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A climate shrouded in uncertainties

Miguel BoyayanDisappointment and restlessness as to the future of the environment of our precious planet Earth ended the year of 2009. Furthermore, this was not restricted to the hordes of militant environmentalists, nor was it contained within the boundaries of the international scientific community nor of political pressure groups. Disseminated in various ways by the media, or better said, by practically all the media worldwide, these sentiments spread throughout society and penetrated many social segments that were simply interested in and concerned about the minimally healthy survival of their old habitat within the vast universe. The blame for all of this was ascribed to the more than relative political failure of the Copenhagen Conference, which dragged on melancholically until December 19, with the rather desperate attempt by several world leaders to attain a consistent consensus on global climate change, which, at the end of the day, was not achieved.


Still, this first issue of Pesquisa FAPESP in 2010 does not discuss the environment only to narrate the collapse of the pursuit of post-Kyoto international agreement. In truth, one might say that the environment is present in a rather different and positive manner in the feature article of special editor Carlos Fioravanti about a broad work program that has been bringing together, for four years, the researchers of the Butantan Institute and scientific centers in the state of Pará, as part of an investigation that ranges from the chemistry of the toxins of snakes, scorpions and other local creatures to the study of the Amazon Region’s biodiversity, also encompassing the history of health and other social processes connected with the cultural environment of the region. The Amazon Region, also the target of deep concern when the subject is the Earth’s warming, enters the scene in Fioravanti’s sensitive text, starting on page 16, with the wealth and specific traits of a biodiversity that, if properly heard, seems able to provide new and major answers to a number of inquiries in the field of toxinology and pharmacology. It is well worth checking it out.

The environment from a different viewpoint: I highlight the article by our technology editor Marcos de Oliveira about a home run solely on solar energy: the Solar Flex House, designed and built by a consortium of six Brazilian universities. The house was entered into an international competition for projects that are healthy for the planet, to be held next June, in Madrid (page 66).

To close in a circular manner, I return to the Copenhagen Conference, the subject matter of the article by our scientific and technological policy editor, Fabrício Marques (page 28), and to a fine analysis of research into global climate change, which emerges from the back-and-forth interview with one of the most respected Brazilian scientists in this field, a character well worth becoming familiar with: Carlos Nobre (page 10).

I also wish all our readers a fascinating year in 2010, full of discoveries, scientific or otherwise, but always important.