The end of the climate convention



The four crises – climate, biodiversity, pollution and inequalities – express a crisis of democracy and a crisis of civilization

As is well known, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC[1]), open to national adhesions at ECO-92 in Rio de Janeiro,[2] It entered into force in March 1994. Currently, 198 countries or Parties have ratified it, making it a virtually universal treaty. Since 1995, it has given rise annually to the Conferences of the Parties or COPs (Conference of the Parties), the supreme deliberative body of that Convention. Its purpose is “to review the implementation of the Convention and any other legal instruments that the COP adopts and to take the necessary decisions to promote the effective implementation of the Convention”.[3]

Of the 27 meetings promoted so far by this Convention, there is a general understanding that this last one, held in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, was the most inconsequential.[4] Undoubtedly, but comparing their results with those of COP26, for example, should not make us forget that there are many more similarities than differences between them. Both have in common the same paralysis and the same idea of ​​transforming carbon emissions into carbon markets, enabling rich countries and corporations to translate the abyss of the climate emergency into business opportunities, that lingua franca of capitalism.


The regression represented by COP27

That said, the regression represented by COP27 in relation to COP26 is undeniable. In Glasgow, civil society could demonstrate without suffering the repression inflicted by a bloodthirsty dictatorship like that of General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who has 223 political prisoners in his 65 dungeons, according to a conservative estimate.[5] The choice of Egypt to host the COP27 is an affront to democracy and a clear victory for this military regime strongly supported by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the US.[6]

In short, not only was COP27 the most chaotic, it was also called the first dystopian COP, with reports that the Egyptian police installed software of spying even on the official COP application.[7] In addition, in Glasgow at least there were promises: (1) of reducing methane emissions, (2) of greater transfers of resources to poor countries for adaptation, (3) of reducing coal consumption, in addition to some declarations equally gaps in reducing deforestation and cooperation between the US and China. Just promises, of course, but the final Sharm-el-Sheikh text was even worse. He suppressed this innocuous mention of the progressive reduction in coal consumption and introduced the stimulus for low-carbon technologies (low emission technologies), namely new projects for the extraction and consumption of natural gas.

As is known, natural gas is basically composed of methane (CH4), the main of the various greenhouse gases (GHG), after carbon dioxide (CO2). Burning natural gas effectively emits less CO2 than oil and coal, but it is not a low-emissions fuel, as methane leaks throughout its production and consumption chain can make its use even more GHG-emitting than coal itself.[8] The final text of COP27 finally suppressed new promises about more ambitious reductions in GHG emissions”.


COP lobbyists and sponsors

The COPs have allowed an absurd interference by lobbies of the fossil fuel industry, the main responsible for destabilizing the climate system. COP27 managed to surpass COP26 in compliance with this industry. COP26 accredited 503 people linked to these lobbies. The number of these lobbyists with access to the “blue zone”, reserved for official negotiations, was greater than that of the delegation of any country. COP27 accredited 636 “explicit” lobbyists from this industry in its official delegations. No fewer than 29 countries brought a total of 200 accredited lobbyists to these delegations. There were 70 oil and gas lobbyists in the UAE delegation, and 33 of the 150 members of the Russian delegation had direct ties to that country's fossil industry.[9]

These lobbyists, crowded in the corridors and at negotiating tables in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, outnumbered the members of any African national delegation to this supposedly “African” COP. The delegation from Mauritania also included Bernard Looney, the current CEO of British Petroleum, and four other employees of that corporation.[10]

This type of conflict of interest extends to the choice of COP sponsors. Yes, even the richest host countries resort to sponsors, as if a COP were a sports championship. And what sponsors! Let's look at the examples of the last four COPs. The COP24, held in 2018 in Katowice, Poland, was sponsored by the largest coal and gas corporations in that country, with large state control or participation.[11] The main sponsor of COP25, in Madrid, was the BMW group. The main sponsors of COP26 were Unilever, whose plastic packaging could cover 11 football pitches a day, and Scotland's two natural gas giants, SSE and Scottish Power.[12]

Not to be outdone by its predecessors, COP27 was sponsored by Coca-Cola. This corporation, chosen for five consecutive years as world champion in plastic pollution, produced three million tons of plastic in 2017 alone, the equivalent of 108 billion PET bottles made of oil, or 200 of them per minute. Between 2019 and 2021, its plastic production increased from 3 to 3,2 million tons, with a 3,5% increase in the use of virgin plastic.[13]


A mirage in the Sharm el-Sheikh desert: the loss and damage mechanism

The much-vaunted “result” of COP27 was the admission of the principle that rich countries should indemnify the most vulnerable countries for losses and damages caused by the impacts of the emergency and climate anomalies, the so-called Financial Mechanism for Losses and Damages (“The Loss and Damage Finance Facility”). It is a smokescreen to hide the failure of substantive negotiations on fossil pollution and environmental destruction. This mechanism, which was supposed to complement the mitigation and adaptation efforts, was already discussed at the preparatory meetings of Eco-92 in 1991. At that time, it was about compensating the Pacific island nations (signatories of the Alliance of Small Island States – AOSIS) for rising sea levels, as well as droughts and desertification.[14]

