early 1990s to create anti-tax front groups. These AstroTurf organizations waged a concerted effort to defend the unencumbered sale of cigarettes and petro-products. The breathtaking idea was to protect tobacco and oil from regulation and taxes by starting a movement that would combat all regulation and all taxes.
Part of the strategy, according to Mr. Nesbit, who worked for a group involved in the effort and witnessed firsthand the beginning of this devil’s dance, was to sow doubt by corrupting expertise, while simultaneously capturing the high ground of open-mindedness and even caution itself, with the deceptive mantra: “We need more research.” Much of the climate denial now embraced by people like Mr. Trump was first expressed in the disinformation campaigns of Big Oil — campaigns modeled closely on Big Tobacco’s strategies.
We sometimes hear that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, but a “repeat” is perhaps now the least of our worries. Judging purely from his transition team, Mr. Trump’s administration could be more hostile to modern science — and especially earth and environmental sciences — than any we have ever had. Whole agencies could go on the chopping block or face deliberate evisceration. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan may be in jeopardy, along with funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Grumblings can even be heard from Europe that if the Paris climate accord is abandoned, the United States may face carbon taxes on its export goods. Ignorance and its diabolic facilitator — the corruption of expertise — both have real-world costs that we ignore at our peril.
Fora da rota dos grandes furacões, sem vulcões ativos e desprovido de zonas habitadas sujeitas a fortes terremotos, o Brasil não figura entre os países mais suscetíveis a desastres naturais. Ocupa apenas a 123ª posição em um índice mundial dos países mais vulneráveis a cataclismos. Mas a aparência de lugar seguro, protegido dos humores do clima e dos solavancos da geologia, deve ser relativizada. Aqui, cerca de 85% dos desastres são causados por três tipos de ocorrências: inundações bruscas, deslizamentos de terra e secas prolongadas. Esses fenômenos são relativamente recorrentes em zonas tropicais e seus efeitos podem ser atenuados, em grande medida, por políticas públicas de redução de danos. Nas últimas cinco décadas, mais de 10.225 brasileiros morreram em desastres naturais, a maioria em inundações e devido à queda de encostas. As estiagens duradouras, como as comumente observadas no Nordeste, são, no entanto, o tipo de ocorrência que provoca mais vítimas não fatais no país (ver Pesquisa FAPESP nº 241).
Dois estudos baseados em simulações climáticas feitos por pesquisadores brasileiros indicam que o risco de ocorrência desses três tipos de desastre, ligados ao excesso ou à falta de água, deverá aumentar, até o final do século, na maioria das áreas hoje já afetadas por esses fenômenos. Eles também sinalizam que novos pontos do território nacional, em geral adjacentes às zonas atualmente atingidas por essas ocorrências, deverão se transformar em áreas de risco significativo para esses mesmos problemas. “Os impactos tendem a ser maiores no futuro, com as mudanças climáticas, o crescimento das cidades e de sua população e a ocupação de mais áreas de risco”, comenta José A. Marengo, chefe da Divisão de Produtos Integrados de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento do Centro Nacional de Monitoramento e Alerta de Desastres Naturais (Cemaden), órgão ligado ao Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovações e Comunicações (MCTIC), que coordenou as simulações climáticas. Parte dos resultados das projeções já foi divulgada em congressos e relatórios, como o documento federal enviado em abril deste ano à Convenção-Quadro das Nações Unidas sobre Mudança do Clima (UNFCCC, na sigla em inglês), e serve de subsídio para direcionar as estratégias do recém-criado Plano Nacional de Adaptação à Mudança do Clima. Mas dados mais detalhados das simulações vão sair em um artigo científico já aceito para publicação na revista Natural Hazards e em trabalhos destinados a outros periódicos.
Expansão das secas
De acordo com os estudos, as estiagens severas, hoje um problema de calamidade pública quase sempre associado a localidades do Nordeste, deverão se intensificar também no oeste e parte do leste da Amazônia, no Centro-Oeste, inclusive em torno de Brasília, em pontos dos estados do Sudeste e até no Sul. “Embora parte do Nordeste seja naturalmente mais árido, a seca não se deve apenas ao clima”, afirma o engenheiro civil Pedro Ivo Camarinha, pesquisador do Cemaden. “A vulnerabilidade da região se dá também por uma série de problemas de ordem socioeconômica, de uso do solo e devido à baixa capacidade de adaptação aos impactos das mudanças climáticas.” A carência de políticas públicas específicas para enfrentar os meses de estiagem, o baixo grau de escolaridade da população e a escassez de recursos são alguns dos fatores citados pelos autores como determinantes para aumentar a exposição de parcelas significativas do Nordeste a secas futuras.
A vulnerabilidade a inundações e enxurradas tende a se elevar em 30% nos três estados do Sul, na porção meridional do Mato Grosso e em boa parte da faixa litorânea do Nordeste, segundo um cenário projetado para 2100 pelas simulações climáticas. No estado de São Paulo, o mais populoso do país, a intensificação da ocorrência de enchentes-relâmpago, aquelas originadas após poucos minutos de chuvas torrenciais, deverá ser mais modesta, da ordem de 10%, mas ainda assim significativa. No Brasil Central, a vulnerabilidade a enchentes deverá cair, até porque as projeções indicam menos chuvas (e mais secas) em boa parte da região. “Os modelos divergem sobre o regime futuro de chuvas no oeste da Amazônia”, explica Marengo, cujos estudos se desenvolveram em parte no âmbito de um projeto temático da FAPESP. “Um deles aponta um aumento expressivo na frequência de inundações enquanto o outro sinaliza um cenário de estabilidade ou de leve aumento de enchentes.”
