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Flávio Bolsonaro, one of  the sons of  Brazil’s president, has written an opinion piece where he denies climate change. Signed with a fellow senator, Márcio Bittar, the text is full of falsehoods and blatant lies. In the following paragraphs we will debunk some of their wild claims. Since they don’t back their statements with any kind of evidence, it  will be their word against science.

“It is known that green ideology has been a haven for leftists of all kinds. There’s a complex tangle of anti-capitalists groups defending irrationality and generating false scientific consensus”

Green politics are, by no means, an exclusivity of the left. The Paris agreement was signed by governments of all stripes, from Venezuela to Saudi Arabia. There is no “false scientific consensus” around climate change, just plain scientific consensus. Scientific organizations around the world and intergovernmental bodies all agree that global warming is real and it is being caused by human action. You can find more information on the NASA website.

“The most famous and refuted [apocalyptic discourse] is that global warming is caused by humans. Others existed: the preservation of the golden lion tamarin [an endemic and endangered primate from Brazil], the destruction of the ozone layer, the end of biodiversity, overpopulation, the Amazon as the lung of the world,  among other repeated lies”

A common strategy to spread fake news is to mix real facts with lies. But this is not the case. Here the authors simply list well established facts and success examples and call them “lies”.

The golden lion tamarin was almost extinct 60 years ago, due to deforestation in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. Since then, a successful conservation campaign has helped the species survived and the number of individuals has substantially increased. If you want to read more about the story of the golden lion tamarin, you can read this study from the University of Utrecht (PDF).

The destruction of the ozone layer is a well documented fact. It was first described in the 70s by Payul Crutzen, Mario Molina and Sherwood Roland, who won the Nobel Prize in 1995 for those findings. The science goes as follows: compounds present in aerosols and refrigerators called chlorofluorocarbon gases, decompose in the stratosphere generating chlorine. Chlorine molecules, in turn, react with ozone molecules, depleting them. This has serious consequences, because ozone molecules absorb ultraviolet radiations from the sun which, among other things, cause cancer. These findings led to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, adopted in 1987 by all UN countries. Since then, ozone levels have been increasing. Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, has described the protocol as “one of the most successful multilateral agreements in history”. You can learn more about ozone depletion in this piece by National Geographic.

The loss of biodiversity is another pressing issue of our time. Many scientific studies show that species extinction rates are higher now than in pre-human stages. Here’s an example from a 2014 study published in Science: “Current rates of extinction are about 1000 times the background rate of extinction [rate before humans]. These are higher than previously estimated and likely still underestimated.”

Overpopulation is also real. The number of humans on Earth increased three times more between 1900 and 2000 than during the rest of the human era. While figures suggest we might be close to reach the peak, human population will continue to grow in the next decades. This has several implications, specially considering that climate change and human population are interrelated and that cities will continue growing at the expense of rural areas. Check out this website for more data and facts about human population.

It may sound like a cliché, but the Amazon forest is the lung of the Earth. Is the largest rainforest in the world. It releases a substantial part of the oxygen we breath and regulates the water cycle in the region

They even say that forests create rains, challenging the well established knowledge of the water cycle: evaporation of the oceans, lakes, rivers (sun heat), condensation (clouds) and precipitation (rains). There are dense forests because there are intense rains

While it is true that rains affect forests, that doesn’t mean that forests don’t affect rains. For example, trees are critical to retain water in the soil. Without trees, rains degrade the soil and water floods off. A study published in Science in 2016 showed that soil moisture affects rain patterns. Another 2017 study published in PNAS shows that water vapor from the trees in the Amazon triggers the rains that initiate the wet season. You can read about this study in this piece called “Trees in the Amazon make their own rain“.

“You only to research to know that humans can change local climate, but not global climate. There were moments in which human production was small and the world was hotter. Despite the increase in CO2 emissions, scientists say, the world is going through a global cooling”

As noted above, there’s a great amount of research indicating that humans are changing the global climate. You can read more about it in this National Geographic story. The five hottest years on record are, in this order, 2016, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2014. There is no evidence to suggest that global cooling is taking place, and facts show exactly the opposite.

“It is well established that the great climate regulators are the sun, the oceans and volcanoes. None of that can even be reached by human action.”

Humans are changing the atmosphere, which in turn has an impact on the sun radiation that reaches the Earth. We are also polluting the oceans and climate change is making it even worse. Volcano eruptions can affect the climate, but the authors are probably exaggerating their importance.

Ignacio Amigo

About Ignacio Amigo