Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

I’m No Scientist, But It’s Sure Hot in Rio

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In last night’s State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke about climate change (among many other things) and challengd climate change skeptics who “try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists.”

“Well, I’m not a scientist, either,” Obama said. “But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.”

The comments come after NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center released its annual State of the Climate report last week, showing 2014 was the hottest on record.

According to the report: “The December 2014 globally-averaged temperature across land and ocean surfaces was 0.77°C (1.39°F) above the 20th century average of 12.2°C (54.0°F), the highest on record for December since records began in 1880, surpassing the previous record set in 2006 by 0.02°C (0.04°F). This is the 10th consecutive month (since March 2014) with a global monthly temperature ranking among the seven highest for its respective month. December also marks the sixth month of 2014 to set a new monthly high temperature record.”

Anyone who has been in southeastern Brazil for the past month can confirm that January will most likely surpass these records. São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, is facing its worst drought in 80 years. A crucial reservoir that provides water to 30 percent of the population is nearly dry. According to the Associated Press, the Canteira water reserve has dropped down to 6 percent of its capacity.

In Rio de Janeiro, the sweltering heat has kept the temperatures in the 90s with a thermal sensation of 100. The weather has led locals and vacationing tourists to pack the city’s famous beaches at all hours of the day and night.

Rolling blackouts have already affected 11 states in Brazil this week, including Rio and São Paulo. A local energy consulting group told The Wall Street Journal that there is a 30 percent chance the Brazilian southeast will be forced to ration energy this year.

Brazilian officials denied this claim, and said there will be no need to ration energy or water.

Critics say that usage restrictions of both utilities should have been enforced in the country’s most populous and industrial region.

Long-awaited rain showers are expected to hit southeastern Brazil later this week. Authorities hope this will help replenish the country’s main hydroelectric power plants, which have been forced to purchase energy from gas-fired ones.

“No challenge—no challenge—poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change,” Obama said Tuesday. “One year doesn’t make a trend, but this does—14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.”


Flora Charner is an AQ contributing blogger and a multimedia journalist based in Rio de Janeiro and New York.

Tags: Brazil, Climate change, heat wave
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