O padrão de deslizamento de terra, associado à ocorrência de chuvas intensas ou prolongadas por dias, deverá seguir, grosso modo, as mesmas tendências verificadas com as inundações, ainda que em um ritmo de crescimento mais moderado. O aumento na incidência de quedas de encostas deverá variar entre 3% e 15% nos lugares hoje já atingidos por esse tipo de fenômeno. O destaque negativo recai sobre a porção mais meridional do país. As áreas sujeitas a deslizamentos no Rio Grande do Sul, em Santa Catarina e no Paraná deverão se expandir e abarcar boa parte desses estados até 2100. No Sudeste, a região serrana na divisa entre São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro e Minas Gerais deverá se tornar ainda mais vulnerável a esse tipo de desastre. “Precisamos implementar com urgência políticas públicas nas regiões mais vulneráveis a inundações e deslizamentos de terra”, afirma o geógrafo Nathan Debortoli, coautor dos estudos, que hoje faz estágio de pós-doutorado na Universidade McGill, do Canadá. “A maior exposição às mudanças climáticas pode tornar a sobrevivência inviável em algumas regiões do país.”
Para gerar as projeções de risco futuro de desastres, foram usados dois modelos climáticos globais, o HadGEM2 ES, desenvolvido pelo Centro Hadley, da Inglaterra, e o Miroc5, criado pelo centro meteorológico japonês. Acoplado a eles, rodou ainda o modelo de escala regional Eta, desenvolvido pelo Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe). Trabalhando dessa forma, os autores conseguiram avaliar os padrões predominantes do clima futuro que estão associados à ocorrência de desastres naturais em áreas de, no mínimo, 400 quilômetros quadrados, um quadrado com os lados de 20 quilômetros de extensão.
Mais convergências que divergências
Os resultados fornecidos pelos dois modelos climáticos são semelhantes para cerca de 80% do território nacional. Isso dá robustez às projeções. O modelo inglês é usado há mais de 10 anos em simulações feitas por climatologistas brasileiros, que têm boa experiência acumulada com ele. O japonês começa agora a ser empregado com mais frequência. Há, no entanto, algumas discordâncias nas simulações de longo prazo geradas pelos dois modelos. A lista, por exemplo, dos 100 municípios mais vulneráveis a episódios de seca nas próximas três décadas fornecida pelas simulações do HadGEM2 ES é diferente da obtida com o Miroc5. As cidades de maior risco ficam, segundo o modelo japonês, em quatro estados do Nordeste: Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco e Alagoas. As fornecidas pelo modelo inglês se encontram, em sua maioria, em outros estados do Nordeste e também no Centro-Oeste e no norte de Minas Gerais. “Com exceção desses exemplos extremos, as projeções dos dois modelos coincidem em grande medida”, comenta Camarinha. No caso dos fenômenos hídricos, a discrepância mais significativa diz respeito ao regime de chuvas na Amazônia, em especial nos estados do oeste da região Norte (Acre, Amazonas e Rondônia). O HadGEM2 ES projeta mais chuvas — portanto, risco aumentado de inundações e deslizamentos — e o Miroc5, menos. “Prever as chuvas na Amazônia ainda é um desafio para os modelos”, afirma Marengo.
Para quantificar o risco futuro de ocorrer desastres naturais em uma área, é preciso ainda incluir nas simulações, além das informações climáticas, uma série de dados locais, como as condições econômicas, sociais e ambientais dos mais de 5.500 municípios brasileiros e de sua população. Ao final dos cálculos, cada área é classificada em um de cinco níveis de vulnerabilidade: muito baixa, baixa, média, alta e muito alta. “O modelo escolhido, a qualidade dos dados de cada cidade e o peso que se dá a cada variável influenciam no índice final obtido”, explica Camarinha.
O peso do homem
Além da suscetibilidade natural a secas, enchentes, deslizamentos e outros desastres, a ação do homem tem um peso considerável em transformar o que poderia ser um problema de menor monta em uma catástrofe. Os pesquisadores estimam que um terço do impacto dos deslizamentos de terra e metade dos estragos de inundações poderiam ser evitados com alterações de práticas humanas ligadas à ocupação do solo e a melhorias nas condições socioeconômicas da população em áreas de risco.
Moradias precárias em lugares inadequados, perto de encostas ou em pontos de alagamento; infraestrutura ruim, como estradas ou vias que não permitem acesso fácil a zonas de grande vulnerabilidade; falta de uma defesa civil atuante; cidades superpopulosas e impermeabilizadas, que não escoam a água da chuva – todos esses fatores não naturais, da cultura humana, podem influenciar o desfecho final de uma situação de risco. “Até hábitos cotidianos, como não jogar lixo na rua, e o nível de solidariedade e coesão social de uma população podem ao menos mitigar os impactos de um desastre”, pondera a geógrafa Lucí Hidalgo Nunes, do Instituto de Geociências da Universidade Estadual de Campinas (IG-Unicamp). “Obviamente, há desastres naturais tão intensos, como os grandes terremotos no Japão, que nem mesmo uma população extremamente preparada consegue evitar. Mas a recuperação nos países mais estruturados é muito mais rápida.”
Em seus trabalhos, os pesquisadores adotaram um cenário global até o final do século relativamente pessimista, mas bastante plausível: o RCP 8.5, que consta do quinto relatório de avaliação do Painel Intergovernamental de Mudanças Climáticas (IPCC). Esse cenário é marcado por grandes elevações de temperatura e recrudescimento tanto de chuvas como de secas intensas. No caso do Brasil, as projeções indicam que o país deverá ficar ao menos 3 ºC mais quente até o fim do século e que as chuvas podem aumentar até 30% no Sul-Sudeste e diminuir até 40% no Norte-Nordeste. As mudanças climáticas devem tornar mais frequentes os chamados eventos extremos, que podem se manifestar de diferentes formas: secas prolongadas, picos de temperatura, tempestades mais intensas, chuvas prolongadas por vários dias, ressacas mais fortes. Essas ocorrências aumentam o risco de desastres. “Não é, por exemplo, só uma questão da quantidade de chuva que cai em um lugar”, explica Marengo. “Às vezes, a quantidade pode até não mudar, mas a distribuição da chuva ao longo do tempo se altera e essa mudança pode gerar mais desastres.” Numa cidade como São Paulo, chover 50 milímetros no decorrer de três ou quatro dias dificilmente causa danos. Mas, se a pluviosidade se concentrar em apenas uma tarde, provavelmente ocorrerão alagamentos.
