Who sows wind...

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By JEAN MARC VON DER WEID*

For the time being, the effect of global warming is making itself felt in the form of so-called "extreme events”

The last tragedy is still ongoing and, for those who suffer it, it will last a long time. On the news she will disappear slowly, but quickly. It will join a string of other tragedies. Torrential rains, increasingly heavy, increasingly intense and prolonged droughts. Events occur in an increasingly widespread way, more frequent in some more vulnerable places, but arriving where they had never occurred or where occurrences were exceptional. Outliers in the past, these events are now the curve.

The governments are to blame, the victims and the press claim. Victims are to blame, governments claim. And global warming, scientists claim. Much spit and ink is spent on arguments, life goes on and stories repeat themselves. Until when?

They say we have more than two hundred laws on environmental issues. Such a number is a good measure of your impotence. We make laws in droves, most of them very bad or innocuous, but how many “take”? Deputy Carlos Minc has created a slogan for his mandates since 1982: it is a wake-up call to society and governments: “fulfill yourself”. Sadly, it's a cry in the wilderness.

Meanwhile, the planet is going through the most accelerated transformation it has ever experienced. In the last time the Earth warmed up, due to uncontrollable factors such as the oscillation of the planet's axis, among others, the process took hundreds of years between the rising and falling of the thermometers. Now that the factors derive from human action, everything is going faster.

The small medieval global warming mentioned above was a hiatus in the history of planetary climate. The most important and widespread warming process predated the emergence of homo sapiens and lasted thousands of years, before reversing into an ice age that also lasted for many more years. During this period of warming, the level of the oceans rose 12 meters and temperatures reached the levels we are experiencing today. All the coastal areas of the continents and islands that we know today and where a huge part of humanity lives were under water.

Bad news for us, as it indicates that without a reversal of global warming these lands will be flooded once the accelerated melting of Arctic and mountain ice is complete. By the way, even if there is heating control and even an, unlikely, reversal, we are not dealing with a refrigerator, where we turn off or on the plug and, in a short time, the temperatures return to previous levels. There is a “delay” between the temperatures recorded on thermometers around the world and the warming or cooling of the oceans and continental lands. The flooding of coastlines by the oceans is already a certainty. The question is how much time do we have for this to happen.

For the time being, the effect of global warming is being felt in the form of so-called “extreme events”, heat and cold waves, storms, droughts, cyclones and typhoons. Calculations of the costs of these events amount to billions in each individual case and trillions in sum. Annually. If the market reacted to weather events, we would already be in the process of facing these huge losses. But the market, with the exception of insurance companies, is not interested in losses of this type.

These companies resorted to legislation, making them exempt from liability in the event of natural disasters. The market, in Brazil, reacts to Lula's speeches, but I haven't seen any oscillation in the stock exchange with the tragedies, multiple over the years, that afflict us. On the contrary, if the government takes any measure to control the emission of greenhouse gases, withdrawing subsidies for fossil fuels, for example, the market will react negatively. That is, if we follow the dictates of the market, we will literally be fried.

It is clear that the governments, municipal, state and federal, are to blame in the notary regarding the tragedies mentioned. In addition to literally doing nothing to contain global warming, little or nothing is done to prevent and mitigate its effects. The tragedy in São Sebastião, like the one in Petrópolis last year, or in Teresópolis/Friburgo a few years ago, is a combination of climatic causes and economic and social causes. If the slopes of Serra do Mar were not being occupied by poor residents, without safe housing alternatives, the rivers of mud would not stop rolling, but the damage to lives and property would be much smaller.

For the future, it will be necessary to think about much more radical adaptations than building a housing complex in a non-vulnerable area on the coast. As we saw above, the coast will not be where it is today and, both the mansions of the rich people who attacked the journalists who covered the tragedy calling them communists, and the hovels on the slopes will be under water.

In the dimension of our lives this will not happen. This is not a catastrophe film in which the sea takes over everything in hours. And since we all tend to think about what affects us immediately and forget what comes later, even if inexorably, both the rich and the poor will go on living their lives like there's no tomorrow. A prolonged tomorrow, I admit.

