Legal auditing and natural or provoked catastrophes

Jayme Vita Roso*


Introduction to the theme

1. The legal auditor was consulted and, after exhaustive meetings, was hired by his client (a tour operator) to produce a report on possible insurance coverage against risks for the users of the services of such tour operator, which operates to a large extent in the Caribbean, Latin America and in western Africa, all the way to the Suez Canal (eastern coast).

This was an arduous task, given that the legal auditor’s responsibility would require of him not only to compile, in loco, climactic and related information, but also to investigate other possible or probable calamities that could occur, frequently, as a result of continuously successive catastrophic events, and investigate, further, the general preservation of the environment, environmental legislation and the interest of public authorities in preventing misadventures, all the more so because the locations at issue are considered to be “centers of tourism”.

Tirelessly, the auditor made what visits he deemed necessary - not to all the countries, obviously, given that a sample thereof would reveal the events by analogy – in order that he might be in a position to orient his client in its choice of insurance carrier that could provide - to the extent possible, but not necessarily desirable – a guarantee of coverage. As a matter of fact, it was no less toilsome coming to grips with the insurance mechanisms and the intricate contracts where generally little is covered and everything is an excuse not to comply with that which has been contracted.

2. The sphere of this brief essay covers the measures and the precautions that the legal auditor must seek to take having been given a task of this nature and declared purpose and having accepted it. Such acceptance, once manifested, should always be done in writing, setting forth in detailed fashion all the obligations and encumbrances relative thereto.

And, accordingly, the legal auditor elected and contracted an environmental engineer, Ana Paula Del Ducca, a recent graduate from a university in the state of Minas Gerais. She was young and intellectual with an ample and holistic vision, and was committed to the environmental cause as a vocation. Since her work as provider of support to the legal auditor would not remain confidential, but would require to be as wide-ranging as it was synthetic, and as her treatment of the theme would be addressed to an audience that is almost always accustomed to reading conclusions of reports well in excess of ten pages long, extreme care was taken in the writing of her report. And this she did, within the stipulated requirements. And it was included in the legal auditor’s conclusive opinion, and was kindly allowed to be made part of this essay (Exhibit A).

3. The legal auditor did more. Sergio Ruy Barroso de Mello, a talented lawyer specialized in insurance, was hired to guide the legal auditor through the meanderings of this labyrinth. He showed me an essay of his authorship, called La problematica ambiental en el tercer milenio y la extensión del riesgo frente a la modernización del contrato de seguro, en la legislación brasileña[1], which was presented in 2000 at the XXXVI Conference of the Inter-American Federation of Lawyers. This essay highlights the valuable distinctions that he made between pollution, environmental damage and crimes, and, in turn, contamination, which can be understood as a general category that is divided into three elements: (a) contamination in the strictest of senses; (b) damage to the environment and (c) crime against the environment. Although there are natural differences and similarities between these elements - each one in itself - the result is that environmental law gives support to insurance law in defining liability as the consequence of a process that should be capable, preventively, of providing relief for the environment, not just acting upon the consequences or the results.

4. All to the good. With solid arguments, Sérgio Ruy Barroso de Mello provided good service to the legal auditor by making him conveniently aware of objective liability when assessing the obligation to indemnify, even when no blame is attached; of how the loss, when serious and periodic, generates that obligation to indemnify; of how the relation of causality, beyond the existence of loss, is what links the fact that occurred to the source of contamination; of the increase in the protection of diffuse rights as concerns the environment and, as could not be otherwise, of the elegant legal theme: “Environmental damage and environmental insurance", with a limit on the obligation to repair the damage set forth in the contract. As a conclusion, the illustrious professional provided a few tips:

“Nowadays, those who are insured have, in turn, an efficient instrument for the primary analysis of insured risks, which is precisely the extent of the liability to repair the damage and the pecuniary limitation of the fines levied relative to the event, grounded in Law nº 9.605/98 and based upon the evolution of case law. However, it is fundamental not to neglect the necessary task of suitably circumscribing the risk, thoroughly analyzing it, its nature and external and internal causes, and analyzing, above all, the extent of the coverage of any given loss, simulating the effects thereof because, in the event that a covered loss should occur, the award may be high, thereby compromising the entire portfolio of insurance policies. In this sense, it is also essential for the insurer to commit to the idea of environmental preservation, investing permanently in mechanisms for the prevention of risk, together with the necessary follow-up and orientation as regards the insurer and the reinsured.”

