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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2008 May 27;363(1498):1747-52. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2007.0030.

Climate change, biofuels and eco-social impacts in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado.

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Centre for Sustainable Development (CDS), University of Brasília (UnB), Brasília DF 70070-914, Brazil.


While global technical progress is relatively linear, there is wide variation in its environmental and social impacts at the local level, with cycles of expansion and retraction or boom and bust, of long or short duration. Analysis of previous open-ended stages of extraction and agro commodities in the Amazon indicates a general gravitational trend for technical progress to increase productivity and permit transformation of increasingly generic forms of material or energy, rather than relying on the specific physical or chemical properties provided by nature. While increased demand favours frontier expansion in the periphery when there is no other alternative, technical progress ultimately favours spatial reconcentration of production in central countries. The agroenergy stage now beginning involves rapid frontier expansion and offers various environmental and economic opportunities, but also generates a series of negative ecosystemic and socio-economic impacts, which are both direct and indirect, for tropical regions. The Amazon and the Cerrado are particularly vulnerable. Interacting with climate change and land use, the upcoming stage of cellulosic energy could result in a collapse of the new frontier into vast degraded pasture. The present and future impacts can be mitigated through crafting of appropriate policies, not limited to the Amazon, stressing intensified and more sustainable use of areas already cleared, minimizing new clearing and consolidation of alternatives for sustainable use of natural resources by local communities. Coping with these scenarios requires knowledge of complex causal relationships.

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