July 14, 2024

Experts say that with climate change, Brazil needs to rethink agribusiness

7 min read
Drought caused by deforestation already entails an additional annual expenditure of US$1 billion for agriculture and livestock
Photo: Ernesto Carriço/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Before the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Released Monday morning (9), experts heard before CNN She agrees that Brazil’s role in addressing the environmental crisis includes changes in the way agribusiness is run.

The reasons aren’t just environmental – they’re economic too. According to physicist Paulo Artaxo, a researcher at the University of São Paulo (USP) and one of the world’s leading references on global warming, the report notes that “in central Brazil, the temperature increase could reach 4 or 5 degrees Celsius in the future decades.” . He points out, “These are very powerful changes that could render agribusiness as we have today unfeasible.” “Brazil needs to carefully consider the findings of the IPCC report.”

Recently published studies were already indicating this. The work carried out by environmental engineer Raffaella Flach of Tufts University in the US – published by the Journal of Global Development – estimates more than $3.5 billion in losses to the soybean industry due to warming. According to its action, grain yield decreases by 5% per day at temperatures above 30 ° C.

In May, Nature published another work that follows the same tone. According to researchers, including forest engineer Argemiro Teixeira Leite Filho, of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), droughts caused by deforestation already involve an additional annual expenditure of $1 billion annually for agriculture in the region. The so-called legal Amazon.


The essence of the matter is Amazon. With the uncontrolled progress of agriculture into the lands formerly occupied by the biome, the Brazilian jungle gradually ceased to be a great sink for carbon dioxide and became a source of gas emissions.

Biologist Myron Bastos Lima, a researcher at the Swedish research institute Instituto Ambiental de Stockholm believes. “Things are often presented as occurring within their natural variability, as a result of El Niño or some other dynamic being attempted, but what this IPCC report confirms is precisely that the planet’s climate is not within its natural variability.”

“There is probably less denial and more fear in telling the Brazilian public that more than 70% of Brazilian emissions come from agriculture, livestock or deforestation,” he adds.

The latest report from the Estimated System of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Eliminations (SEEG), an initiative of the Climate Observatory, shows that in 2019 nearly half of all Brazilian emissions came from deforestation. This data declined from 2004 to 2010, and rose again as of 2012. “Agriculture, per se, even excluding emissions from deforestation, still emits more than the entire Brazilian industry and transmits combined,” Lima estimates. .

The IPCC report presents the risks of so-called “high-risk, low-predictability” events. One of them is in the Amazon. “This is where deforestation reduces evaporation, which in turn hampers rainfall even more,” Lima explains. “This can cause the forest to go into a self-destructive cycle. Fewer trees, less rain, and turn into savannas. It is called ‘forest death,’ which this report explicitly identifies for the first time.”

“For Brazil, it is no longer enough to get rid of emissions, but to remove what is in the atmosphere. The Amazon rainforest is in dire need of protection, because it is one of the largest natural carbon sinks on the planet. It is necessary to eliminate deforestation and favor ecosystem services to reduce We have been exposed to climate change,” comments forest engineer Mauricio Vojvodik, Executive Director of WWF-Brasil.

“If we cross the point of no return at which this process begins, the consequences will be very dire,” Lima adds. The Amazon is directly involved in the so-called South American monsoon system, which generates precipitation – on which Brazilian agriculture and hydropower plants depend so much – from southeast and western Brazil from November to March. The IPCC report indicates that this region could experience an increase in temperature of up to twice the global average. So the problem concerns us very directly.”

Expensive water and electricity bills

Another aspect presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that would directly affect Brazil, with its 7.4 thousand km coastline, is the sea level rise as a result of global warming. It could reach one meter in the coming decades. Imagine the impact on cities like Santo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Florianópolis? Physicist Paulo Artaxo, a researcher at the University of the South Pacific, says the impact in Brazil is enormous and we are the ones with the biggest weaknesses.

A researcher at the Amazon Institute for Man and the Environment (Amazon), forest engineer Paulo Barreto pays attention to what Brazilians are already seeing in the electricity bill, which is more expensive to reduce consumption. “Brazil is drier and the trend is that it will get worse without a sharp drop in emissions of pollutants that cause global warming,” he says.

More frequent droughts, accompanied by fires, will impoverish the Amazon rainforest. A thin forest will have less ability to modulate the amount of rainfall in other areas of the country. We are already seeing some effects of what this means: lower rainfall reduces agricultural productivity in the southern Amazon, hydroelectric reservoirs are decreasing, and drier rivers make it difficult to transport goods on waterways.”

Thanks Natalie Unterstil, Chair of Think Tank, Talanoa, dedicated to climate policy, and MA in public policy from Harvard University, she is concerned with other impacts arising from projections of a broad increase in droughts affecting the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil, “even in low-emissions scenarios” . Several regions of South America will experience what we call agricultural and ecological droughts. This means that they expect wide-ranging effects on agricultural production, crop failures, and obviously this will have an impact on issues like inflation,” he points out. This is related to the concerns of banks trying to regulate climate risk and manage climate risk. Because this can affect our stability financial and control over some components of the macroeconomics.”

“Unfortunately, the government has been acting in the opposite direction of what would be necessary to reduce and adapt to climate risks. In addition to actually reducing environmental protections, which has led to increased deforestation, the government and Congress are passing a law that tends to increase deforestation for several years,” he says, In connection with the project known as PL da grilagym. “The law benefits squatters on public lands – grants amnesty and enables the purchase of space at prices well below market. This award for criminals encourages new occupations and more deforestation.”

This Brazilian pose can be costly economically. As he points out, there is a growing movement in Europe seeking to “tax imported products from countries with weak environmental policies”. He defends this, saying: “Brazil should be more active in the search for solutions both internally and externally.” “Brazil can get international resources to help conserve native forests and reforestation to help ‘clean the air’, that is, remove carbon from the atmosphere by planting trees.”


For researcher Leite Filho, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “invited” Brazil indirectly by pointing out that deforestation affects the issue of rainfall, and thus harms agribusiness itself. On the Brazilian agricultural border, that is, on the legal threshold of the Amazon, this is a real vicious circle.

He asserts that “there is no way for Brazil to continue this narrative that development needs to destroy forests.” “It is very important for us to understand that a paradigm shift is necessary. The report says that there will be an increase in drought in different regions of the world, but these effects differ – at some points there will be an increase in rainfall; in others, severe drought. In In the Amazon Basin, forecasts indicate severe droughts, and precipitation should decrease as the world warms.”

“As a large part of Brazil’s agricultural frontier is advancing there, towards the forest, we also need to check deforestation, and what responsibility we have in this regard. There is already evidence that the Amazon is emitting more carbon dioxide than it can absorb, the researcher adds. , due to deforestation.

In a statement to the press, WWF Brazil highlighted that the report notes, for Brazil, that “it is not enough to eliminate emissions – it is necessary to remove carbon that is already in the atmosphere.” “As the Amazon rainforest is one of the largest natural carbon sinks on the planet, preserving it is more important than ever,” the text reads. “Studies show that parts of the forest are already emitting more carbon than they are sequestering, due to their degradation which, if continued at current levels, could stress the entire biome beyond its equilibrium point, affecting climate across the planet, But more specifically in South America, which puts food, water and energy security in Brazil at risk.”

a CNN It has sought the Planalto Palace, the Ministries of Environment, Agriculture and Mining Energy and the Amazon Council for comment on the report and expert opinion and is awaiting comments.

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