Para testar o grau de confiabilidade do índice de vulnerabilidade, os pesquisadores brasileiros compararam os resultados obtidos pelos modelos com os registros reais de desastres do passado recente (1960 a 1990), compilados pelo Atlas brasileiro de desastres naturais. Dessa forma, foi possível ter uma boa ideia se os modelos eram, de fato, úteis para prever as áreas onde ocorreram inundações, deslizamentos de terra e secas no Brasil durante as últimas décadas. Os dados do atlas também serviram de termo de comparação, como base presente para se quantificar o aumento ou a diminuição da vulnerabilidade futura de uma área a desastres. Para estiagem, as simulações do Miroc5 se mostraram geralmente mais confiáveis na maior parte do território nacional. No caso das enchentes e deslizamentos de terra, o HadGEM2 ES forneceu previsões mais precisas para áreas subtropicais e montanhosas, no Sul e Sudeste, e o Miroc5, para o resto do país. A Amazônia, como já destacado, foi o alvo de discórdia.
Um trabalho com metodologia semelhante à empregada pelos estudos de Marengo e de seus colaboradores, mas com enfoque apenas na situação atual, sem as projeções de aumento ou diminuição de risco futuro, foi publicado em abril no International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Em parceria com pesquisadores alemães, o geógrafo Lutiane Queiroz de Almeida, da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), calculou um conjunto de índices que apontaria o risco de ocorrer desastres naturais em cada município do país. Denominado Drib (Disaster risk indicators in Brazil), o indicador é uma adaptação do trabalho feito em escala mundial pela Universidade das Nações Unidas e instituições europeias (ver mapa e texto às páginas 22 e 23). Além de levar em conta dados sobre o risco de secas, enchentes e deslizamentos de terra, o Drib inclui em seu índice a exposição dos municípios costeiros ao aumento do nível do mar. Para esse tipo de problema, as cidades que se mostraram em maior perigo foram Vila Velha e Vitória, no Espírito Santo, Santos (SP) e Salvador (BA).
Almeida produziu índices de vulnerabilidade para os principais tipos de desastre em todo o território nacional e um número final, o Drib, que indicaria o risco geral de um lugar para a ocorrência de eventos extremos. Chamou a atenção a classificação de praticamente todo o território do Amazonas e do Acre e de metade do Pará como áreas de risco muito elevado, com populações socialmente vulneráveis e expostas a inundações. Entre os 20 municípios com pior desempenho no índice Drib, 12 são da região Norte. Os demais são do Nordeste (seis) e do Sudeste (dois). “Esses municípios têm pequenas populações, entre 3 mil e 25 mil habitantes, alta exposição a desastres e baixa capacidade adaptativa”, comenta o geógrafo da UFRN. “O estudo aponta que apenas 20% dos municípios brasileiros estão bem preparados para mitigar os impactos e reagir imediatamente a eventos extremos.” Em geral, essa é uma característica das regiões Sul e Sudeste.
Tragédias que se repetem
Muito antes das discussões atuais sobre as mudanças climáticas, os cataclismos naturais despertam interesse no homem. Os desastres são um capítulo trágico da história da humanidade desde tempos imemoriais. Alegado castigo divino, o mítico dilúvio global que teria acabado com a vida na Terra, com exceção das pessoas e animais que embarcaram na arca de Noé, é uma narrativa presente no Gênesis, primeiro livro do Antigo Testamento cristão e do Tanach, o conjunto de textos sagrados do judaísmo. Supostas inundações gigantescas e catastróficas, antes e depois da publicação do Gênesis, aparecem em relatos de várias culturas ao longo dos tempos, desde os antigos mesopotâmicos e gregos até os maias centro-americanos e os vikings. As antigas cidades romanas de Pompeia e Herculano foram soterradas pela lava do monte Vesúvio na famosa erupção de 79 d.C. e, estima-se, cerca de 2 mil pessoas morreram. Dezessete anos antes, essa região da Campania italiana já havia sido afetada por um terremoto de menor magnitude. “Costumamos dizer que, se um desastre já ocorreu em um lugar, ele vai se repetir, mais dia ou menos dia”, comenta Lucí.
Assessment of impacts and vulnerability to climate change in Brazil and strategies for adaptation option (nº 2008/58161-1); Modalidade Auxílio à Pesquisa – Programa de Pesquisa sobre Mudanças Climáticas Globais – Temático (Acordo FAPESP/CNPq – Pronex); Pesquisador responsável José A. Marengo (Cemaden); Investimento R$ 812.135,64.
O As emissões de carbono aumentaram 3,5% enquanto o PIB atrofiava 3,8%. Apu Gomes/Folhapress
Brasil deu uma rasteira no clima do planeta em 2015. No ano em que se aprovou o Acordo de Paris para conter o aquecimento global, o país aumentou, em vez de diminuir, a produção de gases do efeito estufa. A maior parte da culpa cabe à agropecuária.
As emissões de carbono aumentaram 3,5% enquanto o PIB atrofiava 3,8%. Em geral, essas coisas andam juntas: para produzir mais, gasta-se mais energia, que no mundo todo é a principal fonte de gases que, como o CO2, ajudam a aquecer a atmosfera por impedir a dissipação de radiação de origem solar.
Não no Brasil. Aqui a atividade que mais contribui para agravar o efeito estufa é a mudança do uso da terra. Grosso modo, desmatamento, com a Amazônia à frente.
A destruição de florestas responde, sozinha, por 46% de toda a poluição climática lançada pelos brasileiros em 2015. Segundo o Seeg, o desmatamento emitiu o equivalente a 875 milhões do total de 1,9 bilhão de toneladas de CO2.
Quando a floresta é derrubada para abrir espaço a campos e pastos, toda a biomassa que havia ali –troncos, folhas, raízes etc.– acaba chegando à atmosfera na forma de compostos de carbono que agravam o aquecimento global. Queimadas e apodrecimento são os principais processos.
Isso não é tudo. As plantações e o gado, além de provocar desmatamento, também originam emissões na própria atividade, como o famigerado “arroto da vaca” (metano proveniente da fermentação entérica ou digestão de celulose).
Noves fora, a agropecuária representa 69% –mais de dois terços– de todas as emissões nacionais. É muita coisa para um setor que empregava menos de 17 milhões de pessoas em 2006 (último censo do setor) e, em 2015, respondeu por 21% do PIB brasileiro.