The financial mechanism then proposed was never established and the idea only began to be discussed outside the AOSIS sphere with the Bali Action Plan within the framework of COP13, in December 2007, perhaps influenced by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007 , which insisted on the inevitability of climate catastrophes to come. At successive COPs, AOSIS and other poor countries continued to insist on the need to adopt compensation mechanisms, until the idea was revived by the emotional impact of the devastating Hurricane Haiyan, which killed at least 6.300 people in the Philippines alone during COP19 , based in Warsaw, in November 2013.[15]

Perhaps the image of Yeb Sano, the Philippine delegate at COP19, still alive in the memory of some, bursting into tears at the news of this catastrophe. He then made a very strong speech about the climate emergency and promised to fast as long as the negotiations did not show “a significant result”.[16] The tragedy and the strength of Yeb Sano's reaction, coupled with the stern warnings in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, were arguably decisive for the establishment in 2013 of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM). It already contemplated compensation to the most vulnerable countries for the impacts of the climate emergency, including trend processes (slow onset events) and disasters caused by extreme weather events. Then followed a new long period of hibernation of the idea, again frustrated at COP26, until African countries have now managed to pull it out of the drawer again. The recent destruction of Pakistan by absolutely anomalous rains has possibly contributed to this, which led Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, to declare with his usual lucidity: “We are heading for a disaster. We are at war with nature and nature is responding in devastating ways. Today in Pakistan, tomorrow in any of your countries”.

The readmission in 2022 of the Mechanism for Losses and Damages by rich countries does not, however, imply anything concrete. It has not been established who should pay, who has the right to receive, how much will be spent, what will be the nature of this expenditure and under what conditions it will be triggered. These crucial issues were referred to COP28 and it is likely that this will refer them to successive ones.[17] This mechanism created in 1992 will probably have the same end as the promises made by rich countries, at COP15 in 2009 in Copenhagen, to “mobilize” US$ 100 billion a year to poor countries by 2020. that 2025% of transfers made in 70 were in the form of loans, including from private banks, further aggravating the external debt of the most vulnerable countries.[18]


The death of the 1992 Climate Change Convention

These are the recent facts that it was mandatory to summarize. It is not the case, however, to detail the failures and scene games of this and previous COPs. What matters is realizing something much more important: the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (hereinafter Convention) itself – and its most important offshoot, the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015 – lost, if anything, once had any relevance in combating the climate emergency. Demonstrating this irrelevance is the central objective of what follows.

A year ago, I proposed a summary of Dave Borlace's analysis of the “outcomes” of COP 26 (Glasgow, 31/X – 12/XI/2021). successively, the Humanitas Unisinos Magazine published this text, the conclusion of which I allow myself to recall here:[19] “Unless I'm mistaken (and I would very much like to be mistaken), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, born in 1992, is dead. She died in Madrid in 2019 and the burial was in Glasgow. The Seventh Day Mass will be in Egypt in 2022 (COP27) and the year-old Mass will be officiated in the United Arab Emirates in 2023 (COP28), one of the oil capitals. (…) COP 28 will be almost like a macabre ritual of the final victory of fossil fuels. By then, greenhouse gas emissions will be well above the levels reached in 2019 (with or without omicron variant)”.

In 2022, these GHG emissions, even with the increase in the omicron variant, are already effectively above 2019 levels. The failure of COP27 showed that there was no hyperbole or presumption of prophecy on my part; just the recognition of the corpse of the most important international treaty on the climate emergency, formally still in force. This or any other diplomatic agreement becomes a dead letter when, at the end of a reasonable time, it is completely ignored, so that reality distances itself from the objective that gave rise to it. And what happened.

To realize this, it is necessary to recall what this objective was, expressed in Article 2 of the 1992 Convention:[20] “The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve (…) the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.

As can be seen, this objective is made up of two assertions, which must be analyzed separately: (i) stabilizing atmospheric GHG concentrations; (ii) stabilize them at a level that avoids dangerous interference with the climate. An analysis of these two main assertions contained in this objective shows the extent of the failure of the 1992 Convention, as each of them was frontally contradicted by reality. Let's look at each of them separately.


The stabilization of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases

Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) continued to rise. Worse, they continued to grow at an ever-increasing speed (acceleration), as the first 24 COPs followed one another, as shown in Figure 1, relative to atmospheric CO2.

Figure 1 – Accelerating increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations between 1960 and 2018 (measured in parts per million, or ppm) in step with the succession of 24 COPs held between 1995 and 2018 (Source: Barry Saxifrage, “CO2 vs the COPs”. Canada's National Observer, 12/2018/XNUMX)

We know that over the last 800 years atmospheric concentrations of CO2 never exceeded 300 parts per million (ppm).[21] Well, in 1992 they had already reached 353 ppm and in May 2022 they reached 421 ppm, that is, they are now more than 50% higher than in 1750 (278 ppm) and almost 20% higher than in 1992 , when the Climate Convention was opened to accession by the Parties. As the graph above shows, they were growing in the 1990s at an average rate of 1,5 ppm per year. In the first decade of the XNUMXst century, atmospheric concentrations of CO2 grew at an average rate of 2 ppm per year, jumping to an average of 2,4 ppm per year in the second decade. In the six years between 2015 and 2020, this increase occurred at an average annual rate of 2,55 ppm.[22] These concentrations finally increased by 2,84 ppm between January 2021 (415,15 ppm) and January 2022 (417,99 ppm).[23]

