Open letter to the Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles
The views you have expressed in several interviews before and after assuming the Ministry of the Environment (MMA) reinforce expectations that your term in office may represent a decisive turning point in the orientation of Brazilian environmental policy toward tackling the real problems of the country and making your ministry a catalyst for synergistic actions with agencies of the public administration, as well as promoting an objective, pragmatic and non-ideological vision of environmental issues in society in general.
In this context, we the signatories hereby reiterate that discussions and formulation of public policies on climate issues have been predominantly based on mistaken and narrow ideological, political, economic and academic motivations distant not only from the basic principles of scientific practice, but also from the larger interests of society.
Obviously, the scope of these interests and the international commitments the country has assumed with the agenda to “decarbonize” the world economy means that any abrupt attempt to reorient the national climate agenda outside the “anthropogenic” climate change scenario tends to generate opposition from sectors organized around this scenario, including the powerful international environmental movement and a large part of the media, endowed with considerable influence on domestic and foreign public opinion.
Nonetheless, we believe in the feasibility of some necessary course corrections to give priority to certain initiatives of fundamental importance both within the MMA and other ministries to effectively improve knowledge on climatic condition dynamics and to increase society’s capacity to cope with the most diverse meteorological phenomena, which have always occurred in the past and will continue to occur in the future. We figure that such initiatives are a better destination for much of the human and financial resources, particularly from the National Fund on Climate Change, which have been misguidedly targeted – and wasted – on the “decarbonization” agenda. Therefore, we present these considerations hoping they can make relevant contributions to the MMA and take this opportunity to wish you success as its head.
1) There is no physical evidence of human influence on the global climate
In strictly scientific terms, the climate question can be summed up in a single paragraph:
Changes are a fundamental characteristic of the climate, as shown by the evidence for the entire geological history of the Earth. In other words, the climate is always changing (so the term “climate change” is a pleonasm). As to the alleged human influence on the global climate, supposedly attributed to the emissions of carbon compounds from human activities, it would have to amplify the (gradient) rates of atmospheric and oceanic temperatures and sea levels recorded since the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. Since there is no observed physical evidence that these latter variations are anomalous relative to those recorded earlier in the historical and geological past, the human influence hypothesis simply cannot be proved despite all the fussing in this sense.
All prognoses that indicate exaggerated rises in sea temperatures and sea levels in the coming decades and other negative impacts attributed to the release of “anthropogenic” carbon into the atmosphere are based on projections of mathematical models which are only very limited simplifications of the global climate system and fictitious future CO2 concentrations. Therefore, such alarmist scenarios should not be used to support public policies and long-range strategies with large socio-economic impacts, both nationally and globally.
Human influence on climate is restricted to urban areas and their environments (the so-called “heat island” effect), and these impacts are highly localized and have no influence on a planetary scale.
According to the fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (R5 / IPCC) released in 2014, global average temperatures increased by 0.85° C in the period 1880-2012, while average sea level rose by 0.19m between 1901 and 2010.
Now, there are records of much higher figures even within recorded human history. Throughout the Holocene, the geological epoch corresponding to the last 11,700 years in which human civilization has developed, there were several periods with higher temperatures than today. In the Middle Holocene, 6,000-8,000 years ago, average temperatures were 2° C to 3° C above current levels, while sea levels were up to 3 meters above current levels. Likewise, in the hot periods known as Minoan (1500-1200 BC), Roman (3rd century BC to 5th century AD) and Medieval (10th -13th century AD), the average temperatures of the planet were between 1-2° C higher than today. Paleo-climatic data (ice cylinders at Vostok station, Antarctica) suggest that the Earth’s temperatures have already been 6° C to 10° C higher than in the last three interglacial periods, 150,000, 240,000 and 320,000 years ago.
Between 12,900 and 11,600 years ago, during the cold period called Younger Dryas, atmospheric temperatures fell by around 8 C in less than 50 years, and by the end of that period, they rose again in the same proportion in just over half a century.
As for sea level, it rose about 120 meters between 18,000 and 6,000 years ago, which equates to an average rate of 1 meter per century, fast enough to visually impact the successive generations of populations living on the continental shores. In the period between 14,650 and 14,300 years ago, there are records of an even faster rise, reaching about 14 meters in only 350 years, and averaging 4 meters per century.
In other words, such variations represent values greater in an order of magnitude than observations made since the nineteenth century. Therefore, the latter fall well within the range of natural oscillations of climatic parameters and therefore cannot be attributed to the use of fossil fuels or to any other type of activity linked to human development.