I add that, seven years after Sergio Ruy Barroso de Mello penned his lucid essay, and after consulting a variety of different insurance carriers, there is not one today (December 2006) that will accept environmental insurance without reinsuring or sharing the risk with other such companies.

5. American International Group (AIG), a company of world renown and recognized as one of the major insurance carriers, has defined policies and consistent programs on the environment and climate change.

In light of the seriousness of AIG’s business purpose, I summarize its guidelines as concerns those policies:

a. it recognizes the consensus of the scientific world on the current state of the environment and climate change;

b. it recognizes the gravity of the problem, which poses risks to society, ecology, human health and the global economy;

c. it focuses on business opportunities as a way of reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases;

d. it adopts in-house (corporate) measures, with the creation of the Department for the Environment and Climate Change and a site (, which I consulted on December 19th 2006) that deals with social responsibility, environmental initiatives, the environment and climate change.

Although the group primarily handles general insurance, such as life insurance and pension plans, it also insures financial services and asset management.

Due to these multiple activities, it found investment opportunities in climate change, within the afore-mentioned financial products (e.g. the Sustainable Future Investment Fund). From there, it took just one step to become involved with the theme that is the subject matter of the task entrusted to the legal auditor: that of understanding the risk of climate change in investment decisions. Other lines of activity within the same business lines follow naturally on, but they are dispensable for this essay, which is focused on legal auditor’s work for the benefit of his client, by whom he was hired and to whom he owes service.

The auditor did not refuse to examine contributions from the International Association of Insurance Law - Brazilian Section (AIDA) on the impact of acts of terrorism, because, had he so done, he would have left out the lamentable events that took human lives - among which those of tourists - that occurred in Bali, Indonesia and Egypt between 2004 and 2005. He took them into consideration, emphasizing the consequences of the publication of Law nº 10.744, of October 9th 2003, that “authorizes the Federal Government to assume civil liability expenses before third parties in the event of the occurrence of damage to assets and people, passengers or not, provoked by acts of terrorism, acts of war or related events, that occurred in Brazil or abroad, against aircraft registered in Brazil operated by Brazilian public air transport companies, with the exception of air taxis.”



The legal auditor related at length to the company that hired him all the variations on the problems resulting from climate change and on those resulting from acts of terrorism. Federal Law nº 10.744/2003 can be considered to be one of the best drawn-up laws of the moment if compared to those of other countries that have the same purpose[2].

In a long report, written in a clear style, he rounded off:

a. if tour operators in this globalized world do not have abundant resources to establish global networks, they should seek out other companies in the same line or banks so that, through partnership, and at no cost, they may increase their activities;

b. they should preferentially use local insurers so that, in conjunction with Brazilian insurer(s), they may offer complete services to business men and/or tourists and/or students, given the benefits of Law nº 10.744/003, within the limits under which it was approved and regulated;

c. they should provide their employees with intensive training so that they may adapt to the new realities, and

d. they should provide their clients and employees with well contracted insurance coverage, and extend such coverage to those who require the additional coverage of group contracts.

Exhibit A

Climate Change

1) Introduction

The word clima comes from the ancient Greek meaning “inclination”, which, in astronomy, is understood as being the angle formed by the Earth’s axis of rotation and its plane of translation (Conti, 1998).

The concept of climate may be taken as being a long-term effect of solar radiation on the atmosphere.

The inclination of the Earth’s axis exposes each hemisphere to solar radiation unequally, according to the position of the planet in its orbit. Accordingly, it can be said that the variation of the climate on planet Earth is directly connected to the location of each region (Conti, 1998).

In addition to this geographical determination, other characteristics that determine the variation of the climate exist, such as man, the atmosphere and water.

The atmosphere is essential for maintaining the Earth’s biosphere. Its composition is completely different from that of other planets, and, with the passing of time, it has undergone many transformations, thereby generating different climate conditions; it is therefore in the atmosphere that climactic phenomena such as rain, frost, wind and others occur. These phenomena characterize the behavior of this atmosphere in each region.

