This is a translation of the May 2, 2012 “Programa do Jo” on Globo, a half hour interview with the climate skeptic geographer Ricardo Augusto Felicio on global warming. On YouTube alone, the interview has nearly 700,000 views; in Brazil, Globo is a dominant television network. Original clip here; for a critique of the content, see here.
Tranlated by Beatriz Vianna, a Ph.D. student in biology at West Virginia University who is originally from Brazil.
Jo Soares: Today we are also gonna talk about global warming! With a climatologist who says that global warming is B.S. [Joke that can’t be translated]. I’m gonna talk to Ricardo Felicio…come over here!
Jo Soares: So, you are a professor at the geography department at USP [São Paulo University]. And what do you study specifically–climatology, right?
Ricardo Augusto Felicio: Antarctic climatology, from the Antarctic continent, for 20 years already.
Jo Soares: Only the Antarctic continent?
Ricardo Augusto Felicio: Yeah, that is my area of expertise, but the other ones too…. there is no way to separate it (laughs).
Jo Soares: Of course! And you’ve been in Antarctica a few times…
RAF: Two times already.
JS: What do you think of the global warming theory–that the continent’s [Antarctica’s] ice is melting?
RAF: Yeah, to begin with, this is not even a theory, it is a hypothesis. It does not need scientific proof. There is no scientific proof of global warming. It’s been 26 year–in fact, it’s about 3,000 years this “story” exists. Our researchers from the Climageo team have researched about this information. This has been debated already by the ancient Greeks: “If trees were cut the planet’s climate would change….”
JS: So ancient Greece already talked about that?
RAF: Yes! The Roman senate argued about building, or not, the aqueducts because they would change the climate…and so on. We still have this same old story: “the climate is gonna change…the climate is gonna change…. Men are altering the planet.” No, we don’t alter anything!
JS: Interesting, but there are examples of a civilization, I’m not sure if Inca or Aztec, where they were cutting the forest to use the wood, including burning wood for heat and then when there were only a few trees left, so the forest was extinguished, the civilization started decaying… so isn’t there a relationship there? If you destroy an area, wouldn’t there be consequences?
RAF: No, you have to be really careful with that because those were local actions, not planetary actions…
JS: But isn’t a local action a problem?
RAF: No, a local action is really small. The city of São Paulo makes its microclimate, for example. However, global climate is another thing. So those people’s claim is that “the city alters the planet’s climate, thus the city needs to adapt to the climate change that they [the city] cause themselves”…..so wait, it is a circular argument!
JS: So, does that mean that the water…or the ice is not melting over there?
RAF: No, the ice melts and freezes again. It’s a well-known cycle. Since the end of WWII. First, that war scenario was the polar scenario–we are used to see the world in the spherical plane, and think that the USA is here, Russia is across at the other side and we think that they will kill each other sending missiles across the Atlantic! No, they will attack each other on top of the pole…cause in fact they are very close to each other. So, knowledge about the ice, was a well-known thing during the military age.
The International Geophysical Year from 1957 till 1958–extended until 1959–the first American mission was to cross the pole and actually place a nuclear submarine at the pole. It was the Nautilus submarine that could in ‘57 cross throughout the whole pole, and the Skate submarine that could make a hole in the ice. That means they already knew, exactly where the Arctic openings were located so they could place the war guns over there. So climate and the military have always been “walking together”…
JS: Everything is walking together with the military (laughs). Ok, so how about the sea level, isn’t it getting higher every year?
RAF: No the sea level is still at the same place!
JS: But this “story” is around…
RAF: Yeah, there is this “fairy tale” too: “Oh, the ice caps are melting.” If something was supposed to melt, it should be the Antarctic…in that case, yes, you would have a considerable increase in the sea level! But to melt the Antarctic, let’s face it, you would have to have a temperature of like 20-30°C higher.
JS: Ok, but the measurements of the sea level…is it rising?
RAF: There are small variations. El Nino, for example, which is a natural phenomenon, by itself, causes half a meter variation of the sea level. Then the worst IPCC scenarios are of only 50 cm!
