Opinion – Reinaldo José Lopes: Is global warming going to fall?


If you don’t walk the streets with a little butterflies in your stomach and the slight feeling that we’re all dancing the samba on the edge of a precipice, maybe it’s time to think again.

There seems to be something of bad science fiction in the fact that the thermal sensation in certain parts of Rio de Janeiro has almost reached 60°C in the last few days. Or the realization that, of the ten warmest years ever recorded since reliable measurements began, all have happened since 2010. (By the way, the “top 5” on the list happened from 2015 onwards.) It even makes you miss the time when denialists said that “global warming stopped after the year 2000”.

Two weeks ago, I wrote in this Folha about the warning given by an international team of researchers in the journal “Science”. According to them, we are approaching an “irreversible turning point for the Amazon”.

Simply put, one can no longer rule out the possibility that the combination of the global climate crisis and local devastation, based on floods and fires, will irremediably alter the interconnection between forests, rain and climate in the North region. (The main element of this connection is the fact that the Amazon constantly recycles about half of the rain itself, which corresponds, roughly speaking, to the forest “sweating”, the evapotranspiration.)

Once this turning point is reached, this link is broken, the rainfall regime and the average temperature gain a qualitatively different profile from what existed and, in place of the biodiverse forest, an impoverished savannah emerges. I wish I could say it would be fun to see the Amazon’s gun-toting agribusiness frog faced with half the current rainfall and average temperatures 4°C/5°C higher—but it would be a self-defeating satisfaction that goes nowhere. In this scenario, no one has the last laugh.

The question everyone should be asking right now is: “Is it going to hit? When?”

One of the big problems with the climate emergency, for those who want to avoid its uglier versions, is that, in the short term, it’s easy to push the situation with your belly. We are not talking about a punctual Apocalypse that at a definite moment in the future will pour fire and brimstone over sinners.

Instead, we are looking at a process that is relatively long on the time scale of a human lifetime, but very fast compared to any natural geological rhythm. A process that will produce a poorer, more insecure, more inhumane and uglier world for almost all forms of life, which have evolved to adapt to the world that existed even 150 years ago.

Unless, of course, that chip drops.

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