There are some factors that define the climate, which are:

·Latitude: latitude is the measurement in degrees between two parallels. The temperature falls as the latitude rises, because solar radiation is at its most intense at the equator and less so nearer the poles.

·Altitude: the temperature reduces on average 1º C every 180 m of altitude. This happens because the heat of the air is transmitted by the ground which is heated by solar radiation.

·The proximity of the oceans: sea breezes reduce excesses in temperature and, accordingly, the farther away the sea is, the greater the thermal increases will be. Another factor that influences the increase in temperature is latitude: the higher the latitude, the greater the thermal increase.

· Ocean currents: Cold currents originate in the polar areas and are associated with the existence of desert regions on the coasts that they bathe; these regions low rainfall rates and can accentuate the characteristics of winter, making them more severe. Warm currents originate in the areas close to the equator and elevate the temperature and the rainfall rates of a given region.

· Vegetation: plants, through their mechanisms for survival, absorb the earth’s moisture through their roots and send it into the atmosphere through their leaves; they also prevent the sun’s rays from directly hitting the surface of the planet. Due to large-scale deforestation, there has been a great reduction in moisture and a large increase in average temperatures.

· Continentality: the closeness or the distance of large masses of water exerts a strong influence on the behavior of the relative humidity of the air and also on the temperature. In places that suffer the influence of continentality, the daily and seasonally temperature range is much wider than that of coastal areas, which are influenced by seas breezes.

· Relief: in addition to being associated with altitude, this also influences temperature and humidity by facilitating or hindering the circulation of air masses.

· Air masses: there are cold, warm, dry and humid air masses. They have their own characteristics of pressure, temperature, humidity etc.

In addition to these factors, there are also the climate elements cited below:

  • Humidity: is the quantity of water vapor found in the atmosphere at a given moment, which may be expressed in absolute or relative figures.
  • Atmospheric pressure: is the force provoked by the weight of the air. The lower the temperature of the air, the greater the concentration of molecules by per cubic meter of air, therefore, the greater the atmospheric pressure.
  • Precipitation: levels of precipitation allow different climate zones particular to each region to be identified.

Water is also a factor that is of great importance to the climate. A liquid mass, when warmed by the sun’s rays, undergoes an increase in temperature, thereby generating evaporation. The water vapor remains suspended in the atmosphere until it returns to its liquid state, through condensation, and falls back to the surface of the Earth as rain, hail, snow etc. thereby forming the hydrologic cycle (Conti, 1998).

Still according to Conti (1998), the process of condensation can be accelerated and, therefore, aggravate pollution levels, if there is the presence of micro-particles suspended in the atmosphere. These micro-particles may be organic, mineral or industrial in origin and they act as nuclei around which water vapor condenses, thereby stimulating precipitation.

Associated with the climactic factors and elements is the formation of different types of climates specific to each region, which are listed, as follows:

  • Polar or glacial climates: these climates are specific to regions at high latitudes near the Arctic and Antarctic polar circles, where there is a great variation in the length of the day and the night. Temperatures are low the whole year round.
  • Temperate climates: these occur only in the temperate climate zones. There is a clear distinction between the four seasons of the year.
  • Mediterranean climates: hot, dry summers and mild rainy winters.
  • Tropical climates: are hot climates the whole year round that have only two well defined seasons: the summer (hot and rainy) and the winter (mild and dry).
  • Equatorial climates: specific to the hottest climate zone on the planet. Very high temperatures and abundant rain the whole year round.
  • Arid and desert climates: these have a high temperature range both daily and seasonally due to the lack of humidity.
  • Semi-arid climates: transitional climates that have scarce and badly-distributed rainfall the whole year round.

2) Global warming

Since it began, planet Earth has suffered constant changes of temperature in cycles that last thousands of years, due to warming and glaciation, which are caused by natural phenomena.

After the Industrial Revolution, the planet began to face a new reality: temperature change caused by man through pollution (Com Ciência, 2006).

These changes could be felt firstly in micro-climates, with increases in temperature in large urban centers and, in recent years, they have also been felt in macro-climates, with an increase in the sea level, which could cause a scarcity of food and serious social problems.