In just 60 years, the speed of this increase therefore almost tripled, from an average annual increase of 0,9 ppm in the 1960s to an average annual increase of 2,4 ppm in the years 2010-2019. Rebecca Lindsey reports that “the annual rate of increase in CO2 atmospheric growth over the past 60 years is occurring about 100 times faster than previous natural increases.”[24]

Stabilizing these concentrations, as was, I repeat, the objective of the 1992 Convention on Climate, presupposed the immediate cessation of net anthropogenic emissions of GHGs, starting with CO2. Now, one of the most excruciating aspects of the failure of the 1992 Convention is the permanence of the growth rate of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Both in the 1990-1999 decade and in the 2010-2019 decade, these emissions increased at an average annual rate of 1%.[25] And preliminary estimates of anthropogenic CO2 emissions for 2022 indicate an increase at the same rate of 1% (0,1% – 1,9%) compared to 2021.[26] The year 2022 is already the year with the highest anthropogenic CO emissions2 of human history. The conclusion is unappealable: neither the 1992 Convention nor the 2015 Paris Agreement, concluded at COP21, had any effect on the evolution of global emissions and atmospheric CO concentrations2.


Level that prevents dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system

The second statement of the objective of the 1992 Convention is to contain warming “to a level that prevents dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. A dangerous level is made up of two variables: (1) the magnitude of warming to be avoided and (2) the speed of that warming, as time is the key factor in adapting ecosystems to new climate conditions.

The text of the 1992 Convention did not conceptualize and quantify the limit of this dangerous anthropic interference, nor did it stipulate dates for the stabilization of these concentrations. This omission is not due to ignorance, as as early as 1992 there was an emerging consensus that warming should be less than 2oC above the pre-industrial period. It is not possible here even to summarize the history of the formation of this consensus.[27] Let's just say that, after a marginal hunch by William Nordhaus in 1977,[28] a scientific proposal for this danger limit was already contained in a 1990 report by the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI).[29] This one was specific about two indicators that should not be exceeded: the speed and level of global warming. The maximum rate of warming was set at 0,1°C per decade. This rate of warming was already being exceeded in the period 1970-2015 (0,18oC per decade) and should reach 0,36oC on average per decade between 2016 and 2040,[30] that is, it must reach a speed more than three times greater than the maximum speed stipulated by the SEI in 1990.

As for the level of warming not to be reached, the 1990 text was more nuanced: “Two absolute targets of compromised warming have been identified. These limits engender different levels of risk: (i) a maximum average temperature increase of 1oC above the pre-industrial period; (ii) a maximum increase in average temperature of 2oC above the pre-industrial period. These two absolute temperature targets have different implications. It is recognized that temperature variations greater than the lower limit may be unavoidable due to GHG already emitted. The lower target is set based on our understanding of the vulnerability of ecosystems to historical temperature changes. Temperature increases above 1,0°C can trigger rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that can lead to extensive damage to ecosystems.”

This maximum heat level of 2oC to be avoided appears again in 1995 as a comment to COP1 in a statement by the Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). Hans Joachim Schellnhuber was behind this proposal.[31]


The mismatch between the 1992 Climate Convention and the science of its time

Diplomats and their governments not only already knew in 1992 that 2oC average global warming above the pre-industrial period should be avoided, but they also knew that this warming limit would be exceeded in the following decades. Between 1975 and 1990, warming projections proposed by Wallace Broecker, Jule Charney, Carl Sagan, James Hansen, among others,[32] showed that heating beyond 2oC should be produced throughout the first half of the 1990st century. In XNUMX, two years before the Climate Convention, the IPCC stated in its first Assessment Report:[33] “Based on the results of current models, we predict, in IPCC Scenario A (business-as-usual) of GHG emissions, a rate of increase in global average temperature over the next century of about 0,3 °C per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0,2 °C to 0,5 °C per decade). (...) This will result in a likely increase in the global average temperature of about 1 °C above the current value by 2025 and 3 oC before the end of the next century”.

The “current” value of global surface warming in the years 1980-1990, to which this First IPCC Report referred, was between 0,4oC to 0,7oC above the pre-industrial period (1850-1900), as shown by the very similar assessments of the six most important climate monitoring agencies, illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2 – Combined global, land, and sea mean surface temperatures between 1970 and 2021 relative to 1850-1900 and relative to 1991-2020 (right axis). Columns show assessments by the European Copernicus Agency (ERA5). The dots at the top of the columns show the assessments of five other agencies: NOAA, Japan Meteorological Agency, Berkeley Earth, Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISTEMPv4) and MET Office (HadCRUT5) (Source: Copernicus. Europe's eyes on Earth. Climate Change Service , 10/I/2022)

Therefore, since its first report, which reflected the scientific knowledge of the 1980s and which was published, it must be stressed, two years before the 1992 Climate Convention, the IPCC already predicted a warming of 1,4oC to 1,7oC by 2025, or a warming of about 1oC in three decades (0,3oC per decade over 35 years: 1990 – 2025). This projection has turned out to be correct for 2024, as shown by James Hansen and colleagues in Figure 3.