JS: In how long?
RAF: In 100 years!
JS: But isn’t there a measurement made by Captain Cook?
JS: When was it made?
RAF: 1780…I think.
JS: And from that time to now….
RAF: It is at the same place. The sea level is the same.
JS: Oh! I am relieved now (laughs).
RAF: So, there is a funny situation…I went to close my bank account and they asked me “What do you do for work,” and I said, “I am a climatology professor,” and he said “Oh! Is the world going to end?” and I was, “Gee!” So people are in fear that the world is gonna end.
JS: Yeah, Mariana [person in audience]was extremely worried; actually, nowadays she covers all her mirrors so she wouldn’t have to see the reflection of global warming.
RAF: Yeah, global warming became the scapegoat for all the problems of humanity.
JS: Speaking about global warming, how about the…it’s not the polar ice cap…. What is it? How about the greenhouse effect?
RAF: Yeah. This is the worst of all! This is an impossible physics…
JS: Oh! I am so happy today. So the world ending in 2012… never mind, right?
RAF: No way!
JS: So, let’s talk about the greenhouse effect…what is it?
RAF: The greenhouse-effect is the biggest scientific fallacy in history. First, because it is based on a scientific concept that doesn’t exist! Earth has this temperature because of its atmosphere that receives energy from the sun…there is an interaction between sun’s energy and the atmosphere, and based on the gas laws–note, it is not a theory, it is the gas law–pressure, temperature and volume! So because it has an atmosphere it has this temperature!
Ah…. I love this discussion because the aquecimentistas [people that support global warming “theory”] say, “the best example that CO2 can destroy the planet Earth is in Venus!” Then I say, “Oh really?” And they say, “Yes!” Then I say, “Ok, what is the atmospheric pressure of Venus?” They say, “I don’t know.” I say, “Yeah, it is 90 times earth’s atmospheric pressure!” Thus, the temperature over there (in Venus) is 400 degrees at the surface, not because of the CO2 but because of the atmospheric pressure of Venus’s atmosphere.
JS: And Venus also has the “t-shirt” problem right? [“Camisa de Venus,” the old-fashioned Portuguese term for “condom”] So there must be some influence on that (laughs). So, are you saying there is no greenhouse effect?
RAF: No! This physics doesn’t exist!
JS: So, how about New Zealand’s goat farts? Have you heard about it?
JS: It is such huge amounts of fart that it will cause the apocalypse, explode the cap…no, what is the name… explode the famous ozone layer.
RAF: Which it doesn’t exist–the ozone layer is something that doesn’t exist!
JS: It doesn’t exist?
JS: OMG…I am so relieved today!!! So you are saying that the goats can be relaxed…I heard there are some farmers teaching their goats to hold in…They can let it go [the goats can fart]!
RAF: The ozone story known by the serious scientists–not by these ones sold out “white plate” as we say, that work for the government, big companies, etc. [White plates are used by official government cars in Brazil]–serious scientists….the father of this was Dobson, who for the International Geophysical Year went to Antarctica to figure out the ozone variation in the polar ice caps. He already knew that ozone completely disappeared in Antarctica. And from that time till now people purposely left this information out and now say that your deodorant is what is destroying the ozone layer!
JS: Gee, now if I am nearby someone with BO, I won’t feel bad about telling them to put some deodorant on.
RAF: Then what you can see that was happening was the expiration of the CFC patents. So in 1987 the patents start to end–they would become public and you don’t have to pay royalty anymore! The industry that owed these patents came out with a substitute product, called HCFC which is an organo fluoride like any other, but it costs…CFC starts to cost $ 1.38/kg while the HCFC costs $38/kg… but the great advantage is that HCFC does not work in any of the old refrigerators or air conditioners…so everybody had to throw their machines away and buy new ones! Nowadays, the patents expire every 25 years, so now the “new speech” is that they discovered, miraculously, that the HCFC’s are also dangerous to the ozone layer and cause global warming!