There are several factors that are seen as being responsible for these climate changes, such as: the hole in the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, heat islands, thermal inversion and acid rain among others, all of which result from increases in the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere, thereby provoking increases in the temperature of the oceans and the melting of the ice caps.

Air pollution is responsible for alterations all over the planet, requiring action of an international scope in order to prevent and reduce its effects. This is due to the characteristics of atmospheric circulation and to the fact that some pollutants remain in the atmosphere for long periods of time.

In order to control atmospheric pollution, we must define limits to the concentration of pollutants and must limit their emission by creating structures that control pollution and a system to assist in the implementation of less-polluting technologies.

Atmospheric pollution causes serious damage to health, affecting the respiratory system, causing diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, pulmonary infections, emphysemas, cardio-respiratory disease and many others and it can also directly or indirectly affect plant life.

2.1) Acid rain

The fist acid rains were observed around 1860 in England and Scotland, and were called black rains. The term acid rain was coined only ten years later. In 1967, scientists for the first time explained the mechanism that forms acid rain. Acid rain is formed by chemical reactions of gases like carbonic gases, oxidized forms of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, which are released during the burning of fossil fuels, transforming as they come into contact with the water vapor in the atmosphere. Acid rain, like frost, snow or fog, becomes laden with sulphuric or nitric acid. (Educar, 2006).

When acid rain falls on the surface of the Earth, it causes alterations to the chemical composition of the soil and the water, filters into the food chains, destroys forests and crops and corrodes metal structures, monuments and edifications.

The main concern has to do with its capacity to transport itself over great distances and fall in places where the burning of fuels never took place.

The consequences generated by the occurrence of acid rains can already be felt all over the world. According to the World Nature Fund, approximately 35% of European ecosystems have already been seriously modified and 50% of forests in Germany and Holland have already been destroyed by acid rain. Along the coast of the North Atlantic, the sea water is 10% to 30 % more acidic, and in the United States, the soil of the Appalachian Mountains is ten times more acidic that the soil in neighboring areas with lower altitudes, and is a hundred times greater than the soil in regions where this kind of pollution does not occur. (Educar, 2006).

These negative effects can already be seen in historic monuments such as the Coliseum in Rome, the Taj Mahal in India, the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris and many others, which are in the process of being corroded.

Acid rain also causes enormous damage to human health because it contaminates the soil with heavy metals (which are released during the occurrence of the phenomenon) thereby facilitating their access to man through agriculture and/or the contamination of animals.

The damage caused to the environment is also very great, because acid rain causes deforestation, contaminates the waters of lakes and rivers which could lead to the extinction of the living things that inhabit them.

2.2) Heat islands

A heat island is a climactic phenomenon that occurs in the centers of large cities and consists of pockets of air that have higher temperatures.

This is due to the high capacity of urban surfaces to absorb heat because of:

· A lack of green areas, thereby affecting the albedo.

· Fewer reflective surfaces (the more vegetation the greater the reflective power) resulting in greater absorption of heat.

· The rendering of the ground impermeable due to paving, and the directing of water through drains and underground holding tanks, which reduces the evaporation process.

· The high concentration of buildings which interferes in the circulation of the winds.

· Atmospheric pollution, which retains the radiation of heat, causing the air to heat up, and the use of energy by internal combustion engines, by homes and by industries, thereby increasing the heat of the atmosphere.

Because of all these factors, the air in the cities becomes even hotter than the air in surrounding areas.

2.3) Thermal inversion

Thermal inversion is a natural phenomenon that usually happens at the end of the wee small hours and the start of the morning, particularly in winter. When the temperature near the ground falls below 4º C, this cold air, which is prevented from rising, remains trapped at low altitudes. Higher layers of the atmosphere are occupied with relatively warm air, which cannot come down, which causes a momentary stabilization of the atmospheric circulation on a local scale, which is characterized by an inversion of layers: the warm air stays above and the cold air below, keeping the pollutants trapped near the surface. These gases disperse in the troposphere, creating a fog over cities. This fog is composed of toxic and polluting gases which are harmful to health. The health problems that are caused by thermal inversion are, among others: pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysemas, a worsening of heart diseases, general malaise, the irritation of the eyes among others. This phenomenon gradually disappears soon after it occurs.

