The climate crisis and the collapse of civilization

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By LISZT VIEIRA*

As important as it is, the energy transition alone will not be enough to face the climate crisis and its disastrous consequences

The climate tragedy, predicted by scientists, has already arrived, it is no longer a thing of the future. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), linked to the UN, warned of the continued increase in global temperatures. “At the end of May, more than 1,5 billion people — almost a fifth of the planet’s population — endured at least one day in which the heat index exceeded 103 degrees Fahrenheit, or 39,4 degrees Celsius, the limit that the National Weather Service considers it fatal”, reported the The Washington Post.

Many researchers predict that the world will reach 3ºC by the end of the century. There is no sign that we will actually stay below 1,5ºC, the target set by the 2015 Paris Conference, COP 21. Hundreds of experts from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), interviewed by the British newspaper The Guardian, stated that the temperature will reach + 2,5ºC or + 3ºC and only 6% believe that the 1,5ºC target of the Paris Agreement will be met. 75% of experts cited a lack of political will and 60% blamed economic interests such as those in the fossil fuel industry.

Some important efforts are being made in some countries, but they are clearly insufficient. In France, for example, the Superior Climate Council, an advisory body to the French government, estimates that the country will be able to achieve its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, as long as it maintains its current pace. . But even greater efforts will be needed, as the Council considers that current policies, despite “significant progress”, are “insufficient” to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050 (Le Monde, 20/6/2024).

Brazilian climatologist Carlos Nobre warned that, according to the WMO report, in 2023 the global average near-surface temperature was 1,45 °C above the pre-industrial baseline of 1850-1900. Data from Copernicus (European Climate Change Service) indicates that May 2024 was 1,58 °C warmer than the pre-industrial baseline. Between 1998 and 2017, floods affected more than 2 billion people worldwide. They can cause widespread devastation, resulting in loss of life and damage to personal property and critical public health infrastructure, and according to the WMO, floods cause more than US$40 billion in damage every year worldwide.

In Brazil, according to the National Confederation of Municipalities (CNM), 93% of Brazilian municipalities were affected by some climate disaster, especially storms, floods, floods or floods in the last 10 years. Losses caused by rain in Brazil have already generated losses of R$55,5 billion between October 1, 2017 and January 17, 2022, according to a CNM study.

In the period from 2013 to 2022, more than 2,2 million homes were damaged across the country due to these events, directly affecting more than 4,2 million people, who had to leave their homes in 2.640 cities across the country. According to a survey carried out by Agência Pública (2023), of the 27 Brazilian capitals, 17 do not have a plan to combat climate change.

In the first half of 2024, Pantanal and Cerrado broke records and recorded the highest number of fires since 1988, when Inpe (National Institute for Space Research) began monitoring fires in the country. In the Amazon, 12.696 fires were detected between January 1st and June 23rd. The increase was 76% compared to the same period last year, after two consecutive years of declines, in 2022 and 2023 (UOL, 24/6/2024).

A recent report from the Brazilian Geological Survey shows that droughts and floods more than doubled from 2014 to 2023 compared to the previous ten years. O 2023 was the hottest in history in Brazil and around the world and it seems that 2024 goes in the same direction. In May 2024 intense rains affected most of Rio Grande do Suthey triggered the biggest climate disaster in Brazil's history, with 172 deaths and billions of reais in economic losses.

On June 24, 2024, the Letter from the Brazilian Scientific Community on the Need for Permanent Action by the Public Power in the Face of the Climate Crisis was launched. From 1991 to 2023, there were more than 5 thousand deaths, 9 million homeless and homeless, and 1 million injured and sick. From 1990 to 2022, emissions from changes in land use and the burning of forest residues added to the agricultural sector total more than 74% of Brazil's gross greenhouse gas emissions, that is, 1.737 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent . Even so, economic sectors continue to bet on the advancement and opening of new agricultural frontiers. And in Congress, several projects are being processed that weaken or annul environmental protection legislation.

The Charter also shows that those most vulnerable to extreme climate events are black and peripheral populations, homeless people, female heads of families, children, adolescents, indigenous peoples and traditional communities, due to lack of access to basic constitutional rights, such as infrastructure, sanitation, housing, income, health and education. In the month of June 2024, Brazil appears divided between the Center-West burning in drought and a South under the impact of violent storms. By the middle of the month, the Pantanal had accumulated 2.019 fires, according to INPE's BDQueimadas platform. In the same period of 2023 there were 133 outbreaks.