Só agricultura e pecuária tiveram produção em alta no ano passado. Indústria e serviços recuaram, atrofiando a demanda por energia e transporte, outras fontes importantes de gases do efeito estufa. Com isso, cresceu a participação relativa das mudanças no uso da terra.
Além do mais, o desmatamento cresceu também em termos absolutos. Segundo o Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe), na Amazônia –onde estão as maiores florestas do Brasil– o aumento foi de 24%. Partimos de 5.012 km2 em 2014 para 6.207 km2 de floresta perdida em 2015 (área correspondente a quatro municípios de São Paulo).
A pecuária bovina sozinha, com seus 215 milhões de cabeças, foi a causa do equivalente a 240 milhões de toneladas de CO2, em 2015, só com a fermentação entérica. Isso dá 12,6% das emissões brasileiras.
Na média a pecuária de corte no Brasil utiliza uma cabeça por hectare. Dobrando ou triplicando essa baixíssima produtividade, sobretudo por meio da recuperação de pastos, dá para reduzir a emissão de carbono a quase zero.
Criar bois “verdes” é a bola da vez. O Brasil é capaz de fazer isso, com regulação, tecnologia e crédito, assim como aumentou a produtividade no cultivo de grãos e derrubou a taxa de desmatamento de 2005 para cá (ainda que ela esteja subindo de novo).
Vice-presidente do IPCC afirma que próximo documento do grupo, em 2018, pode apresentar a escolha entre salvar países-ilhas e usar tecnologias incipientes de modificação climática
O próximo relatório do IPCC, o Painel Intergovernamental sobre Mudanças Climáticas, encomendado para 2018, pode apresentar à humanidade um dilema moral: devemos lançar mão em larga escala de tecnologias ainda não testadas e potencialmente perigosas de modificação do clima para evitar que o aquecimento global ultrapasse 1,5oC? Ou devemos ser prudentes e evitar essas tecnologias, colocando em risco a existência de pequenas nações insulares ameaçadas pelo aumento do nível do mar?
Quem expõe a dúvida é Thelma Krug, 65, diretora de Políticas de Combate ao Desmatamento do Ministério do Meio Ambiente e vice-presidente do painel do clima da ONU. Ela coordenou o comitê científico que definiu o escopo do relatório e produziu, no último dia 20, a estrutura de seus capítulos. A brasileira deverá ter papel-chave também na redação do relatório, cujos autores serão escolhidos a partir de novembro.
O documento em preparação é um dos relatórios mais aguardados da história do IPCC. É também único pelo fato de ser feito sob encomenda: a Convenção do Clima, na decisão do Acordo de Paris, em 2015, convidou o painel a produzir um relatório sobre impactos e trajetórias de emissão para limitar o aquecimento a 1,5oC, como forma de embasar cientificamente o objetivo mais ambicioso do acordo. A data de entrega do produto, 2018, coincidirá com a primeira reunião global para avaliar a ambição coletiva das medidas tomadas contra o aquecimento global após a assinatura do tratado.
Segundo Krug, uma das principais mensagens do relatório deverá ser a necessidade da adoção das chamadas emissões negativas, tecnologias que retirem gases-estufa da atmosfera, como o sequestro de carbono em usinas de bioenergia. O problema é que a maior parte dessas tecnologias ou não existe ainda ou nunca foi testada em grande escala. Algumas delas podem envolver modificação climática, a chamada geoengenharia, cujos efeitos colaterais – ainda especulativos, como as próprias tecnologias – podem ser quase tão ruins quanto o mal que elas se propõem a curar.
Outro risco, apontado pelo climatólogo britânico Kevin Anderson em comentário recente na revista Science, é essas tecnologias virarem uma espécie de desculpa para a humanidade não fazer o que realmente precisa para mitigar a mudança climática: parar de usar combustíveis fósseis e desmatar florestas.
“Ficamos numa situação muito desconfortável com várias tecnologias e metodologias que estão sendo propostas para emissões negativas”, disse Krug. “Agora, numa situação em que você não tem uma solução a não ser esta, aí vai ser uma decisão moral. Porque aí você vai ter dilema com as pequenas ilhas, você vai ter um problema de sobrevivência de alguns países.”
Ela disse esperar, por outro lado, que o relatório mostre que existem tecnologias maduras o suficiente para serem adotadas sem a necessidade de recorrer a esquemas mirabolantes.
“Acho que há espaço para começarmos a pensar em alternativas”, afirmou, lembrando que, quanto mais carbono cortarmos rápido, menos teremos necessidade dessas novas tecnologias.
Em entrevista ao OC, concedida dois dias depois de voltar do encontro do IPCC na Tailândia e minutos antes de embarcar para outra reunião, na Noruega, Thelma Krug falou sobre suas expectativas para o relatório e sobre os bastidores da negociação para fechar seu escopo – que opôs, para surpresa de ninguém, as nações insulares e a petroleira Arábia Saudita.
A sra. coordenou o comitê científico que definiu o índice temas que serão tratados no relatório do IPCC sobre os impactos de um aquecimento de 1,5oC. A entrega dessa coordenação a uma cientista de um País em desenvolvimento foi deliberada?
O IPCC decidiu fazer três relatórios especiais neste ciclo: um sobre 1,5oC, um sobre oceanos e um sobre terra. O presidente do IPCC [o coreano Hoesung Lee] achou por bem que se formasse um comitê científico e cada um dos vice-presidentes seria responsável por um relatório especial. Então ele me designou para o de 1,5oC, designou a Ko Barrett [EUA] para o de oceanos e o Youba [Sokona, Mali] para o de terra. O comitê foi formado para planejar o escopo: número de páginas, título, sugestões para cada capítulo. E morreu ali. Por causa da natureza do relatório, que será feito no contexto do desenvolvimento sustentável e da erradicação da pobreza, houve também a participação de duas pessoas da área de ciências sociais, de fora do IPCC. Agora, no começo de novembro, sai uma chamada para nomeações. Serão escolhidos autores principais, coordenadores de capítulos e revisores.
Quantas pessoas deverão produzir o relatório?
