TED Talks: Five climate change lessons from the Amazon

A new TED Talk just released (above) brings us the story of Brazil’s fight against deforestation, and shows us how the lessons learned can be applied to global climate change mitigation. Filmed late last year, the talk is presented by Tasso Azevedo, the man responsible for spearheading Brazil’s anti-deforestation operations, who now works internationally on global climate change and reforestation efforts.

Azevedo speaks effortlessly and with passion about the journey of discovery and growth that Brazil has enjoyed – from its exploration by the Portuguese 500 years ago, to the now improved state of the Brazilian rainforests, which has seen a 75% decrease in deforestation activity over the last ten years. He speaks about the wonders of the unique tropical forest ecosystem and how it fits into the global forest ecosystem. Did you know that the world has about 4 billion hectares of forest (about the land mass of the US, Canada, Brazil and China combined)? We have lost 2 billion hectares in the last 100 years, compared to losing 6 billion hectares in the last 2000 years. Azevedo uses this statistic to show us the real destructive effects of our modern world on the environment.

The presenter’s dissection of the Brazilian Rainforest (in particular, the Amazon) is fascinating; what is even more astounding is that the growth of the Brazilian economy seemed to be inversely proportionate to deforestation efforts. Whilst it could be seen as a tenuous link, it is hard to separate the fact that during the ten years that Brazil oversaw a 75% decline in deforestation, the economy’s growth rates doubled on those from the previous decade. Brazil’s next step is to reach 0% deforestation by 2020. Furthermore the remarkable efforts of the Brazilian government show that it is possible for a government to make huge progress on environmental issues despite the fear of damaging economic growth. When looking at this effort and definitive action, it is hard not to compare it to the Australian government’s inaction over its own climate change and energy policies/targets. Brazil (our peer in many ways, as discussed last week) has achieved so much, and will continue to impact the global community as one of the four developing giants (BRIC Countries); Australia on the other has the potential to become a real environmental, climate change and renewable energy leader, yet it is stifled by indecision, corporate influence and political machinations.

Lastly, Azevedo brings us lessons from his experience – five things that can help to shape the way we approach climate change, looking ahead to 2020:


  1. Disconnect development from carbon emissions.
  2. Move incentives from fossil fuels to clean energy.
  3. Improve measurement and transparency of carbon emissions and emitters.
  4. Leapfrog routes of development.
  5. Share responsibility for action across government, business and civil society.


Watch the TED Talk to get a better understanding of these five steps, and once you have, have a think how these could be used to effect real change in our Australian environment. Germany’s economic development is predominantly run on clean energy; Spain’s renewables market is heavily incentivised (perhaps too much though!); Universities, faith groups and local governments are naming and divesting interests away from heavy carbon emitters; India is already beginning to leapfrog development (by switching to solar energy in its future infrastructure developments); and the United Nations is working with governments, global corporations and social movements towards the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, where hopefully decisions will be made to set us on a cleaner path.

Enjoy Azevedo’s talk and maybe you can take away some of his lessons to apply to your own life. Happy watching!

One thought on “TED Talks: Five climate change lessons from the Amazon”

  1. Very interesting. As Brazil develops economically, the world would be carefully watching its environmental policies, and the tangible results it would have obtained. An exciting case study indeed.

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