As politics lives on the immediate (from the popularity ratings for the next elections), it cannot be expected that governments and congress will itch to do something significant to contain, at least contain, global warming.

In this government, Marina Silva is the “talking cricket” of environmental issues. Remember the character from Pinocchio? The little animal reasoned with the doll in the most reasonable way and was never heard. A Cassandra from children's stories. Despite the promises and agreements that Lula made to bring her back to her government, Marina Silva must already know that Sharm-el-Sheik's speeches last until the first shock of real politics. The first sign was given with Lula's hesitation in giving the ministry to Marina Silva, with several sectors of the PT pressing against it, with the argument of her “radicality”.

On the other hand, Marina and Lula scored a major goal with the visit to the Yanomami lands, in less than a month of government, and the intense action for the removal of the miners. It was important, extremely important, but there are other indigenous areas invaded and many others occupied by loggers and land grabbers. February was a month of record deforestation and this indicates that the fight will be brutal.

The zero deforestation promised by Lula will demand a radical approach in the government's actions, which implies confrontations, both with the illegal ones and with his many political supporters. We already have a strong ruralist group in Congress that, for the most part, defends deforestation and the reduction of reserve and indigenous areas. And we even have the novelty of a mining bench.

How will Lula deal with these people, many of whom form part of his political base? However, if anything we can expect from this government, it is its application in the pursuit of this goal, not least because Lula is negotiating a strong investment from first world governments to support this objective. And there are no new laws needed to do this control. It is enough, and it is not enough, to apply the current laws and strengthen the control mechanisms.

Zero deforestation, which it would be very important to extend to the rest of the biomes, could bring us to a position of great prominence in the world, zeroing out and even turning negative our contribution to global warming, currently the fifth largest on the planet. But as the poet said: “life is a hard fight, living is fighting” (Y-juca Pirama).

On the other hand, the very low level of commitment of the government and the PT with global warming can be seen in the recent and unfinished discussion on diesel and gasoline prices. The arguments against subsidies and for price liberalization refer only to fiscal and budgetary impacts. And the arguments that tend to prevail, in favor of lowering or maintaining fuel prices, are all of a political nature, concerned with the president's popularity ratings. I didn't see anyone, not even Marina Silva, arguing about the need to discourage the use of these fuels and nothing better than a high price to have this effect. Once again, an attempt is made to lower prices to satisfy car owners and the impact of an increase in inflation is argued.

All over the world, the crux of curbing the use of fossil fuels is the political cost of raising prices. A relatively small increase decided by the French government of Emmanuel Macron years ago led to the so-called “yellow vests” revolt. Adherents to this movement came from various sectors, but the hard core was made up of farmers and truck drivers. And with a right-wing urban middle-class militancy that took advantage of the wave to attack the government. Environmental issue? I lost in this fight.

To avoid treating those who are different in the same way, the government could seek a way to subsidize public utility transport (truck drivers, taxis, buses, others) and let the prices of private transport rise. The middle and upper classes will howl and lower Lula's popularity ratings, but there is a price to pay for doing what is necessary.

It would be important for the government to launch a program, together with state and municipal governments, to improve public transport in order to make it more attractive, at least for the lower middle class. I remember that the public transport systems in Paris (very good) serve all classes, not because the individual car is expensive, but because in the city of narrow streets, circulation in cars is hell. On the other hand, it is high time to invest in an intermodal transport system, leading to a minimization of the use of trucks in Brazil. The cursed heritage of Juscelino, who preferred the short term and the emphasis on roads and cars, will one day have to be reversed, and both the pressure of fossil fuel prices and global warming make this operation a priority.

Has anyone seen anything on the subject in government plans? Well, since there isn't exactly a government plan, but construction is underway, we can still hope. Unfortunately, with the Minister of Transport that we have any vision beyond the tiny and electoral one will be difficult.

It is the (huge) price to pay for the very broad front (inevitable, under the circumstances) that the schizophrenic vote of last October left us with. It will also be the inevitable mark of this government: a progressive presidency with the most reactionary congress in the country, since the slaveholders lost the majority in the XNUMXth century.

*Jean Marc von der Weid is a former president of the UNE (1969-71). Founder of the non-governmental organization Family Agriculture and Agroecology (ASTA).


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