By Víctor L. Bacchetta
After having battled for almost 20 years against the existence of global warming, the centers of world power are rapidly shifting their position and reinstating themselves at the forefront of policies to adapt to climate change, but everything remains a way of doing business and the alternatives they may be worse than what you have experienced so far.
At the point where data and scientific studies began to warn of the serious threat of growing greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, sectors of the transnational industry, led by the largest oil companies, unleashed a large operation. scale of propaganda and political pressure, at all levels, in order to prevent restrictions on the production and consumption of fossil fuels.
"Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated and well-funded campaign by scientists, liberal think tanks and opposing industry sectors has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change," says the US magazine Newsweek in its latest edition, which compares this efficient 'denial machine' with the strategy used by the tobacco industry to ignore the effects of cigarettes on human health and postpone anti-smoking policies.
The beginning of this campaign dates back to the preparatory process for the Earth Summit, where discussions began for the Framework Convention on Climate Change to be approved in 1992. The first success of the campaign consisted in ensuring that this treaty did not impose mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. And so it was that, in Rio de Janeiro, with the decisive gravitation of the US, the governments agreed to recommend voluntary reductions, which had no major practical effects.
From then on, the 'denial machine' was dedicated to funding research institutes and 'skeptical' academics willing to question, in the name of science, the threat of nearby climate change and, much less, caused by human activity. . Apart from treating environmentalists as blind fanatics, its main objective was to relativize the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), created in 1988 within the framework of the UN to coordinate scientific evaluations in this regard.
First they assured that the planet was not warming, that the data was incorrect. They then argued that the warming was natural, that it could be caused by solar storms, but never by human activity. Lately, they say that the change is minor and that it would not cause considerable damage. They do not need to convince, it is enough to establish that there are enough discrepancies to justify abstention or refusal to adopt restrictive measures that affect their economic and commercial activities.
Having been the largest gathering of heads of state on Earth, the 1992 Summit generated the expectation that Agenda 21 and the approved conventions would make it possible to reverse the planet's environmental crisis. The Rio + 5 summits, in 1997 in New York, and Rio + 10, in 2002 in Johannesburg, confirmed that the crisis was greater and that it was deepening at a faster rate than anticipated, but the recommendations of Agenda 21 remained in place. paper. In other words, the ‘denial machine’ was still winning the battle.
Within the climate change convention, governments approved the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which came into force only in February 2005, after being ratified by 55 nations that accounted for 55% of greenhouse gas emissions. The objective of the protocol was to reduce emissions levels from 1990 by 5.2% before 2012, but despite being insufficient to reverse the problem, with the United States refusing to sign it and the absence of China, that goal is far behind to be fulfilled.
The ‘denial machine’ always had strong backing from the United States, the IMF and the World Bank. Anne Krueger, former chief economist of the World Bank and number two at the IMF between 2000 and 2006, said in 2003: "Let's take this age-old concern that rapid growth will deplete fuel resources ... Oil reserves can last 40 years (…) when we get to 2040, research and development will have made new advances in energy production and use. "
In 2004 and 2005, the world suffered a series of natural disasters of unusual strength, the largest being the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the earthquake in Pakistan and India, and Hurricane Katrina in the southern US, with 180,000 and more. 100,000 deaths each year and unprecedented economic losses. In 2006, the elites of the North were moved by the eloquence to explain and face the crisis of two illustrious members, Sir Nicholas Stern, economic adviser to the British government, and Al Gore, former vice president of the United States.
"All countries will be affected. The most vulnerable - the poorest countries and populations - will suffer earlier and earlier, even though they have contributed much less to climate change," says Stern. He even admits that the fact is "the biggest failure of the market that the world has known and interacts with the other imperfections of the market", but his objective is to improve it, to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to industrial reconversion and the environment to maintain economic growth (1).
A best-selling book, a movie and an Oscar, interviews, lectures and rock concerts with millions of people on seven continents - Gore says it's a three-year campaign to raise awareness on the planet. He clarifies, however, that "American leadership is a precondition for success." And he finishes, like Stern: "Certainly, there will be new jobs and new profits, as companies move aggressively to capture the enormous economic capabilities offered by a cleaner energy future" (2).
President Bush, in his 2006 speech to Congress, called for curbing the "addiction" of the United States to oil and proposed reducing its consumption in the country by 15%. "Let's leave the debate on whether greenhouse gases are caused by humanity or by natural causes; we are going to focus only on technologies that can solve the problem," he added. Soon after, the governor of Florida, the Brazilian minister of Agriculture, and the IDB president launched the Inter-American Ethanol Commission.
