BRAZIL AS CLIMATE LEADER – DO THE MATH
from Jim Garrison and Emilia Queiroga
As the world prepares for Copenhagen, there is a vacuum in climate leadership, which Brazil has just filled. The combination of its commitment to reduce Amazonian deforestation by 80% by 2020 and CO2 emissions by 36% - 39% by 2020 puts Brazil light years ahead of the rest of the world and clearly the world leader in addressing the escalating crisis of global warming.
Since deforestation accounts for roughly 60% of Brazil’s CO2 emissions, this means that over-all, Brazil is committing to reduce its CO2 emissions by 84% by 2020, if one assumes only a 36% reduction in CO2 emissions. Brazil has just set the gold standard for the rest of the world to follow.
The central contradiction in the global warming crisis is that while the urgency is getting increasingly acute, our governments are negotiating as if we have another forty years to solve the problem. This timeframe lies at the heart of the Copenhagen negotiations – reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. But we do not have another 40 years to solve this crisis. We have only a few at the most to take the action required and at some level virtually everyone paying any attention knows that. We must be guided by science not political expediency, and our scientists are saying that global warming is about ready to spin out of control with devastating consequences to civilization as we know it. We must therefore take decisive action immediately. We must accomplish by 2020 what our governments are negotiating for 2050. Only taking action within the 2020 timeframe will suffice to solve the escalating crisis we are in. This is the stark reality we must face, and this is the leadership that Brazil is now providing.
Why is an 80% reduction so important? Reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2020 will allow us to stabilize the global temperature rise at just over 1C and concentrations of CO2 at around 400 ppm, thus avoiding the worst effects of global warming. This will allow for an essentially gracious “emergency landing” so that we can then begin the process of actually reversing CO2 concentrations back down to 350 ppm, which Al Gore, Rajendra Pachauri, and a growing consensus of scientists and policy analysts agree is the tipping point above which devastating climate change is inevitable.
The world is currently at a 0.8 global temperature rise above pre industrial levels and at CO2 concentrations of 385 ppm. Human activity is putting 90 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every 24 hours and escalating tons of methane are being released from the melting permafrost across Siberia and from the Arctic Ocean. The polar ice caps are melting, the glaciers of Greenland and on mountains all over the world are receding, droughts are afflicting our lands, flooding is rampant, the number of extreme weather events have quadrupled, and sea levels are beginning to rise.
We are literally in a race between tipping points, some happening in nature, some in the realm of politics. How we generate an effective strategy to act decisively and in time is the most urgent question confronting the world today. Brazil has just created a powerful and inspiring political tipping point. If we can get the rest of the world to simply join Brazil, the climate crisis will be essentially solved.
Jim Garrison and Emilia Queiroga, Brazil 2020 Climate Leadership Campaign