Figure 3 – Combined global average surface, land and sea temperatures between 1880 and 2021 over the period 1880-1920 (Source: James Hansen, Makiko Sato & Reto Ruedy, “August Temperature Update, a “Thank You” & Biden's Report Card”. Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions Program, Columbia University, 22/IX/2022)

In fact, James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy state about this 2022 chart:[34] “We suggest that 2024 is likely to be off the chart [above] as the hottest year on record. (…) Even a weak El Niño – like the 2018-19 tropical warming, which barely qualified as an El Niño – should be enough for a record global temperature. A strong, classic El Niño in 2023-24 could push the global temperature to +1,5°C from the 1880-1920 average, which is our pre-industrial temperature estimate.”

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), in concert with several international scientific groups, reinforces these projections.[35] According to its five-year forecasts, there is a 48% chance that at least one year between 2022 and 2026 will reach for the first time an average global warming of 1,5oC (with a 10% chance of reaching 1,7oC), always insisting that these chances increase with time. In fact, in the five-year period 2018-2022, these chances were only 10%.[36] In the 2020-2024 five-year period, they jumped to 24%; in the five-year period 2021-2025, they rose to 40%. Today, as seen, they are close to 50%. So the odds that average global warming will exceed 1,5oC in at least one year in the five-year periods beginning in 2023 or 2024 must already be greater than 50%.

Given the state of scientific knowledge available between 1975 and 1990, it can be concluded, in short, that the 1992 Climate Convention not only died in our days, but even at its birth it was doomed to not achieve its objective, because:

(1) It should not propose a stabilization of atmospheric GHG concentrations, but a decrease. The First IPCC Report of 1990 stated that in the last 160 thousand years atmospheric concentrations of CO2 had never exceeded 300 ppm.[37] In 1992, the concentration levels of this gas (353 ppm) and, above all, the pace of its increase (1,5 ppm/year) should already be considered anomalous and, above all, alarming; should have raised alarm, as their evolution could no longer be considered safe for many forms of life, including humans.

(2) The Convention was silent on the dangerous level of anthropic interference in the climate system that needed to be avoided, when it had already been proposed that this level was between 1oC and 2oC above the pre-industrial period.

(3) It was, finally, widely known by the scientific community since 1979, or at least since 1990, that this dangerous level of anthropic interference in the climate system would be exceeded in the second decade of the 1992st century, that is, only about two decades after the opening of the XNUMX Agreement to international accessions.


Current science has underestimated the impacts of a 1,2 oC

Not only because it was out of step with the science of its time, the 1992 Climate Convention was unable to spell out (let alone prevent) what would constitute a dangerous interference in the climate system. It was also so because even the best science of our day has been unable to establish an adequate correlation between the current rise in temperature of about 1,2oC and the global impacts generated by this increase.

The Sixth IPCC Report, published in April 2022, admits this limitation unequivocally: “The extent and magnitude of the impacts of climate change are greater than those estimated in previous assessments (high reliability)”.[38] In fact, no one predicted that with average global warming between 1,1oC (2017) and 1,2oC (2021), waves and heat peaks reached such magnitudes even at latitudes north of the Tropic of Cancer or south of the Tropic of Capricorn, pulverizing several regional temperature records, as shown by a few examples in Table 1.

Tabela 1 – Heat spikes in some countries between 2017 and 2022

In Brazil, in Nova Maringá (MT), the temperature reached 44,8oC in November 2020, the highest of historical records in the country. Between 2019 and 2020, local heat records were also broken in Cuiabá, Curitiba, Belo Horizonte, Vitória, Brasília and Goiânia.[43] Forest fires and droughts have driven several perennial rivers in Europe, the US and Asia to their lowest levels or even almost completely dried up during the past two summers. Such anomalies may be “the new normal”.[44]

More importantly, it is now clear that the climate system can pass critical points from warming thresholds much lower than previously assumed, which will lead this system to transition more or less abruptly and irreversibly to another state of equilibrium. . Figure 4 shows the evolution of the perception of risk levels of abrupt and irreversible changes in the climate system between the IPCC Reports.

Figure 4 – Evolution of IPCC perception of risk levels (from undetectable to very high) of abrupt and irreversible changes in the climate system between the Third Assessment Report (2001), the Fourth (2007), the Fifth (2013) and the Special Report IPCC report on warming of 1,5°C (2018) (Source: Timothy M. Lenton et al., “Climate Tipping points – too risky to bet against”. Nature, 27/XI/2019)

For the Third IPCC Report (2001), the high and very high risk threshold for abrupt and irreversible changes in the climate system was between 5oC and 6oC average global warming above the pre-industrial period. In 2018, in the perception of the Special Report of the IPCC and of scholars of great authority such as Timothy Lenton, Johan Rockström, Stefan Rahmstorf, Katherine Richardson, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber and Will Steffen, among many others, such risks accumulate at much lower levels of heating. There is moderate risk already with a warming around 1,5oC. It becomes tall as you go above 1,5oC and very high from a warming of 2oC.[45] There are growing probabilities that this critical level of warming will be reached before 2040, given the current inability of societies to face the climate emergency.[46]

Bill McGuire sums up the scientific consensus on what the years 2025-2040 has in store for us:[47] “Have no doubt that warming above 1,5°C will see the advent of a world plagued by intense summer heat, extreme drought, devastating floods, declining agricultural harvests, rapid melting of ice sheets and rising sea levels. An increase of 2°C or more will seriously threaten the stability of global society.”

