IN MEMORIAM: Osvaldo Canziani. "We have to start looking at nature as a subject of law"

IN MEMORIAM: Osvaldo Canziani.

By Lorena Oliva

In his memory, we share the interview published by Dairio La Nación, in December 2014, after the Lima Summit.

Meteorologist and renowned environmentalist, qualifies as "failure" to the Lima Summit and warns that, more than climate change, today there is a "global environmental change"

Osvaldo Canziani is categorical when it comes to qualifying the last World Summit on Climate Change -the number 20-, held earlier this month in the capital of Peru: "It was a failure," says the specialist. And he adds that, unless all countries take concrete measures to mitigate global warming, there will be no global agreement that achieves it.

This doctor in meteorology and professor in physics knows what he is talking about. He was co-chair of Working Group II, which focused on Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation to Climate Change of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body that received the Nobel Prize in 2007. Throughout his long career - he is 92 years old -, Canziani also carried out numerous technical assistance tasks, both locally and internationally, chaired organizations, wrote numerous research articles and even made time for teaching, work that continues today.

However, when it comes to pointing out the only possible way for human beings not to end up in their own self-destruction, Canziani does not talk about meteorological engineering or get caught up in technicalities of any kind. Instead, choose simple but powerful words, such as ethics, social responsibility, solidarity, adaptation, austerity, and resilience. And it urges to take concrete measures to reverse global warming, which, as it progresses, makes the environment around us more unproductive.

"We have to start looking at nature as a subject of law because no one respects it," exhorts Canziani, who prefers to define himself, above all else, as an environmentalist.

-What is your assessment of the World Summit on Climate Change in Lima?

-I have been to several summits, but I no longer go. Why is it a fight? In 2004 we organized a Summit in Buenos Aires, COP 10. And Argentina made a very good proposal, which was now discussed in Lima as well, on the need to take adaptation measures to climate change that were obviously never implemented. The same story is discussed ten years later, where no one wants to put a penny. When these meetings began, it was funny because it was proposed that a certain percentage of the world gross product be put: was it all a story? and the picture remains the same.

- What do you attribute this inaction to? Is it lack of interest?

-The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, is concerned. It was he who said: "There is no other alternative because there is no planet equal to planet Earth." And he took it seriously… Since the South African Summit, in Durban, which took place in 2011, it was known that the Kyoto Protocol was dead. Then, it was agreed to work on another protocol, which had to be implemented in 2020.

-What was it that made the Kyoto Protocol unfeasible?

-The Kyoto Protocol was a fallacy, because it divided the countries into two groups, a lie of the diplomats. At the 1990 conference in Geneva, it was defined that responsibility for climate change was common, but differentiated, and that is what article 3 of the convention says. In this way, the countries were divided between those with money and the rest. But as time passed it turned out that those of us who do not have money pollute more than those who have money. China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Korea pollute much more than the European Community. But despite the evidence, that point could never be reviewed.

-To what extent did Lima help advance towards the new protocol?

-Lima was a failure. And the same was in the previous meeting, the Summit of Mexico. The conference lasted 32 hours longer than it should have: it ended on Friday, December 12, and ended on Sunday, the 14th, with a statement that the representative of Peru who was presiding over the conference tried to pull off as a lifeline, as had been done in Mexico for three years. before. Nothing is resolved and nothing will be resolved to the extent that all countries explain, with a certain degree of ethics and honesty, what they are going to do in terms of mitigation. Mitigation is to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. And here is another of the problems of the Kyoto Protocol: not to mention adaptation to face the effects of global warming.

-Effects that, on the other hand, have become part of our daily lives?

- My apartment was flooded because it rained 100,000 mm per hour and the balcony could not cope, and it is going to rain worse; there was hail around here, and these phenomena will continue to happen because the ocean has warmed so much that, for example, it is affecting the population of the Empire penguins in Antarctica. All these processes will be exacerbated. When the tsunami occurred in southern Chile, I said that this was probably due to a non-definitive adjuvant effect of climate change. Antarctica is rising? There are those who argue that tsunamis will be more and more recurrent, especially in areas near the poles ...

