INTERVIEW WITH CARLOS NOBRE
Expert on climate.
Member of the IPCC :
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change.
It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988.
THE FEELING OF EMERGENCY
The speed of transformation that we have imposed to the world during the past 50 years has no parallel in the climatic history, at least since the hominid primates became bipedal 3 million years ago.
The Earth’s, oceans, vegetation, rivers and biosphere are extremely complex systems, interconnected in ways we do not yet know in its entirity.
This means that we are doing an experiment with a complex system in which we do not have a deep understanding of.
The feeling of emergency comes from the need to change course, which necessarily implies a reduction of the primary cause of global warming: the continuous emission of greenhouse gasses, mainly due to the combustion of oil, coal and natural gas, agriculture and deforestation …
How to change this part of the emissions from 20 to 30 years, this is the great challenge of the 21st century.
POLITICAL DECISIONS AGAINST DILATORY TACTICS
The short term solution is to establish a carbon tax which would be a way to reduce and make it more expensive to use fossil fuels for energy production. As thermoelectric power continues to be the cheapest, there is no reason to replace coal. The other means which prevent CO2, from the combustion, to reach the atmosphere are very expensive and still uncertain. The best way is to include environmental costs in the price of energy.
They are the costs that future generations will have to pay to adapt to climate change, but also the cost to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and prevent the collapse of the natural systems. This cost must be factored into the price for those who use energy today.
In the long term, we’ll have to abandon fossil fuels. There is no real obstacle in terms of technology that is becoming increasingly available and cheap. The “problem” is that models of solar, wind and tidal-motor models are completely decentralized. It is no longer possible to have 7 large transnational companies in the fossil industry that control 20% of global GDP. It would be hundreds of billions of small power plants. This transition causes a lot of resistance, the fossil industry resists and puts obstacles by throwing confusion and polluting the scientific debate by false claims. The lobby funded by groups repeating what the industry lobby tabacco did in the 70s, to delay the inevitable : it will one day abandon fossil fuels.
At the geopolitical level, there is also a major challenge for the emerging power of China who does not accept the division of the world according to the Western bloc which has been led by the United States since World War II. And the United States are not willing to accept the leadership of China. This is a worrying backdrop because these superpower battles have always led to an impasse and a dispersion of scarce resources for social-ecological sustainability.
In the twentieth century, the arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States amounted to 10% of global GDP. We could have allocated these resources to a sustainability platform 20 to 30 years later. Today, the hegemonic dispute between the United States and China, combined with the inertia and reactionary actions of the fossil industry contributes to the continuation of this state of non-solution.
THE HUMAN FACTOR
There is only one force that can oppose this great resistance and inertia: the change of behavior of a substantial part of humanity, a new paradigm of what is defined as happiness.
As important as the technological aspect that needs to change to provide a cheap and clean production, it also takes a great philosophical and behavioral change. The post-industrial society will not be a consumerist society. Consumption must be reduced because there is no evidence that excessive consumption is related to the quality of life or happiness.
The great challenge is to understand the very populated nations – that are rapidly developing such as India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico – they are a model for other countries “developing”, who must improve upon their quality of life without following the paths of the past of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The best tool is education, not only at school but also learning from good examples.
The project Cultivando Agua Boa (CAB), by the triple border, where participating Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina are a drop in the ocean, but a significant drop.
We need good examples like these, which analyzes and reviews the relationship of economic activities with the environment to demonstrate that sustainable development is possible in previous very degraded areas.
It was decided that the huge Itaipu hydroelectric wealth should remain partially open in the region. Because high voltage lines take not only electricity but also mine the wealth of areas where energy is produced.
In exchange, the Itaipu energy remains and helps organize a balanced local development and democracy, creating a huge field of experimentation and learning space.
This vision is achieving a balance between the functioning of ecosystems and the economic life of the region which has probably no parallel in Brazil.
This experience must be consolidated, I have my fingers crossed for it to be so, and should be replicated in other parts of the world, particularly in developing countries.
TROPICAL ECO POWER
The future of countries like Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina is the environmental powers who will benefit from their comparative advantages: vast wealth of natural ressources, energy sources and biodiversity.
The paradigm for Brazil is to become a green tropical power environment that values‚ its enormous natural tropical potential in the sense that it is different from the North.
We must look at our potential and assume ourselves as a tropical country. Brazilians and Argentines have never assumed to be residents of tropical countries. Paraguayans were assumed and thus lost the war because of it in the 19th century.
Historically and sociologically speaking, the defeat imposed by Brazil and Argentina to Paraguay marked the end of the possibility for South American people to assume as such. The European model of civilization and colonization has prevailed until now.
Being assumed as South American tropical or subtropical is fundamental. It is a philosophical change of posture: we no longer need to copy a model that has failed in the United States.
Foz do Iguaçu – November 2010