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Economy

Changes in sight

The pursuit of energy efficiency may mitigate the impact of extreme climates in Brazil

In Brazil, climate change might redefine the bed and the flow of rivers, reducing the capacity to produce electric energy. They might also reduce agricultural production and water supply, increasing the areas affected by diseases such as malaria, and lead the Amazon Forest to the verge of collapse, warned the economist Nicholas Stern, coordinator of the Stern Report at the workshop Stern Report Evaluation, held on November 3 last year at FAPESP, as part of the Fapesp Research Program into Global Climate Change, with the support of the British Embassy. Presented in 2006, the report analyzes the economic impact of climate change and estimates that an investment equal to 1% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could prevent losses of around 20% of GDP in 50 years’ time.

“Overlooked risk is potentially greater risk,” said Stern, the British government advisor who, during the days following the workshop, also headed up seminars at the State of São Paulo’s Industrial Federation (Fiesp) and at the Institute of Applied Economic Research in Brasília (Ipea). He believes that it is possible to reconcile the measures for adapting to climate change with national economic development policies. “Adaptations to improve energy efficiency have a huge income and employment generation potential, besides being a source of energy,” he pointed out. “Efficiency will be the main driver of the recovery process, along with the development of clean technologies.” A group of Brazilian economists has been working with scientists since June 2007 to accurately outline the possible impact of climate change on agriculture, energy production, land use, water resources, biodiversity and human health in the country. The results should be presented in June of next year, announced Jacques Marcovitch, a professor at the University of São Paulo (USP) and the coordinator of the study on the Economy of Climate Changes in Brazil. “This project could be an opportunity to build the future,” said Marcovitch.

The prospect of changes in Argentina’s and Chile rainfall implies  serious problems regarding water and food supplies because “infrastructure doesn’t adapt as quickly,” stressed Vicente Barros, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires and co-president of one of the work groups of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), at a seminar held at FAPESP on the October 30. “The problem isn’t only less water, but also the fact that the water may come at unfortunate times”. According to Barros, the current climate forecast models indicate that water might soon be in short supply in the Mendoza region, one of Argentina’s main urban centers.

An opinion poll in 11 countries, including Brazil, showed that almost half of the 1,000 interviewees in each country want the government to play a more active role in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the main gases responsible for climate change, but only 25% said that those who are running the country are doing enough. “Even with an 80% cut in the level of emissions there will inevitably be an impact,” said Martin Parry, a professor at London’s Imperial College, who took part in the workshop, “and the residual damage could be immense if we don’t invest in adaptation now.”

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