No máximo cem. Considerando que vai ter gente do birô também. Todo o birô do IPCC acaba envolvido, são 30 e poucas pessoas, que acabam aumentando o rol de participantes.
A sra. vai participar?
Participarei, e participarei bastante. Os EUA fizeram um pedido para que o presidente do comitê científico tivesse um papel de liderança no relatório. Isso porque, para esse relatório, eu sinto algo que eu não sentia tanto para os outros: se não fosse eu acho que seria difícil. Porque teve muita conversa política.
Quando um país levanta uma preocupação, eu tenho de entender mais a fundo onde a gente vai ter que ter flexibilidade para construir uma solução. Eu acho que foi muito positivo o fato de o pessoal me conhecer há muitos anos e de eu ter a liberdade de conversar com uma Arábia Saudita com muita tranquilidade, de chegar para as pequenas ilhas e conversar com muita tranquilidade e tentar resolver as preocupações.
Por exemplo, quando as pequenas ilhas entraram com a palavra loss and damage [perdas e danos], para os EUA isso tem uma conotação muito política, e inaceitável para eles no contexto científico. No fórum científico, tivemos de encontrar uma forma que deixasse as pequenas ilhas confortáveis sem mencionar a expressão loss and damage, mas captando com bastante propriedade aquilo que eles queriam dizer com isso. Acabou sendo uma negociação com os autores, com os cientistas e com o pessoal do birô do painel para chegar numa acomodação que deixasse a todos satisfeitos.
E qual era a preocupação dos sauditas?
Na reunião anterior, que definiu o escopo do trabalho, a gente saiu com seis capítulos bem equilibrados entre a parte de ciências naturais e a parte de ciência social. Por exemplo, essa parte de desenvolvimento sustentável, de erradicação da pobreza, o fortalecimento do esforço global para tratar mudança do clima. E os árabes não queriam perder esse equilíbrio. E as pequenas ilhas diziam que o convite da Convenção foi para fazer um relatório sobre impactos e trajetórias de emissões.
Mas as ilhas estavam certas, né?
De certa maneira, sim. O que não foi certo foi as ilhas terem aceitado na reunião de escopo que o convite fosse aceito pelo IPCC “no contexto de fortalecer o esforço global contra a ameaça da mudança climática, do desenvolvimento sustentável e da erradicação da pobreza”.
Eles abriram o escopo.
A culpa não foi de ninguém, eles abriram. A partir do instante em que eles abriram você não segura mais. Mas isso requereu também um jogo de cintura para tirar um pouco do peso do desenvolvimento sustentável e fortalecer o peso relativo dos capítulos de impactos e trajetórias de emissões.
Essa abertura do escopo enfraquece o relatório?
Não. Porque esse relatório vai ter 200 e poucas páginas, e cem delas são de impactos e trajetórias. Alguns países achavam que já havia muito desenvolvimento sustentável permeando os capítulos anteriores, então por que você ia ter um capítulo só para falar de desenvolvimento sustentável? Esse capítulo saiu de 40 páginas para 20 para justamente fortalecer a contribuição relativa de impactos e trajetórias do relatório. E foi uma briga, porque as pequenas ilhas queriam mais um capítulo de impactos e trajetórias. Esse relatório é mais para eles. Acima de qualquer coisa, os mais interessados nesse relatório são as pequenas ilhas.
Um dos desafios do IPCC com esse relatório é justamente encontrar literatura sobre 1,5oC, porque ela é pouca. Em parte porque 1,5oC era algo que as pessoas não imaginavam que seria possível atingir, certo?
Porque o sistema climático tem uma inércia grande e as emissões do passado praticamente nos condenam a 1,5oC. Então qual é o ponto de um relatório sobre 1,5oC?
O ponto são as emissões negativas. O capítulo 4 do relatório dirá o que e como fazer. Faremos um levantamento das tecnologias existentes e emergentes e a agilidade com que essas tecnologias são desenvolvidas para estarem compatíveis em segurar o aumento da temperatura em 1.5oC. Vamos fazer uma revisão na literatura, mas eu não consigo te antecipar qualquer coisa com relação à forma como vamos conseguir ou não chegar a essas emissões negativas. Mas é necessário: sem elas eu acho que não dá mesmo.
A sra. acha, então, que as emissões negativas podem ser uma das grandes mensagens desse novo relatório…
Isso já ocorreu no AR5 [Quinto Relatório de Avaliação do IPCC, publicado em 2013 e 2014]. Porque não tinha jeito, porque você vai ter uma emissão residual. Só que no AR5 não tínhamos muita literatura disponível.
Quando se vai falar também da velocidade com a qual você consegue implementar essas coisas… o relatório também toca isso aí no contexto atual. Mas, no sufoco, essas coisas passam a ter outra velocidade, concorda? Se você demonstrar que a coisa está ficando feia, e está, eu acho que isso sinaliza para o mundo a necessidade de ter uma agilização maior no desenvolvimento e na implementação em larga escala de tecnologias que vão realmente levar a emissões negativas no final deste século.
Nós temos esse tempo todo?
Para 1,5oC é bem complicado. Em curto prazo, curtíssimo prazo, você precisa segurar as emissões, e aí internalizar o que você vai ter de emissões comprometidas. De tal forma que essas emissões comprometidas estariam sendo compensadas pelas tecnologias de emissões negativas. Esse é muito o meu pensamento. Vamos ver como isso acabará sendo refletido no relatório em si.
Haverá cenários específicos para 1,5oC rodados pelos modelos climáticos?
Tem alguma coisa nova, mas não tem muita coisa. Eles devem usar muita coisa que foi da base do AR5, até porque tem de ter comparação com 2oC. A não ser que rodem de novo para o 2oC. Precisamos entender o que existe de modelagem nova e, se existe, se ela está num nível de amadurecimento que permita que a gente singularize esses modelos para tratar essa questão nesse novo relatório.
Há cerca de 500 cenários para 2oC no AR5, e desses 450 envolvem emissões negativas em larga escala.
Para 1,5oC isso vai aumentar. Para 1,5oC vai ter de acelerar a redução de emissões e ao mesmo tempo aumentar a introdução de emissões negativas nesses modelos.
