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The climate crisis and science (which is not neutral)

Eduardo Giesen A.

Ph: Cícero Pedrosa Neto. Amazonia Real

History repeats itself once again: the sixth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - like the previous ones - shows, with more and better data, the human responsibility for climate change, which is increasingly serious and irreversible. But - except for the climate - nothing changes in a substantial way.

Science has done invaluable work in diagnosing the crisis and predicting collapse. However, it has not lived up to the demands of this seriousness when it comes to deepening this diagnosis, particularly in the identification of the structural causes and responsibilities that originate the climate crisis.

At this point, it is clearly insufficient to stay in scientific studies that confirm the anthropogenic nature of climate change or determine responsibilities for generic sectors of economic activity, regions or countries of the world, without daring to indicate which political or corporate actors, which public policies or business practices are those that, directly or indirectly, isolated or combined, have caused and deepened the global crisis. By the way, this requires a qualitative leap in interdisciplinarity, which science has already made in many areas and at different territorial scales of research, as well as high degrees of political autonomy on the part of research centers and teams.

Not putting the scientific focus on this identification of responsibilities has been key in the fact that not only has climate change not been effectively addressed, but that it has progressively intensified, up to the current catastrophic limits.

Academia tends to keep its distance from the highly politicized and anti-systemic discourse of climate justice movements (“Change the system, NOT the climate”), but, even when it establishes a horizon of action of decades to face the climate crisis, it seems to assume that the dominant economic system and its doctrinal assumptions (private profitability, economic growth, free market, state subsidiarity) are part of the "base line" or - worse - of the "unquestionable nature" of the planet. In this way, not only does it not consider these assumptions as part of the problem, but they are also recognized as conditions for the solutions of the same crisis, which in this way remain in the hands of the same predominant actors of the system itself (economic powers, multinational corporations, higher fortunes, international financial institutions).

No one could pretend - both for the infeasible and for the ineffectual - that official science makes a comprehensive analysis and reaches a lapidary conclusion about the responsibility and impacts of the capitalist, neoliberal and/or extractivist system with respect to the climate crisis, but it is inexcusable that it does not investigate central aspects of this model. For instance:

• What is the quantitative and qualitative analysis that official science has made regarding the responsibility of free trade agreements and policies on climate change, both in terms of emissions and the vulnerability of territories?

• Why are the countries' emission reduction commitments made with respect to the emissions curve associated with expected economic growth? What is the scientific hypothesis behind this criterion?

• What is the scientific evidence of the effectiveness of carbon markets in mitigating climate change, expressed in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and concentrations, and of their priority with respect to a regulatory approach with state support? ?

• Climate justice movements have emphasized that alternatives must be based on the sovereignty of peoples and territories. Has official science studied the difference - in terms of their climatic impacts - between agri-food systems based on peasant agriculture and agroecology and those based on export agribusiness and large-scale monocultures; or between energy systems based on mega-renewable energy plants and those based on community-scale micro-grids?

• Why doesn't science investigate and report in a comprehensive and integrated way the impacts of possible solutions? For example, tree plantations -as we well know in Chile- in addition to their mitigation potential as carbon sinks, have serious environmental impacts associated with soil deterioration (erosion, acidification), pollution and high water consumption -in areas hit by drought-, thereby increasing climate vulnerability; cultural and political impacts, since they have spread over the ancestral territories of the Mapuche people; and social impacts, constituting areas of high concentration of poverty. All these impacts, combined with those of other links in the forest production cycle (pulp mills and bioenergy) can be found separately in different and multiple scientific investigations.

Beyond the scientists paid in past decades by the oil industry, climate change is the great global phenomenon that attracts all branches of science and shows that it is not and cannot be neutral. It always responds to objectives and interests, powerful or weak, public or private, legitimate or not. And, clearly, science that works under the umbrella of the United Nations system - progressively co-opted by the interests of large multinational corporations - is no exception. We will see how the history of the climate COPs (conferences of the parties) continues to be repeated in Glasgow this November, with speeches and agreements that do not go beyond declarations of goodwill and are finally expressed in national and international policies that strengthen the system and the powers that have generated the planetary crisis.

Today, the hope of curbing climate change or at least reducing its global impact, considering its synergistic effects with the set of social and environmental evils generated by the unsustainable model of extraction, production, consumption and material and economic accumulation, is mainly rooted in the actions that are promoted from the territories by social movements and their international articulations, to influence the real and deep transformations that the survival and recovery of life on the planet requires.

And for this, a science truly committed to sustainability and socio-environmental justice is essential.