JS: Hahaha…what a relief we feel now…
RAF: The best now is the substitute that the companies guarantee that it won’t cause any problems…hum hum…..$128/kg! And it also does not work on older equipment…
JS: So, they always have this trick…
RAF: But if you notice, it is not only changing the refrigerating gas. Whole industrial parks have to be changed because of their central refrigerating system, etc. But if you notice now, all the products are going back to butane again. The CFC came at the end of the ‘40s, ‘50’s, they came to solve the problem with butane gas–highly explosive, factories were exploding–CFC is an inert gas, there is no problem with it! So nowadays we are walking backwards, to the beginning of the 20th century again, just because of a lie saying that CFC destroys the ozone layer.
JS: What is the gas that destroys the ozone layer?
RAF: The hypothesis, it is again a hypothesis that was never proven is that CFCs can destroy the ozone layer. Butane doesn’t!
JS: So butane is duty-free?
RAF: Yeah, butane is ok until they find some problem with it.
JS: There is something that always calls my attention Ricardo, is that every time we see an announcement about a phenomenon, astronomical phenomena like a meteor falling or a geographic or physical phenomenon, it is always like, “The temperature reached these many degrees, and this hasn’t happened since 1920” … “The blizzard that happened this year, wasn’t seen since 1887.” So it is like the previous phenomenon is always worse?
RAF: Yeah…much worse!
JS: So, why make this exaggeration and think that the next catastrophe would be the worst? If this never happens?
RAF: The paleoclimatic data shows much worst things, for example the sea levels rising 50 meters in 100 years–the temperature rose 8 degrees in 50 years! And people talking about a half degree increase in 100 years?! This is a joke! This is a joke!
JS: We already have questions from the audience…
Audience Question 1: You’ve said that global warming doesn’t exist, but like, my Dad and some other older people that I know say that São Paulo, during the ‘60s, ‘70s was known as the “drizzle land” because it was really cold, and nowadays you notice that in the summer is super hot. It is an unbearable heat. Can you explain that to us?
RAF: Yeah, this is the climate’s effect on the local level. This is not a global effect. In the drizzle case for example, we’ve done a scientific study in 2009 – 2010 showing that in the last 3 years, the drizzle came back with the same intensity as it had in the ‘30s-‘40s. So, in fact the drizzle is also a cyclic phenomenon. What is missing nowadays is the observation–we have few observations of the climate phenomena inside the city…in general we also have few observations in…in the 90s, all meteorological stations were closed throughout the whole world. Our own president at that time, Collor de Melo, closed several meteorological stations here in Brazil. So we lack a lot of “in loco” meteorological information. There are measurements, but there is always a problem with it…. methodological or something of the sort.
JS: How about the influence of the deforestation on the global climate?
RAF: It doesn’t exist! Unfortunately it doesn’t.
JS: It doesn’t?!
JS: What about in the local climate?
RAF: More or less. Yeah this is another thing that people don’t know.
JS: So the Amazonia is not the world’s lung?
RAF: No…it never was! (laughs) It never was…this theory already fell down in the ‘80s.
JS: It (the Amazonia) is not even the pleura?
JS: I’m gonna keep the conversation on the next block…
JS: I have here professor [RAF], climatologist, we’ve been talking and we ended the last block talking about the fact that the Amazonia is not the world’s lung! And deforestation has no influence in the climate?
RAF: I have to be careful with this statement because when I say this people can think I’m authorizing to destroy the forest!
JS: No…not at all.
RAF: No, but we have to be careful because this is the excuse that the environmentalists use against people that deny global warming. So they mislead people by saying, “Ah…you see! That guy is authorizing us to destroy the forest!”
JS: No, the Amazon forest is not to be destroyed…in fact I don’t think it is even possible to destroy it….Because a great portion of the forest is planted under water, right?
RAF: Yeah there is 6000 km of this new aquifer they discovered underground…it is bigger than the Guarani aquifer! Recently discovered!
JS: I have no idea of what this is…but it might be extremely important! (laughs) And how about that thing, the raining forest…what is that?