-However, for a long time, this type of issue generated, at least, skepticism ...

-Nobody gave a penny for the ozone problem because the hole was in Antarctica, but in the mid-eighties a hole was made in Sweden and there they got a scare ... There they began to work and what was raised since the The beginning was that the average temperature of the Earth should not exceed two degrees centigrade by the end of this century. As the temperature rises, the sea warms up and problems come. That's why we have those awesome rains

-Beyond extreme events, are there concrete impacts on the daily life of human beings?

-The World Meteorological Organization, of which I was an official for fourteen years, has created together with the World Health Organization a health and environment office because we are fish with polluted air and these types of impacts must be evaluated. Right here, together with an NGO, we started about ten years ago to train some doctors on the problems of global warming and its impacts on society. The doctor, like any professional, has the affection for his activity and his science and considers it the primordial but today there is no longer monodisciplinary science: everything is multidisciplinary.

-And why, despite all this evidence about the multiple negative effects that living on an increasingly hot planet has, international agreements get stuck?

-For money. When you analyze the position of the oil producers: Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, they want to sell oil. Shortly before Lima, a film was released that denies the quality of renewable energy.

- You tell me that all sectors that deny climate change do so driven by economic reasons?


-Some people and organizations, such as the Copenhagen Consortium, do not deny the reality of climate change, but believe that it is disproportionate to spend so much money to mitigate it, with other needs in the world?

-María Julia Alsogaray, with whom I fought a lot at the time, said: "Polluter, payer." The issue is that we have already reached temperature values ​​that affect the productivity of animals and vegetables, they make it fall. There is a yield drop in productivity of around 15 to 20 percent in wheat, corn, oats, barley and rice. The one that does not fail is the "yuyito", as the President tells him, although now soybeans have begun to fail, although it has great resilience in terms of moisture. But as the temperature rises, that will end. Also the dairy and meat quality of animals changes with temperature. In Bosnia it rains so much that rats are invading everything and there is leptospirosis everywhere. The growth of leptospirosis [N. de la R .: disease that has worsened as a result of the advance of deforestation] is so worrying that the World Meteorological Organization and the World Health Organization have a joint project to monitor the advance of leptospirosis in the world. Right here in Santa Fe, where they work on the issue very well and there are many rats, the water becomes contaminated and transmits the disease to the skin. And the disease is very simple, but when it becomes like dengue, very virulent, it kills. For all this, I insist that it is no longer climate change: it is global environmental change. You cannot isolate one thing from the other.

-What other paradigms have changed?

-There is a new movement called "The ethics of climate change", which is started by the University of Oxford, which denounces that if one initiates an action that, it is known, will harm future generations and even oneself, would have to stop. But people do not want? Here's something that was neglected: When Columbus discovered America, the world had approximately 400 million inhabitants. Now we are 7 billion and more. The 1972 Club of Rome report spoke of the limits to growth, a term that was much discussed at the time. But with time one sees that it is true, that the Earth has limits and that growth is not development. Development is an orderly process by which the ecosystem is defended. Growth is anything. It's true: I can't replace all the electricity with a photovoltaic, nor can I have planes with photovoltaics to carry passengers. So the challenge is to find the balance, a mix of energies to prevent this from increasing. Those who use oil as a tool for their profit don't give a damn, because it is seen that they, if necessary, will go to live on another planet? The limit of growth is the biosphere.

-And can you think of a type of growth that is friendly to the environment?

-Yes. You have to be austere. You do not have to think about how many children I am going to leave the environment, but how many children of mine the environment can support. But we are a race that lives with money in mind. I don't deny that, but you don't have to go the other way. Today there is the concept of virtual water. A kilo of meat, here is ten thousand liters of water. In Paraguay, fifteen thousand, because the animal eats grass, drinks water and so on. Amartya Sen says a very simple thing: you have to start incorporating externalities. If I produce, I should consider the water I use. In Lima, it was specified that by 2050 emissions would have to be reduced between 30 and 70 percent because if things continue like this, the world will stop.

