Rhein on Energy and Climate

In 2009 Antonio Sobre, one of Brazil’s leading climate scientists, warned his citizens that if the country did not stop deforestation it would experience a catastrophe in five years. Five years later, in October 2014, the centre and south-east of the country is experiencing its worst drought since 50 years. Sao Paulo, with 12 million people the biggest cities of the Americas, is running short of drinking water, one oft its main water reservoirs having only five per cent of its capacity left.

The drought will have a negative impact on agriculture, energy and economic development. The coffee and sugar harvests will decline while prices are bound to soar.

It is absolutely home-made, deforestation being the major cause.

Despite all warnings, Brazil has cut 22 per cent of the Amazon forest, even 90 per cent of the Atlantic region, overlooking the vital functions it fulfils for the country in terms of humidity, water supply and agriculture.

It serves a huge hydrological pump for the country, especially the southern agricultural parts no longer covered by forests: 20 billion tons of vapour are daily being generated by the forest trees, which,after moving into the sky, are blown westward, blocked by the Andean mountains to be diverted south where they pour down in form of rain.

The 2014 drought demonstrates the fragility of this millennium-old system.

Brazil has therefore not one day to lose before taking action to contain further deforestation for logging and agricultural land. It must be the top priority for the next government.

Deforestation must also be a priority for the 2015 Climate Conference. What is happening in Brazil today is bound to happen in other countries tropical rainforests, from Indonesia to Congo and Gabon.

The international community must therefore decide to put an end to deforestation without further delay. This is no longer a matter of individual countries, no more than carbon dioxide emissions from China, Europe or USA.

The world expects actions from Paris in December 2015.The major countries responsible for climate change must finally put their signature to a text that must be prepared long before.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 15/10/2014

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