RAF: Yeah, in fact it’s like this…we have to understand that the oceans are what control the planet! And just by chance the continents are around! Three-fourths of the planet’s surface is water, so the biggest part in energy and mass exchange with the atmosphere occurs with the oceans. So sometimes they [the oceans] feel bad about the continents, right, they think, “Oh poor pieces of land…let’s send a little bit of water to them!” And just this “let’s send the little bit of water to them” causes all the disasters we’ve seen.
So the most important water entrance to the continents comes from the tropical area, which are the trade winds–we heard about it in school, studied tons of times! [Inaudible name] was one of the first to study climatology in the 18th -19th century. When he started his studies, he wondered, “How am I gonna study the climate, since the atmosphere is something invisible, highly dynamic.” So he couldn’t do anything. So then he could verify that the vegetation answered to the climate. So then he thought, “huh, interesting this whole region of the planet, with a few exceptions, you have stunning forests–huge, and it is exactly where it rains a lot.” Where you have the principal “thunderstorm cells.” The thunder fixates nitrogen in the rain, and therefore throw that on the surface so there is this whole symbiosis in the atmospheric phenomena. Thus the forests, in fact the technical name of the forests in English is “rain forests” which means forest of rain! Yeah the forest is there because it rains… and not “it rains because there is forest”! Understood?
RAF: So it means that if you cut …let’s have a hypothetical situation, since they love to do that–let’s do it too! Let’s say we take the whole Amazonia from where it is….we took it all! 20 years later, everything will be growing again!
JS: [Sad face] But it takes 20 years….
RA: Yeah, this is nothing in the planet’s history!
JS: Yeah…that is nothing! Who wanted to ask a question?
Audience Question 2: Can you hear me over there? [laugh] I’m a student at USP and I would like to know about the Rio+ 20, that is coming over here to discuss about sustainability. If the eutrophic reaction [reação eutrofica] has almost nothing to do with global warming, the hole in the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect…so what are they gonna discuss at the Rio+20?
RAF: They will discuss how to maintain their colonies in the leash! Ok, let’s see, 1492…they got here and convinced us that we needed mirrors to survive! 1992, 500 years later exactly, they come with the Rio “history,” all that stuff… the world is ending… so forth! There are some precedent facts on that, in 1980 it started with the ozone layer “fairy tale”…1987 it is formed the first intergovernmental panel (IOTP) for the ozone layer…’87!
In ’88, the IPCC which is the climate changes panel…’89 the fall of the Berlin Wall! So you might think, what does this have to do with anything….everything! It is the capitalist system expanding itself…and when you had that, half of the scientists of the world worked for the Cold War, so the easy life was over [acabou a mamata]! If you background check, the scientists that work for global warming today are the same ones that worked for all the atomic disasters, etc! So, what did these scientists do? Computer scenarios/predictions, programming and predicting: “Look, if you throw a nuclear bomb here…this happens!” So they just changed something called Thermonuclear Global War to Global Warming!
JS: Someone else has a question…
Audience Question 3: He was talking about the sea level and it can be noticed, not throughout the whole coast, but in some places, that whomever lived there does not live there anymore–some roads don’t exist anymore, and it is not like it comes back, the sea took over. Is seems like the seashore is moving inland… so why is that?
RAF: This is a phenomenon already studied in geomorphology called agradacao e degradacao. We use the word “degradation” thinking, oh we are destroying the planet! But no, the planet moves itself! It changes its shape, so the sea also has this process of agradacao [form/makes beaches] and degradacao [take existing beaches away]. This is another natural process.
JS: And how about when there is an aterro [artificial land bridge that links two islands]. Does that water leaks somewhere else?
JS: What happened… Alex… was it you? What is going on over there?
Alex: Nothing over here Mr. Jo… maybe it was back there! (Laughs)
JS: It’s kindda late… he is packing his things to leave… I already told you to not do that.
Alex: I am paying attention…
JS: Anyways, sorry… This scenario I made here, which is completely childish, when you make an aterro, doesn’t the sea expand in another direction, in another place?