Although painful, it is necessary to affirm the death of the 1992 Climate Convention. There is no point in continuing to pretend that the next COP will do what the last 27 have not done. More than useless, it is pernicious to continue selling the anxiolytic that emissions from burning coal will decrease (they reached 15,3 billion tons of CO2 in 2021, the highest ever[48]); that GHG emissions will decline by more than 40% by 2030 (even if governments keep their promises, they will then have increased by about 5% compared to 2019[49]) and that in 2050 capitalism will have finally, magically, reached the promised land of net carbon emissions.

On the other hand, there is no proposal to substitute the Climate Agreement in sight, so that its simple discontinuation would not bring anything positive. It is imperative to resurrect it, redefine it much more radically in order to make it effective. This will only be possible with a much more vigorous intervention by society itself in decision-making, not just at the COPs, but at all levels, including the highest levels of the global legal order. The climate emergency will not be faced if it is not understood as part of a broader socio-environmental emergency. It is inseparable from three other systemic crises that are accelerating: the annihilation of biodiversity, industrial pollution[50] and the abyss of economic, social, gender, etc. inequalities.

These four crises – climate, biodiversity, pollution and inequalities – amplify each other and together express a crisis of democracy and, more broadly, a crisis of civilization.


And now?

Within the scope of efforts to reduce entropic interference on the climate system, as was the objective of the 1992 Climate Convention, we now have a wide range of proposals and initiatives. These must, of course, converge towards the construction of an ecodemocratic alternative to capitalism,[51] which requires, to begin with: (1) the decrease Absoluta (and not just in relation to any unit of GDP) of the consumption of materials and energy, starting with that obtained through the burning of fossil fuels and (2) the perception that nature can no longer be ontologically reduced to a “resource” of economic activity. It is essential to affirm the biosphere as a subject of law, as this is not for the human species as a means to an end. Walking passi passu with this greater objective, diplomatic initiatives, state policies and civil society struggles multiplied immediately.

Civil society mobilization is still modest, but its struggles are concrete and already effective at the local and sectoral levels. This diversity of approaches, scopes and practices is positive. There is no opposition but complementarity between them. Without a radical critique of capitalism and anthropocentrism, the human project would lack the conditions for its survival; but without diplomacy, without incremental State policies and without punctual and concrete initiatives by civil society, the forces will not accumulate to advance strategically.

It is necessary to build a greater articulation between the struggles waged by the communities in their territories and the efforts to build an effective democratic global governance. The central ideological obstacle to this articulation is the national-militarist axiom of absolute national sovereignty that still governs the international legal order. It is necessary to replace it with a relative national sovereignty, subordinated to the greater interest of the planetary community of living beings. Without overcoming this axiom, there is no chance of peace and concerted action among peoples.

In Latin America and in Brazil in particular, three basic points have guided a set of proposals and practices that need to be strengthened:

Zero deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, conservation of vegetation cover in other Brazilian biomes and a war effort to restore these biomes with native species. The two essential conditions for achieving this objective are:

(a) A drastic decrease in cattle ranching, the main driver of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and other biomes. This implies an equally drastic decrease in beef consumption in the country, since almost 80% of this consumption is domestic.[52] Recommending a decrease in meat consumption may seem paradoxical in a country where almost 60% of the population suffered some level of food insecurity in 2021.[53] But it is not meat that can feed a population, but plant-based nutrients. A reference diet, healthy and ecologically sustainable, proposed by the magazine Lancet in 2019, stresses that it “consists primarily of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and unsaturated oils, includes a low to moderate amount of seafood and poultry, and includes no or a small amount of red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains and starchy vegetables”.[54]

(b) The withdrawal of Latin America and especially the Amazon and the Brazilian Cerrado from the position of supplier of the commodities for the globalized food system. The inclusion of the continent in this system is the main responsible for the destruction of the biosphere in this region, the richest on the planet, because of the 17 countries biologically megadiverse in endemic species, five are in the Amazon. Brazilian agribusiness is the great vector of biological destruction and climate imbalance in the country. It must be strongly framed and, as quickly as possible, discontinued, in favor of organic food production through agroecology practiced by small farmers close to consumption centers.

Agribusiness is, today, the main enemy of Brazil. He is largely to blame for forest fires, the elimination and degradation of forests, soils and water resources, the annihilation of biodiversity, zoonoses, poisoning by pesticides, eutrophication of water, violence against indigenous and quilombola populations and , in general, against rural communities and their ways of life. Jair Bolsonaro has been rightly accused of genocide[55] and he will also be accused of ecocide, as soon as this crime is properly typified by the International Criminal Court. During his mandate alone (more precisely between August 2018 and July 2022), the Brazilian Amazon covered 45.586 km2 of primary forest eliminated by clear cutting, an area larger than that of Rio de Janeiro (43.696 km2).