Although evidence such as this can be found in literally thousands of studies conducted on every continent by scientists from dozens of countries and duly published in the international scientific literature (see, e.g., the excellent site www.co2science.org), only rarely are some of these studies echoed in the media, which is always more inclined to promote a sensationalist and disorienting alarmism.
2) The "anthropogenic" hypothesis is a disservice to science and poses a risk to public policies
Good scientific practice presupposes a correspondence between working hypotheses and observed data that prove them. The hypothesis of “anthropogenic” climate change is not based on physical evidence observed in the real world, since in the past there were high temperatures with a low concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) and vice versa. In addition, according to satellite data, the average global temperature (if any) has been steady over the past 20 years even though CO2 emissions have increased by more than 11% over the same period. Therefore, insistence on this theory represents a great disservice to science and its necessary role at the service of the well-being of humanity. Although a number of scientists have adhered to it, this hypothesis is not built upon scientific methodology.
History records numerous examples of the harmful effects of linking science to ideologies and other narrow interests. The prevailing commitment to impose the “anthropogenic” hypothesis without corresponding evidence has cost humanity dearly with human, technological and economic resources wasted on a nonexistent problem. Brazil too is affected by this situation. In fact, some Brazilians are unreasonably committed to placing the country in a questionable position of “leadership” in international negotiations on the climate.
It is worth remembering that a number of leading countries have opposed political guidelines based on this unfounded hypothesis in order to mitigate their impact on their respective national economies.
Furthermore, by making CO2 and other gases produced by human activities the main protagonists of climate dynamics, the “anthropogenic” hypothesis simplifies and distorts extremely complex natural processes in which astrophysical, atmospheric, oceanic, geological, geomorphological and biological factors interact, processes the scope of which science is only beginning to understand and is still very far from being able to represent with reliable mathematical models.
Incidentally, the alleged 2° C limit for raising temperatures above pre-industrial levels, which supposedly could not be surpassed and has served to justify all proposed restrictions on fossil fuels at the international level, has no scientific basis. It is a “political” creation of physicist Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and scientific adviser to the German government, as he himself admitted in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, published on October 17, 2010.
An example of the risks posed by this simplification when formulating relevant public policies is the real possibility that the period until the 2030s will experience considerable cooling of the atmosphere rather than heating, due to the combined effect of a cycle of low solar activity (Cycle 25), the cooling phase of the Pacific Ocean (Pacific Decadal Oscillation-PDO) in a scenario similar to that observed between 1947 and 1976, and the trend of increasing global cloud coverage over the last 16 years. It is worth noting that in that period, Brazil experienced a 10%-30% reduction in rainfall, which caused problems of water supply and electricity generation, in addition to an increase in strong frosts, which contributed, for example, to the failure of coffee production in western Paraná state. If such conditions are repeated in the immediate future, the country could have serious problems, including in areas expanding the agricultural frontier in the Midwest, North and Northeast, and hydroelectric generation (particularly considering the significant loss of water storage capacity due to the reduction in the number of reservoirs imposed by environmental restrictions over the last decades).
3) Obsession with CO2 diverts attention and resources from real emergencies
One of the main, if not the main effect of the obsession with reducing CO2 emissions is the diversion of attention and human and financial resources from real environmental problems that are affecting society today and whose solutions require public initiatives and investments and the awareness of broad social sectors. To be brief, let us cite only some of the main ones:
– More than 100 million Brazilians have no access to basic sanitation networks and only 45% of the sewage collected has some type of treatment, which generates losses estimated at R $56 billion per year, according to Instituto Trata Brasil. In addition, the Institute states that about 34 million people have no access to treated water.
– Although just over 91% of the waste generated in the country is collected regularly, 41% of the solid waste collected is dumped into inadequate landfills, generating large public health impacts, polluting aquifers and watercourses, and causing other problems (cf. Panorama of Solid Waste in Brazil 2017).
– According to IBGE (“Population in Risk Areas in Brazil, 2018”), 8.27 million people in 872 municipalities live in risky areas – slopes, river floodplains and other unsuitable land for housing – generating great risks for themselves and considerable impacts on the environment such as suppression of vegetation, pollution of aquifers and watercourses, etc.
– Air pollution in large urban centers, largely caused by a predominance of car and truck traffic, causing health and economic losses of already worrying proportions.
Unfortunately, despite their seriousness and urgency, a considerable portion of society does not see such problems as “environmental” and so they barely receive a fraction of the attention and publicity usually devoted to climate issues.
 Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.
4) Better knowledge and greater resilience
Instead of the ongoing alarmism about global warming and the “low carbon” pseudo-panacea, the climate agenda would have much to gain from a reorientation of priorities that favors: a) a better understanding of climate dynamics with an emphasis on paleo-climatic studies of the Brazilian territory; and (b) an increase in society’s resilience to deal with extreme weather events and future climate trends.