2.4) The ozone layer

Ozone is a chemical substance formed of three oxygen atoms. Oxygen, the gas we breathe, began to accumulate in the atmosphere approximately four hundred million years ago. But the oxygen molecules, under the constant action of the ultraviolet rays (UV) of the sun, broke apart and then reunited to form ozone.

The ozone layer is located in a 25 to 30 km band in the stratosphere, which is part of the atmosphere that stretches between 12 to 40 km high. The oxygen absorbs the excess ultraviolet radiation. It was thanks to this protective mantle that life was able to evolve on our planet. Ozone prevents skin sores, cancer and degenerative mutations. It works as an agent of the planet’s immune system, and its main role is to regulate life on Earth, since it filters out most of the dangerous ultraviolet rays emitted by the Sun.

In 1931, one of the greatest destroyers of the ozone layer was created: chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, used in refrigeration systems and aerosols.

When they come into contact with the stratosphere, CFCs are broken down by the ultraviolet rays. The chlorine that results from this breaking down reacts with the oxygen, destroying it. The chlorine that is released attacks the oxygen molecules again, recommencing the cycle of reactions. Each CFC chlorine atom can destroy one hundred thousand oxygen molecules. CFCs are very stable: after approximately 170 years, half of what was emitted can still be found in the atmosphere.

In 1987, 31 countries signed the Protocol of Montreal, which established that the emission of CFCs would be reduced by half by the year 2000. In 1989 the number of countries that had signed this Protocol had risen to 81.

In addition to CFCs, there are other substances that also cause the destruction of the ozone layer, such as carbon tetrachloride (a solvent), nitrogen dioxide, methylchloroform and halons (Greenpeace, 2006).

The region that has been the most affected by the destruction of the ozone layer is Antarctica. In this region, mainly in the month of September, almost half the concentration of ozone is mysteriously sucked into the atmosphere. This phenomenon allows ultraviolet rays to hit an area of 31 million square kilometers, larger than the whole of South America, or 15% of the surface of the planet. In the remaining areas, the reduction of the ozone layer is also significant: from 3% to 7% of the ozone that made up the layer has already been destroyed by man.

2.5) The greenhouse effect

The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon caused by the presence of gases in the atmosphere, the most well-known of which is carbon dioxide (CO2). Activities like breathing, both human as well as that of animals and plants, and the organic processes of fermentation are responsible for emitting greenhouse gases. These gases form a natural barrier that prevents radiation emissions from escaping from the Earth’s surface, or rather, they act very much like a hot house, maintaining the average temperature of the Earth at approximately 16º C, (Belini, 2003). It is thanks to these gases that life on Earth is possible. But, when the concentration of these gases becomes too high, the level of heat that is retained by the Earth becomes very great, thereby generating an increase in the temperature of the planet.

In recent years, the emission of the gases responsible for the greenhouse effect has increased drastically due to entropic actions, turning this beneficial phenomenon into the villain of society.

Throughout the twentieth century, the global temperature increased approximately 0.6º C. The nineties were considered the warmest decade and 1998 the hottest year since temperature readings with modern instruments first began in 1861 (Com Ciência, 2006).

Countless human activities emit these gases in large quantities, among which we can cite:

· The use of CFCs, which release carbon dioxide.

· The fermentation of waste or biomasses, which releases methane.

·The burning and felling of forests.

·The burning of garbage.

·Vehicles powered by fossil fuels, like cars, buses etc.

As these emissions have reached world levels of alarming proportions, many meetings have been held to discuss measures to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

The first meeting on climate change was held in 1988 in Toronto, Canada. Measures were established at this meeting, such as a 50% reduction in emission levels between 1986 and 1999, targeting both production and the consumption of the five principal CFCs, with interim reductions.

In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, was set up where scientists alerted to the fact that, in order to stabilize the growing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) - the main greenhouse gas in the atmosphere – emissions would have to be reduced by 60% in 1990.

