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Letter from the Editor | 210

Revelations about Brazil’s future climate

It was very cold in South-Central Brazil in the second to last week of July by local standards, and even snowed in almost two hundred cities instead of in just the usual dozen. In the early afternoon on Tuesday, July 23rd, en route to Pesquisa FAPESP’s editorial offices in Pinheiros from the USP campus in Butantã, and despite the lack of snow, I mentally noted the charm of the chilly air, the deep, almost liquid green, superimposed on the vast serenity of the soft gray background—a multitude of trees against the winter sky in this slice of the Western region of the city of São Paulo, forcing me to recognize the beautiful setting. On the phone, I was told that, at the same time, Recife was preparing for the 65th annual meeting of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science in the midst of endless rain. And a few days later, while Rio de Janeiro relocated the closing mass of World Youth Day from Guaratiba to Copacabana Beach, also because of rain, with an unquestionable aesthetic gain for the huge religious event led by Pope Francis, the equally rainy city of Salvador, Bahia had empty beaches, despite the amazing views of an incredibly dark blue ocean in the somewhat cold morning light. I recalled that just over a month ago, there was a terrible drought ravaging the countryside of the state of Bahia.

These thoughts about weather and its variations are, of course, related to this issue’s wonderful cover story (starting on page 16), consisting first of a report written by Marcos Pivetta, followed by another written by Carlos Fioravanti, both guest editors. The articles offer a firsthand account of the main scientific results of the most comprehensive diagnosis ever produced on the dominant trends in Brazil’s future climate. They give an account of the first national overview report (RAN1) by the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change (the PBMC, created in 2009 by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation), which will be released this September during the 1st National Conference on Global Climate Change, organized by FAPESP. Reading Pivetta’s piece gives you the clear idea that the seasons in Brazil are indeed “crazy” and will continue to be so. This means that the cold and snow in Brazil in the second to last week of July neither contradicts nor mitigates any evidence of ongoing climate change due to global warming in this part of the planet called Brazil, since extreme weather is one of the clearest signs of this process.

In 2100, according to PBMC projections, all of Brazil’s regions will be 3°C to 6°C warmer compared to the averages recorded in the late 20th century. Rainfall amounts could be 40% higher in biomes such as the Amazon and the Caatinga and a third lower in the Pampa. Prolonged droughts are expected to follow periods of heavy rain and rare phenomena like hurricanes may become more frequent. The challenge the country faces in mitigating the harmful societal effects of climate change include, as described in Fioravanti’s article, making profound changes in agricultural, industrial and urban policies. This is worth thinking about.

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