Studying climatic changes in the historical and geological past (paleoclimates) constitutes the most solid basis for understanding climate dynamics and its projections for the future. One should give particular attention to the Quaternary period (the last 2.6 million years), in which the Homo genus has emerged and evolved. Within the Quaternary, the last 800,000 years have been marked by a succession of glacial (colder) cycles with an average duration of 90,000-100,000 years, and interglacial (warmer) cycles with an average duration of 10,000-12,000 years. Today the planet is in an interglacial phase that began about 11,700 years ago, within which human civilization has developed. Significantly, at least the previous three interglacial periods were warmer than the current one and there is no evidence at all that the present interglacial period could not be succeeded by a new glaciation. The most accepted explanation for the factors causing this dynamics is based on changes in cyclically-varying earth orbital parameters such as changes in the inclination of the rotation axis and in the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. It is therefore clear that man is incapable of causing any influence, however minute, on the cosmic factors and forces that govern it.
In Brazil, while Quaternary studies are important and a reasonable number of research institutions and researchers are dedicated to them, they are still sparse and insufficient to allow the configuration of a paleo-climatic picture of the national territory and its continental environment with the necessary depth to produce a consistent model of climate change to be defined for the country that can provide relevant data to help produce a global model more in keeping with reality. Therefore, this gap needs to be considered when formulating a truly useful climate agenda, for which the MMA could act in consonance with specific bodies of MME and MCTIC.
As for resilience, it can be understood as the flexibility of society’s physical survival and functioning conditions, as well as its capacity to respond to emergencies, allowing it to reduce its vulnerability to extreme weather phenomena, climatic oscillations and other natural phenomena that have occurred in the past and will certainly occur in the future.
In this regard, two sets of factors stand out that contribute to reduce the vulnerability of society to climatic adversities:
a) Improving national weather forecasting capacity;
b) Stimulating research on: b.1) new advanced energy sources; b.2) food safety.
In the first item, a key initiative would be to implement the project to build our own geostationary meteorological satellite, which is essential for a country that occupies half of South America and has the responsibility to distribute meteorological information about much of the South Atlantic Ocean (the so-called METAREA-V) in accordance with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
Other measures include:
– The expansion and better territorial distribution of the network of meteorological stations, now below the standards recommended by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for a country the size of Brazil, with special emphasis on the work being developed by the National Institute of Meteorology (INMET) ;
– Increasing the number of meteorological radars and their interconnection with civil defense systems;
– Accelerating the consolidation of the national meteorological database, much of which has not yet been digitized;
– Establishing an effective network for the dissemination of meteorological and oceanographic data to METAREA-V.
In the second item, the following stand out:
– Establishing research lines for new energy sources such as using thorium in nuclear reactors, nuclear fusion (with concepts expected to become commercially available over the next decade) and sources based on new physical principles such as chemically-assisted nuclear reactions (the so-called “cold fusion”), quantum vacuum energy (or “zero point”) and others that are objects of research and development in several countries but are practically unknown in Brazil, which cannot afford to ignore them. Brazil has the necessary qualified human resources to do this research, including academic research centers, state companies (Cenpes, Cepel, etc.), military personnel (IME, CTA, CTEx, IPqM) and some private technology companies. With respect to renewable sources, solar energy can be exploited particularly in the Midwest and Northeast, not with photovoltaic systems of proven inefficiency but with concentrated solar power (CSP) systems, particularly parabolic troughs, production of liquid fuels from algae, and hydrogen from hydrogenase.
– Research with genetically modified seeds for all types of climatic conditions;
All these initiatives could benefit from some of the financial resources that have been allocated to programs linked to climate change following the erroneous approach to reduce carbon emissions (as are many of the projects under the so-called Climate Fund managed by MMA and MCTIC).
An additional set of initiatives relevant to “climate resilience” involves physical infrastructure and particularly food storage capacity, transport infrastructure, energy and communications, as well as other topics not directly within the scope of MMA but potentially influenced by your Ministry’s guidelines and programs.
In short, the most rational and efficient way to increase society’s resilience in the face of inevitable climate change – warming or cooling – is the general elevation of its levels of human development and progress to the levels allowed by science through the advancement of knowledge and the innovation process.
5) “Decarbonization” is unnecessary and harmful
Since “anthropogenic” carbon emissions do not produce verifiable impacts on the global climate, the entire “decarbonization” or “low carbon economy” agenda is unnecessary and counterproductive. Indeed, it is a pseudo-solution to a nonexistent problem–at least as far as the climate is concerned (for example, urban mobility incentive programs included in the Climate Fund are justified of themselves). Insistence on decarbonization by virtue of the inertia of the status quo will have no effect on the climate but tend to deepen the many negative impacts of such policies.