Há alguns dias o climatologista Kevin Anderson, diretor-adjunto do Tyndall Centre, no Reino Unido, publicou um comentário na revista Science dizendo que as emissões negativas eram um “risco moral por excelência”, por envolver competição por uso da terra, tecnologias não testadas e que vão ter de ser escaladas muito rápido. A sra. concorda?
Eu acho que essa questão de geoengenharia é uma das coisas que vão compor essa parte das emissões negativas. E aí talvez ele tenha razão: o mundo fica assustado com as coisas que vêm sendo propostas. Porque são coisas loucas, sem o amadurecimento necessário e sem a maneira adequada de se comunicar com o público. Mas vejo também que haverá tempo para um maior amadurecimento disso.
Mas concordo plenamente que ficamos numa situação muito desconfortável com várias tecnologias e metodologias que estão sendo propostas para emissões negativas. Mas esse é meu ponto de vista. Agora, numa situação em que você não tem uma solução a não ser esta, aí vai ser uma decisão moral. Porque aí você vai ter dilema com as pequenas ilhas, você vai ter um problema de sobrevivência de alguns países.
Deixe-me ver se entendi o seu ponto: a sra. acha que há um risco de essas tecnologias precisarem ser adotadas e escaladas sem todos os testes que demandariam num cenário ideal?
Fica difícil eu dizer a escala disso. Sem a gente saber o esforço que vai ser possível fazer para cortar emissões em vez de ficar pensando em compensar muito fortemente o residual, fica difícil dizer. Pode ser que já haja alguma tecnologia amadurecida antes de começar a pensar no que não está amadurecido. Acho que há espaço para começarmos a pensar em alternativas.
Agora, entre você falar: “Não vou chegar a 1,5oC porque isso vai exigir implementar tecnologias complicadas e que não estão amadurecidas” e isso ter uma implicação na vida das pequenas ilhas… isso também é uma preocupação moral. É um dilema. Eu tenho muita sensibilidade com a questão de geoengenharia hoje. E não sou só eu. O IPCC tem preocupação até em tratar esse tema. Mas é a questão do dilema. O que eu espero que o relatório faça é indicar o que precisa ser feito. Na medida em que você vai fazendo maiores reduções, você vai diminuindo a necessidade de emissões negativas. É essa análise de sensibilidade que os modelos vão fazer.
Hailed as a significant call for action, the pope’s encyclical has not had the anticipated rallying effect on public opinion, researchers have found
Knowledge of the pope’s encyclical, called Laudato Si’, did not appear to be linked to higher levels of concern regarding climate change, the study found. Photograph: Bullit Marquez/AP
Monday 24 October 2016 16.48 BST. Last modified on Monday 24 October 2016 17.56 BST
The pope’s call for action on climate change has fallen on closed ears, research suggests.
A study by researchers in the US has found that right-leaning Catholics who had heard of the pope’s message were less concerned about climate change and its effects on the poor than those who had not, and had a dimmer view of the pope’s credibility.
“The pope and his papal letter failed to rally any broad support on climate change among the US Catholics and non-Catholics,” said Nan Li, first author of the research from Texas Tech University.
“The conservative Catholics who are cross-pressured by the inconsistency between the viewpoints of their political allies and their religious authority would tend to devalue the pope’s credibility on this issue in order to resolve the cognitive dissonance that they experience,” she added.
Issued in June 2015, Pope Francis’s encyclical, called Laudato Si’, warned of an “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems” if climate change continues unchecked and cited the scientific consensus that human activity is behind global warming.
Research conducted on the eve of the announcement found that 68% of Americans and 71% of US Catholics believe in climate change, with Democrats more likely than Republicans to believe in the issue, put it down to human causes and rate it as a serious problem.
The pontiff’s comments were seen by many as a significant call for action in the battle against climate change, focusing on the moral need to address the impact of humans on the planet. “Pope Francis is personally committed to this [climate] issue like no other pope before him. The encyclical will have a major impact,” said Christiana Figueres, the UN’s climate chief, at the time.
But new research published in the journal Climatic Change suggests that the encyclical might not have had the anticipated rallying effect on public opinion.
In a nationally representative survey of 2,755 individuals across the US, including more than 700 Catholics, researchers quizzed individuals on their attitudes towards climate change, its effects on the poor and papal credibility on the issue, together with questions on their political views and demographics such as age, sex and ethnicity. The team found that 22.5% of respondents said they had either heard of the pope’s message or his plans for the letter.
Overall, the team found that members of the public who identified as politically liberal, whether Catholic or not, were more likely to be concerned about climate change and perceive climate change as disproportionately affecting the poor than those who identified as conservative.
But knowledge of the papal letter did not overall appear to be linked to higher levels of concern regarding climate change.
Instead, the researchers found that the effects of awareness of the letter were small, although awareness was linked to more polarised views. For both Catholics and non-Catholics, conservatives who were aware of the letter were less likely to be concerned about climate change and its risk to the poor, compared to those who had not. The opposite trend was seen among liberals.
But, the authors say, among both conservative Catholics and non-Catholics who had heard of the encyclical, the pontiff’s perceived credibility decreased as political leaning veered to the right.
“For people who are most conservative, the Catholics who are aware of the encyclical give the pope 0.5 less than Catholics who aren’t aware of the encyclical on a one to five scale,” said Li.
The researchers say it is not clear if the increased polarisation is caused by hearing about the encyclical or, for example, if more politically engaged individuals were simply more likely to be aware of the papal letter.
“In sum, while [the] pope’s environmental call may have increased some individuals’ concerns about climate change, it backfired with conservative Catholics and non-Catholics, who not only resisted the message but defended their pre-existing beliefs by devaluing the pope’s credibility on climate change,” the authors write.
The results chime with the reaction to the papal stance by conservative media and a number of prominent individuals, including former presidential candidate Jeb Bush who rebuffed the pope’s message, saying: “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope.”
Neil Thorns, director of advocacy at the Catholic aid agency Cafod, said: “Laudato Si’ was a wake-up call on how we’re treating our planet and its people which unsurprisingly – although disappointingly – some climate deniers and those with vested interests were not willing to hear.”
