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The debate has been partially interdicted with regard to the phenomenon of climate change. Even those who disagree with the Oxford decarbonization study should say: welcome to the contradictory in the scientific process.


Carlos de Mathias Martins, Chief Executive Officer of BlockC


In the Italian-Romanic dialect practiced in the Bologna region of Italy, the term “umarell” is used to describe recently retired male citizens who spend the day observing the progress of civil construction works, such as the paving of streets and potholes. . The typical umarell is always well dressed and holds his hands behind his back as a sign of respect for construction site workers. The typical umarell is also known for hunching over the quality of the cement, the sand mix, the concrete mixer wheel, the foreman's helmet… the umarell has an opinion on everything and everyone when it comes to paving a hole.

In April of this year, the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, at the University of Oxford, England, had its umarell moment by publishing a study on the decarbonization of the global energy matrix with uplifting predictions about the renewable energy industry.

Not satisfied with speculating on climate change, the document's authors, mostly Oxonians, also ventured to comment on complex issues such as gender equity, social justice, combating covid-19 and, to no one's surprise, refusing nuclear power generation . Finally, the study describes a scenario called "decisive transition" that considers the accelerated penetration of renewable sources in the global energy matrix in substitution to fossil fuels.

The authors' central thesis establishes that technological advances will lead to a precipitous drop in the costs of generating solar and wind energy and storing energy in batteries and hydrogen. According to the authors, the analysis models of the IPCC (UN climate change panel) and the IEA (international energy agency) fail to capture the virtuous cycle caused by the electrification of the global energy matrix and, consequently, the increased demand for electricity which – according to the study – will be supplied by renewable energy that is increasingly cheaper.

“Fighting the climate emergency cannot be left to the next generation of scientists.”

Brandolini's Law

The decarbonization scenario proposed in the Oxford study is quite bold and the authors seem pretty sure to refute the reports published by the IPCC and the IEA, but according to the late writer Christopher Hitchens, one of the most famous Oxonians of my generation, the The burden of proof on the veracity of an allegation rests with the person making the allegation.

In other words, it is not the responsibility of the IPCC, nor the IEA, to refute the theses of the Oxford study. Even because, according to Brandolini's Law, it is much more difficult to refute a nonsense than to produce it and, therefore, the world is still full of nonsense that has never been refuted. Don't get me wrong. I have no way of evaluating the models proposed by the Oxford study and, therefore, it would be reckless of me to refute them.

It is a fact, however, that the University of Oxford lost much of its prestige by denying an honorary title to Margaret Thatcher, the most famous post-war Oxonian and the first relevant mandate to warn humanity about global warming. The shame does not stop there, as the same university gave such a nickname to former US President Bill Clinton that he was notorious for uttering foolishness difficult to refute such as smoking without inhaling. But I digress.

from funeral to funeral

Anyway, my article is not against Oxford researchers or in favor of the IPCC, but in defense of the contradictory in the scientific process. And obviously the comparison of Uncle Umarell with the Oxford researchers is hyperbole. My purpose in this article is to draw attention to a dilemma that plagues me. In several respects, I observe the scientific debate partially interdicted with regard to the phenomenon of climate change.

And this impasse is not due to the recent polarization of humanity. At the beginning of the last century, the German Max Planck, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1918, attributed the progress of science to new generations of scientists who would be inclined to refute established scientific truths. According to Planck, science advances from funeral to funeral. Dealing with the climate emergency cannot be left to the next generation of scientists. If it's up to me, strength to all of Oxford's umrell!

*Text originally published in MIT Sloan Management Review Brazil