The main drawback is the unnecessary increase in the cost of a series of economic activities due to:
– Subsidies given for the exploitation of low-efficiency energy sources such as wind and photovoltaic energy, already being scaled back in the European Union (EU), which has heavily invested in them;
– Imposition of quotas and fees linked to carbon emissions as the EU has done to enable its carbon credits market, and in countries like Australia and France, where a great popular rejection has forced their withdrawal;
– Imposition, on various economic activities, of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) measures that are totally useless from a climate and public health point of view, since CO2 is not a toxic or polluting gas. CO2 is the gas of life! The main beneficiaries of such measures have been speculators, equipment suppliers and CCS services and participants in the intrinsically useless carbon markets, which have no real economic basis and are based solely on an artificial demand created from a nonexistent need.
6) Looking at the future
For the first time in history, mankind has a wealth of physical, technical and human knowledge and resources to provide for virtually all the material needs of a population even larger than today’s. This perspective makes it possible to universalize – in a fully sustainable way – the general levels of well-being enjoyed by the most advanced countries in terms of water infrastructure, sanitation, energy, transport, communications, health and education services and other achievements of modern civilized life. Despite the fallacious arguments against this perspective, the main obstacles to its realization in less than two generations are mental and political, not physical and environmental. Definitely, Brazilian environmental policy (including the climate agenda) needs to fit in this perspective.
Luiz Carlos Baldicero Molion
Physicist, PhD in Meteorology and postdoctorate in Forest Hydrology, senior researcher (retired) at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Associate Professor (retired) of the Federal University of Alagoas (UFAL)
José Carlos Parente de Oliveira
Physicist, PhD in Physics and post-doctorate in Atmospheric Physics, Associate Professor (retired) at the Federal University of Ceará (UFC), Professor at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Ceará (IFCE)
José Bueno Conti
Geographer, PhD in Physical Geography and lecturer in Climatology, Full Professor at the Department of Geography, University of São Paulo (USP)
Fernando de Mello Gomide
Physicist, Full Professor (retired) of the Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA);
Ricardo Augusto Felício
Meteorologist, Master and PhD in Climatology, Professor of the Department of Geography of the University of São Paulo (USP), Member of the deliberative council of the Brazilian Meteorological Society (SBMET)
Geographer, Master in Applied Meteorology and PhD in Geography, Professor at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Minas Gerais (IFMG)
Daniela de Souza Onça
Geographer, Master and PhD in Climatology, Professor at the Department of Geography, Santa Catarina State University (UDESC)
Carlos Henrique Jardim
Geographer, Master, PhD and postdoctorate in geography, Professor at the Department of Geography of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).
Wellington Lopes Assis
Geographer, Master and Doctor of Geography, Professor of the Department of Geography of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG)
João Bosco A. de Morais
Geologist, Master in Hydrogeology and PhD in Aquifer Vulnerability, Private Consultant and Environmental Advisor to the State Government of Ceará
Danilo Ericksen Costa Cabral
Meteorologist, Master in Meteorology, Paraiba State Water Management Executive Agency (AESA)
Rômulo da Silveira Paz
Meteorologist, Master of Meteorology, PhD in Mechanical Engineering, Associate Professor at the Federal University of Paraíba (UFPB)
Paulo Cesar Martins Pereira de Azevedo Branco
Geologist, Senior Geoscience Researcher (retired) of the Geological Survey of Brazil (CPRM)
Gildo Magalhães dos Santos Filho
Electronic Engineer, PhD in Social History and Lecturer in History of Science and Technology, Full Professor, Department of History, University of São Paulo (USP)
Physicist, Master and Doctor of Nuclear Physics and Doctor of Astrophysics, Petroleum Engineer and Private Consultant
Guilherme Polli Rodrigues
Geographer, Master in Climatology, Environmental Consultant;
Igor Vaz Maquieira
Biologist, Environmental Management Specialist
Mario de Carvalho Fontes Neto
Agronomist, editor of the blog The Big Scam of Global Warming (http://agfdag.wordpress.com)
Journalist, executive editor of Agro DBO magazine and co-author of the book CO2 Warming and Climate Change: Are They Deceiving Us? (with Luiz Carlos Baldicero Molion and José Carlos Parente de Oliveira, DBO Editores Associados, 2015)
Geraldo Luís Saraiva Lino
Geologist, author of the book The Global Warming Fraud: How a Natural Phenomenon Has Been Converted into a False World Emergency (Capax Dei, 2009; 4th ed., 2015)
Positions and concepts emitted in signed articles are the sole responsibility of their authors.