Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Coldest Weather in Decades Hits Brazil — Climate Change Is to Blame

This month, on the heels of the country’s worst drought in a century, Brazil has experienced historic cold weather. The effects on agriculture could have negative consequences across the world.

Otto Fors

July 30, 2021
Facebook Twitter Share

An intense cold front is sweeping Brazil, causing record-breaking freezing temperatures and snowfall. This extraordinary weather results from one of the most intense polar air masses to ever strike the country, a clear consequence of climate change. As the planet warms and causes the jet stream to weaken, freezing Arctic air can escape to lower latitudes. These anomalous conditions are wreaking havoc in the agricultural areas of central and southern Brazil, and they could have negative effects for Brazilians and people across the world who depend on the country’s crops.

At least 13 cities in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul saw snowfall this week. One city saw 50 mph (80 kph) winds. As a result, wind-chill or real-feel temperatures were as low as -4°F (-20°C). These conditions can lead to frostbite after prolonged exposure, and they could spell disaster for the millions of poor in Brazil who live in precarious housing or on the street. Over 13 million Brazilians live in extreme poverty, a number that has been steadily increasing since 2014 and exploded under the government of Jair Bolsonaro, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

But this month’s frigid conditions are not the only devastating weather that Brazil has experienced in 2021. In the first half of the year, the country saw its worst drought in nearly a century, increasing the risk for wildfires and harming the production of coffee, sugar, oranges, and corn. The drought also depleted reservoirs, straining water supplies for irrigation.

The combination of drought and frost has been disastrous for Brazilian agriculture. Farmers were relying on favorable weather conditions to make up for the depleted stockpiles caused by the drought. While the full extent of the frost damage will not be known for months, some states have cut their projected corn output by up to 40 percent, and their coffee output by over 10 percent. This is terrible for Brazilian farmers who rely on these crops for their livelihoods. Some are expecting to lose up to two-thirds of their harvests in 2022.

You might be interested in: How Bad Will It Get? Climate Catastrophe and Capitalism

Because agriculture has become highly concentrated and globalized, disruptions like those that Brazil is experiencing will have repercussions for the rest of the world, particularly for the Global South. Poorer countries in particular bear the brunt of shortages and soaring food prices. Agnes Kalibata, UN special envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit, notes that “things that are happening in one part of the world end up impacting all of us. … Some communities are already living through the nightmares of climate change.”The devastating weather in Brazil comes on the heels of other extreme conditions across the world, including droughts in Madagascar, Iran, and other countries; extreme heat and wildfires on the U.S. and Canadian West Coast; and flooding across the world in places like Germany, India, and New York. These extreme weather events result from the climate emergency caused by capitalism, a system that requires infinite resource extraction regardless of the havoc it wreaks on the global ecosystem. Thus the fight against the climate crisis must be anti-capitalist.

Facebook Twitter Share

Otto Fors

Otto is a college professor in the New York area.

Latin America

Under Xiomara Castro’s Government, the Garífunas in Honduras Still Await Answers in the Struggle for Their Land

The Garífunas in Honduras persist in their struggle for their ancestral lands, while eviction attempts and threats against their leaders continue. Almost 10 months into Xiomara Castro’s administration, her campaign promises to the Garífuna communities remain unfulfilled.

Marisela Trevin

November 19, 2022
Argentina's Party of Socialist Workers (PTS) holds an assembly for workers to discuss working-class solutions to Argentina's crisses.

Thousands of Workers and Young People Participate in Socialist-led Assemblies across Argentina

Last weekend, the Party for Socialist Workers (PTS) in Argentina held over 100 democratic and open assemblies in cities and towns across the country to debate the inflationary crisis, government’s the austerity program, and a working-class solution.

Robert Belano

November 15, 2022
Jair Bolsonaro pictured on election day. Wearing a yellow Brazil shirt and smiling.

Bolsonarism Will Not Be Defeated in Brazil without Organizing Independently of the Lula Government

Lula won by a narrow margin in yesterday’s elections in Brazil, but his government is unwilling to truly challenge the Right’s advance. A Brazilian socialist describes the fight ahead for the country's workers and Left.

André Barbieri

October 31, 2022

Fascism or Bonapartism? Lessons from Trotsky for Understanding Brazil Under Bolsonaro

Is genuine fascism rising in Brazil? How should the working class respond if so? Marxism helps us to characterize the Bolsonaro government and spells out the method for confronting the extreme Right.

André Barbieri

October 29, 2022

MOST RECENT

Sorry Jacobin, But Crushing Rail Workers’ Right to Strike Is Not Progressive

Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic is applauding progressive Democrats like AOC and Jamaal Bowman for their vote to force rail workers to accept a contract they explicitly rejected on terms that are not even close to their original demands.

James Dennis Hoff

December 1, 2022

Biden, Congress, and the Squad Just Voted to Block a Rail Strike. Workers Should be the Ones Who Decide

The Biden administration called on Congress to undemocratically impose a contract on rail workers across the country and avert a nationwide rail strike. The deal has already passed the House with unanimous support from Democrats. This latest maneuver by a “proud pro-labor President” shows that there is no such thing: the state acts in favor of the bosses to protect their profits.

Madeleine Freeman

November 30, 2022

“Grueling Working Conditions and Low Wages”: A Testimonial from a UPS Warehouse Worker

Workers in UPS warehouses are among the most precarious workers in the logistics industry. As the 2023 Teamsters contract negotiations approaches, a UPS warehouse worker speaks out about his working conditions and calls for unity in struggle among UPS drivers and warehouse workers.

Nehuen Latif

November 30, 2022
The U.S. Congress building

Senate Votes to Overturn Covid-19 National Emergency

Just over a week after the “election to save democracy,” Senate Democrats voted with Republicans to end the Covid-19 Emergency Declaration three years after it was invoked. Both parties show us time and time again that the working class needs its own party.

Mike Pappas

November 29, 2022