In 1992, another 160 countries signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change during “Earth Summit 92”, the main objective of this conference being to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interferences to the climate system. This would have to be done quickly in order to protect food sources, ecosystems and social development. This Convention also established a target whereby the industrialized countries would maintain their emission of greenhouse gases in 2000 at 1990 levels. “The principle of common and differentiated responsibility” was also established, which means that all countries would be responsible for protecting the climate, but the North would have to be the first to act.

Later, in 1997, the most important meeting was held. In the city of Kyoto, in Japan, the Kyoto Protocol was signed, where, for the first time, a binding agreement was reached which would commit the countries of the North to reducing their emissions by 5.2% to 1990 levels for the period between 2008 and 2012. The meeting also established flexible mechanisms allowing these countries to comply with the requirements of reducing the emission of these gases outside their territories, Joint Implementation, Emissions Trading (these two mechanisms would correspond only to the countries in Exhibit B) and the Clean Development Mechanism – CDM (Greenpeace, 2006).

The consequences of the increase in the greenhouse effect are already being described by scientists; the rise in the level of the temperature of the water of the oceans, as well as the melting of the polar ice caps, are only some of the consequences. The effects of such phenomena can already be felt in some places, such as in the island of Tuvalu, which is located in the Pacific Ocean. In recent decades, a large increase in the occurrence of tropical cyclones on this island was registered, caused by a rise in the temperature of the water. Also, the lower regions of the island were flooded with salt water, which contaminates the drinking water and the agriculture thereby affecting the life of the island’s inhabitants.

3) Adverse effects of global warming

According to Belini (2003), the main point raised in current discussions on climate change is that the Earth will undergo serious changes in its climate system during this century.

Some estimate that by 2100 the temperature of the planet will have risen 6º C, which will cause, as has been previously mentioned, a series of serious consequences, namely:

  • The melting of the polar ice caps, the consequence of which will be a rise in the level of the sea, provoking more cases like that of the island of Tuvalu in wide river deltas, principally in Asia, which are regions that have denser populations and where the main cultures of the peoples that inhabit them tend to concentrate. These lower regions of countries will be severely affected, causing a massive shift of the population in search of shelter, water and food. The sea water will salinate the existing reserves of fresh water and destroy the crops, and arable land will become submerged. Hunger and disease will abound and, in association with heat waves, more deaths will occur. Large conflicts due to migrations to higher regions or conflicts with other countries may occur. The loss of coastal regions and islands will also be a blow to tourism, since many of these places are very attractive to visitors. (Conrado, 2003).
  • A change in the rainfall pattern: the rains will be badly distributed and places where droughts are already common will become drier still. The opposite will also happen; dry spells may become longer thereby affecting the world’s population with the advent of problems in agriculture, which will suffer setbacks and a loss in productivity due to modifications in the soil and a loss of food guarantees, thereby causing migrations and conflicts. There will also be adverse consequences to livestock and there will even be a lack of drinking water.
  • A change in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes. As can already be seen in Central and North America, the number of hurricanes has increased significantly and they are becoming ever stronger and more violent; an example of this is hurricane Katrina, which destroyed New Orleans, bringing with it both social and economic consequences.
  • An accentuation of the El Niño effect, or rather, it will become much more frequent than normal.
  • An increase in the incidence of floods and other climactic phenomena.

Although the Kyoto Protocol, covered in the previous item, has already been ratified, what has been seen in recent years is an increase in the consumption of fossil fuels. Countries like the United States, which consumes one third of all the fossil fuel produced in the world, have not yet signed the Protocol. Therefore, it is obvious that countries that produce or consume oil are not interested in developing alternative sources of energy because, to do so, they would have to make significant financial investments, such as financing studies and research, which are generally projects that bring results only in the long term and are therefore not attractive to these countries, and also because the costs of using oil are still much lower that the cost of clean technology (Belini, 2003).

Therefore, one can conclude that countries are finding it very difficult to find global solutions for our global problems, such as climate change, because these solutions require a great change in the neutrality and in the behavior of all the social players, be these players the state, the market or civil society. (Kloss, 2000).

Many of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world - among them the United States - still refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol because they are more concerned with the negative impact that this would cause their economies than with the benefits that it would bring to humanity.

4) The effect of climate change on the health of humans, animals and plantss

All these climactic phenomena, which were explained in the preceding items, present many hazards to the health of humans, animals and plants.

