Brazil at COP26: Political and Scientific Disputes Under a Post-Truth Government

  • Lorena Fleury Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
  • Marko Monteiro University of Campinas
  • Tiago Duarte University of Brasília


Global climate negotiations were again in the spotlight at Glasgow’s COP26 meeting in November 2021, drawing attention to the urgency of the climate crisis and to the need to find long term solutions. While Brazil has been a protagonist of such negotiations for decades, since 2019 the country has abdicated its leadership role, adopting a reactive stance to the environmental agenda. This shift is illustrative of the centrality of scientific disputes in government projects in conflict in Brazil. Since the election of Jair Bolsonaro, attacks on science have gained strength and institutionalized a position largely critical to existing scientific consensus about climate and the environment in the government. Together with the dismantling of Brazil’s environmental regulations—put in place also by the Bolsonaro government—those attacks on science have strained both its local capacities to curb deforestation (the source of most of the country’s emissions) and deepened inequalities and injustices ingrained in Brazilian society. In summary, we argue that STS can participate in finding a way out of the current political and social crisis and resisting the dismantling of a once robust environmental governance framework by unpacking the centrality of scientific production in disputes over climate and the environment.


Aamodt, Solveig. 2018. “The Ability to Influence: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of Advocacy Coalitions in Brazilian Climate Politics.” Review of Policy Research 35(3): 372–397.

Anderson, Jon L. 2022. “Two Murders in the Amazon.” New Yorker, June 28, 2022. Accessed November 4, 2022.

Andreoni. Manuela. 2021. “Once a Climate Leader, Brazil Falls Short in Glasgow.” New York Times, November 02, 2021. Accessed November 6, 2022.

Barbosa, Luciana G., Maria A. S. Alves, and Carlos E. V. Grelle. 2021. “Actions against Sustainability: Dismantling of the Environmental Policies in Brazil.” Land Use Policy 104: 1–4.

Boucher, Doug, Sarah Roquemore, and Estrellita Fitzhugh. 2013. “Brazil’s Success in Reducing Deforestation.” Tropical Conservation Science 6(3): 426–445.

Casarões, Guilherme, and Daniel Flemes. 2019. “Brazil First, Climate Last: Bolsonaro’s Foreign Policy.” GIGA Focus Latin America 5: 1–13.

Casarões, Guilherme, and Déborah B. L. Farias. 2021. “Brazilian Foreign Policy under Jair Bolsonaro: Far-Right Populism and the Rejection of the Liberal International Order.” Cambridge Review of International Affairs 35(5): 741-761.

Cesarino, Letícia. 2021. “Pós-verdade e a crise do sistema de peritos: uma explicação cibernética.” [Post-Truth and the Crisis of the Expert System: A Cybernetic Explanation] Ilha—Revista de Antropologia 23(1): 73–96.

Chade, Jamil. 2022. “Bolsonaro troca COP26 por ato com militares e local de sua origem na Itália.” Folha de São Paulo, October 28, 2021. Accessed November 10, 2022.

Collins, Harry M., and Robert Evans. 2002. “The Third Wave of Science Studies: Studies of Expertise and Experience.” Social Studies of Science 32(2): 235–296.

Dantas, Carolina. 2021. “Relatório que mostra alta de 22% no sesmate tem data anterior a COP26; ONGs apontam escândalo e omissão.” [Report that Shows a 22% Increase in Deforestation Has a Date Before COP26; NGOs Point to Scandal and Omission] Portal G1 November 18, 2021. Accessed December 4, 2022.

de Carvalho, Fernanda V. 2010. “A posição Brasileira nas negociações internacionais sobre florestas e clima (1997–2010): do veto à proposição.” [The Brazilian Position in International Negotiations on Forests and Climate (1997–2010): From Veto to Proposition] PhD, Institute of International Relations, University of Brasilia.

Diele-Viegas, Luísa Maria, Juliana Hipólito, and Lucas Ferrante. 2021. “Scientific Denialism Threatens Brazil.” Science 374(6570): 948–949.

Duarte, Tiago Ribeiro. 2020. “Ignoring Scientific Advice during the Covid-19 Pandemic: Bolsonaro’s Actions and Discourse.” Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society 3(1): 288–291.

Escobar, Herton. 2019. “Brazilian President Attacks Deforestation Data: Scientists Rush to Defend Space Institute after Jair Bolsonaro Calls Its Numbers ‘A Lie.’” Science 365(6452): 419.

Franchini, Matías, Ana C. Evangelista Mauad, and Eduardo Viola. 2020. “De Lula a Bolsonaro: una década de degradación de la gobernanza climática en Brasil.” [From Lula to Bolsonaro: A Decade of Degradation of Climate Governance in Brazil] Análisis Político 33(99): 81–100.

Fuller, Steve. 2017. “Is STS all Talk and no Walk?” EASST review 36(1): 21–22.

Hallal, Pedro C. 2021. “SOS Brazil: Science under Attack.” The Lancet 397(10272): 373–374.

Hess, David J. 2015. “Undone Science and Social Movements: A Review and Typology.” In Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies, edited by Matthias Gross and Linsey McGoey, 141–154. London: Routledge.

Hochstetler, Kathryn, and Margaret E. Keck. 2007. Greening Brazil: Environmental Activism in State and Society. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Hochstetler, Kathryn, and Eduardo Viola. 2012. “Brazil and the Politics of Climate Change: Beyond the Global Commons.” Environmental Politics 21(5): 753–771.

Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE). 2021. “Estimativa de desmatamento por corte raso na Amazônia legal para 2021 é de 13.235 km2.” [Estimate of Deforestation by Shallow Cut in the Legal Amazon for 2021 is 13,235 km2] São José dos Campos: Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais. Accessed November 5, 2022.

Machado, Ralph, and Natalia Doederlein. 2021.“Prioridade do governo inclui o novo marco do licenciamento ambiental.” [Government Priority Includes New Environmental Licensing Framework] News Article. Agência Câmara, February 5, 2021. Accessed December 28, 2022.

Marcelo, Maria C., and Jake Spring. 2021. “Brazil Environment Minister Quits; Faces Illegal Logging Probe.” Reuters, June 24, 2021. Accessed November 4, 2022.

28 Dec 2022