The reality is even worse, as INPE/PRODES measurements do not account for forest degradation and clear-cut deforestation in areas smaller than 6,25 hectares (about 6 football fields).[56] Here's another way to measure ongoing ecocide: in 2021, something like 500 million trees were eliminated (about 1,5 million on average per day) in the Brazilian Amazon alone.[57] Agribusiness is basically a criminal activity, covered up and encouraged by Jair Bolsonaro, since virtually all of this deforestation is illegal. Agribusiness is also responsible for most of Brazil's carbon emissions. In 2021, Brazil emitted 2,42 billion tons of GHG, an increase of 12,2% compared to 2020 and the highest in the historical series since 2003. Agribusiness accounts for 74% of this total, since 25% of these emissions result directly from agriculture and 49% of them from deforestation, generally perpetrated by farmers or for their benefit.[58]

Brazil is the 7th largest emitter of GHG in the world and the 4th largest emitter per capita, after the US, Russia and China.[59] Mainly because of agribusiness, if the Brazilian Amazon were a country, it would be the 9th most emitter of GHG in the world.[60] Only JBS' methane emissions in 2021 exceeded the sum of methane emissions from France, Germany, Canada and New Zealand. Marfrig's methane emissions are equivalent to that of the entire livestock sector in Australia.[61]

The second action proposal to be urgently strengthened is the protection and demarcation of indigenous territories. There are 223 of them whose demarcation process needs to be completed on a very urgent basis.[62] Others, in addition to these, must be demarcated in parallel with the expansion of environmental protection areas, on a continental and global scale. It is necessary, first of all, to enforce the law, because even the lands that have already been demarcated and areas of environmental protection have been victims of invasions and attacks with impunity. Not just indigenous and quilombola territories, but the entire Amazon forest and other tropical forests on the planet need to benefit from a much more vigorous legal statute.

In the case of the Amazon, ideas and proposals in this regard have been outlined by representatives of the peoples of the Amazon rainforest, in concert with other segments of South American societies, within the scope of the Panamazonic Social Forum and the World Assembly for the Amazon. These and other organizations and social movements, and not the lobbies oil and agribusiness, must have a guaranteed seat in the next COPs.

In 2023, the UAE's COP28 will be, as stated above, the macabre triumph of fossil fuels. But COP29 or 30, which will probably take place in Belém do Pará, will need to face an agenda centered on two basic axes: (a) massive adherence by the Parties to the ongoing proposal for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty; (b) the deglobalization of the food system as the second fundamental axis of the climate negotiations. This system was never at the center of the COP negotiations. It will be necessary, finally, to attack it head on, if we want to avoid the ongoing annihilation of biodiversity, the intoxication of organisms by pesticides and a global warming that ends up overcoming the adaptation capacity of countless species, including ours.

As Michael Clark and colleagues show, “even if fossil fuel emissions were eliminated right now, food system emissions alone would make it impossible to limit warming to 1,5 oC and would make it difficult to reach even the target of 2 oC".[63] In fact, this system represents the second largest source of global GHG emissions and today accounts for about a third of these emissions.[64]

In 2008, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, recalling the objective of the 1992 Climate Agreement to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system, stated:[65] “No conceivable international CO reduction strategy2 (…) could prevent the planet from entering the zone of dangerous anthropogenic interference, where largely uncontrollable climate impacts lurk. All we can do is limit warming above 2,4°C.”

Today, 30 years after the Climate Convention and almost 15 years after Schellnhuber's prognosis, this is the perception of most scientists:[66] we are closer than ever to suffering “largely uncontrollable climate impacts”. The present decade offers humanity the last chance to deviate from this disastrous path that is already taking shape without leaving room for reasonable doubt, but whose worst outcomes we can still avoid. It's still up to us.

*Luiz Cesar Marques Filho He is a professor at the Department of History at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Capitalism and environmental collapse (Unicamp edition).


[1] See United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)>.

[2] The name of this meeting that took place in Rio de Janeiro from June 3 to 14, 1992 is the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). It is informally called Earth Summit and in Portuguese, ECO-92.

[3] CF. UNFCCC, Article 7.2. See if:>.

[4] See Oliver Milman, “Like Vegas, but worse”. The Guardian, 11/XI/2022.

[5] Cf. “'Prison Atlas'” details Egyptian Cases, Prisoners, and Judges”. Human Rights First, 3/VII/2022; Ruth Michaelson, “COP27 backfires for Egypt as signs of repression sea attempt to bolster image”.The Guardian, 20/XI/2022.

[6] Cf. The White House, “Joint Statement Following Meeting Between President Biden and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi in Jeddah”, 16/VII/2022; Mohammed Abu Zaid, “El-Sisi thanks Saudi Arabia and UAE for their support”. Arab News, 14/VI/2022.

[7] See Bob Berwyn, “For Many, the Global Warming Confab That Rose in the Egyptian Desert Was a Mirage.” Inside Climate News, 24/XI/2022.