In 2023, heat waves affected Canada, India, Europe and Japan with record temperatures. The planet will warm by 1,5°C in all projection scenarios: even reaching the Paris Agreement's most ambitious goal of reducing GHG emissions by almost 50% by 2030, we will reach 1,5°C permanently around this year . The world is falling behind on environmental, health and hunger targets, and is far from achieving most of the sustainable development goals set in 2015, such as combating poverty and hunger, said a UN report that cites, among the causes, lack of funding, geopolitical tensions and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UN Report analyzes the performance of its 193 Member States in implementing 17 overarching sustainable development goals, which also include improving access to education and healthcare, providing clean energy and protecting biodiversity. The report found that none of the 17 goals are on track to be met by 2030, with most targets showing limited progress or a reversal of progress.

The report identified combating hunger, creating sustainable cities and protecting biodiversity on land and water as specific areas of weakness. According to the IPCC, residents of peripheral areas die 15 times more often due to extreme weather events and the number of people exposed to droughts and floods in cities is expected to double by 2030. Black people and low-income women, earning up to the minimum wage and heads of families, are the most affected, points out recent research by Instituto Pólis.

The Brazilian Government has already announced its intention to become a country with global leadership when it comes to the climate crisis. But, it seems that it will have difficulties at the International Climate Conference COP 30, which will be held in Belém in 2025. The Ministry of the Environment (MMA) does not have the power to face the Ministry of Agriculture, which supports deforestation to expand the agribusiness, and the Ministry of Mines and Energy, which supports oil exploration in the Equatorial Margin of Amazonas.

In the last 10 years, the Union's revenue has doubled, while the budget for the environmental area has been reduced by half. Such a low budget, less than 0,1% of the total budget, shows the disregard of the various governments for protecting the environment and our natural resources. With funds strangled, the MMA cannot meet the fair demands of Ibama and ICMBio employees, on strike that has lasted more than five months.

Brazil already suffers the violence of extreme weather events. Drought in the Amazon and Central West, fires in the Pantanal, catastrophic floods in the South, heat waves, landslides and floods on the outskirts of the metropolises, deaths and displaced people adding to the wave of climate refugees that has been increasing every year. Despite this, the economic and political interests linked to predatory agribusiness – agriculture, livestock, mining, mining, etc. – and the exploitation of fossil fuels continues to prevail over environmental protection policy.

The world will face increasingly greater disasters with temperatures exceeding 1,5º C, as is about to happen. The energy transition policy, sooner or later, will predominate in the coming decades, otherwise life, both human and animal, will be threatened on the planet. It will take a gigantic effort to promote a civilizational transition away from fossil fuels. To achieve this, it will be necessary for the population to become aware of climate risks and willing to push for effective action, which will require courage on the part of decision makers, in the public and private sector.

The largest independent public opinion poll on climate change, People Climate Vote (Popular Vote for Climate) 2024, reveals that 80% of people (or four out of five people) around the world want their governments to take stronger measures to tackle the climate crisis. Furthermore, 86% want their countries to put aside geopolitical differences and work together in the face of climate change.

More than 73 people from 77 countries and speaking 87 different languages ​​were interviewed with 15 questions about climate change for the opinion study promoted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and carried out by the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, and by GeoPoll. The 77 countries surveyed represent 87% of the world population. In addition to the broad call for bolder climate action, the survey shows support from a 72% majority worldwide in favor of a rapid transition away from fossil fuels (UNDP, 20/6/2024).

As important as it is, the energy transition alone will not be enough to face the climate crisis and its disastrous consequences. The survival of humanity will require a new way of life and production that guarantees the sustainability of human life on our planet. The alternative is the possible destruction of life on the planet, which has already seen several species extinctions. We are heading towards another one. The signs of the collapse of our civilization are already visible on the horizon. And if there is, as some think, a new world war, this time with nuclear weapons, this process will be accelerated.

*Liszt scallop is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond). [https://amzn.to/3sQ7Qn3]

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