RAF: The area size is tiny..
JS: There is no effect?
JS: Now I am here with Juca de Oliveira with a fascinating theory, let’s see what Dr. Ricardo will say…
Juca de Oliveira: Ricardo, the big oil exploitation under the sea–the “pre-salt” is made though the draining of the sea water, salt water to bring up the petroleum which is lighter. The petroleum is the perfect thermal insulation while the salt water, on the other hand, is the perfect thermal conductor, so of course the heat from earth’s inner core goes up through the rocks, heats up everything and causes the huge landslides and enormous tsunamis that will cause the coastal cities to disappear…Isn’t this procedure (pre-salt) a stupidity? Actually, since you are against the Brazilian Forest Code…are you at the side of the “bancada ruralista” [group in parliament supporting rural interests]?
JS: (laughs) Ah Ricardo, start answering from the last question…
RAF: First of all, I am not against the Brazilian Forest Code…I don’t mess with that… and secondly I have nothing to do with the bancada ruralista! So I have no idea of where he got this information about me.
JS: I think that was a small provocation …but what about the other theory?
RAF: Well, that one I have no knowledge about to say anything, you would have to ask a…
JS: [Interrupts] But is it possible?
RAF: No…99% on Earth’s energy comes from the Sun. 99…99.999% actually, the geothermal is insignificant in reference to the geographical state [unclear what he is saying]…
JS: Yeah, but I mean, locally, couldn’t…
RAF: No. The Sun for example is a constant–Galileo, for example, was almost burned alive because he found spots in the Sun. The Sun has its cycle, the most important is the one of 11 years, in 11 years the activity increases and decreases, something like 4 years with increased activity and 7 years with decreasing. And there are other cycles…one of 90 years….some of 200! Now, for example, we are reaching a more quiet period that will go until 2046, so if you are thinking that we will have global warming…no! In fact we will have a cooling, which has been happening since 2008.
JS: What? The cooling down?
RAF: Yeah…the temperatures are in fact decreasing.
JS: And the sun has a major influence on our climate.
RAF: Totally…100%. Then you have the moon, a little bit of Jupiter, a little bit of Saturn influencing the gravitational fields but the rest will be the sun in the first scale, the second scale are the volcanoes and oceans in the third scale.
JS: The volcanoes! So it doesn’t relate a little but with Juca’s theory? That the warming of that salt water, which is in general a great conductor? To heat up, heat up then cause a tsunami?
RAF: The volcanoes have an opposite effect, there is a negative response. The volcanoes throw their volcanic ashes in the stratosphere, which is the second main layer of the atmosphere, then the coverage doesn’t allow the sun’s energy to reach the surface. So in general, intense volcanic activities will lead to a colder summer and winter. It was a big deal in Krakatoa, they had no summer the year after the volcanic activity, because of all the volcanic ashes released to the stratosphere.
JS: You see…thank God we don’t have over here regions with great volcanoes!
RAF: But it doesn’t matter where they are. The Chile volcano now, at the end of the year entered in volcanic eruption and affected even over here, in the states over the south.
JS: What about El Nino, you talked about earlier …
RAF: Yeah, the El Nino is a very interesting phenomenon; totally unknown, very complicated…it’s a phenomenon of high frequency, sometimes it lasts 4-5 months, then it disappears for 15 months. It is polarized…there is the El Nino and La Nina, sometimes we are in the intermediate state.
JS: La Nina too?
RAF: There is La Nina too. And they are also related to another phenomenon called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation…this is a longer phenomenon. And it was discovered by mistake while someone was fishing over the Pacific, and the fish disappeared for a while, then, suddenly there was a lot of fish. So they noticed that that was related to the temperature of the ocean’s surface. So the Pacific has a polarity… colder/hotter, very close to the Sun’s oscillation. It had to be right? We always forget that the Pacific is 1/3 of the Earth’s size. A third of Earth’s size is the Pacific!
JS: Well. I think we will either sleep better, or worse, after this talk with RA. Professor, thank you very much for your attendance here and thanks to everyone!