The same year, a World Bank report admitted, without any self-criticism, the existence of "an increase in catastrophes related to environmental degradation throughout the entire planet." The Bank recognized that global warming, deforestation and soil erosion have increased the vulnerability of entire regions. Coincidentally, IMF representatives began to express concern about "the profound macroeconomic and fiscal repercussions of climate change."
In March 2007, the European Commission decided that by 2020 10% of the fuel used for transport (excluding that used in aviation) throughout the EU will be manufactured from rapeseed, corn, sugar beet, oil palm, cane sugar and soy. The decisions of the US and the EU are accompanied by important incentive programs for the production of biofuels around the world. At the World Bank they already have the new approach, now we are going towards "the low carbon economy".
Since the Summit of the Earth has been betting on the strength of the market. At that time, the opportunities opened by the implementation of Agenda 21, which marked the path of sustainable development, were estimated at $ 600 billion. Everything indicates that, if it was business, the gain was on the side of the "skeptics." "We - all of us - now face a universal threat," Gore emphasizes. But if business continues to prevail, who ensures that the market does not fail again?
There are few warnings that the new commercial race to produce energy from agriculture will accelerate deforestation, cause famines, drive small farmers off their land and make regions of the planet that already are poorer. Even in Europe and the US there are huge increases in food prices. "We are going very fast with biofuels. There is no land that meets such projected demand," said Michael Toman, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton.
The problem seems to be not just speed. "Every year we use an amount worth four centuries of plants and animals. The idea that we can replace this fossil legacy with ecological energy is science fiction. There is no substitute.", Explains professor and journalist George Monbiot (3). New sources of energy are discovered every day: cow fat, fish remains, etc. In the end, we are all fuels, but the carbon equation does not close. Will the greatest enemy of humanity now be carbon?
A Pentagon report
When Washington's official position was still rejecting the possibility of climate change as a consequence of global warming, the Pentagon (Ministry of Defense) commissioned two specialists to carry out a study called "An abrupt climate change scenario and its implications for national security. of the United States ". The report was delivered in October 2003 by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, consultants to large companies, governments and other entities in strategic planning and decision making in situations of complex business, social and environmental challenges.
"We have created a climate change scenario that, while not the most likely, is plausible, and could challenge US national security in ways that should be considered immediately," say the authors. By transcending the existence of the report, it was not disseminated further, but given the evolution of the events, the imagined scenario may have become more likely and the resulting hypotheses more plausible. The possible event is the so-called ‘little ice age’, which also serves as the basis for the science fiction film entitled "The day after tomorrow," released in 2004.
The report notes that such conditions could destabilize the geopolitical context and lead to armed incidents and wars over food shortages, declining access and quality of drinking water, and power outages. Defense priorities could generate new alliances by putting resources for survival first, before religion, ideology or national honor. Finally, the report recommends actions to anticipate and prevent the eventual occurrence of such events and, due to their serious consequences, raise them to the level of national security concern.
"There are some indications today that global warming has reached the threshold at which the thermohaline circulation could begin to be significantly impacted. These indications include observations documenting that the North Atlantic is being increasingly cooled by melting glaciers, increasing rainfall and freshwater streams that make it substantially less salty in the last 40 years, "said the report in 2003. In 2007, these factors are more prominent.
The Exxon "Skeptics"
A Newsweek investigation reported that the US transnational Exxon Mobil, the world's third-largest company, with annual profits of around $ 17 billion, has been using some of that money to create confusion in the public discussion about climate change and sabotage the IPCC assessments, which include the work of more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries.
The American magazine affirms that centers and advisers linked to Exxon paid in February of this year 10,000 dollars to scientists interested in writing an article against the last reports of the PICC. Newsweek says that many "skeptics" of greenhouse emissions have traditionally been funded by the coal industry and names Fred Singer, Patrick Michaels, Robert Balling and Sherwood Idso.
Newsweek thus corroborated complaints that environmental organizations from different parts of the world have been making for years. In particular, those carried out by Greenpeace International, which maintains an updated database of institutions and people linked to this position available to the public on the Internet, who have received more than 22 million dollars from the big oil company (http: // www. exxonsecrets.org/).
(1) "Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change", October 2006. http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviewscfm
(2) Quotes from Al Gore's article "Indo além de Kyoto" (Beyond Kyoto), in Eco'21 magazine, Issue 128, Rio de Janeiro, July 2007.
(3) Author of "Heat: How to stop the planet from burning" (Heat: How to prevent the planet from burning). South End Press, 2007 ( http://www.monbiot.com/ ).