[8] See, for example, AR Brandt et al., “Methane Leaks from North American Natural Gas Systems”. Science, 343, 6172, 14/2014/733, pp. 735-XNUMX: “Some recent estimates of leakage have challenged the benefits of switching from coal to Natural Gas”.

[9] See “Over 100 more fossil fuel lobbyists than last year, flooding crucial COP climate talks”, Global Witness, 10/XI/2022.

[10] See Matt McGrath, “COP27: BP chief listed as delegate for Mauritania”. BBC, 10/XI/2022.

[11] Cf. “Corporate sponsors of COP24. The corporations bankrolling UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland”>.

[12] See Robbie Kirk, “For Its Corporate Sponsors, COP26 Is a Platform for Greenwashing Their Polluting Practices”. The Wire, 9/XI/2021.

[13] See Sandra Laville, “Coca-Cola admits it produces 3m tonnes of plastic packaging a year”. The Guardian, 14/III/2019; Stéphane Mandard, “Coca-Cola, sponsor of COP27 and 'champion du monde' of plastic pollution”. Le Monde, 15/XI/2022; Cf. Judith Evans, “Coca-Cola increased plastic use ahead of COP27 summit it is sponsoring”. Financial Times, 1/XI/2022.

[14] See INC 1991>.

[15] Cf. Lívia Preti Boechat & Wagner Costa Ribeiro, “The Warsaw international mechanism for damages: an analysis of its first cycle”. Development and Environment, 58, 2021, p. 830-849.

[16] Cf. “Philippine delegate weeps at UN climate conference”. Al Jazeera America, 11/XI/2013.

[17] See Sindra Sharma-Khushal et al., “The Loss and Damage Finance Facility. Why and How. discussion paper”

[18] Cf. “Poorer Nations Expected to Face Up to £55 billion shortfall in climate finance”. Oxfam, 20/IX/2021; Josh Gabbatiss, “Why climate-finance 'flows' are falling short of $100bn pledge”. Carbon Brief, 25/X/2021.

[19] Cf. L. Marques, “Summary of the COP26 results” (from Dave Borlace, “Blah, Blah, Blah? Is that all our leaders provided at COP26?”. Magazine of the Humanitas Unisinos Institute, 30/XI/2021.>.

[20] See if:

[21] Cf. Rebecca Lindsey, “Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide”. NOAA, 23/2022/XNUMX.

[22] Cf. NOAA>.

[23] See “CO2-earth”>.

[24] See Lindsey, cit. (2022).

[25] See Glen Peters, “Global fossil fuel emissions increase amidst turmoil in energy markets”. CICERO, Center for International Climate Research, 10/XI/2022.

[26]  See Pierre Friedlingstein et al., “Global Carbon Budget 2022”. Earth System Science Data, 14, 11, 2022, pp. 4811-4900.

[27]  Cf. Carlo C. Jaeger & Julia Jaeger, “Three views of Two Degrees”. European Climate Forum – Working Paper, 2/2010; “Two degrees: The history of climate change's speed limit”. Carbon Brief, 12/2014/XNUMX.


[28] Cf. William D. Nordhaus, “Strategies for the control of carbon dioxide”. Cowles Foundation Paper no. 443. Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics at Yale University, 1977.

[29]  Cf. FR Rijsberman & RJ Swart, “Targets and Indicators of Climate Change”. Report of Working Group II of the Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases. Stockholm Environmental Institute, 1990.

[30] Cf. James Hansen & Makiko Sato, “July Temperature Update: Faustian Payment Comes Due”, 13/2021/XNUMX>.

[31] Cf. “The Father of the 2 Degrees Limit”: Schellnhuber receives Blue Planet Prize”. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, 19/X/2017.

[32] See Wallace S. Broecker, “Climatic Change. Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” Science, 189, 8/1975/460, pp. 463-23; Jule Charney (coord.), Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment Report of an Ad Hoc Study Group on Carbon Dioxide and Climate, 27/1979/XNUMX-XNUMX; James Hansen et al., “Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide”. Science, 213, 4511, 28/1981/957, pp. 966-XNUMX; J. Hansen et al., “Global Climate Changes as Forecasted by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies Three Dimensional Model”. Journal of Geophysical Research, 93, 20/1988/9341, pp. 9364-XNUMX.

[33] Cf. JT Houghton, GJ Jenkins & JJ Ephraums (eds.), Climate Change, The IPCC Scientific Assessment, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990, p. xi.


[34] Cf. James Hansen, Makiko Sato & Reto Ruedy, “August Temperature Update, a “Thank You” & Biden's Report Card”. Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions Program, Columbia University, 22/IX/2022.

[35]  Cf. “United in Science 2022. A multi-organization high-level compilation of the most recent science related to climate change, impacts and responses”. WMO, UNEP, Global Carbon Project, Met Office, IPCC and UNDRR>.

[36]  Cf. L. Marques, “The 2017 climate records and the legacy of the current generation”. Journal of Unicamp, 5/II/2018.

[37]  As seen in the text, today we know that 300 ppm of atmospheric CO2 has not been exceeded in the last 800 years, but 160 years were already enough to sound the alarm. Cf. JT Houghton, GJ Jenkins & JJ Ephraums (eds.), Climate Change, The IPCC Scientific Assessment, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990, p. xv.