The São Paulo Biennial includes Jonathas de Andrade’s video “The Fish,” featuring fishermen in the mangroves of northeast Brazil who still use traditional methods like nets and harpoons.Credit Jonathas de Andrade
SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Biennial art exhibitions were founded in the 1890s at almost the same time as the Olympics, and they serve a similar purpose: to bring attention to the cities that host them and the nations that participate in them. But where the Olympics are still a rather contained affair, art biennials are proliferating like art fairs, becoming homogeneous and forgettable.
The 32nd São Paulo Biennial, through Dec. 11, consciously tries to buck this trend by positioning itself as locally sensitive and globally pertinent. And its timing is perfect. On the heels of the Rio Olympics and the impeachment of Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff, the exhibition embraces, rather than denies, the problems of the region.
Organized by Jochen Volz, the show includes 81 artists from 33 countries. Its title, “Incerteza Viva” — translated as “Live Uncertainty” — refers to political instability, climate change, huge disparities of wealth, migration and other international problems, but also suggests art’s ability to thrive in the unknown and suggest visionary solutions.
This is particularly true on the first floor of the pavilion built by Oscar Niemeyer, which showcases Brazilian art with an international context: The artist Bené Fonteles has erected a “terreiro,” or ceremonial structure made of clay with a thatched roof, in an attempt to connect traditional Brazilian practices with contemporary art ones.
Objects used by an indigenous shaman sit alongside photos of Marcel Duchamp and John Lennon and Yoko Ono and a copy of João Guimarães-Rosa’s novel “Grande Sertão: Veredas” (1956) — in English, it was “The Devil to Pay in the Backlands”— a masterpiece of modern Brazilian literature. (Incorporating archaic dialects, it has been compared to Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake.”)
One of the most beautiful works in the Biennial is Jonathas de Andrade’s “The Fish” (2016), in which he filmed fishermen in the mangroves of northeast Brazil who still use traditional methods like nets and harpoons. For the video, Mr. de Andrade had the fishermen hold a caught fish to their chests, as if cradling a baby, until it takes its last breath.
At the São Paulo Biennial, the artist Bené Fonteles has erected a “terreiro,” or ceremonial structure made of clay with a thatched roof, in an attempt to connect traditional Brazilian practices with contemporary art ones.Credit Leo Eloy/Estúdio Garagem/Fundação Bienal de São Paulo.
The video is a shockingly intimate depiction of life, death and the relationship of predator and prey — but also a reminder of our connection with other species — a fact that gets lost in the hyper-industrialized world.
The Brazilian director Leon Hirszman’s films from the 1970s documenting rural laborers singing as they work expand upon this idea. Mr. Hirszman describes the songs, which relieved boredom and shaped the rhythm and movements of the work, as “endangered” cultural products. You can’t sing, after all, over the sounds of industrial machines — or in your corporate cubicle.
Folk art and craft-based practices, often seen as an antidote to digital culture and social media, have been very popular on the biennial circuit in recent years. Folk-inspired art here includes Gilvan Samico’s prints influenced by mythology and carving in northeastern Brazil, and the visionary 1950s and ’60s work by Oyvind Fahlstrom, a Swedish multimedia artist who championed concrete poetry — a visual way of finding liberation through patterns of words and typography. The neo-hippie installation by Wlademir Dias-Pino, “Brazilian Visual Encyclopedia” (1970-2016), is a wild compendium of collages made with found materials.
The Biennial organizers stress that “Live Uncertainty” was intended to interact with the surrounding Ibirapuera Park, a habitat for indigenous tribes before the Europeans arrived. But even nature is a contested term these days, especially in Brazil, where the rain forest and grasslands were seen as obstacles to be conquered. Even Niemeyer, the architect whose futuristic buildings are scattered throughout the park, originally planned to pave over the area in an attempt to tame (if symbolically) Brazil’s unruly wilderness.
The exhibition includes installations by Pia Lindman and Ruth Ewan, which incorporate live plants, and Eduardo Navarro’s sculptural megaphone, which twists out the window to let visitors talk to a palm tree. Brazilian wood — often seen as “exotic” and hence harvested to the brink of extinction — earns a category of the Biennial unto itself.
Carolina Caycedo’s excellent video looks at how river development has affected communities in Brazil’s interior. In Rachel Rose’s video, an astronaut, David Wolf, describes how it’s harder to acclimate to Earth, with its overwhelming smells of grass and air, and gravity, than to outer space.
Jochen Volz, the curator of the São Paulo Biennial, which continues through Dec. 11.CreditNelson Almeida/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
What started in the ’90s as “identity art,” the idea that an individual’s identity consists of multiple factors, including gender, race, ethnicity, class and sexuality, has now blossomed into investigations of “the post-human,” which could mean a robot or an extraterrestrial.
Lyle Ashton Harris provides some grounding of these cultural shifts in his beautiful assemblage of photographs from this American artist’s journals intertwined with video. Much of his archive is from the late ’80s and ’90s, coinciding with landmark events such as the Black Popular Culture Conference in 1991, the truce between the Crips and the Bloods in 1992 and the Black Nations/Queer Nations conference in 1995.
Another tic of biennials is their expansionist tendency: Tired of the white cube, artists and curators would rather inhabit shops, hospitals, schools. This seems like a democratic move, but it often functions in just the opposite way, expending a huge amount of viewers’ time and energy.
“Live Uncertainty” remains mostly — thankfully — in the pavilion. One outside work included William Pope.L’s roving performance with a small contingent of local dancers, which took place over three days. Performers moved through the city in costumes inspired by debutante festivals. They made a sharp contrast with demonstrators who were springing up, too, protesting the president’s impeachment.
Biennials are now given the impossible task of making sense not only of contemporary art but also contemporary history, politics, philosophy, economics, the environment and beyond — all the while remaining sensitive to local culture and cognizant of global developments.
With this tall order, “Live Uncertainty” does an admirable balancing act, arguing for the vitality of indigenous knowledge and experience, and of wisdom drawn from the people who inhabited this hemisphere long before Europeans arrived. Given the current climate of uncertainty in Brazil, this makes more than a little good sense.
