Each year, it becomes more evident how governments, the private sector and the civil society must acknowledge the concrete threat posed by climate change.
It is not just about what could happen to the Earth in the future, but about what we have already witnessed in the present as a consequence of the continuous and predatory exploitation of natural resources and the rampant burning of fossil fuels. An extensive trail of violations of all sorts of rights, – economic, social, environmental, racial -, the considerable increase in the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and the alarming rise in the Earth’s temperature, especially in the last 50 years.
This is the main combo behind the recent socio-environmental “disasters” recorded in Brazil, such as the strong heat wave in the South, the worst drought in the last 90 years in 2021 and the tragic floods in Bahia, Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in recent months, to name just a few.
In August of last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned: without drastic changes, climate collapse could be imminent. According to scientists, the increase of 1.09°C in the earth’s temperature observed between 2011 and 2020 compared to the pre-industrial period (1850-1900), of 1.07°C, probably derives from deforestation and man-made burning of fossil fuels. Still, at this rate, the IPCC indicates that the world could reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming in the next two decades. And what does this 1.5º represent? The death of 99% of coral reefs, twice the probability that insects, vital pollinators, lose half of their habitat and 1 meter more in sea level rise are some of the likely consequences.
It is a fact: we live in a state of Climate Emergency, that is, we live under the threat of the effects caused by climate change.
But here, we are going in the opposite direction, with a denialist government that has shown itself to be the biggest villain of the climate and the environment that Brazil has ever had.
Is Brazil prepared for the effects of climate change?
Amid extreme heat waves in southern Brazil and torrential rains in southeastern and northeastern states, such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Bahia and Tocantins, the answer to this question seems evident: no.
However, a VERY important point to keep in mind when talking about these phenomena and how to get around them is that one cannot – and, here, we shed light on governments who often use tragedy as a platform – point the finger. calmly and say that “it’s the climate’s fault”. And why not? 🤔
🔥 First, because most of these climate changes are the result of human action, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already warned in its latest report. It is the rampant predatory use of land and natural resources that affects global temperature, rainfall and so on.
🔥 Second, this is a very convenient crisis narrative that ignores the lack of action and prior implementation of climate change adaptation measures, such as building adequate sanitation networks, especially in areas more vulnerable to tragedies, implementation, in fact, a zero deforestation policy; structuring irrigation systems in support of family farming; decent housing for the populations most vulnerable to climate change, access to full health.
Scientists, policy makers, civil servants, environmentalists, social movements and sectors of the civil society have been warning for a long time: although the risks keep increasing, the governments’ responses are just not up to the task.
But elections are just around the corner, and the climate agenda needs to be placed on the agenda of those who want to be the “representatives of the people”.
Can we count on you in this task?
It is necessary to give the name: it is not “the weather is “crazy”, it is called an extreme climate events; and the victims of recent tragedies in Brazil and in other parts of the world did not lack a “vision for the future”, as President Bolsonaro said –, what happens is environmental racism and the lack of public policies.
In the wake of correctly naming the reality we live in, have you heard of #Climate Refugees?
The southern hemisphere summer of 2022 was been marked by extremes. Droughts and record heat in the South of South America, excessive rains in the North, horrifying scenes in the South of the state of Bahia in Brazil and the terrible tragedy in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Phenomena that caused forced displacement of people who lose everything and have to leave their homes. Increasingly, international bodies, environmentalists and social scientists have approached this issue with two terms: environmental migrants or climate refugees.
Etymologically, a refugee is one who is forced by reasons of major force, persecution, violence and misery, to leave their place of residence and migrate, historically to another country, but this concept has been increasingly broadened. Globally, there are debates that calling these populations “climate refugees” empties the political content of the term refugee, enshrined in international conventions in 1921.
It is undeniable that we are experiencing a global crisis, the result of human action and that has unequal impacts on people. And perhaps we need adequate terms to designate those who have lost everything and need assistance, asylum and appropriate public policy.
An example of this intersection: the War in Syria caused a huge mass of refugees. There are those who analyze that it was precipitated by climatic factors – an unprecedented drought – and then was instrumentalized by economic and geopolitical interests. As much as many of these phenomena that we are experiencing today in Brazil, in the case of tragedies, are temporary migration, hundreds of people end up abandoning their areas of residence. With processes of drought and desertification, even more so. And flood too: affecting riverside communities.
Make no mistake. Every area is at risk and, without serious agrarian, urban, industrial and tax reforms, we will continue to have tragic summers.
Written by Julia Alves. Adapted to English by Marianna Olinger.
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