Just three months ago, President Rousseff of Brazil told the UN “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our times,” but in a rare example of realism winning out over political correctness, she has now appointed a climate change realist to her cabinet as Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation.
Aldo Rebelo, a long term member of the communist party, has built a reputation for himself as a sceptic of the global warming mantra. During a cold spell in Sao Paulo in 2011 he mocked global warming and showed his support for the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, tweeting “Hello, Sao Paulo, cold in here, huh? Where are the advocates of global warming now? In the shops, buying the last heater … Electric! Long live Belo Monte!”
More recently he was able to be more comprehensive in his criticism of climate change theory during a letter he wrote to Márcio Santilli, policy director for the Brazilian NGO Instituto Socioambiental, in response to Santilli’s critique of his proposed revision to Brazil’s Forest Code.
Mid way through the letter, penned in July 2014 he wrote in Portugese: “The positivist scientism that you call natural science and contrast with my devotion to dialectical materialism is not magical enough to convert me to the article of faith that is the theory of global warming, which is incompatible with current knowledge.
“Science is not an oracle. In fact, there is no scientific proof of the projections of global warming, much less that it is occurring because of human action and not because of natural phenomena. It is a construct based on computer simulations.
“In fact, my tradition links me to a line of scientific thought that prioritizes doubt over certainty and does not silence a question at the first response. Parallel to the extraordinary advances and conquests that Science has bequeathed to the progress of Humanity, come innumerable errors, frauds or manipulations always spun in the service of countries that finance certain research projects or projections.
“I am curious to know whether those who today accept the theory of global warming and its alleged anthropogenic causes as unshakeable dogma, are the same ones who some years ago announced, with identical divine certainty, global cooling.”
His appointment has attracted the ire of environmental NGOs, such as the Environmental Defence Fund. In a blog discussing Rebelo, Steve Shwartzman, Director, Tropical Forest Policy for the EDF wrote: “What’s really sad about this choice, though, isn’t just that Rebelo is clearly out of touch with modern science – and indeed the numerous world-class scientists of the Brazilian National Academy and Society for the Advancement of Science – on climate change. It’s also that it completely unnecessarily makes Brazil look really provincial and silly on the world stage.”
Also appointed to Rousseff’s cabinet is Katia Abreu, who takes up position as Minister of Agriculture. Abreu has been nicknamed the “chainsaw queen” thanks to her vociferous championing of landowners and ranchers rights. Her vision is to make Brazil a major agricultural player on the world stage whilst at the same time protecting the rainforest.
“We have all the essential elements: abundant water, advanced technology and plenty of land for production. Based on this, we can become number one without cutting down trees,” she told the Guardian earlier this year.
Her appointment too has drawn criticism from environmentalists. Greenpeace has put out a statement headed “Miss Deforestation is the new agricultural minister,” in which they say: “By choosing Katiá Abreu, the president has confirmed that the path the government will take in the coming years will put agribusiness above the environment.”
But the attack is likely to flow like water off a duck’s back. As she told the Guardian: “Criticism from radical environmentalists is the best form of endorsement. It gives me satisfaction. It shows I am on the right track and playing the right role.”