Brazilian Studies Aim to Unravel Zika’s Link to Birth Defect

Julie Steenhuysen – Reuters, 02/09/2016

At Roberto Santos General Hospital in Salvador, Brazil, Dr. Antonio Almeida and a team of specialists are closely following two groups of women: Those who deliver babies with abnormally small heads and those who deliver apparently normal babies.

The hospital is one of three in this city on Brazil’s eastern coast where investigators are studying the most urgent question of the Zika outbreak: Is the virus causing a spike in birth defects, and, if so, how great is the risk?

The answer will help shape the response to the rapid spread of Zika throughout the Americas. Concerns over the potential link to microcephaly have prompted a U.S. alert advising pregnant women against travel to 31 countries and territories with outbreaks.

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Health Officials Want More Zika Samples, Data From Brazil

The New York Times/AP, 02/04/2016

Brazil is not sharing enough samples and disease data to let researchers determine whether the Zika virus is, as feared, linked to the increased number of babies born with abnormally small heads in the South American country, U.N. and U.S. health officials say.

Without viruses from Brazil — the epicenter of the ongoing Zika crisis — laboratories in the United States and Europe are being forced to work with samples from previous outbreaks, and is frustrating efforts to develop diagnostic tests, drugs and vaccines. Scientists tell The Associated Press that having so little to work with is hampering their ability to track the virus’ evolution.

One major problem appears to be Brazilian law. At the moment, it is technically illegal for Brazilian researchers and institutes to share genetic material, including blood samples containing Zika and other viruses.

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Brazil’s Congress reconvenes, mired in pessimism

Silvio Cascione -Reuters, 02/02/16

Brazilian lawmakers return from their annual recess today with an overwhelming list of work to do as the country sinks into a broadening political, economic and health crisis.

And yet expectations about their actual capacity to make 2016 a better year than 2015 could hardly be smaller.

While there is little consensus on the measures needed to fix Brazil’s budget, deputies and senators are set to spend much of their political energy this year arguing about if and how President Dilma Rousseff should be impeached – and a whole new program of economic reforms could be started from scratch.

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Brazil Alleges Environmental Crimes in Response to Fundão Dam Collapse

Paul Kiernan – The Wall Street Journal, 01/14/2016

Brazil’s Federal Police have accused seven people and three companies, including mining giant Vale SA and its joint-venture Samarco Mineração SA, of environmental crimes in response to a major dam collapse in November.

The move, which has no exact equivalent in the U.S. legal system, will trigger the beginning of a deeper investigation by police. It typically represents a step toward formal charges, which in Brazil can only be filed by prosecutors, often after police have presented their findings.

The accusations mark the latest response by Brazilian authorities to what some have called the country’s worst-ever environmental disaster. On Nov. 5, Samarco’s Fundão tailings dam suddenly collapsed, releasing a flood of sludge that buried rural villages, killed 19 people and polluted more than 400 miles of the Rio Doce basin.

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How Brazil can emerge as a climate leader

Viviane Romeiro and Rachel Biderman – WRI, 9/21/2015

Brazil, the world’s seventh-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has the relevant tools and policies it needs to become a leader in the fight to deal with climate change. This opportunity comes at a pivotal time for Brazil: its national climate plan—its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)—should be submitted within days as part of global climate negotiations, while a national economic crisis, drought and energy uncertainty inform Brazil’s decisions at home.

A new WRI report, Bridging the Gap Between Energy and Climate Policies in Brazil, finds that Brazil could act to change its energy mix and move toward a lower-carbon economy, but it needs to strengthen existing policies to amplify their impact to join other key climate players including China, the United States and Mexico.

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WRI Report Points to a Roadmap for Energy Emissions Reduction in Brazil

Press Release based on Report by by Viviane Romeiro, Taryn Fransen and Oswaldo Lucon – WRI, 9/21/2015

A new report by World Resources Institute and University of Sao Paolo’s Institute of Energy and Environment finds that Brazil could change its energy mix and move toward a lower-carbon economy by modernizing transport, improving renewable energy capacity and increasing industrial efficiency. The report, Bridging the Gap Between Energy and Climate Policies in Brazil, analyses different emissions scenarios and makes recommendations to strengthen the portfolio of policies that would enable Brazil to meet both its energy and climate objectives.

As the world’s seventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, Brazil’s climate commitment is an important piece of the global response to climate change. The report is especially timely as Brazil is expected to release its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) this week. The report finds that under current policies Brazilian GHG emissions are likely to exceed the country’s share of the remaining carbon budget between 2024 and 2035 if it does not change its current energy mix.

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Switzerland’s EcoSolifer planning solar-panel factory in Brazil

Vanessa Dezem – Bloomberg Business, 7/22/2015

EcoSolifer AG, a Swiss solar company, is planning a panel plant in Brazil as the country seeks to develop a domestic supply chain for photovoltaic components.

The company is evaluating locations now for a facility that will assemble imported cells into about 80 megawatts of panels a year, said Bruno Zacharias, head of the company’s operations in Brazil.

Brazil has less than 35 megawatts of solar capacity, an insignificant part of its power supply. It’s seeking to promote wider use and has introduced policies encouraging manufacturers to open factories. Zacharias said his plant will also start producing cells within five years, the most important component, something none of his competitors is doing.

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