An increase in diseases such as malaria and cholera due to the greater proliferation of insects and the greater contamination of food and water is predictable. Fungi and viruses are especially sensitive to changes in the climate and can rapidly proliferate when temperatures rise, especially if the rise in temperature is accompanied by an increase in humidity. The activity of fungi and insects increases and they may be responsible for eliminating entire species of trees. The occurrence of vermin and parasites in both cattle and wild animals has also greatly increased with the rise in temperature (Harvell et alii, 2002).

The poorest and least developed societies are the most vulnerable to these problems since the ability of humans to adapt to changes in the climate depends on factors such as wealth, technology, infrastructure and access to natural resources. Additionally, the poorest societies of the world depend more on water and agricultural resources, precisely those systems that are most vulnerable to the effects of a change in the climate.

Global warming also adversely affects the biodiversity of the planet.

Species of both animals and plants will have to adapt to the new climate conditions and, in order for this to happen, they will have to use migration with the objective of finding more suitable places in which to live, thereby avoiding extinction (Conrado, 2003).

Still according to Conrado (2003) these possible extinctions of animals and plants have adverse effects because they alter the natural balance of things and lead to a loss of ecosystemic services, genetic heritage and traditional knowledge, thereby adversely affecting human health because medicines that are valuable to the pharmaceutical industry may be lost even before they have been discovered. Were this to happen, it would be impossible for scientists to treat diseases the cure to which resides in the active principles in plants and animals.

Changes in the climate can also lead to an alteration in the sea currents, which would then stop transporting nutrients to the coast of Antarctica, thereby jeopardizing the growth of krilll, a small crustacean that is the basis of the food chain of the oceans. This could lead to a reduction in marine life and a reduction in the supply of food to traditional communities that consume fish and seafood (Conrado, 2003).

Our vulnerability to climactic catastrophes could become accentuated due to a combination of different factors, such as an increase in the population, poverty and environmental degradation. Nowadays, it is very common to find populations that live in high-risk areas, such as by streams and on embankments. This brings with it serious social problems, because the populations that normally inhabit these areas are low-income populations that are not provided with services such as the treatment of garbage and sewage, thereby facilitating the dissemination of diseases directly connected to public health problems.

The impact of natural disasters on the health of individuals includes physical damage, a worsening of people’s nutritional condition, especially that of children, an increase in respiratory and diarrhea diseases that occur when survivors gather in places that are often inadequate with insufficient shelter and limited access to drinking water, mental instability which, in some cases, may be enduring, an increased risk of water-related diseases due to water and sewage systems that have collapsed, the release or dissemination of dangerous chemical products from storage areas and the flushing thereof into flood waters. Mental diseases and depression can also occur on a larger scale after disasters have struck due to the loss of loved ones and property, and social convulsions. Flooding has an impact that can be described as immediate, medium-term and long-term. The immediate impact of flooding encompasses drowning and wounding caused by objects inherent to the catastrophe or by objects taken by the current. The medium-term impact includes the onset of diseases that can be contracted from swallowing contaminated water (cholera, hepatitis A) or from coming into contact with contaminated water (leptospirosis) or respiratory diseases caused by overcrowding. After the flooding, fungi may grow, resulting in an increase in allergic manifestations. The long-term impact includes a higher rate of suicide, alcoholism, and behavioral and psychological disturbances, especially in children, due to trauma caused by the dimension of the disaster (Norris et alii, apud IPCC 2001).

Therefore, one can conclude that these global changes will bring consequences for society such as:

· An increase and the migration of vectors.

· A increase in epidemics and disease.

· A reduction in agricultural productivity.

· An increase in expenses related to medication and health care.

According to Gonfalonieri (2002), fluctuations in the climate can lead to extreme meteorological events and, consequently, to accidents and traumas. Extreme events, like flooding, can also lead to the transmission of infectious diseases like leptospirosis. Changes in temperature and in rainfall patterns can bring with them a greater abundance and dissemination of vectors and pathogens.

A widening of the tropical climate band can lead to the flourishing of those vectors that carry the most common diseases, causing pandemics. The migration of vectors to areas that had never been in contact with such transmitters could be a serious health problem (Conrado, 2003).

