Diversity of climate research
July 12, 2017
By Maria Fernanda Ziegler and Elton Alisson | Agência FAPESP –The annual meeting of FAPESP’s Research Program on Global Climate Change (RPGCC) was held on June 19-20, 2017, with more than 40 presentations on research projects.
Scientists from several institutions in Brazil attended the meeting at FAPESP’s auditorium in São Paulo City, Brazil, to discuss the latest research findings. The program is interdisciplinary and encompasses all major Brazilian biomes, from the Pantanal and Cerrado to the Atlantic Rainforest and the Amazon.
“It’s a wide-ranging program that covers climate sciences, energy, agriculture, social sciences, applied social sciences and economics,” said Gilberto Jannuzzi, a member of RPGCC’s steering committee.
Since the program’s inception, 91 research projects supported by grants from FAPESP have been completed, and 47 are still in progress. The program has also awarded 226 scholarships to researchers in Brazil, 51 of which are ongoing, and 25 scholarships to researchers abroad.
“FAPESP has increasingly prioritized excellence in interdisciplinary programs such as this one on climate change,” said Gilberto Câmara, another steering committee member.
The climate change program supports research conducted in Brazil by large multidisciplinary teams on local, regional and global scales. The research findings contribute to science-based decision making for risk assessment, mitigation and adaptation strategies.
An example is the scientific support provided by the program on international agreements, such as the 2015 Paris accord signed at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21).
“The Paris accord was constructed from the bottom up and attests to the vigor of the environmental movement in each country. Countries were able to formulate useful commitments. Brazil committed to reducing emissions quantitatively and has an action plan. The function of governments in these international conventions, such as the one that gave rise to the Paris accord, is to agree on what they’re going to do, which is also the focus of what we’re discussing here,” said José Goldemberg, President of FAPESP, in his opening remarks at the event.
Social and environmental issues in the Amazon
Social issues in the Amazon forest are the focus of several studies linked to FAPESP’s climate change program. Emílio Moran, a visiting professor at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), spoke at the meeting about the social and environmental impacts of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam under construction near the city of Altamira in Pará State.
“The electric power industry continues to display a culture of crisis that fails to respect the duty to consult the population,” Moran said. “The Belo Monte development is one of the most emblematic cases.” The research project conducted by Moran with FAPESP’s support is scheduled to continue until August 2018.
Additionally, a study led by Paulo Artaxo, a professor at the University of São Paulo (USP), seeks to understand how urban pollution from the city of Manaus, with 2 million inhabitants, influences climate processes in the tropical forest biome of the Amazon.
Another project led by Jeffrey E. Richey, who is affiliated with the University of Washington and the University of São Paulo (USP), is investigating the influence of tidal dynamics in the lower Amazon River and how organic matter is associated with carbon concentrations and emissions.
Other projects have focused on the implementation of measures to adapt to climate change in cities such as São Paulo. This topic that has become increasingly significant in recent years, as Goldemberg stressed. “Adaptive measures are becoming popular, and more and more people are getting interested in this topic,” he said.
One of the projects presented at the meeting is being conducted by a group at the Environmental Comfort & Energy Efficiency Laboratory (Labaut) associated with the University of São Paulo’s School of Architecture & Urbanism (FAU-USP).
The project seeks to quantify the impacts of urban densification and urban surfaces on the microclimate and thermal comfort in open spaces and residential buildings in São Paulo during heat waves and under projected climate change scenarios.
The researchers plan to offer the results of the project as input for public policymaking and expect the research to translate into social and environmental benefits for the city’s inhabitants.
“We’re interested in examining the roles of planning, urban design and construction in the context of urban warming, both during the day and at night, so that land tenure and use can be incorporated into climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in urban areas,” said Denise Helena Silva Duarte, a professor at FAU-USP and principal investigator for the project.
Another project conducted by researchers at FAU-USP’s Labverde seeks to create a “green infrastructure” in São Paulo City to lower the temperature of heat islands and adapt to climate change.
In an area of some 154 square kilometers between Serra da Cantareira and the Pinheiros River, the researchers plan to create green corridors near roads along valley bottoms. “The idea is to plant trees in these areas, introduce green roofs and other green surfaces, and manage water resources. We will then evaluate whether this strategy can reduce citywide temperatures and generally improve thermal comfort and well-being,” said Maria de Assunção Ribeiro Franco, a professor at FAU-USP and principal investigator for the project.
São Paulo City’s temperature resilience is low, according to Paulo Saldiva, a professor at the University of São Paulo’s Medical School (FM-USP). The number of deaths rises after a very cool or very warm day, he said. The temperature with the lowest impact on mortality is approximately 20 °C.
“Any factor that raises mortality at these levels in a city with 160 deaths per day on average is very important,” he added.
Saldiva collaborated with colleagues in ten countries to calculate mortality attributable to cold and hot temperatures – defined as temperatures below and above the “optimum”– in 384 cities around the world, including São Paulo.
The results of the study, which were published in 2015 in The Lancet, showed Stockholm, Sweden, and Toronto, Canada, as the most temperature-resilient cities.
“Temperatures in these cities can reach 30 °C without causing deaths because they were built to withstand climate change,” Saldiva said.
“Every city has its thermal comfort zone. In general, however, mortality associated with climate change correlates with age groups in the population and building standards in cities.”
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