[38] See IPCC, Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group II, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Summary for Policymakers, 2022, p. 8: “The extent and magnitude of climate change impacts are larger than estimated in previous assessments (high confidence).

[39] Cf. “A historic heat wave, with temperatures over 45 degrees, Argentine nitrogen”. ABC, 12/2022/XNUMX.

[40] Cf. “Hottest temperature on Tuesday clocks in at 47.1C, as heatwave continues”. , 3/2021/XNUMX.

[41] Cf. “This is the new official heat record in Spain, according to AEMET”. The Confidential, 2/2022/XNUMX.

[42] Cf. Phoebe Weston & Jonathan Watts, “Highest recorded temperature of 48.8C in Europe apparently logged in Sicily”. The Guardian, 11/2021/XNUMX.

[43] Cf. State of the Climate in Latin America & Caribbean 2020, OMM, 17/VIII/2021, p. 24; Josélia Pegorim, “Record heat in Vitória, B. Horizonte, Brasília and Goiânia”. WeatherWeather, 16/I/2019.

[44] Cf. Paulo Hockenos, “Could the Drying Up of Europe's Great Rivers Be the New Normal?”. YaleEnvironment360, 6/IX/2022; Samya Kullab, “Politics, climate conspire as Tigris and Euphrates dwindle”. AP, 18/XI/2022.

[45] See Will Steffen et al., “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 9/2018/XNUMX; Timothy M. Lenton et al., “Climate Tipping points – too risky to bet against”. Nature, 27/XI/2019.

[46] See Michael Mann, “Earth Will Cross the Climate Danger Threshold by 2036”. Scientific American magazine, 1/IV/2014; Idem, “Why Global Warming Will Cross a Dangerous Threshold in 2036”. Scientific American magazine, 1/IV/2014; “When might the world exceed 1.5C and 2C of global warming?”. Carbon Brief, 4/XII/2020.

[47] Cf. Bill McGuire, Hothouse Earth, Icon Books, 2022, pp. 26-27.

[48] Cf. International Energy Agency, “Global Energy Review: CO2 Emissions in 2021”, March 2022.

[49] See the UNFCCC Report, “Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement. Third session. Nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement. Synthesis report by the secretariat”, 17/IX/2021.


[50] Cf. “Scientists categorize Earth as a toxic planet”., 7/II/2017; André Cicolella, Toxique planet. Le scandale invisible des maladies chroniques, Paris: Seuil, 2013.

[51] See Pablo Solon (org.), Systemic alternatives. Good living, degrowth, commons, ecofeminism, Mother Earth rights and deglobalization. Sao Paulo, Ed. Elephant, 2019.

[52] Cf. Vanessa Albuquerque, “80% of Brazilian production is destined for the domestic market”. Brangus, 6/VI/2022.

[53] Cf. Bruno Lupion, “Hunger grows and exceeds the rate when Bolsa Família was created”. DW, 13/04/2021

[54] Cf. Walter Willett, Johan Rockstrom et al., “Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems”, The Lancet, 393, 10170, 2/II/2019.

[55] Cf. Patrícia Valim & Felipe Milanez, “Genocide? Yes, genocide”. Folha de São Paulo, 27/XII/2021.

[56] Cf. INPE/PRODES, Satellite Monitoring of Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Forest: “Regardless of the instrument used, the minimum area mapped by PRODES is 6,25 hectares”.>.

[57] Cf. Aldem Bourscheit, “COP26: Nearly 500 million trees cut down in the Brazilian Amazon in 2021”. InfoAmazônia and PlenaMata, 5/XI/2021.

[58] Cf. “Emissions from Brazil have the highest increase in 19 years”. SEEG/Climate Observatory, 1/XI/2022.

[59] Cf. “Emissions Gap Report 2022. The Closing Window”, UNEP, 2022.

[60] Cf. Paulo Artaxo, “If it were a country, the Amazon would be the 9th largest emitter of greenhouse gases”. FullMata, 3/XI/2021.

[61] Cf. “Emissions Impossible. How emissions from big meat and dairy are heating up the planet”. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy & Changing Markets Foundation, 15/XI/2022.

[62]  Cf. “Attack on the Guarani Kaiowá sheds light on the halt in the demarcation of Indigenous Lands”. ISA, Instituto Socioambiental, 13/VII/2022.

[63] Cf. Michael A Clark et al. “Global food system emissions could prevent achieving the 1.5 oC and 2 oC climate change targets”. Science, 370, 6517, 6/2020/705, pp. 708-XNUMX.

[64] Cf. IPCC, Climate Change and Land, 2019: “If emissions associated with pre- and post-production activities in the global food system are included, the emissions are estimated to be 21–37% of total net anthropogenic GHG emissions (medium confidence)” ; Francesco N. Tubiello, “Greenhouse gas emissions from food systems: building the evidence base”. Environmental Research Letters, 16, 2021.

[65] See Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, “Global warming: Stop worrying, start panicking?”. PNAS, 23/IX/2008.

[66] Cf. Jeff Tollefson, “Top climate scientists are skeptical that nations will rein in global warming”. Nature, 1/XI/2021.



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