According to Gonfalonieri (2002), in the case of droughts, the health of the population is affected, in the first instance, by the condition of epidemic hunger, which depresses the immune system, migration and socioeconomic problems, all of which result in an increase in infections. Health problems then exert pressure on public health infrastructure, overloading the health services thereby deteriorating the quality of the service provided. Droughts also provoke forest fires, which cause respiratory diseases and spread disease vectors, like the malaria-transmitting mosquito, to urban centers. Poor sanitary conditions caused, among other reasons, by a lack of water, lead to an increase in diarrhea-related diseases, which debilitate the population even further, especially children. Moreover, due to a lack of hygiene, diseases like trachoma and scabies can also occur (IPCC, 2001).

With more people sick and/or affected by malnutrition, productivity falls and an increase in spending on medication and health care occurs. The economy of countries, especially developing ones, may be seriously debilitated in situations like this one (Conrado, 2003).

5) Conclusion

From the data and the analyses discussed in this text, one can see that climate change is already part of the current make-up of the Earth, making it obvious that man has a distorted view of the role he should play with regards the environment.

The now-outdated view, which arose in the Industrial Revolution, of obtaining economic growth at whatever cost, and that man was the center of the universe, is leading humanity to practical ruin. What man needs to realize, is that he makes up part of the environment as a whole, in other words, he is part of the natural balance of the planet, and that nature is not there to serve man but rather it is man who depends on nature for his survival.

If drastic measures are not taken to control the emission of greenhouse gases, to prevent deforestation, among many other activities that have a negative impact, planet Earth is going to march headlong to its destruction and the human race and other species to their extinction.

6) Bibliographical references

· BELINI L. Mudanças Climáticas e Relações Internacionais. (Climate Change and International Relations) São Paulo, 2003.

· GONFALONIERI, Ulisses E. C. Global environmental change and health in Brazil: review of the present situation and proposal for indicators for monitoring these effects in: Hogan, H.J and M.T. Tolmasquim. Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change – Brazilian Perspectives. Rio de Janeiro: Academia Brasileira de Ciências, 2001.

  • COM CIENCIA. Available at Accessed on: 11th December 2006.
  • CONTI J. B. Clima e Meio Ambiente. (Climate and the Environment) São Paulo: Aurora, 6th edition. 1998
  • CONRADO D. Vulnerabilidade às Mudanças Climáticas. (Vulnerability to Climate Change) Available at: Accessed on 11th December 2006.
  • EDUCAR. Available at: Accessed on 11th December 2006.
  • EEROLA T.T. Mudanças Climáticas Globais: Passado, Presente e Futuro. (Global Climate Changes: Past, Present and Future) Santa Catarina, 2004.
  • GREENPEACE. Available at: Accessed on 11th December 2006.
  • HARVELL, C. D. et al. Climate Warming and Disease Risks for Terrestrial and Marine Biota. Science’s Compass Review. Vol. 296, 21 of June 2002.
  • IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Geneva, Switzerland, 2001.
  • KLOSS. E.C. A arena e os atores na negociação e aprovação do Protocolo de Quioto. (The arena and the players in the negotiation and approval of the Kyoto Protocol) Dissertation (Master’s degree in International Relations) University of Brasília: Institute of Political Sciences and International Relations, Brasília, 2000.
  • PEARCE F. O Aquecimento Global. (Global Warming) Publifolha 1st edition, 2002.
  • RIBEIRO W. Mudanças Climáticas, Realismo e Multirrealismo. (Climate Changes, Realism and Multirealism) Department of Geography and of the post-graduate Program of the University of São Paulo. São Paulo, 2002.
  • WHO. World Health Organization. Climate Change and Human Health - Risks and Responses. France, 2003.

[1] The text was not published.

[2] Some details of Law nº 10.744/2003: “Limit: global amount of Civil Liability expenses limited to the Real equivalent of US$ 1 billion. Coverage: exclusive to bodily injury, disease, death or incapacitation as a result of a terrorist act. Operationalization: the Treasury Ministry thus normatized, determining the Brazilian Reinsurance Institute as joint operator”.


*Attorney at Jayme Vita Roso Advogados e Consultores Jurídicos


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