The 32nd São Paulo Biennial: “Live Uncertainty” runs through Dec. 11 at the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo, Brazil; bienal.org.br.
São Paulo, Brazil: the country accounts for 2.5% of global carbon emissions.
Brazil, one of the world’s leading greenhouse-gas emitters, ratified the Paris climate pact on 12 September, adding to growing momentum to bring the 2015 agreement into force before the end of this year.
The agreement had received a significant boost earlier this month when the United States and China — by far the world’s leading emitters — formally joined on 3 September.
The Paris deal seeks to hold warming ‘well below’ 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures. For it to take effect, 55 countries accounting for 55% of global emissions must ratify or otherwise formally join the accord. Countries can ratify, accept or approve the deal, depending on their domestic processes.
So far, 28 countries representing 41.5% of global emissions have joined up, and no one knows precisely what combination of countries might push the agreement over the threshold.
At least 58 countries have committed to join by the end of the year, but many of those are island states and other small emitters, says Eliza Northrop, who is tracking the process for the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank in Washington DC. So the question is how quickly some of the other major emitters will come through, including India, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Canada.
“It’s a bit of a puzzle at this point, but I feel very confident that it will enter into force this year,” says Northrop.
Less clear is whether the agreement will take effect before the next round of climate negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco, in November. For that to happen, other major emitters would need to ratify the Paris pact by 7 October, because it only enters into force 30 days after the ‘55/55’ threshold has been met.
One of the biggest challenges comes from the European Union, where each country must go through its own legislative procedures before the negotiating bloc can sign off as a whole. But there is little doubt that the Paris agreement will take effect in record time. By comparison, the Paris deal’s predecessor, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, didn’t enter into force for more than seven years after it was adopted.
A agropecuária é a responsável pela maior parte da emissão de gases estufa no Brasil. Quando considerados desmatamento para atividade agropecuária e o exercício direto dela, a porcentagem das emissões chega a cerca de 66%.
Os dados são do Seeg (Sistema de Estimativa de Emissão de Gases Estufa), realizado pelo OC (Observatório do Clima). O relatório, lançado nesta terça (6), na sede do SOS Mata Atlântica, analisa a evolução histórica das emissões brasileiras.
Considerando dados referentes ao ano de 2014, de forma direta, 23% das emissões de CO2 no Brasil são provenientes da agropecuária. Dentro desse universo, 76% das emissões estão relacionadas à pecuária, sendo 64% derivados do consumo de carne (bovinos de corte), segundo dados da Imaflora, parte do OC.
A mudança de uso da terra é líder de emissões no país, com cerca 42%. O termo, de forma geral, se refere aos desmatamentos, normalmente associados à atividade agropecuária. Esse tipo de emissão somado aos 23% emitidos diretamente pela ação agropecuária alcançam o valor aproximado de 66%.
Segundo dados do Imazon, também parte do OC, com uma melhor aplicação da legislação ambiental atual seria possível aumentar a arrecadação em mais de R$ 1 bilhão por ano.
A energia é a segunda colocada entre as fontes dos gases estufa, com 26%. Essas emissões vêm crescendo anualmente, em parte por conta da crise na produção de energia hidrelétrica.
Segundo o Instituto de Energia e Meio Ambiente, que também faz parte do OC, quase metade (46%) das emissões relacionadas à energia estão associadas ao transporte, tanto de carga quanto de passageiros.
Os dados levantados pelo OC mostram que o Brasil, caso cumpra os compromissos firmados no Acordo de Paris, como restauração e reflorestamento de matas, recuperação de pastos, entre outros, conseguirá reduzir as emissões de gases estufa mais do que o planejado no INDC (Contribuições Nacionalmente Determinadas Pretendidas).
“O nosso estudo aponta que dá para ser mais ambicioso”, afirma Tasso de Azevedo, coordenador do Seeg.
One size does not always fit all, especially when it comes to global climate models, according to climate researchers who caution users of climate model projections to take into account the increased uncertainties in assessing local climate scenarios.
One size does not always fit all, especially when it comes to global climate models, according to Penn State climate researchers.
“The impacts of climate change rightfully concern policy makers and stakeholders who need to make decisions about how to cope with a changing climate,” said Fuqing Zhang, professor of meteorology and director, Center for Advanced Data Assimilation and Predictability Techniques, Penn State. “They often rely upon climate model projections at regional and local scales in their decision making.”
Zhang and Michael Mann, Distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director, Earth System Science Center, were concerned that the direct use of climate model output at local or even regional scales could produce inaccurate information. They focused on two key climate variables, temperature and precipitation.
They found that projections of temperature changes with global climate models became increasingly uncertain at scales below roughly 600 horizontal miles, a distance equivalent to the combined widths of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. While climate models might provide useful information about the overall warming expected for, say, the Midwest, predicting the difference between the warming of Indianapolis and Pittsburgh might prove futile.
Regional changes in precipitation were even more challenging to predict, with estimates becoming highly uncertain at scales below roughly 1200 miles, equivalent to the combined width of all the states from the Atlantic Ocean through New Jersey across Nebraska. The difference between changing rainfall totals in Philadelphia and Omaha due to global warming, for example, would be difficult to assess. The researchers report the results of their study in the August issue of Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.
“Policy makers and stakeholders use information from these models to inform their decisions,” said Mann. “It is crucial they understand the limitation in the information the model projections can provide at local scales.”
Climate models provide useful predictions of the overall warming of the globe and the largest-scale shifts in patterns of rainfall and drought, but are considerably more hard pressed to predict, for example, whether New York City will become wetter or drier, or to deal with the effects of mountain ranges like the Rocky Mountains on regional weather patterns.
“Climate models can meaningfully project the overall global increase in warmth, rises in sea level and very large-scale changes in rainfall patterns,” said Zhang. “But they are uncertain about the potential significant ramifications on society in any specific location.”
The researchers believe that further research may lead to a reduction in the uncertainties. They caution users of climate model projections to take into account the increased uncertainties in assessing local climate scenarios.
“Uncertainty is hardly a reason for inaction,” said Mann. “Moreover, uncertainty can cut both ways, and we must be cognizant of the possibility that impacts in many regions could be considerably greater and more costly than climate model projections suggest.”