Has the era of global boiling of the planet begun?

Image: Elyeser Szturm
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By LEONARDO BOFF*

The current climate increase is caused by human beings themselves, not so much by the great poor majorities, but by the populations of the affluent countries.

This expression is not mine, but that of the Secretary General of the UN, António Guterrez, uttered on July 27, 2023, when he became aware of the unexpected acceleration of global warming. This reached the point where the planet entered a boiling process, given the negligence of human processes, especially industrialism and capitalist productivism (including China) that abuse fossil energy, coal and other elements that produce the greenhouse effect.

The average normal climate on Earth is 15 degrees centigrade. But this average began to rise so much that in July 2023 it surpassed more than 17 degrees centigrade. This is all due to the fact that about 40 billion tons of CO2 are released into the atmosphere every year, which remains in the atmosphere for more than 100 years, plus nitrous acid and methane, which is 28 times more harmful than CO2, although stay in the atmosphere for like 9-10 years.

The consequences of this increase are shown by prolonged droughts, flooding of entire regions and cities, hurricanes, extratropical cyclones like in the south of the country, fires in almost the entire planet. The inflection on human lives is of great importance. the well-known magazine Nature Medicine calculated that the high heat of 2022 caused 61 deaths in Europe alone. Let's not even talk about Africa and Asia or poorer countries that have killed thousands of children and elderly people, particularly in central India, where the temperature reached 50 degrees centigrade.

Observing the little that large corporations and states do to stop this slow but permanent rise in temperature, everything indicates that we have already reached the point of no return. Science and technology arrived late, they cannot stop the increase, they only help to lessen the harmful effects that will be inevitable.

But not everything is fatal. It is worth remembering that the improbable can happen: human beings, under the perception of the risk of disappearing, take a leap of conscience, towards the noosphere, as projected by Teilhard de Chardin back in 1933, that is to say, uniting heart and mind (noosefera) to change the way of producing, consuming and particularly relating to nature, feeling part of it, not its masters and taking care of it.

If we look at the Earth's biography, we find that warming belongs to the evolution of our planet. When we did not yet exist as a species on Earth, 250 million years ago, the climate arrived and remained for thousands and thousands of years at 32 degrees centigrade. There was a massive extinction of species of living beings. Later, 50 million years ago, the Earth reached 21 degrees centigrade; crocodiles and palm trees adapted to this warming, but there was also a great extinction of living organisms. Closer to us, 130 years ago, the Earth reached the temperature we are currently experiencing, 17 degrees centigrade. Many beings disappeared and the sea rose between 6-9 meters, which would have covered the whole of Holland and the lower parts of northern Europe.

This increase in terrestrial climate belongs to geoevolution. But the current situation is caused by human beings themselves, not so much by the great poor majority, but by the populations of wealthy countries, without fair measure in their actions, whether in the assault on nature or in the forms of sumptuous and unsympathetic consumption. It is said that we have inaugurated a new geological era, the Anthropocene. This concept means that the great threat to life on the planet and the future of nature depends on human beings. These, in the expression of biodiversity biologist Edward Wilson, behaved like the Satan of the Earth and transformed the Garden of Eden into a slaughterhouse.

Some go even further and refer to the necrocene, given the growing process of death (necro) of species of living beings in the order of 70-100 thousand per year. Lately, there has been talk of the pyrocene, that is to say, the age of fire. This is also caused by human beings but particularly because the soil has become drier, the stones have become warmer; dry leaves and twigs on them are enough to produce large and devastating fires across almost the entire planet, even in humid Siberia.

What scenarios can we face? They are all gloomy, if a quantum leap does not occur that defines another path and another destination for the life-system and the Earth-system. It cannot be denied that the planet, day after day, is warming up. The UN bodies that follow the evolution of this disastrous event warn us that between the years 2025-2027 we will have exceeded the 1,5 degrees centigrade, predicted for 2030 by the Paris agreement in 2015. Everything was anticipated and on this date, between 2025-2027 , we will arrive at what is currently happening, a climate that could stabilize above 35 degrees, reaching 38-40 degrees in some regions of the planet. Millions will have to emigrate because they can no longer live in their beloved homelands and crops will be completely lost.

Brazil, currently one of the largest food exporters, will see its production profoundly reduced. According to James Lovelock, (Veja, October 25, 2006), Brazil, because of its vast expanse of sunshine, will be one of the hardest hit by global warming and climate change. Those in agribusiness should heed these warnings, because, as Pope Francis wrote in the encyclical Laudato Si: Caring for our Common Home, addressed to all humanity and not just to Christians: “Catastrophic predictions can no longer be looked upon with contempt and irony; we would leave too many ruins, deserts and rubbish for future generations” (n.161).

It's what nobody wants for their children and grandchildren. But for that we must equip ourselves with courage and audacity to change course. Only a radical ecological change can save us.

*Leonardo Boff is an eco-theologian, philosopher and writer. Author, among other books, of Inhabit the Earth (Vozes)


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