As global climate agreements continue to be delayed, extreme and unpredictable weather events such as tsunamis, hurricanes, cold spells or extensive droughts are increasingly common. All of them with a human and economic impact that is usually inversely proportional to the level of resources of the areas that suffer them. Thus, for example, Hurricane Mitch claimed the lives of 11,000 Nicaraguans and Hondurans, while 8,000 inhabitants of the region disappeared, with a loss of $ 5 billion. Katrina, in the United States, left 3,000 dead.

For all this it is that, for several years, international organizations that promote the importance of concepts such as adaptation and resilience began to proliferate, so that cities can better prepare for any inclement weather.

-And at those summits there is enough talk about the need for adaptation or to make cities more resilient?

-Not enough, but groups have already been organized to start discussing. The key is to educate people. You see him all the time: the doorman who sweeps the jet of water when there is no water in certain locations. But only when one is immersed in the problem does one begin to think of solutions. We Argentines have been relatively lucky so far, but go to the north of Chile, where you have to capture the mist to irrigate ... In Machu Picchu the water was harvested. The collected water was released in times of drought… If they did it, why not us?

-And what explanation can you find? Why, despite all the dissemination of governments and organizations, does the doorman continue to sweep the trickle of water?

-Because no one charges fines. Why does nobody do anything. Everything is a question of education. Why, in a world where even dogs have cell phones, empty taxis circulate burning fuel, polluting the air and complicating traffic? Everything is based on a falsely constructed structure, where the interest is elsewhere. Each one wants his profit. We have to start looking at nature as a subject of law because no one respects it. If you see the boys breaking the trees… It is basically a problem of lack of education.

-But the economic sectors that pollute or the governments that do not make good decisions in this matter would not seem to suffer from a lack of education?

-The serious problem of our society is that it has no memory. All these things are not measured enough in the country. And what is not measured is not known. I can't have surgery if I don't get a checkup first. I have fought a lot for it and will keep fighting. Argentina would have to do eleven radio probes per day, twice a day in interior cities. We do one a day and not in all cities. I used to say to a meteorologist on the radio: "How do you know it's going to be unstable?" "Because there is no data. It is the macaneo ... totally people have no memory."

A possible future, according to Canziani

How likely is the next Paris Summit in 2015 to be successful?

The objective pursued by the Paris Summit, which will be the 21st, is to make a new protocol to replace the Kyoto one. But I see it very difficult. How to sit down to dialogue with a power that sells oil? On the other hand, another challenge to be solved is how to put all cats in the same bag, because responsibility for global warming is common but at the same time differentiated. For the Kyoto protocol, this issue of the annexes was invented, which today generates all kinds of questions. India, China or Mexico pollute more than other countries. So the position of those with the greatest amount of resources is that, to the extent that the rest do not loosen positions, they will not loosen either. And they are aware that, faced with an extreme weather event, they have a better chance than anyone to recover quickly. As long as it is not possible to find an overcoming solution to the question of common but differentiated responsibilities, the possibility of another protocol is difficult. What is clear is that the responsibility belongs to everyone.

Hand to hand

A meteorologist "sick of the environment"

At 92 years old, Osvaldo Canziani smiles when he remembers the times when he swam and fished eels in the Riachuelo itself. But far from staying in the wide territories of memory, his speech is purely present. And future. Extremely active - perhaps too much for the liking of those around him - Canziani continues to teach, give lectures and disseminate his knowledge through different media. What's more: this interview had to be rescheduled since the original appointment coincided with the turn that he had obtained to renew his driver's license. Convinced of the need to cross the disciplines that he has frequented all his life with medicine or social responsibility, he is aware of the latest trends in meteorology and environmentalism and enriches them with his own life trajectory. Married and father of three children who, he says, are "environmentally ill" like him, he preserves a privileged memory: he reinforces everything he says with anecdotes, dates and titles of scientific works and books that he even offers on loan in case that one is interested.

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